The Church and The Jews - The Hellenistic Period

The Church and The Jews - The Hellenistic Period


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In this sixth segment of Dr. David Neiman's lecture series, "The Church and The Jews", Dr. Neiman follows the conquests of Alexander the Great and the subsequent spread of the Jewish diaspora through the Ptolmeic and Seleucid empires.


Myth and legend in the Hellenistic period

Judaism entered a new phase in 330 bce , when Alexander the Great completed his conquest of the Middle East. The dominant features of the Hellenistic Age, which began with Alexander’s death in 323, were an increasing cosmopolitanism and a fusion of ancient Middle Eastern and Greek cultures. These found expression in Jewish myth and legend in the composition (in Greek) of stories designed to link the Bible with general history, to correlate biblical and Greek legends, and to claim for the Hebrew patriarchs a major role in the development of the arts and sciences. It was asserted, for instance, that Abraham had taught astrology to the king of Egypt, that his sons and those of Keturah had aided Heracles against the giant Antaeus, and that Moses, blithely identified both with the semi-mythical Greek poet Musaeus and with the Egyptian Thoth, had been the teacher of Orpheus (the putative founder of one of the current mystery cults) and the inventor of navigation, architecture, and the hieroglyphic script. Leading writers in this vein were Artapanus, Eupolemus, and Cleodemus (all c. 100 bce ), but their works are known to us only from stray quotations by the early Church Fathers Eusebius and St. Clement of Alexandria.

The Jews also adapted the current Greek literary fashion of retelling Homeric and other ancient legends in “modernized,” novelistic versions, well seasoned with romantic elaborations of their own traditions. A paraphrase of Genesis found among the Dead Sea Scrolls ornaments the biblical narrative with several familiar folklore motifs. Thus, when Noah is born, the house is filled with light, just as it is said elsewhere to have been at the birth of the Roman king Servius Tullius, of Buddha, and (later) of several Christian saints. When Abraham’s life is threatened, he dreams of a cedar about to be felled, an omen that is said to have presaged the deaths of the Roman emperors Domitian and Severus Alexander. (Although the parallels are of later date, they illustrate the persistence of age-old traditions.) The same trend toward fanciful elaboration of scriptural tales is manifested also in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (“testaments” meaning last wills), in which the virtues and weaknesses of the sons of Jacob are illustrated by moralistic legends. There is also a lengthy paraphrase of early biblical narratives, mistakenly attributed to Philo Judaeus, the famous Alexandrian Jewish philosopher of the 1st century ce .


The Hasmonean kingdom

After Alexander’s death the empire was split, and first the Ptolemies, an Egyptian dynasty, and then the Seleucids, a Syrian dynasty, held Palestine. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a 2nd-century- bce Seleucid king, desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem a successful Jewish revolt under the Maccabees, a priestly family, resulted in its purification (164 bce ) and in freedom from Syrian domination in 142 bce . This began the Hasmonean (Maccabean) dynasty, which appropriated the powers both of king and of high priest. This reign, which created dissatisfaction on the part of other groups who considered their own claims falsely usurped, lasted until internecine strife brought it to an end. John Hyrcanus II, a 1st-century- bce Hasmonean king, appealed to Rome for help, and Pompey, a Roman general, intervened, bringing Palestine under Roman rule in 63 bce . John Hyrcanus, given the title of ethnarch, was later executed for treason (30 bce ), thus ending the Hasmonean line, but Jewish independence had come to an end by Roman occupation.


