To meet the religious needs of Greek-speaking Jews of the Dispersion no longer comfortably familiar with Hebrew, a Greek version of the Pentateuch or five books of Moses was made at Alexandria in the third century bc during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-246). Ptolemy ruled not only over Egypt but also over Judaea and had numerous Jews in his army; Egypt had a substantial Jewish population. It was claimed with probability that Ptolemy granted his patronage to the project of translation. The Greek Pentateuch became diffused beyond Alexandria among the synagogues of the Mediterranean world. In time the prophets and other writings of synagogue usage were added to the translation. The Pentateuch retained pride of place.
Probably late in the second century bc a propagandist on behalf of Judaism composed a fictitious panegyric on the origins of the Greek Pentateuch entitled the Letter of Aristeas. This claimed sacrosanct status for the version, produced in seventy-two days by seventy-two translators, so that it was superior to rival versions and in no need of correction or improvement. That just such a corrected text was made is certain from a Greek manuscript of the Twelve 'minor' Prophets found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and from the use of the same form of text in Justin. Probably Aristeas had in view not only correctors of the Septuagint but also ultra-conservatives who thought no sacred text translatable without dangerous loss. Some said the Septuagint was a sin like the worship of the golden calf.
Alexandrian Jews liked to assert their presence in the city and the supremacy of monotheism against polytheism, though the Septuagint was careful to warn against scorning the religions of others (Exod. 22: 27; Deut. 7: 25). The Jews of Alexandria had an annual festival to celebrate the achievement of translation. Philo regarded the translators as divinely inspired, and this estimate became transmitted to many early Christian writers. This was the Christian Bible for both Greeks and Latins, the Bible of