The Fall Festivals of the Jews: Rosh Hashanah and the Jewish knowledge of Time – Part Seven
The Reconstruction of the Main Hall of the Museum of Alexandria as depicted in the Series called “Cosmos” by the Astronomer Carl Sagan. The wall portraits depict Alexander the Great (Left) and Serapis (Right)
Yearning to know all that is to know about the history of the world, the Jewish sages also sought and had access to the reservoir of the greatest historical collection of documents in the Roman Empire from the Greco-Roman era to the European medieval era. During the first two centuries of this Common Era, the largest concentration of Jews in the world lived near the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, Egypt. This was in part that many of the Jews had fled early in the arrival of the Roman forces into Judea that culminated in the sacking of the city of Jerusalem and the destruction of the famous Temple of Herod.
This concentration of Jews living in Alexandria was not just a coincidence but was divinely ordained for Egypt, though being the Jews first oppressor was also Judah’s retreat in time of danger and disaster.
Here in Egypt was located the Great Museum and Royal Library of Alexandria that was founded in the year of 283 BCE. Here was also the largest archive of ancient books, manuscripts, papyri, and documents of antiquity than any other library in the history of the world up to that date.
The Royal Library of Alexandria was reputed to have had over a half a million documents in their archives from Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India and numerous other nations. This included a complete Hebrew Torah and TaNaKh. Here also over 100 full time scholars researched at the library and impelled the Egyptian government to also open a secondary library at the Temple of Serapis. No doubt many of these fulltime scholars were of Jewish lineages.
The history of the Alexandrian Jews dates to the days when Alexander the Great founded the city in 332 BCE. From the foundation of the city, the Jewish people were there and prospered. They formed a large segment of the Alexandrian population where the two of the five districts of the city were assigned to them by the Ptolemies so that they would live a “pure life” free of indigenous cultic and pagan influence.
Over the centuries the Jewish people became almost an autonomous sector of the Egyptian society. They did not have to hide behind “private societies” that were used for religious purposes like in Rome. Neither did they have to become a part of a “corporation of foreigners” or a “merchant guild” like they had to in other centers of commerce.
Not only that, the G-d of Israel provided them with their own Jewish Temple so they could perform the sacrifices to the L-rd when their own land in Judea was being corrupted by Hellenism. As BibleSearchers reflection wrote in the article titled, “The Jewish Temple in the Land of Onias at Leontopolis in Egypt”:
BibleSearchers Reflections – “In the year of 154 BCE, Onias V (not Menelaus as Onias IV) became the first high priest that was denied the office of the high priest by an outside imperial ruler. It was Lysias, the Imperial Vice-Regent for the Syrian king, Antiochus V Eupator (164-162 BCE) that deprived Onias V this esteemed post. He gave the role of the high priest to Alcimus (163-159 BCE), a descendant of Eniachim, the brother of Jozadak, the exiled priest in Babylon and father of the High Priest Yehoshua II (Jesus II).
We ask, what was the problem? Eniachim was the brother to Jozadak the high priest and therefore he was not the oldest son and legitimate heir to the throne of the high priest. The high priest designate, Onias V, escaped from Jerusalem and took his family to Egypt. For the first time in Hebrew history, a foreign ruler had intervened in the hereditary succession of the high priest of Israel, and denied the accession of Onias V, to rule in his father, Onias III’s place.
There upon an island in the marshy Delta of the Nile River, the high priest designate, Onias V placed the mark where the Temple of the Lord would be built that would rival the temple in Jerusalem. It was here where the Nile River meets the Egyptian Delta and spreads like a mighty fan northward before entering the Mediterranean Sea.
Onias V settled his family in the Nome or District of Heliopolis. Nearby were the ruins of the ancient Egyptian Temple of Bubastis where they began to build their temple…
There on the island, in the beautiful island-delta region of Egypt, a high tower rose like a temple with the same dimensions but smaller and less ornate than the Temple in Jerusalem. Many writers have written how it was different in style to the Temple of Zerubabbel in Jerusalem. Yet, it was the archeologist, Ernest Martin, who also argued that the Temple of Herod was also built like a tower.
It was here, where the High Priest Onias V and his entourage of priests performed the ritual sacrificial services according to the laws of Torah. The Kohens or Levitical priests would be presided over by the authorized family of high priests from the House of Zadok, the high priest of King David. This region of Egypt came to be known as the Land of Onias, in Greek, Egyptian, Jewish and Roman sources.
It was Onias III who wrote a letter, whether real or spurious, seeking royal permission to build a temple from the Egyptian brother and sister, king-queen, Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra II. There was a reason for this action of Onias V, the son of the High Priest, Onias III, for in the aftermath of the attempted ransacking the treasury of the Jewish temple by Heliodorus, representing the Syrian Emperor Seleucus IV Pilopator, Heliodorus’s divine expulsion by heavenly apparitions, and the later “abomination of desolation” by Syrian ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Antiochus later invaded into Egypt.
In that military battle Antiochus IV lost to the Egyptian rulers, who were part Grecian, the brother and sister king-queen, Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra II. These events heralded the rise of the Jewish Hasmonean State.
Onias V knew that Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra II were not friends of the Syrian king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had desecrated the Temple of Zerubabbel. They no doubt looked more favorably upon the Jewish people.