Portrait Of Jesus Essay

Mark discuses impending death: after Jesus healed a man’s withered hand, “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death” (Mark 3:6). This characterizes one of the Passion narratives. In Mark the author never clearly identifies himself his writing emphasizes that he has knowledge on the Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultures (JGA 62). The Gospel describes Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. The time frame for Mark is about 66-73 CE, during the first Jewish revolt against Rome (JGA, 63).&hellip


The myth of the Jewish origins of philosophy in the Renaissance: from Aristotle to Plato

The myth of the Jewish origins of philosophy and science is an ancient tradition dating from the Hellenistic period. It originated with pagan scholars, as part of the Greek-Hellenistic myth of the eastern origins of wisdom. Hellenistic-Jewish scholars acquired this theme from them, developed it further and transmitted it to the Church Fathers. In time, this myth achieved great popularity among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Aristotle’s prominence in medieval culture gave rise to traditions claiming that he studied with Jewish sages and was deeply impressed and influenced by Jewish books. Some of these traditions even maintain that he converted to Judaism, or was born a Jew. Although stories about the Judaized Aristotle continued to circulate, many accounts of the Jewish sources of Plato also began to appear in various forms among Christian and Jewish scholars. Stories about Plato proliferated especially following the decline of the Aristotelian-Averroist tradition, when kabbalistic-hermetic influences were first discernible in the writings of Ficino and Pico della Mirandola in the late Quattrocento.

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The Church and The Jews - The Hellenistic Period - History

The Primitive Church - 30 - 100 A.D.

Early Conflict in Christianity
In Acts 6 we get the first sign of internal trouble. The Hebrew widows were being cared for while the Grecian widows were neglected. As we mentioned above, Jews from all over the empire had made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the great festival of Pentecost and had witnessed the strange, yet supernatural events described by Luke. Many had trusted in Jesus as the promised Messiah and made the decision to stay in Judea rather than make the trek back home (it is possible that these early believers were waiting for the apocalyptic return of Jesus).

- Hellenized Jews
Large numbers of Jews lived outside Palestine in the first century. These are the Jews of the Diaspora, the "scattering," or "exile" of the Jews throughout the Greek world - first in 722 BC when the Assyrians declared war and conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, then in 588 BC the Chaldeans conquered the southern kingdom of Judah. The victors in both instances forced the Jews to be relocated, thus diluting their national and cultural strength. Over the next few centuries the Hebrew language was neglected and forgotten by these exiled Jews. Most diaspora Jews of the first century spoke Greek. In fact, sometime in the third century BC the Jewish scriptures (Old Testament, OT) were translated from Hebrew into Greek so that these Greek-speaking Jews could hear and understand the Law of Moses. This famous translation is known as the Septuagint (or LXX), a reference to the legendary story that 72 scribes translated the various texts in a 72 day period with a divinely inspired perfection of agreement.

These Jews of the diaspora were referred to as "Hellenized" ("Greek influenced") by the politically important, Hebrew-speaking Jews of Palestine. Palestinian Jews despised this Hellenization and these Hellenized Jews, believing they had compromised their religion. They could not speak Hebrew, God's language, nor could they understand the Law of Moses when read in Hebrew. When Hellenized Jews came to Jerusalem they were urged to attend Greek speaking synagogues so they could hear and understand Moses being read. They were not wanted in the Temple. We know that the Jews hated Samaritans, and were not fond of Gentiles. Luke tells us this prejudice found its way into the primitive church - Hellenized widows were being neglected.

- Stephen
According to Luke, the apostles solve this problem by appointing seven men to new leadership positions. If you look closely you will find that these men are all Hellenized Jews. The apostles apparently realized that the minority class needed representation in the leadership of the church. In the next chapter we find Stephen (one of the seven deacons) preaching aggressively against the Jewish leadership and, more importantly, against Temple worship. Hellenized Jews living outside Judea were forced to find a more spiritualized way for obeying the Law of Moses since they did not have access to the Temple nor to the sacrificial system. This spiritualized Judaism is attested to in the writings of Philo of Alexandria and in the writings of the Qumran community (The Dead Sea Scrolls). In the next few chapters of Acts we see these Hellenized Jews taking the gospel to Samaritans, Ethiopians, and other non-Palestinian Jews. The Great Commission is being extended, but it should be noted that non-Jews continue to be excluded by these Hellenized evangelists (Acts 11:19). It takes a special person to push the infant church outside the Jewish boundaries - Saul of Tarsus is that person.


Miraculous Nature of the Bible

The miraculous nature of the Bible was described by President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4,000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by the prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen.

“It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today.

“It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.

