DEMETRIUS , earliest known Greco-Jewish writer. He lived during the reign of Ptolemy iv (221–204 b.c.e.). In ancient lists of Josephus and Clement of Alexandria, Demetrius is named first, followed by Philo (the Elder), and Eupolemus (Jos., Apion, 1:218; Clement, Stromata 1:141, 1). Without making clear whether these are Jewish or heathen, Josephus laments their inability to follow Hebrew records accurately (Josephus erroneously labels Demetrius as being from Phaleron).
Aside from Josephus' ambiguous testimony, seven remnants of Demetrius' work survive. Except for Fragment Six, cited by Clement of Alexandria, and Fragment Three, which reviews Clement's sources, the remaining texts have been salvaged in Eusebius' Praeparatio Evangelica, which quotes Alexander Polyhistor's monograph "On the Jews."
Fragment One, about 4/5 of all Demetrius' texts, deals with patriarchal chronology, and reveals the great fervor with which biblical studies were pursued in the third century b.c.e. By a minute analysis of Genesis, as well as by some gratuitous assumptions, Demetrius chronicles the year and month of Jacob's travels and the birth of each of his 12 sons and daughter. Jacob stayed in Haran 20 years, during 14 of which he served for Laban's two daughters (Gen. 31:41). He married both sisters after the first seven years, and Demetrius maintains that all of his children (except Benjamin) were born during the next seven years. Thus, except for one interval, Leah bore her six sons and her daughter in an exact sequence of ten months. Demetrius then proceeds to record the age of each of the children in conjunction with the events of their father's life, the clan's eventual descent into Egypt, and the death of each member. The repetitiveness of the dates suggests that Demetrius aimed at the construction of a chronological canon of biblical history, with summaries stressing significant events, such as the birth of Abraham, Jacob's descent into Egypt, and the Exodus. Demetrius' chronology from Creation coincides remarkably with that preserved in the Septuagint version: the dating of the Flood in Demetrius is 2264 compared to 2262 according to the Septuagint and 1656 by the Hebrew; the birth of Abraham is set at 3334 as in the Septuagint compared to 1948 in the Hebrew, and the Exodus is dated as 3839 versus 3849 following the Septuagint and 2668 according to the Hebrew.
The first discrepancy is apparently due to Demetrius' counting the birth of Seth two years after the flood. The obvious conclusion is that Demetrius depended on the Greek version. It is conceivable, moreover, that Demetrius' chronological scheme solves the puzzle of how the texts of Genesis 5:11 and Exodus 12:40 were altered from the Hebrew numbers into those found in the Greek. It is now agreed that the alteration was deliberate. Demetrius may have studied with, possibly even was one of, the men who produced the Septuagint.
Fragment Two traces the genealogy of Zipporah, whom Demetrius identifies with the "Ethiopian woman" whom Moses married (Num. 12:1), a view adopted by *Ezekiel the poet and the Talmud (mk 16b). Demetrius traces her descent from Abraham and Keturah (Gen. 25:1–4), making her lineage more distinguished than that of Moses. She was the sixth generation after Abraham, Moses the seventh. The chronographer was apparently defending Moses against charges of having violated his own laws against intermarriage.
Demetrius did not restrict himself to chronography. Fragment Seven relates Abraham's binding of Isaac (Gen. 22). The miraculous sweetening of the bitter waters of the desert is reported in Fragment Four. The reasonable hypothesis that Demetrius represents a school of biblical exegesis is supported by Fragment Five, where he suggests that despite the statement in Exodus 13:18 to the contrary, the Jews came out of Egypt unarmed. He bases this on their statement that they were going for a journey of three days and that after sacrificing they would return (Ex. 5:3): "Where did they get their weapons from? It appears that they obtained the arms of the Egyptians who were drowned in the Red Sea." In spite of Fragment Three, which groups Demetrius with Aristobulus and Josephus, there is no reason to assume that he addressed himself to the pagan world. Demetrius wrote for students of the Bible without any trace of apologetics. There is no evidence of his influence in the Book of Jubilees, Philo, Josephus, or the rabbinic chronological treatise Seder Olam, but his impact on Philo (the Elder) and Eupolemus in matters relating to chronology, as well as on Ezekiel the poet, who adopted many scenes from Demetrius, is noteworthy.
J. Freudenthal, Hellenistische Studien, 1 (1874), 35–82; Pauly-Wissowa, 8 (1901), 2813–14, no. 79; F. Jacoby (ed.), Fragmente griechischer Historiker, 3, C2 (1958), 666f., 110. 722.
[Ben Zion Wacholder]