Artapanus

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ARTAPANUS

ARTAPANUS (ʾΑρτάπανος; second century b.c.e.), Hellenistic Jewish author. Artapanus wrote περὶ ʾΙουδαίων ("On the Jews"), fragments of which are preserved in the writings of the Church Fathers. The purpose of this work was to prove that the foundations of Egyptian culture were laid by Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. When Abraham came to Egypt, he taught the pharaoh (Pharethothes or Pharetones) the science of astrology. Jacob established the Egyptian temples at Athos and Heliopolis. Joseph was appointed viceroy of all Egypt and initiated Egyptian agrarian reforms to ensure that the powerful would not dispossess the weak and the poor of their fields. He was the first to divide the country and demarcate its various boundaries. He turned arid areas into arable land, distributed land among the priests, and also introduced standard measures for which he became popular among the Egyptians (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 9:23). But the one who excelled all was Moses, whom Artapanus identifies with Musaeus, teacher of Orpheus, and with Hermes-Thoth, god of Egyptian writing and culture. The name Hermes was given to Moses by the priests who revered him for his wisdom and paid him divine homage. Moses founded the arts of building, shipping, and weaponry, as well as Egyptian religion and philosophy. He was also the creator of hieroglyphic writing. In addition, he divided the city into 36 wards and assigned to each its god for worship. Moses was the founder of the cult of Apis the Bull and of Ibis. All these accomplishments of Moses aroused the jealousy of King Kheneferis, father of Maris, Moses' foster mother. He tried to kill Moses, but failed. After the king's death, Moses was commanded by God to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. In his story of the Exodus Artapanus generally follows the biblical narrative, although he expands and embellishes it (Eusebius, ibid., 9:27). He devotes special attention to tales of Moses' battles against the Ethiopians and to events stemming from the personal rivalry between Moses and the king of Egypt. Similar accounts are to be found in Josephus (Ant., 2:242 ff.), and it may well be that both used a common source. In view of the fact that, like Herodotus and Plato, Artapanus sees in Egyptian civilization the origin of all civilization, it may be said that he regards Moses as the father of universal civilization. It is indeed strange that a Jew should attribute to Moses the introduction of the idolatrous Egyptian rites. But Artapanus envisages Moses primarily as a "benefactor" (εὑεργέτης) in the Hellenistic sense of the word, that is, one who benefits all mankind without distinction of nationality or creed. In this way Artapanus wished to show that the lawgiver of the Jews was not a misanthrope as the enemies of the Jewish people claimed.

bibliography:

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 1:23, 154; Chronicon Paschale, ed. Dindorf (1832), 117; J. Freudenthal, in: Hellenistische Studien (1875), 143 ff., 215 ff.; Pauly-Wissowa, 3 (1895), 1306; A. Gutschmid, Kleine Schriften, 2 (1890), 184–5; Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 477–80; A. Schalit (tr.), Kadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim (Heb. tr. of Josephus' Antiquities), 1 (19552), xlvii–xlix; J. Gutman, Ha-Sifrut ha-Yehudit ha-Hellenistit, 2 (1963), 109–35.

[Abraham Schalit]