“The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warms us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 80).

What do these scriptures teach about Latter-day Saint belief in the Bible?


HELLENISM (from έλληνίζειν , "to speak Greek," or "to make Greek"):

Word used to express the assimilation, especially by the Jews, of Greek speech, manners, and culture, from the fourth century B.C. through the first centuries of the common era. Post-exilic Judaism was largely recruited from those returned exiles who regarded it as their chief task to preserve their religion uncontaminated, a task that required the strict separation of the congregation both from all foreign peoples (Ezra x. 11 Neh. ix. 2) and from the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine who did not strictly observe the Law (Ezra vi. 22 Neh. x. 29). This separation was especially difficult to maintain when the victorious campaign of Alexander the Great had linked the East to the West. The victory was not simply a political one. Its spiritual influence was much greater. The Greek language became a common language for nearer Asia, and with the language went Greek culture, Greek art, and Greek thought. The influence thus exerted did not entirely drive out the local languages or the local civilization. The Hellenic spirit was itself profoundly modified by contact with the Orient and out of the mingling of the two there arose a pseudo-Greek culture which was often different in spirit from the true culture of Hellas.

Except in Egypt, Hellenic influence was nowhere stronger than on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Greek cities arose there in continuation, or in place, of the older Semitic foundations, and gradually changed the aspect of the country. Such cities were Raphia, Gaza, Ascalon, Azotus, Jabneh, Jaffa, Cæsarea, Dor, and Ptolemais. It was especially in eastern Palestine that Hellenism took a firm hold, and the cities of the Decapolis (which seems also to have included Damascus) were the centers of Greek influence. This influence extended in later times over the whole of the district east of the Jordan and of the Sea of Gennesaret, especially inTrachonitis, Batanæa, and Auranitis. The cities in western Palestine were not excepted. Samaria and Panias were at an early time settled by Macedonian colonists. The names of places were Hellenized: "Rabbath-Ammon" to "Philadelphia" "Armoab" to "Ariopolis" "Akko" to "Ptolemais." The same occurred with personal names: "Ḥoni" became "Menelaus" "Joshua" became "Jason" or "Jesus." The Hellenic influence pervaded everything, and even in the very strongholds of Judaism it modified the organization of the state, the laws, and public affairs, art, science, and industry, affecting even the ordinary things of life and the common associations of the people.

A glance at the classes of Greek words which found their way into the Hebrew and the Jewish-Aramaic of the period, as compiled by I. Löw (in S. Krauss, "Lehnwörter," pp. 623 et seq.), shows this with great clearness. The Hellenists were not confined to the aristocratic class, but were found in all strata of Jewish society (Wellhausen, "I. J. G." p. 194), though the aristocrats naturally profited more from the good-will of Hellenistic rulers than did other classes. The Jews thus became sharers in a world-culture if not in a world-empire. It was a denationalizing influence from the strictly Jewish point of view this was the principal reason for the dislike which many Jewish teachers felt for things Hellenic. In addition to this, Hellenism in its Eastern dress was not always the Hellenism of Greece proper. It was in some respects a bastard culture. It led its new votaries to the highest flights of philosophy but through the allegorical explanations which, coming from Stoicism, were applied to the Bible, especially in Alexandria, a real danger menaced the development of Jewish life and thought, the danger of Antinomianism (see Jew. Encyc. i. 630). By the introduction of Grecian art a door was opened to debauchery and riotous living and though Judaism was hardly menaced by the introduction of direct idolatry, the connection of this culture with sublimated Greek polytheism became a real danger to the Jewish religion. This well-grounded fear inspired the rise of the Hasidæans and explains the change of sentiment on the part of the Rabbis toward the use of the Greek language (see Greek Language and the Jews). For this reason the Hellenists are called υἱοὶ παράνομοι ("wicked men" I Macc. i. 11), or ἄνδρες ἄνομοι καὶ άσεβεῖς ("wicked and ungodly men" ib. vii. 5). By some they are supposed to be referred to in Ps. i. ("sinners," "scoffers") and cxix. ("men of pride") in Dan. xii. 10 ("the wicked" comp. xi. 14, 32).

