Aristobulus was a 2nd c., BC, Jewish philosopher whose works are lost. A few quotations survive in Eusebius, which are given here. The passages from the Praeparation Evangelica were translated by E.H. Gifford (1903), and originally prepared for the web by Roger Pearse . The passage from Ecclesiastical History is taken from the CCEL edition of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. I have also referenced A. Y. Collins’ translation in James Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, pp. 831-842. Generally, the paragraph breaks are hers.
Eusebius, Praeparation Evangelica 8: 9.38-10.17
(9.38) But it is time to hear what Aristobulus, who had partaken of Aristotle’s philosophy in addition to that of his own country, declared concerning the passages in the Sacred Books which are currently understood to refer to limbs of God’s body. This is that very man who is mentioned in the beginning of the Second Book of Maccabees [2 Mac 1:10] and in his writing addressed to King Ptolemy he too explains this principle.
(10.1) When, however, we had said enough in answer to the questions put before us, you also, O king, did further demand, why by our law there are intimations given of hands, and arm, and face, and feet, and walking, in the case of the Divine Power: which things shall receive a becoming explanation, and will not at all contradict the opinions which we have previously expressed. (2) But I would entreat you to take the interpretations in a natural way, and to hold fast the fitting conception of God, and not to fall off into the idea of a fabulous anthropomorphic constitution. (3) For our lawgiver Moses, when he wishes to express his meaning in various ways, announces certain arrangements of nature and preparations for mighty deeds, by adopting phrases applicable to other things, I mean to things outward and visible. (4) Those therefore who have a good understanding admire his wisdom, and the divine inspiration in consequence of which he has been proclaimed a prophet; among whom are the aforesaid philosophers and many others, including poets, who have borrowed important suggestions from him, and are admired accordingly.(5) But to those who are devoid of power and intelligence, and only cling close to the letter, he does not appear to explain any grand idea. (6) I shall begin then to interpret each particular signification, as far as I may be able. But if I shall fail to hit upon the truth, and to persuade you, do not impute the inconsistency to the Lawgiver, but to my want of ability to distinguish clearly the thoughts in his mind. (7) First then the word “hands” evidently has, even in our own case, a more general meaning. For when you as a king send out forces, wishing to accomplish some purpose, we say, The king has a mighty hand, and the hearers’ thoughts are carried to the power which you possess. (8) Now this is what Moses also signifies in our Law, when he speaks thus : “God brought thee forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand”;9 and again: “I will put forth My hand,” saith God, “and will smite the Egyptians.” 10 Again in the account of the death of the cattle Moses says to Pharaoh : “Behold, the hand of the Lord shall be upon thy cattle, and upon all that are in the fields a great death.” 11 So that the “hands” are understood of the power of God: for indeed it is easy to perceive that the whole strength of men and their active powers are in their hands. (9) Wherefore our Lawgiver, in saying that the effects are God’s hands, has made the word a beautiful metaphor of majesty.
The constitution too of the world may well be called for its majesty God’s standing; (10) for God is over all, and all things are subject unto Him, and have received from Him their station, so that men may comprehend that they are immovable. Now my meaning is like this, that heaven has never become earth, and earth heaven, nor the sun become the shining moon, nor again the moon become the sun, nor rivers seas, nor seas rivers. (11) And again in the case of living beings there is the same principle. For man will never be beast, nor beast man. In the case of all the rest too the same rule exists, of plants and all other things: they are not interchangeable, but are subject to the same changes in themselves, and to decay. (12) In these ways then God may rightly be spoken of as standing, since all things are set under Him.
