In connection with the production of the Septuagint at the request of King Ptolemy, the Talmud says:

And [in listing unclean animals], instead of writing “And the hare [אַרְנֶבֶת -- arnevet]”, [the rabbis] wrote “And the short-legged beast [צְעִירַת הָרַגְלַיִם -- tze’irat haraglayim]”, because Ptolemy’s wife was named Arnevet, and they were afraid the king would say: The Jews have mocked me and inserted my wife’s name in the Torah. [Therefore, they referred to the hare only by one of its characteristic features.] [Megillah 9b]

How would the king even know that the Torah had the word "Arnevet" in it? Wouldn't he see only the translation of the word "hare" into Greek?

But the Talmud may be read as implying that they also wrote a Torah in Hebrew. Did they produce a different scroll in Hebrew?

  • 1
    perhaps it was written (like the rosetta stone) with both languages, and the texts might be compared by those who were at least somewhat multilingual; alternatively, perhaps the arnevet was not a species native to Greece such that it would have its own distinct Greek name (or its name was also arnevet in Greek). – Loewian Apr 5 at 1:36
  • Perhaps they pulled an artscroll and transliterated all the animal names instead of translating them. +1 nice question. – user6591 Apr 5 at 3:19
  • I believe her name meant hare in the Greek. – N.T. Apr 5 at 9:53

Interestingly, the Steinsaltz Gemara on this segment comments

The seventy-two Elders, in their translation of the word hare in the list of non-kosher animals, used the word δασύπους, dasupous, which literally means hairy-legged or roughfooted, instead of the standard term for hare, λαγός, lagos. They did so because the nickname of the founder of the Ptolemeian kingdom, Ptolemy I, was also named Lagos, and they sought to avoid alluding to him in that context

Wikipedia indeed mentions "Ptolemy I was the son of Arsinoe of Macedon by either her husband Lagus or Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander."

So it appears from this commentary there was a secondary reason for not using the name arnevet since its Greek translation could also be considered offensive.

  • Rather than a secondary reason, that seems more like they're saying that it wasn't that her name was Arnevet, but that her Greek name was the Greek word for Arnevet. – Alex Apr 5 at 3:36
  • Does Steinsaltz mention a source? – Maurice Mizrahi Apr 5 at 3:43
  • Is this evidence that Ptolemy's wife was nicknamed lagína or lagoudína (the feminine forms of lagos according to Wikitionary) because of her father (according to WIkipedia, the Targum was made during the time of Ptolemy II, son of Ptolemy I, who also married his sister)? – Harel13 Apr 5 at 6:52
  • Okay, but לכאורה the Targum was made during the time of Ptolemy II, who had consorts and concubines. His main wife was his full-blooded sister Arsinoe II. So is this evidence that she was nicknamed lagina (I couldn't find academic evidence of this)? – Harel13 Apr 5 at 7:23
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    Wow, good work +5 for Steinsaltz Z"L! THis clearly shows the "Telephone" game the sages played - it started with Lagos the King and dasupous and ended with צְעִירַת הָרַגְלַיִם and the wife of Ptolemy. – Al Berko Apr 5 at 15:17

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