How early traces of Hellenism are to be found in Jewish literature can not be ascertained. It has been supposed by some that such traces are to be seen in Prov. viii., where Wisdom is described its the artist or master workman who, fashioned by God before the world, was ever by Him in His creative work (Montefiore, "Hibbert Lectures," 1892, p. 380) by others, that some of the universalist passages in Isaiah were inspired in this period and the Book of Ecclesiastes has been suspected of containing Stoic and Epicurean doctrines, and even references to the teachings of Heraclitus. But these theories are open to much doubt the influence of Greek philosophy and thought came in later. It is seen in some of the Apocrypha and in the writings of the Hellenistic Jews in Egypt (Cheyne, "Origin and Religious Contents of the Psalter," pp. 423 et seq.). The Greek words in Daniel prove nothing, as that book is generally conceded to be of Maccabean origin.

The work commenced by Alexander the Great was furthered by the first Ptolemies and Seleucids, who treated their Jewish subjects with much benevolence, though even at this time the high priest Onias III. fought bravely against the introduction of Hellenism. But the high-priestly family was divided owing to the intrigues of the Tobiads, especially of Joseph and the high priests, instead of defending their patrimony, degraded it. Of such a kind were Menelaus and Jason, the latter of whom is said to have sent contributions to Hercules' games at Tyre, and to have built an arena in Jerusalem, which the priests were wont to frequent in place of the Temple (II Macc. iv. 13, 19). The introduction of the Greek games was peculiarly offensive to the religious party, not only because of the levity connected therewith, but also because Jewish participants were under the necessity of concealing the signs of their origin. This Hellenization might have gone much further had not Antiochus Epiphanes attempted to substitute pagan worship for Jewish. By so doing he brought on the Maccabean revolt, which bade fair to sweep the new influence off the field. It had, however, entered too deeply into the flesh to be entirely eradicated, though the newly aroused spirit proved an efficient control. There were still high priests who headed the Hellenist party. Such a one was Alcimus, who went to Jerusalem with Bacchides, at the head of the Syrian army sent by King Demetrius. Greek legends on Jewish coins became the rule after the days of Herod specimens exist which date back even to the time of Alexandra Salome. The Hasmoneans Aristobulus and John Hyrcanus leaned also to the Hellenists. But it was especially with the advent of the Idumean Herod and his dynasty that Hellenism once more threatened to overwhelm Jewish culture. Herod's theater, his amphitheater, his hippodrome, and his palace, though such buildings existed also in Jericho, Tiberias, and Tarichæa, were thoroughly Greek buildings in the very midst of Jerusalem his Temple also showed this influence in its architecture. The inscription forbidding strangers to advance beyond a certain point in the Temple was in Greek and was probably made necessary by the presence of numerous Jews from Greek-speaking countries at the time of the festivals (comp. the "murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews," Acts vi. 1). The coffers in the Temple which contained the shekel contributions were marked with Greek letters (Sheḳ. iii. 2). It is therefore no wonder that there were synagogues of the Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians, and Asiatics in the Holy City itself (Acts vi. 9).

It was, however, in Alexandria that Jewish Hellenism reached its greatest development. Here, freed from the national bonds which held it firmlyto tradition in Palestine, Hellenistic Judaism became more Hellenistic than Jewish (see Alexandria). It is not true to say with Güdemann ("Monatsschrift," xlvii. 248) that Hellenism had no appreciable influence upon the development of Judaism its influence was appreciable for many centuries but it was driven out of the Jewish camp by the national sentiment aroused in the Maccabean and Bar Kokba revolts, and in forming the bridge between Judaism and Christianity it lost whatever permanent influence it might have possessed. Since that time, even in Egypt, the classical home of Hellenism, rabbinical Jewish communities have flourished that have borne no perceptible trace of the movement which made Alexandria great.