It is said too in the book of the Law that there was a descent of God upon the mountain, at the time when He was giving the Law, in order that all might behold the operation of God: for this is a manifest descent; and so any one wishing to guard safely the doctrine of God would interpret these circumstances as follows. (13) It is declared that the mountain burned with fire, as the Lawgiver says, because God had descended upon it, and that there were the voices of trumpets, and the fire blazing so that none could withstand it. (14) For while the whole multitude, not less than a thousand thousands, besides those of unfit age, were assembled around the mount, the circuit of it being not less than five days’ journey, in every part of the view around them all as they were encamped the fire was seen blazing. (15) So that the descent was not local; for God is everywhere. But whereas the power of fire is beyond all things marvellous because it consumes everything, he could not have shown it blazing irresistibly, yet consuming nothing, unless there were the efficacy given to it from God. (16) For though the places were all ablaze, the fire did not actually consume any of the things which grew upon that mountain: but the herbage of all remained untouched by fire, and the voices of trumpets were loudly heard together with the lightning-like flashing of the fire, though there were no such instruments present nor any that sounded them, but all things were done by divine arrangement. (17) So that it is plain that the divine descent took place for these reasons, that the spectators might have a manifest comprehension of the several circumstances, that neither the fire which, as I said before, burnt nothing, nor the voices of the trumpets were produced by human action or a supply of instruments, but that God without any aid was exhibiting His own all-pervading majesty.
Thus far Aristobulus.
Eusebius, Praeparation Evangelica 13: 12.1-16
And I will quote first the words of the Hebrew philosopher Aristobulus, which are as follows:
(12:1) IT is evident that Plato closely followed our legislation, and has carefully studied the several precepts contained in it. For others before Demetrius Phalereus, and prior to the supremacy of Alexander and the Persians, have translated both the narrative of the exodus of the Hebrews our fellow countrymen from Egypt, and the fame of all that had happened to them, and the conquest of the land, and the exposition of the whole Law; so that it is manifest that many things have been borrowed by the aforesaid philosopher, for he is very learned: as also Pythagoras transferred many of our precepts and inserted them in his own system of doctrines. (2) But the entire translation of all the contents of our law was made in the time of the king surnamed Philadelphus, thy ancestor, who brought greater zeal to the work, which was managed by Demetrius Phalereus.
(9) Then, after interposing some remarks, he further says:
For we must understand the voice of God not as words spoken, but as construction of works, just as Moses in the Law has spoken of the whole creation of the world as words of God. For he constantly says of each work, “And God said, and it was so.” (4) Now it seems to me that he has been very carefully followed in all by Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato, who said that they heard the voice of God, when they were contemplating the arrangement of the universe so accurately made and indissolubly combined by God. Moreover, Orpheus, in verses taken from his writings in the Sacred Legend, thus sets forth the doctrine that all things are governed by divine power, and that they have had a beginning, and that God is over all. And this is what he says:
I speak to those who lawfully may hear:
Depart, and close the doors, all ye profane,
Who hate the ordinances of the just,
The law divine announced to all mankind.
But thou, Musaeus, child of the bright Moon,
Lend me thine ear; for I have truths to tell.
Let not the former fancies of thy mind
Amerce thee of the dear and blessed life.
Look to the word divine, keep close to that,
And guide thereby the deep thoughts of thine heart.
Walk wisely in the way, and look to none,
Save to the immortal Framer of the world:
For thus of Him an ancient story speaks:
One, perfect in Himself, all else by Him
Made perfect: ever present in His works,
By mortal eyes unseen, by mind alone Discerned.
It is not He that out of good
Makes evil to spring up for mortal men.
Both love and hatred wait upon His steps,
And war and pestilence, and sorrow and tears:
For there is none but He. All other things
‘Twere easy to behold, could’st thou but first
Behold Himself here present upon earth.
The footsteps and the mighty hand of God
Whene’er I see, I’ll show them thee, my son:
But Him I cannot see, so dense a cloud
In tenfold darkness wraps our feeble sight.
Him in His power no mortal could behold,
Save one, a scion of Chaldaean race:
For he was skilled to mark the sun’s bright path,
And how in even circle round the earth
The starry sphere on its own axis turns,
And winds their chariot guide o’er sea and sky;
And showed where fire’s bright flame its strength displayed.
But God Himself, high above heaven unmoved,
Sits on His golden throne, and plants His feet
On the broad earth; His right hand He extends
O’er Ocean’s farthest bound; the eternal hills
Tremble in their deep heart, nor can endure
His mighty power. And still above the heavens
Alone He sits, and governs all on earth,
Himself first cause, and means, and end of all.
So men of old, so tells the Nile-born sage,
Taught by the twofold tablet of God’s law;
Nor otherwise dare I of Him to speak:
In heart and limbs I tremble at the thought,
How He from heaven all things in order rules.
Draw near in thought, my son; but guard thy tongue
With care, and store this doctrine in thine heart.
