This article compares and contrasts two Hellenistic versions of the story of Moses’s Ethiopian campaign, the version of Artapanus (Praep. ev. 9.27.7-16) and that of Josephus (A.J. 2.238-257), so that it may investigate how the same motif was expressed differently in Hellenistic Egypt and in Eretz Israel and what roles each version played in its own setting.
The study makes comparisons of each of the stages of the two stories. Then, it synthesizes the results and discusses the origin, purpose, and audience of Artapanus’s and Josephus’s versions of the story of Moses’s campaign against Ethiopia.
Artapanus’s story is a “competitive historiography” originating from Hellenistic Egypt. Since he wants his writing to be apologetic and polemic, Artapanus uses biblical and other sources freely. He portrays Moses as a national hero of Egypt and a founder of its culture so that he may correct contemporary anti-Jewish sentiments among non-Jews and enhance the self-esteem of Jews. Josephus’s story is not as polemic as Artapanus’s. He is not as free as Artapanus in adapting biblical sources, probably because his main purpose was to write a history as accurately as possible. Although Josephus must have wanted his writing to reach non-Jews, his attention seems to have been directed more toward Jews than non-Jews.
This study helps take an in-depth look at the time, society, and people of each of the matrices where the same motif about a Jewish hero was made, developed, and circulated.