The Hellenistic Jewish literature is the best evidence of the influence exercised by Greek thought upon the "people of the book." The first urgent need of the Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The strange legends which are connected with the origin of this translation, and which go back to the Letter of Aristeas, are discussed under Aristeas and Bible it is sufficient to say that the whole translation was probably completed by the middle of the second century B.C. It was highly esteemed by the Hellenistic Jews Philo ("De Vita Moysis," ii., § 67) calls the translators not merely ἑρμηνεῖς, but ίεροφάνται καὶ προφῆται, who partook of the spirit of Moses. Even the prejudiced Palestinian teachers accepted it and praised the beauty of the Greek language (Soṭah vii. 3 Meg. i. 9). They permitted girls to study it, and declared it to be the only language into which the Torah might be translated (Yer. i. 1). The Jews called themselves Palestinians in religion, but Hellenes in language (Philo, "De Congressu Quærendæ Erud." § 8), and the terms ἡμεῐς ("we") and Ἑβραῖοι ("the Hebrews") were contrasted (idem, "De Confusione Linguarum," § 26). The real Hellenes, however, could not understand the Greek of this Bible, for it was intermixed with many Hebrew expressions, and entirely new meanings were at times given to Greek phrases. On the other hand, Judaism could not appreciate for any length of time the treasure it had acquired in the Greek Bible, and the preservation of the Septuagint is due to the Christian Church, which was first founded among Greek-speaking peoples. The mother church did not altogether give up the Greek translation of the Bible it merely attempted to prevent the Christians from forging a weapon from it. After the second century it sought to replace the Septuagint with more correct translations. Aquila, a Jewish proselyte, endeavored to put an end to all quarrels with the Christians by slavishly following the original Hebrew in his new translation Theodotion, following the Septuagint, sought to revise it by means of a thorough collation with the original. As it became evident that the controversy could not be ended in this way, the Jews ceased to dispute with the Christians concerning the true religion, and forbade the study of Greek. They declared that the day on which the Bible had been translated into Greek was as fateful as that on which the golden calf had been worshiped (Soferim i.) that at the time when this translation was made darkness had come upon Egypt for three days (Ta'an. 50b) and they appointed the 8th of Ṭebet as a fast-day in atonement for that offense. Not only was the study of the Greek Bible forbidden, but also the study of the Greek language and literature in general. After the war with Titus no Jew was allowed to permit his son to learn Greek (Soṭah ix. 14) the Palestinian teachers unhesitatingly sacrificed general culture in order to save their religion.

Hellenistic literature, however, was for the time being too great an intellectual factor to be entirely set aside in the Diaspora. No strong line of demarcation was drawn between the sacred books originally written in Hebrew and those written in Greek because the former also were available only in Greek translations. Greek versions of various sacred books were accepted, such as the Greek Book of Ezra as were also the Greek additions to Ezra and to the books of Esther and Daniel, the Prayer of Manasses, the pseudepigraphic Book of Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah.

The Jews outside of Palestine were so different from the peoples among whom they lived that they were bound to attract attention. The Jewish customs were strange to outsiders, and their religious observances provoked the derision of the Greeks, who gave expression to their views in satiric allusions to Jewish history, or even in malicious fabrications. It was especially in Egypt that the Jews found many enemies in Greek-writing literati. Foremost among these was the Egyptian priest Manetho, at the time of Ptolemy II., Philadelphus (285-247 B.C. ), who wrote a history of Egypt in Greek in which he repeats the fables current concerning the Jews. Josephus ("Contra Ap." ii., §§ 14, 36) and Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." ix. 19) mention as an opponent of the Jews a certain Apollonius Molo. Fragments from the work of a certain Lysimachus dealing with the Exodus are mentioned by Josephus (ib. i, §§ 34-35), likewise a fragment by Cheremon (ib. i, §§ 32-33), an Egyptian priest as well as a Stoic philosopher, who also dealt, in his "Egyptian History," with the same subject. The most interesting, many-sided, and untrustworthy of all the opponents of the Jews in Alexandria was Apion, whose attacks were repelled by Josephus in the tract cited above.