(6) Aratus also speaks of the same subject thus:
From Zeus begin the song, nor ever leave
His name unsung, whose godhead fills all streets,
All thronging marts of men, the boundless sea
And all its ports: whose aid all mortals need;
For we his offspring are; and kindly he
Reveals to man good omens of success,
Stirs him to labour by the hope of food,
Tells when the land best suits the grazing ox,
Or when the plough; when favouring seasons bid
Plant the young tree, and sow the various seed.
(7) It is clearly shown, I think, that all things are pervaded by the power of God: and this I have properly represented by taking away the name of Zeus which runs through the poems; for it is to God that their thought is sent up, and for that reason I have so expressed it. These quotations, therefore, which I have brought forward are not inappropriate to the questions before us. (8) For all the philosophers agree, that we ought to hold pious opinions concerning God, and to this especially our system gives excellent exhortation; and the whole constitution of our law is arranged with reference to piety, and justice, and temperance, and all things else that are truly good.
(9) To this, after an interval, he adds what follows:
With this it is closely connected, that God the Creator of the whole world, has also given us the seventh day as a rest, because for all men life is full of troubles: which day indeed might naturally be called the first birth of light, whereby all things are beheld. (10) The same thought might also be metaphorically applied in the case of wisdom, for from it all light proceeds. And it has been said by some who were of the Peripatetic School that wisdom is in place of a beacon-light, for by following it constantly men will be rendered free from trouble through their whole life. (11) But more clearly and more beautifully one of our forefathers, Solomon, said that it has existed before heaven and earth; which indeed agrees with what has been said above.But what is clearly stated by the Law, that God rested on the seventh day, means not, as some suppose, that God henceforth ceases to do anything, but it refers to the fact that, after He has brought the arrangement of His works to completion, He has arranged them thus for all time. (12) For it points out that in six days He made the heaven and the earth and all things that are therein, to distinguish the times, and predict the order in which one thing comes before another: for after arranging their order, He keeps them so, and makes no change. He has also plainly declared that the seventh day is ordained for us by the Law, to be a sign of that which is our seventh faculty, namely reason, whereby we have knowledge of things human and divine. (13) Also the whole world of living creatures, and of all plants that grow, revolves in sevens. And its name “Sabbath” is interpreted as meaning “rest.” Homer also and Hesiod declare, what they have borrowed from our books, that it is a holy day; Hesiod in the following words:
The first, the fourth, the seventh a holy day.
And again he says:
And on the seventh again the sun shines bright.
(14) Homer too speaks as follows:
And soon the seventh returned, a holy day.
It was the seventh day, and all was done.
And on the seventh dawn the baleful stream
Of Acheron we left.
(15) By which he means, that after the soul’s forgetfulness and vice have been left, the things it chose before are abandoned on the true seventh which is reason, and we receive the knowledge of truth, as we have said before.Linus too speaks thus:
All things are finished on the seventh dawn.
Good is the seventh day, and seventh birth.
Among the prime, and perfect is the seventh.
Seven orbs created in the starlit sky Shine in their courses through revolving years.
Such then are the statements of Aristobulus.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 7: 32.16-18
(16) And this is not an opinion of our own; but it was known to the Jews of old, even before Christ, and was carefully observed by them. This may be learned from what is said by Philo, Josephus, and Musזus; and not only by them, but also by those yet more ancient, the two Agathobuli, surnamed ‘Masters,’ and the famous Aristobulus, who was chosen among the seventy interpreters of the sacred and divine Hebrew Scriptures by Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father, and who also dedicated his exegetical books on the law of Moses to the same kings. (17) These writers, explaining questions in regard to the Exodus, say that all alike should sacrifice the passover offerings after the vernal equinox, in the middle of the first month. But this occurs while the sun is passing through the first segment of the solar, or as some of them have styled it, the zodiacal circle.
Aristobulus adds that it is necessary for the feast of the passover, that not only the sun should pass through the equinoctial segment, but the moon also. (18) For as there are two equinoctial segments, the vernal and the autumnal, directly opposite each other, and as the day of the passover was appointed on the fourteenth of the month, beginning with the evening, the moon will hold a position diametrically opposite the sun, as may be seen in full moons; and the sun will be in the segment of the vernal equinox, and of necessity the moon in that of the autumnal.