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have been built when the Israelites had resided some time in Egypt : for they are presumed to be the builders. But there was another of the same name, the antient On, that is previously mentioned in the same translation; and was prior to their coming into these parts. It is said that Joseph, before the coming of his brethren, had married the daughter of the priest of On at the recommendation of Pharaoh : which On the Seventy very properly translate Heliopolis. * Και εδωκεν αυτω [Φαραω] την Ασενεθ θυγατερα Πετεφρη τερεως Ηλιοπολεως αυτω εις γυναικα. There was therefore another city called On, or Heliopolis ; antecedent to the city of Onias, allowing it to be as antient as they pretend, and manifestly a different city. But, in truth, the whole of this interpretation, that On was Heliopolis, is an impudent interpolation, and calculated for a particular end. Some of the Hellenistic Jews therefore did not seem willing to have the credit of their place and temple rest upon this reading, “one shall be called the city of “ the sun ;” and at the same time the original reading, Air haheres, “the city of destruction,” would overthrow all the good they intended to draw from the application : so that it could not stand with their pretensions. There was therefore another expe- ! dient thought of; and, instead of the former reading, they substituted Air hazedek, that is, “one of them
& Genes. 41. v. 45.
“shall be called the city of righteousness ;” as if they were diffident of the grounds that they went on before ; and knew that the prophecy, as it was first moulded, could not relate to their temple.
I cannot quit this subject, without some strictures on Josephus for the part he takes in the pretensions of Onias ; and the mistakes he is guilty of in the process of this story. He informs us, that Onias the son of Onias petitioned Ptolemy Philometor for leave to build a temple in honour of God; and desired a grant of that ground that lay unoccupied in the nome of Heliopolis, where had stood an antient Egyptian temple, that was now in ruins. It seems," it was the spot where Isaiah, who lived six “hundred years before, had prophesied a temple should be erected by one of his nation.” ? Trto de εβαλετο, θαρρων μαλιςα το προφητη Ησαϊα, ας, ετεσίν εμπροσθεν εξακοσίοις πλεον γεγονως, προειπεν, ως δει παντως εν Αιγυστα οικοδομηθήναι ναον τω μεγισω Θεω υπ' ανδρος Ιεδαις. . Onias therefore, on the strength of this prophecy, writes a letter to Ptolemy and his queen Cleopatra: which, as it has never, as I know of, been animadverted upon, I will quote at large, together with the answer that was sent in return. The letter was written from Alexandria.
Πολλας και μεγαλας υμιν χρειας τετελεκως εν τοις
Jos. Antiq. Jud, lib. 13. cap. 3. 19 Ibid.
κατα πολέμου εργους μετά της τε Θεε βοηθειας, και γενομενος εν τη Κοιλη Συρία και Φοινική, και εις Λεοντων δε σολιν την Ηλιοωολιτ8 συν τοις Ιεδαιοις, και εις άλλες τόσες αφίκομενός τε εθνες, και πλεισες ευρώ, παρά το καθηκον εχοντας δερα, και δια τετό δυσνες αλλήλοις, ο και Αιγυπτιους συμβεβηκε για το πλήθος των ιερων, και το σερί της θρησκειας ουχ διoδoξειν επιτήδειοτατον τοπον ευρών εν τω προσαγορεύομενω της Αγρίας Βεβασεως οχυρωματι, βρυοντα ποικιλης υλης και των ερων ζωων μεσον δεομαι συγχωρησαι μοι, το αδεσποτον ανακαθαραντι ιερού και συμπεπτωκος, οικοδομησαι ναον τω μεγισω Θεώ, καθ' ομοίωσιν τα εν Ιεροσολύμοις, τους αυτοις μετροις, υπερ τε σε και της γυναικος και των τεκνων" ν'
έχωσιν δι την Αιγυπτoν κατοικεντες Ιεδαιοι, εις αυτο συντοντες κατα την προς αλληλες δμόνδίαν, ταις' σαις εξυπηρετειν χρειαις. Και γαρ Ησαΐας ο προφήτης τετο προεισεν: Εσαι θυσιαςηρίον εν Αίγυπτο, Κυριώ τω Θεώ και πολλα δε προεφήτευσεν αλλα τοιαυτα δια τον τοπον.
The epistle is so diffuse and lax, that it is not easy to reduce it to English. The tenor of it is nearly this.
“ Haying in the war which you have been engaged " in, performed, by the blessing of God, many and * signal services in your behalf, both in Cæle Syria " and Phenicia ; and having observed since my ar“ rival both at Leontopolis in the province of Heli
opolis, and at other places where the Jews reside, " that most of them have temples contrary to what
they ought to have, and on that account are ill
disposed to one another; (a circumstance I have "observed among the Egyptians, which takes its
“rise from the multitude of their temples, and “ want of uniformity in their worship) and having “ lit upon a most convenient spot, within an inclo
sure formerly dedicated to the goddess called the
Agria Bubastis ; which place is full of all kinds " of materials, and abounding with sacred animals: “ I humbly beg of you to give me leave to clear “this temple that has no owner, and is in ruins ; “and to build there a temple to the most high God,
upon the same model and the same scale as that “at Jerusalem; for your sake, and the sake of your queen
children : that the Jews who live “in Egypt may be able to meet together in one
place with proper uniformity; and be ready at “hand to perform any services you may require. I “ must moreover assure you, that the prophet “ Isaiah foretold that such a thing should be : There “shall be an altar in Egypt to the Lord God. He “ likewise prophesied of many other circumstances “relating to this place.”
From this letter we may see the scope and intention of Josephus in his history; and with what caution and allowance he is to be read. His design was to aggrandize his own nation, by giving an account of their divine establishment originally: and by displaying a series of great events, that from the earliest times had happened in their favour. In doing which he had Moses and the prophets before him. But, as he was to adapt his history to the turn and disposition of those he wrote to; he often de
viates from his guides; and is apt to add, as well as to diminish; according as he thinks it may best suit the taste of those to whom his writings are addressed : being not sufficiently attentive to the strict truth, if he can but dress up his history to advantage. In respect to this letter; some people would except to the propriety of an address in this manner upon a subject of so great importance : especially as Onias was at Alexandria, the residence of the court; and might have made his petition in person.
It may likewise be thought particular to include the wife in an address to a king. It seems likewise improbable that a ruined temple should be full of so many things necessary for his purpose ; βρυοντα ποικιλης υλης, και των ιερων ζωων μεσον ; that is, “variety of “ materials, and beasts for the service of the altar :" especially, when we come to know that, if such a temple did exist, it was upon the verge of a desert. It is hard to account for the many temples that the Jews are said to have had in Egypt; unless he means synagogues' and mporeux@n: but those were not unlawful. Nor does it seem politic in Onias, when he had a point to carry, to speak against the national worship of the Egyptians, and the diversity of their rites and customs : it is not probable he would make his court by such means. Besides, the Greeks adopted the gods of the countries they came to: nor could any thing be urged against the variety of rites in Egypt, but what would affect equally those of Greece. But, setting aside appearances,