EUPOLEMUS (Gr. ʾΕνπόλεμος), first significant Greco-Jewish historian. His name, the time when he lived, and the content of the remaining fragments of his work combine to make it likely that he is identical with Eupolemus, son of John, son of Hakkoz, who in 161–60 B.C.E. brought back from Rome a promise of assistance for *Judah Maccabee (I Macc. 8:17–32). His father John is mentioned as having gained concessions for Jerusalem from Antiochus III after the Seleucid conquest of Coele-Syria (II Macc. 4:11). Six passages from Eupolemus' writings survive in the works of Eusebius and Clement of Alexandria, who found them in the monograph On the Jews by *Alexander Polyhistor (85–35 B.C.E.). Because of its Samaritan bias and its incompatibility with other remnants, it is customary to label the fragment dealing with Abraham as Pseudo-Eupolemus.
Eupolemus entitled his book On the Kings of Judah. Another title, On the Prophecy of Elijah, is either a subtitle or a chapter of the former. Eupolemus' history covered the period from Moses (perhaps from the creation) to his own day. He reckoned 5,149 years from Adam to the fifth year of Demetrius Soter (158–157 B.C.E.), evidently the year in which he completed his chronicle (Clement, Stromata 1. 141, 4).
Fragment 1, though brief, was extensively quoted, because it summed up the Jewish and, later, the Christian response to Greek philosophy and science: "Moses was the first wise man, the first who imparted the alphabet to the Jews; the Phoenicians received it from the Jews, and the Greeks from the Phoenicians; also laws were first written by Moses for the Jews."
Fragment 2 is the longest single remnant of a Greco-Jewish text prior to *Philo. The reigns of Joshua, Samuel, and Saul and his son (sic) David are all mentioned briefly. The text becomes more detailed in its description of David's campaign. Eupolemus was a priest himself, and it is natural that he should have chosen as his central theme the Temple of Jerusalem. An angel hovered above to show David the site of the future Temple, which he himself was forbidden to build. When Solomon became king at the age of 12, he ordered the client-kings, Vaphres of Egypt and Suron (Hiram) of Tyre, to supply him with labor, and each sent 80,000 men. The exchange of letters between the kings concocted by Eupolemus is reproduced verbatim. Eupolemus' account of the dimensions of the Temple and its furnishings is, as a rule, inconsistent with that of the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible. Also, Eupolemus' Temple, the gold surplus of which was sent to Suron, is more gilded than the traditional one (see *Theophilus). Solomon died at the age of 52, after transferring the tabernacle's furnishings from Shiloh with great pomp (cf. LXX, I Kings 2:12; SOR 14). In the last fragment, the authenticity of which is sometimes erroneously questioned, Eupolemus describes the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, assisted by the Median king, Astibares, and an allied force of 300,000 men. The invasion followed Jeremiah's discovery that the king was worshipping the golden Baal. The Temple and its furnishings were shipped to Babylon. However, the prophet salvaged the tablets of the Law (II Macc. 2:1ff.).
Eupolemus' history was not a mere restatement of the biblical version. He changed or invented the names of men and locations and dealt freely with other facts. He continued the chronicler's method of rewriting the past in the light of the contemporary scene. Thus he contributes a scarecrow to Solomon's Temple and gives the dimensions of that Temple as similar to those of the Second Temple, which was standing in his day. The Mosaic account of the Tabernacle is a significant element in Eupolemus' description of the Temple. Though his Greek vocabulary is narrow and his syntax atrocious, Eupolemus' texts are valuable as the only confirmed remnants of the Greek used in Jerusalem.
He was indebted to the Septuagint for the Hexateuch, but there is no evidence (contrary to Freudenthal) that Eupolemus made use of the Greek versions of Kings and Chronicles. Technical terms transliterated in the Septuagint are rendered by Eupolemus into Greek. He is the first Jewish historian who borrowed from nonbiblical sources. He drew upon Herodotus, Ctesias, and Greco-Phoenician and Greco-Egyptian historians.
A passage dealing with Abraham, attributed by Alexander Polyhistor to an anonymous writer (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 9:18, 2), is now ascribed by Freudenthal and Jacoby to Pseudo-Eupolemus on the basis of similarity of content. Walter, however, questions the identification. The apparent pro-Seleucid and anti-Egyptian bias of Pseudo-Eupolemus, the link with the Enochite texts, such as the Book of Enoch, Jubilees, and Genesis Apocryphon, and the fact that the passage is evidently criticized in Sibylline Oracles (3:218ff.) suggests a pre-Maccabean dating for Pseudo-Eupolemus. If this dating is warranted, Pseudo-Eupolemus would then be the oldest syncretic presentation of a biblical text.
FRAGMENTS: F. Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, 3c, 2 (1958), 671–9, nos. 723–4; Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 9:17; 9:30–34; 9:39. COMMENTARIES: J. Freudenthal, Hellenistische Studien (1874–75), 82–130; Wacholder, in: HUCA, 34 (1963), 83–113; Pauly-Wissowa, 11 (1907), 1227–29, no. 11; Walter, in: Klio, 43–45 (1965), 282–90.
[Ben Zion Wacholder]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.