There were many Hellenistic Jews who went beyond the confines of their own literature and imitated the works of Greek writers in the domain of history and poetry. The most important historical productions of this kind are the fragments of Jewish and Samaritan historical works preserved by Alexander Polyhistor and by the Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius (see especially Freudenthal, "Hellenistische Studien," Nos. i, ii., Breslau, 1875). These histories were intended not only for Jews, but also for educated pagans who knew Greek. Following the example of Alexandrian chronologists, Demetrius, a Jew living in Egypt under Ptolemy II., wrote a work on the Jewish kings (Περὶ τῶν ἐν τγ Ἰουδαία Βασιλέων, Clemens Alexandrinus, i. 21, 141). Although the fragments of this history that have beenpreserved deal chiefly with Jacob, Moses, etc., and contain no allusions to the Jewish kings, there are no grounds for doubting the correctness of the title. Demetrius cared less for facts than for the chronology of the several events which he treated, even as regards the life of Jacob. (For an excellent restoration of this text see Freudenthal, l.c. pp. 219-223, comp. pp. 35-82 Schürer, "Gesch." pp. 349-351 Hilgenfeld, in "Zeit. für Wissenschaftliche Theologie," 1897, xviii. 475.) The Judean Eupolemus is more concerned with narrating events in his book "On the Kings in Judea," fragments from which, intermingled with work by another hand, have also been preserved by Alexander Polyhistor. Though Eupolemus bases his narrative on the Biblical accounts, he draws upon other traditions, and also upon his imagination. The Egyptian Jew Artapanus adopts the method of fabricating history that was popular at Alexandria. He transforms "Moses" into "Musæus," teacher of Orpheus, conqueror of the Ethiopians, and inventor of the hieroglyphics, of philosophy, and of many other things. All that is great and splendid in Egypt is ascribed to Moses, who appears as the greatest benefactor of that country. By this means the author sought to counteract the enmity which the Egyptians and the Greeks in Egypt showed toward the Hebrews for this reason Moses is described as having founded the Egyptian religion, introduced circumcision among the Egyptians, divided the country into nomes, etc.

The work "On the Jews," attributed to Aristeas, also aims to glorify Judaism in the eyes of the pagans the story of Job is here told with many elaborations (e.g., Job was formerly called "Jobab" Gen. xxxvi. 33). This interpretation may be explained as due to the similarity in Greek between the two names. Fragments from two Samaritan historians have likewise been preserved by the Hellenists. Josephus ("Ant." i. 15) refers to a Samaritan (quoted also by Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 20) who, under the name Κλεόδημος ὁ προφήτης ὅ καὶ Μάλχος, tells the story of three sons of Abraham and Keturah who joined Hercules in a campaign against Libya. Passages from another anonymous Samaritan chronicle were combined by Alexander Polyhistor with extracts from the work of Eupolemus, mentioned above. Freudenthal (l.c. pp. 82-103, 207 et seq., 223-225), by separating these passages, which are preserved in Eusebius (l.c. ix. 17-18), has brought order out of confusion. Jason of Cyrene (the author of II Maccabees), the author of III Maccabees, and Philo of Alexandria must be included among the Hellenistic writers who treated of later Jewish history.

Jason of Cyrene, who, according to Niese, lived in the second century B.C. , wrote a work in five books, from which the author of II Maccabees (taking his own statement in ii. 23-28) made extracts amounting in quantity to about one-fifth of the original. The historical portion proper of II Maccabees (ii. 19-xv. 39) narrates the history of the Jews from the end of Seleucus IV., Philopator's reign (175 B.C. ) down to the victory of Judas Maccabeus over Nicanor (March, 160 B.C. ) it covers, therefore, about the same period as I Maccabees, and the question of its trust worthiness has been sharply debated. Despite its rhetorical character, portions of it may still be used as authentic historical sources. It must have been written before 70 C.E. (though Niese's date, 125-124 B.C. , seems quite improbable), since it presupposes that, at the time of its composition, the Temple was still standing. The rhetorical style of the Greek in which it is written precludes the probability of its being a translation from some other language. The two letters from Palestinian Jews which, inviting the Greeks to the celebration of Hanukkah, serve as an introduction to the book (i. 1-10a, i. 10b-ii. 18), have no connection otherwise with its contents, and were apparently added later (comp. Abrahams in "J. Q. R." xiii. 508 et seq.).

