Pseudepigrapha Saturday: Eupolemus

Introduction to Eupolemus:

Eupolemus was a Jewish-hellenistic historian in the 2nd century BCE. and wrote work entitled On the Kings in Judea. The only surviving fragments are from Alexander Polyhistor’s On the Jews, preserved by Clement of Alexandria (c. CE 150-216) and Eusebius of Caesarea (c. CE 260-340). Eupolemus was likely of Palestinian origins and functioned as an ambassador to Rome under the reign of Judas Maccabeus (1 Maccabees 8:17f; 2 Maccabees 4:11). The fragments present the history of Judean prophets and kings more influenced by Chronicles than Kings. I will focus on Fragment 2 (Praeparatio Evangelica 9.30..1-34.18).

Fragment 2 historiographically traces the lineage of prophets and kings in the early Judean monarchy. Eupolemus traces it as follows:

  • Moses: Prophesied for 40 years
  • Joshua son of Nun: Prophesied for 30 years and established a sacred tabernacle at Shiloh.
  • Samuel: Prophetic reign is not given a period of time.
  • Saul: By the will of God, Samuel chooses Saul to be king, and Saul rules for 21 years, then dies.
  • David: According to Polyhistor, David son of Saul becomes king, subdues the region through warfare, and dies.
  • Solomon: Reigns and builds the temple until the end of Fragment 2.

Historiography and Re-appropriation

Anybody who knows their Bible 101 recognizes that this history of the Judean kings is highly idealized. Already the Deuteronomistic Historian [1] and Chronicle each have unique trajectories and historiographical aims. Each re-appropriates the narrative of the emergence of the ancient Israelite monarchy for their own aims. Eupolemus’s Fragment 2 contributes to an alternative approaches to ancient Israel’s history written for a unique audience.

Based on this idea, I wonder what happens if we choose to understand David as Saul’s son not a scribal error [2]. There are three reasons to consider this possibility. First, Eupolemus fails to indicate any of the failures of Saul found in 1 Samuel. What of Chronicles, though? Even 1 Chronicles is critical of Saul: “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, 14 and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (1 Chroniclees 10:13-14, NIV) . So, Eupolemus’ lack of indication regarding Saul’s failures indicates a higher view of him, perhaps due to his apologetic purposes. And as an ambassador to Rome, it seems reasonable that he would hope to present the kingly lineage as unified and strong, rather than admitting inner-Judean strife and conflict.

Second, by referencing David as the son of Saul, greater continuity is brought forth in the early monarchy. Again, assuming Eupolemus was an ambassador, his historiography would be much more attractive than one in which the monarchic rule was unstable and seemingly in constant flux.

Third, after referencing Joshua’s establishment of the sacred tabernacle at Shiloh, the period of the Judges is skipped and he proceeds to Samuel. Samuel’s prophetic calling from Yahweh occurs at Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:21)). Thus, even between Joshua and Samuel, it is evident that Eupolemus hoped to illustrate some sort of continuity between various leaders and kings. Perhaps he did so in order to legitimize Judeans as an independent kingdom with strong historical foundations.

While these ideas are conjectural, they are worth considering. Rather than passing off disagreements with the MT or LXX as scribal errors, we should always consider the possibility that it was a choice of the author. In this situation, perhaps, Eupolemus intentionally referenced David as the Son of Saul.

[1] By “Deuteronomistic Historian”, I am merely reference the broader collection of works; not the idea that Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings were written as one unified work.

[2] “Eupolemus”, tranlsation and commentary by F. Fallon,  ed. James Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 2 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983), 861-872, Fragment 2, n. g, comments that the “error in identifying David as Saul’s son is probably due to a misunderstanding by Alexander Plyhistory. MS B has corrected the error to son-in-law”.

Bibliography

F. Fallon.”Eupolemus”. Ed. James Charlesworth. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 2 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983), 861-872.

J. Freudenthal. Hellenistiche Studien 1-2: Alexander Polyhistory (Breslau: 1875).

B. Z. Wacholder. Eupolemus: A Study of Judaeo-Greek Literature (Cincinatti: Hebrew Union College, 1974).

David A. Creech. “The Lawless Pride. Jewish Identity in the Fragments of Eupolemus”. Annali di storia dell’esegesi 29 no. 2 (December 2012), 29-51.

 

 

 

 

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