Demetrius the chronographer.
A Jewish historian.
Fragments (Greek and English).
Demetrius the Chronographer (English only).
Demetrius the Chronographer in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
Demetrius the chronographer was an ancient Jewish historian. His work,
entitled (according to Clement of Alexandria in Miscellanies 1.21.141) περι των εν
(concerning the kings in Judea), is lost to us. Only fragments of
it are preserved, mainly in the Preparation for
the Gospel by Eusebius (who is
actually quoting Demetrius not directly but rather indirectly through
Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).
Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on Demetrius the chronographer:
James Charlesworth writes: "Fragment one, of one line, contains a short
account of Abraham's offering of Isaac. Fragment two, of nineteen lines, is
a redundant retelling of Jacob's life with interwoven chronological notes. Fragment
three, of three lines, contains a summary of Demetrius in which it is argued
that Moses' father-in-law, Iothor, is a descendant of Abraham. Fragment
four, of one line, is a short account of the bitter water Moses found at Marah
(Ex 15:22-25). Fragment five, of one line, explains that the Israelites' weapons
used after the Exodus were obtained from the drowning Egyptians. Fragment six,
of two lines, explains that the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi may not
have been taken into exile by Sennacherib, and concludes with a chronological
summary up to Ptolemy IV. Throughout these fragments we find dependence upon
the Septuagint (see esp. Wacholder, no. 321, and no. 819, pp. 99-104) and an
apologetical exegesis that moves from difficulties to explanations (aporiai
kai luseis)." (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, p. 94)
Emil Schürer writes: "In the same century in which Berosus composed
the ancient history of the Caldaeans, and Manetho that of the Egyptians, but
about sixty years later, Demetrius, a Jewish Hellenist, compiled in a brief
chronological form a history of Israel, his works being equally with theirs
according to the sacred records. Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 21. 141 states
its title to have been περι των εν τη Ιουδαια βασιλεων.
And it can be scarcely a reason for doubting the correctness of this title,
that the fragments deal almost all with only the most ancient period (so Freudenthal,
p. 205 sq.). For Justus of Tiberias e.g. also treated of the time of Moses in
his Chronicle of the Jewish kings. The first fragment in Euseb. Praep. evang.
ix. 21 concerns the history of Jacob from his emigration to Mesopotamia
till his death. At the close the genealogy of the tribe of Levi is carried on
to the birth of Moses and Aaron. Chronology is made a special sin. Nay, the
whole is far more a settlement of chronology than a history properly so called.
The date of every single circumstance in the life of Laban, e.g. the birth of
each of his twelve sons and such matters, is precisely determined. Of course
many dates have to be assumed for which Scripture offers no support. A large
portion of the chronological statements is obtained by combinations, and in
some instances very complicated combinations of actual dates of Holy Scripture.
A second fragment (Euseb. Praep. evang. ix. 29. 1-3) from the history
of Moses is chiefly occupied in proving, that Zipporah the wife of Moses was
descended from Abraham and Keturah. This fragment is also used in the Chronicon
paschale, ed. Dindorf, i. 117, and is quoted from Eusebius in the Chron.
Anon. in Cramer, Anecdota, Paris, ii. 256. In a third (Euseb. Praep.
evang. ix. 29. 15) the history of the bitter waters (Ex. xv. 22 sqq.) is
related. Lastly, the chronological fragment preserved in Clem. Alex. Strom.
i. 21. 141 gives precise statements concerning the length of time from the carrying
away into captivity of the ten tribes and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to
Ptolemy IV. It is just this fragment which gives us also a key to the date of
Demetrius. For it is evident that he chose the time of Ptolemy IV. (222-205
B.C.) as a closing point for his calculations, because he himself lived in the
reign of that monarch. Hence we obtain also an important standpoint for determining
the date of the LXX. For that Demetrius made use of the Septuagint translation
of the Pentateuch is acknowledged even by Hody, although such acknowledgment
is unfavourable to his tendency of pointing out the limited diffusion obtained
by the LXX. A glance at the contents of the fragment renders it needless to
prove that its author was a Jew. It would certainly never have entered the mind
of a heathen to take such pains in calculating and completing the Biblical chronology.
Nevertheless Josephus took him for one and confounded him with Demetrius Phalereus
(Contra Apion, i. 23 = Euseb. Praep. evang. ix. 42; comp. Müller,
Fragm. ii. 369a. Freudenthal, p. 170, note). Among moderns too, e.g.
Hody, is found the mistaken notion that he was a heathen. The correct one is
however already met with in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. vi. 13. 7, and after
him in Hieronymus, De vir. illustr. c. 38 (ed. Vallarsi, ii. 879)."
(The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 200-201)
Martin McNamara writes: "The writer Demetrius is mentioned by Josephus
(Against Apion I, 23, § 218) who apparently believed he was a pagan.
Demetrius wrote a work on Jewish chronology from Abraham to the Exodus under
the title 'Concerning the Kings of the Jews.' He wrote during the reign of Ptolemy
IV (222-205 B.C.). It is generally accepted that he published his work in Alexandria.
However, the possibility that he was Palestinian and that he published his work
in Palestine cannot be ruled out. All that remains of the work are fragments
preserved in the writings of Josephus and Eusebius. The work used the Septuagint
Greek translation, the first writing known to do so. Demetrius remains faithful
to the Greek biblical text and has few midrashic embellishments." (Intertestamental
Literature, pp. 220-221)
James Charlesworth writes: "It is evident from fragment six, which extends
the chronological history up to Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-204 B.C.; heos
Ptolemaiou tetartou), that this hellenistic-Jewish exegete wrote his history
in Alexandria in the last two decades of the third century B.C. B. Z. Wacholder
suggests correctly that Demetrius represents an exegetical and chronological
school (no. 819, p. 99)." (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research,