III Maccabees, a history merely in form, is a fictitious story. It recounts an alleged attempt of Ptolemy IV., Philopator to enter the Temple, and narrates that on being unsuccessful, he ordered a persecution of the Jews of Alexandria, although they were in no way responsible for the miscarriage of his plans. The persecution, however, came to naught, as two angels benumbed the power of the king and his army, while the latter was trodden under foot by its own elephants. The king thereupon relented in regard to the Jews, and permitted them to kill their faithless compatriots who had made it appear that his failure to enter the Temple at Jerusalem was chargeable to the Jews of Alexandria.

The philosopher Philo also belongs in a certain sense to the Hellenistic historians. He undertook the task of showing how God had constituted the world materially and spiritually through the Creation and the Law ("De Opificio Mundi" comp. "De Abrahamo," i. "De Præmiis et Pœnis," i. "De Vita Moysis," ii., § 8), and through the history of the Patriarchs. He describes in five books, two of which, "In Flaccum" and "De Legatione," have been preserved, the persecution of the Jews under Caligula. By way of introduction he also treats of the persecutions by Sejanus in the reign of Tiberius.

Thallus wrote a chronicle of the world from the Creation down to about the time of Tiberius. He may be identical with the Samaritan Thallus mentioned by Josephus ("Ant." xviii. 6, § 4). Josephus, the foremost Jewish historian, must also be named here. His Ἰουδαïκὴ Ἀρχαιολογια is a narrative of Jewish history from its beginning down to his own time. His object in writing this work in Greek was to win the respect of the educated Romans for the conquered Jewish people. His other large work, "De Bello Judaico," is an inflated and not always sincere account of his own experiences (See Josephus, Flavius). His contemporary Justus of Tiberias dealt with the same subjects, but less successfully, and his works have therefore not been preserved.

In the field of poetry only the epic and the drama were cultivated, traces of which, but no fully developed products, are found in ancient Hebrew literature. The poem of a certain Philo, on Jerusalem (Περὶ τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα), must be classed as an epic but only three fragments of it (given by Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 20, 24, 37) have beenpreserved. These treat of Abraham, Joseph, and the fountains and conduits of Jerusalem, in hexameters that betray the author's complete ignorance of the laws of scansion. This Philo is probably identical with the Φίλων ὁ Πρεσβύτερος mentioned by Josephus ("Contra Ap." i., § 23). Josephus takes him to be a pagan, but a pagan could hardly have written such slipshod hexameters. (On Philo's poem see Franz Delitzsch, "Gesch. der Jüd. Poesie," 1836, pp. 24, 209.) A similar poem on Shechem, by the Samaritan Theodotus, of which a long fragment has been preserved by Eusebius (l.c. ix. 22), recounts the history of the city according to the Bible, with various amplifications from other traditions and from Greek mythology.

There was also a dramatist named Ezekielus among the Hellenists, mentioned by Clement of Alexandria ("Stromata," i. 23, 155) and Eusebius (l.c. ix. 29, § 14). Under the title Ἐξαγωγή, extracts from a single work of his, dealing with the Exodus, have been preserved by the Church Fathers mentioned above. His power of imagination was very poor and he appears to have depended chiefly upon the Bible for his material. The verse-form, however, is fairly good.

Considering the chasm between the Jews and the pagans, it is remarkable with what zeal and cleverness the Hellenistic Jews sought under pagan masks to make propaganda for Judaism. They wrote works in the name of pagan authorities, and these stole their way into the circle of pagan readers. As forgeries of this kind were common in the Hellenistic period, no blame attached to any famous man for having committed them, and the Jews could not be expected to be superior to their time. The Sibylline Books are distinguished from all other works of this kind by their loftiness of purpose. It was their avowed object to reform paganism while other contemporaneous works were merely intended to glorify the Jewish name the former endeavored to act as Jewish missionaries, while the latter sought merely to make an impression. Collections of the Sibylline Oracles were kept in different places they were an easy medium for religious propaganda, and Hellenistic Judaism, subsequently also Christianity, made clever use of them. The ancient Sibyl was made to address the pagans in Greek hexameters, threatening dire punishment for pagan idolatry and pagan vices, and promising forgiveness for repentance and conversion. The collection of the Sibyllines was made from the most diverse sources.

