A Jewish historian.
Online Critical Pseudepigrapha.
Artapanus in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Artapanus was an ancient Jewish historian. Only fragments of his work
are preserved, thanks to Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius.
Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).
Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on Artapanus:
Martin McNamara writes: "Artapanus' work Concerning the Jews is
known to us only through excerpts in the Church Fathers, principally Clement
of Alexandria (Stromata) and Eusebius (Praeparatio Evangelica).
He methodically embellishes, or rewrites, the biblical account to glorify the
Jewish people and to show that the Egyptians were indebted to them for all useful
knowledge and information. Abraham is said to have taught astrology to the Pharaoh
Pharethothes. Joseph introduced better cultivation of land. Moses was the real
founder of all culture and in fact of the worship of the gods in Egypt. The
Exodus from Egypt is also narrated with some embellishment." (Intertestamental
Literature, pp. 221-222)
James Charlesworth writes: "The first fragment, an extract of one section
from his En tois Ioudaikois, contains both an explanation of Hermioth,
the name of the Jews before Abraham called them Hebraious, and a report
that Abraham taught astrology to Pharaoh. The second, a quotation of four sections
from his Peri Ioudaion, contains a story of Moses, who is identified
with Musaeus, described as the teacher of Orpheus, and called Hermes. Inter
alia Moses divided the state (ten polin) into 36 sections and assigned
to each a god (kai hekasto ton nomon apotaxai ton theon sephthesesthai),
invented hieroglyphics, and was military commander of a war against the Ethiopians."
(The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, p. 83)
Emil Schürer writes: "In his work περι Ιουδαιων
Artapanus is still farther removed than Eupolemus from the sober and unadorned
style of Demetrius. The sacred history is quite methodically embellished, or
to speak more correctly remodelled, by fantastic and tasteless additionsand
this recasting is throughout in the interest of the tendency to a glorification
of the Jewish people. One chief aim is directed towards proving, that the Egyptians
were indebted to the Jews for all useful knowledge and institutions. Thus the
very first fragment (Euseb. Praep. evang. ix. 18) relates that Abraham,
when he journeyed into Egypt, instructed the king, Pharethothes, in astrology.
A second (Euseb. ix. 23) narrates how Joseph, when raised by the king to be
the chief governor of the country, provided for the better cultivation of the
land. And finally, the long article concerning Moses (Euseb. ix. 27) gives detailed
information of his being the real founder of all the culture and even of the
worship of the gods in Egypt. For he it was whom the Greeks call Musaeus, the
instructor of Orpheus, the author of a multitude of useful inventions and attainments,
of navigation, architecture, military science, and philosophy. He also divided
the country into thirty-six provinces, and commanded each province to worship
God; he also instructed the priests in heiroglyphics. He introduced order into
State affairs. Hence he was beloved by the Egyptians, who called him Hermas,
δια την των ιερων γραμματων ερμηνειαν.
King Chenephres however sought, out of envy, to get rid of him. But none of
the means he used succeeded. When Chenephrenes was dead, Moses received commandment
from God to deliver His people from Egyptian bondage. The history of the exodus
and of all that preceded it, especially of the miracles by which the permission
to depart was extorted, is then related at length and in accordance with the
Scripture narrative, but at the same time with many additions and embellishments.
Single traits from this history are related, with express appeal to Artapanus,
in Clemens Alex. Strom. i. 23. 154, in Chron. pasch. ed. Dindorf,
i. 117, and in the Chron. anonym. in Cramer, Anecdota, Paris,
ii. 176. Traces of the employment of this work may be pointed out especially
in Josephus (see Freudenthal, pp. 169-171). The more plainly its Jewish authorship
is manifested by the tendency of the whole work, the more strange does it appear,
that Moses and the patriarchs should be exhibited as founders of the Egyptian
worships. Jacob and his sons are represented as founding the sanctuaries at
Athos and Heliopolis (23. 4). Moses directs each province to honour God (τον Θεον σεφθησεσθαι);
he prescribes the consecration of the Ibis (27. 9) and of Apis (27. 12). In
a word, the religion of Egypt is referred to Jewish authority. This fact has
been explained by Freudenthal by the surely incorrect notion, that the author
was indeed a Jew, but wanted to pass for a heathen, and indeed for an Egyptian
priest (pp. 149 sq., 152 sq.) For nowhere does such an attempt come plainly
forward. And with such a tendency, an entirely unknown name such as Artapanus
would certainly never have been chosen as a shield. Nor does it at all explain
the phenomena. For if the work had appeared under a heathen mask, we should
surely expect, that it would have energetically denounced in the name of this
acknowledged authority the abomination of idol-worship, as is actually done,
e.g. in the case of the Sibyllist (iii. 20), and of pseudo-Aristeas (pp. 38,
14 sq., ed. Mor. Schmidt). Thus, under all circumstances, the strange fact remains,
that Jewish author has represented Moses as the founder of Egyptian rites. But
however strange this may appear, it is explained by the tendency of the whole.
Moses was the introducer of all culture, even of religious culture. This and
nothing else is the meaning. Besides, it must be considered, that the heathen
worship is in reality represented in a tolerably innocent light. For the sacred
animals are not so much worshipped, as on the contrary 'consecrated' for their
utilityτω Θεω, as we cannot but conclude.
But even thus, we certainly have still to do with a Jewish author, who cared
more for the honour of the Jewish name, than for the purity of divine worship.
Perhaps too an apologetic purpose co-operated in causing the Jews, who were
decried as despisers of the gods, to figure as founders of religious worship.
Considering the marked prominence of Egyptian references, there needs no other
proof that the author was an real Egyptian. With regard to date, it can only
be affirmed with certainty of him and of those who follow, that they were predecessors
of Alexander Polyhistor." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the
Time of Jesus, pp. 207-208)
James Charlesworth writes: "Although it is impossible to specify Artapanus'
dates, it is evident he lived in the second century B.C., probably in Egypt.
The fragments contain the claim that Egyptian culture, including idolatry and
polytheism, was shaped by Abraham, Joseph and Moses. The last is even deified.
These liberal ideas scarcely warant the conclusion that Artapanus was a 'heathen'
(so J. Freudenthal, Alexander Polyhistor. Breslau: Skutsch, 1875, pp.
146-48); they reveal how far a syncretistic hellenistic Jew can veer away from
the biblical tradition (so E. Schürer, History, 2d Div., vol. 3,
p. 208; P. Dalbert, Missionsliteratur, pp. 42-52). It is probable that
Artapanus was forced into hyperbole because he was composing a pro-Jewish apology
against an Egyptian anti-Semitic Moses legend (so M. Braun, History and Romance
in Graeco-Oriental Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, 1938; pp. 26-31)."
(The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, pp. 82-83)