The Hebrew Preface attached to the original Hebrew Text of the Book of Jasher has an interesting and lengthy comment:
“It is also found written in the book of the Asmoneans which has come down to us, that in the days of Ptolemy king of Egypt, he ordered his servants to go and gather all the books of laws, and all the books of Chronicles which they could finding the world, so that he might become wise through them, and by examining them become acquainted with the subjects and events of the world, and to compile from them a book in all matters of jurisdiction regarding the affairs of life, thereby to exercise pure justice. So they went and collected for him nine hundred and sixty five books and brought to him, when commanded them to go again and seek to complete the number of a thousand books, and they did so. After this, some of the persecutors of Israel stood up before him and said, O king, why wilt though trouble thyself in this manner? Send to the Jews in Jerusalem that they shall bring unto thee the book of their law which was written from them from the mouth of the Lord by their Prophets, from which thou mayest become wise, and regulate all judgments and laws according to they desire; so the king hearkened to their works, and sent to the Jews upon this matter, who sent to him this book, for they could not give unto him the book of the Lord, for they said, we cannot give the law of the Lord to a stranger. Now when this book came to the hands of Ptolemy he read it and it please him greatly, and he searched therein in his wisdom, and he examined it and found therein what he had desired, and he neglected all the other books which they had collected for him, and he blessed him who had advised him to this thing.”
“After some time the persecutors of Israel became aware of this, that the Israelites had not sent the book of the law to the king, and they came and said unto him, O king, the Israelites have treated thee with contempt, for they did not send to thee the book of the law which we had mentioned to thee, but they sent to thee another book which they had in their hands, therefore send to them that they may forward unto thee the book of their law, for from that book thou wilt obtain they desire much more than from the book which they have sent to thee; so when the king heard their words he became exceedingly wroth against the Israelites, and his anger burned within him until he sent again to them for them to forward to him the book of the law. Fearing that they might still continue to scorn him, he acted prudently with them and sent to seventy of their elders and placed them in seventy house, that each should write the book of the law, so that no alteration might be found in them, and the divine spirit rested upon them, and they wrote for him seventy books and they were all of one version, without addition or diminution. At this the king rejoiced greatly and he honored the elders, together with all the Jews, and he sent offerings and gifts to Jerusalem as it is written there. At his death, the Israelites acted cunningly with his son and took from his treasures the book of the law, but left this book there and took it not away, in order that every future king might know the wonders of the Lord, blessed be his name, and that he had chosen Israel from all nations, and that there is no God beside him.”
(Book of Jasher; Hebrew Preface form Sefer HaYashar; The Book of Jasher translated by James Trimm pp. 17-19 available at http://www.lulu.com/nazarene )
The Asmoneans (Hasmoneans) were the Maccabees. The books of the Maccabees/Hasmoneans generally do not deal with the Ptolemys. The Maccabees were rebelling against the Selucid Empire. However the book of 3rd Maccabees is mis-named, it actually has nothing to do with the Maccabees, but a totally different oppression of the Jews that took place under the Ptolomeys of Egypt.
3rd Maccabees however, only deals with the reign of Ptolemy IV, however the account summarized in the Hebrew Preface to Jasher parallels that of the well known “Letter of Aristeas” at the time of Ptolemy II. If this material were in any book of the Hasmoneans, it would have to be 3rd Maccabees, but it is not found there. Instead 3rd Maccabees begins with the time of Ptolemy IV.
However scholars have long recognized that 3rd Maccabees as we have it was once longer, and that our current text begins at some point after the original document did. The New Oxford Annotated Bible footnotes 3rd Maccabees 1:1 with “The abruptness with which the book opens and the use of the Greek conjunctive particle de indicate that the introduction to 3Macc. has not survived.” Moreover 3rd Maccabees 2:25 refers to “previously mentioned” events which were not, in our current text, previously mentioned.
So we do in fact have a book of the Hasmoneans that deals with the Ptolemys and Jews in Egypt, and which has an earlier portion which has not survived.
So we have several important discoveries here:
1. The recovery of a summary of a portion of the lost “Introduction” to 3rd Maccabees.
2. Evidence in support of the Book of Jasher.
3. Further evidence that 3rd Maccabees was originally longer, and that only a later portion of it has survived.
4. Evidence to support the authentic and ancient nature of the Hebrew Preface to the Book of Jasher. (The author of the preface was aware of information in the original “long” 3rd Maccabees, which has since been lost.
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