Flavius Josephus – “When Onias saw that Judea was oppressed by the Macedonians (Antiochus Epiphanes IV) and their kings out of a desire to purchase to himself a memorial and eternal fame, he resolved to send to king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra, to ask leave of them that he might build a temple in Egypt like that at Jerusalem, and might ordain Levites and priests out of their own stock.
The chief reason why he was desirous so to do, was, that he relied upon the prophet Isaiah, who lived above six hundred years before, and foretold that there certainly was to be a temple built to the Almighty G-d in Egypt by a man that was as Jew.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, iii, 1) Josephus was emphatic that it was the prophecy of Isaiah that inspired Onias V, and that Onias V was person to fulfill this oracle of the L-rd.
Isaiah 19:19-20 – “In that day there will be an altar to the L-rd in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the L-rd at its border. And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the L-rd of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they will cry to the L-rd because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptian will know the L-rd in that day.”
For the next three generations, the descendants of Onias V, the high priest at the Jewish Temple at Leontopolis presided over the temple services. There in the tower-like temple that was built to imitate the temple in Jerusalem, the large population of Jews in Alexandria, Egypt went to worship. This Jewish temple did not have a menorah (candelabrum), but instead a large hanging lamp). It had a courtyard that was surrounded by a fortress like brick wall with stone gates. There, this family of priests of the House of Zadok would dwell, until they were recalled back to Jerusalem.”
The Jewish scholarship in biblical translations was well known in antiquity. In the late 3rd century BCE, according to tradition, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, ruler of Egypt over a century earlier had commissioned the translation of the Hebrew Torah into Koine Greek language, the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean region after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE.
According to traditions and legends, Ptolemy II Philadelphus commissioned seventy or seventy two Jewish scholars to translate the Torah from the ancient Hebrew script into Koine Greek called the Septuagint. This “Greek” Torah would then be included in the famous Library in Alexandria. According to the Megillah of the Babylonian Talmud:
Tractate Megillah, 9a-9b – “King Ptolemy once gathered 72 Elders. He placed them in 72 chambers, each of them in a separate one, without revealing to them why they were summoned. He entered each one's room and said: "Write for me the Torah of Moshe, your teacher." G-d put it in the heart of each one to translate identically as all the others did.”
It was Philo of Alexandria, who used this same translation of the Septuagint (Greek Torah) in his writings when he stated that six scholars from each of the 12 tribes of Israel were chosen. As the legends continued, each of the 72 Jewish translators translated the Torah into Greek in solitude and every one of the translations came out the same. Scholars today identify that the Greek represented the early Koine era by manuscripts datable to the early 2nd century BCE. From this one translation came the foundation for the Old Latin, Slavonic, Syriac, Old Armenian, Old Georgian and Coptic versions of the Christian Old Testament.
This was the same, Philo the Jew, a Hellenistic Jewish biblical philosopher who lived in Alexandria in the year of the Alexandrian riots and pogroms against the Jews in 38 CE. It was he who led a Jewish delegation to meet in Rome with the Roman Emperor Caligula and effected the reestablishment of the legal residence in Alexandria of the Jewish people.
You might be Interested to Read the Rest of the Series:
“The Fall Festivals of the Jews: Rosh Hashanah and the Jewish knowledge of Time”
Part One – “The Days of Awe - How the Ancients Recorded Time”
Part Four – “The Jewish New Year on the 1st of Tishri”
Part Seven – “The Jewish Fate in the Roman Annals of Ancient History”
The legitimacy of the Jewish people and their relevancy to give us a vignette of history from the Egyptian Empire in the days of Jacob and Joseph to today is summed up in one thought; they were there when every empire of the world made their bid to be the rulers of the world. They all disappeared and today once again are reasserting their rights to rule the global “New World Order”. Yet, the G-d of Israel has proclaimed that in the end, they all will disappear and Messianic Age of the Messiah in Jerusalem will rule the whole world.
As we have seen the world is quickly polarizing between “The Jews” and the “Nations of the World”. In the end that will be only two choices; we are either for the Hebrew Israelites; both now part of the Jews of the house of Judah and the Lost Israelites of the house of Israel or we will be against them. This comes to one sobering conclusion, if you are a descendant of the Lost Ten Tribes of the House of Israel and you despise your brothers, the Jews, you will be left cohabitating with peoples who will have a genetic hatred to you even though you think you want to be a part of them.
So today, the G-d is whistling you to come back to the brotherhood of Klal Yisra’el (All Israel). To learn more about this redemptive process, you are Welcome to Contact “Kol Ha Tor”, the Voice of the Turtledove. Here is a joint Orthodox Jewish and 10-Triber Mission to bring awareness of the imminent fulfillment of the Biblical Prophecies regarding the Redemption of all Israel (12 Tribes Re-conciled and Re-United). This super Event of all Times will entail establishing in the region of Shomron (the Ancient Bible Heartland of the Patriarchs) and the Judean Wilderness into a new homeland for the Return of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel when All Israel will finally be redeemed.
For inquiries about Kol Ha Tor Vision for the Lost Tribes of Israel, Visit – “Shomron Lives!”, a Spiritual Retreat and Guest House in Samaria, that hosts Shomron (Samaria) Tours to reacquaint the Returning Lost Tribers of the House of Israel.