The earliest sentences, aside from a few pagan oracles, are chiefly Jewish in form, while most of the later ones are of Christian origin. The greater part of the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles is probably of Jewish origin, with Christian interpolations that can not be in all cases distinguished. The dates which are assigned to some of the oracles vary between the first century C.E. and the time of Hadrian. It is difficult to distinguish the Jewish passages in books i.-ii., xi.-xiv. The Church Fathers quote an apocalyptic work belonging in this category, which they ascribe to the Median Hystaspes. Jewish and Christian apologists often quote verses by Greek poets that are marked by a pure religious insight. While some of these lines are genuine, and are merely cleverly interpreted, others are unmistakable forgeries. Most of them occur in the writings of Clement of Alexandria and in the pseudo-Justinian work "De Monarchia." Both authors drew from the same source, the work of Hecatæus on Abraham, as Böckh has shown. Schürer places these forgeries as early as the third century B.C. ("Gesch." i. 453-461).

A work, "On the Jews," or "On Abraham," under the name of "Hecatæus of Abdera," is quoted by Aristeas, Josephus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. The book from which they quoted may have contained genuine extracts from this Hecatæus, traces of whose work are found in Diodorus Siculus. It appears from the extant fragments of the spurious work that the life of Abraham served as the point of departure for a glorifying description of Judaism. To this class also belongs the Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates on the Greek translation of the Jewish law. The letter probably originated about 200 B.C. (Schürer, "Gesch." i. pp. 466-473). It is difficult to form any opinions on the Ποίημα Νουθετικόν, assigned to the ancient gnomic poet Phokylides of Miletus (6th cent. B.C. ). It includes, in 230 hexameters, maxims of various kinds, which, as far as their contents are concerned, closely follow the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch it contains even many verbal reminiscences of the Biblical commandments. Bernays assumed that the author was a Jew, but Harnack believes that he was a Christian. In general, the poem lacks both Jewish and Christian characteristics. If its author was a Jew he nevertheless avoided everything that might offend a pagan reader. It should be assigned rather to the first century C.E. (published with notes by Bergk, "Poetæ Lyrici Græci," 3d ed., iii. 450-475). A collection of maxims, ascribed to a certain "wise Menander," was published by Land (1862), from a Syriac manuscript in the British Museum this must be classed with the Jewish Wisdom literature. Smaller, and probably of Jewish origin, are the so-called "Heraclitic Letters" (ed. Bernays, 1869), and a "Diogenes Letter" (in Bernays, "Lucian und die Kyniker," 1879, pp. 96-98 Schürer, l.c. pp. 478-483). On a freedman, Cæcilius of Calacte, probably of Jewish origin, who lived as rhetor in Rome, see Jew. Encyc. iii. 482.

Greek ethics cast in the mold of the Jewish Wisdom literature is presented in the Wisdom of Solomon. Solomon appears as the, speaker, addressing a hortatory discourse to his royal colleagues who rule over the heathen peoples. He shows them the folly of impiety, and especially of idolatry, and exhorts them to follow true wisdom and to serve God. Although the author may have addressed himself principally to Jewish readers, yet the descriptions of the dangers of impiety and the folly of idolatry presuppose also a pagan audience, or one that included at least Jews who had adopted pagan practises. In his conception of Wisdom he follows Prov. viii. and ix. andEcclus. (Sirach) xxiv. but Wisdom becomes in his hands an independent being, existing apart from the Deity, and, in a way, acting as the mediator between the divine activity and the world. The terms in which he describes this mediation show the influence of Greek philosophy, especially of Stoicism, recalling the doctrine of divine reason immanent in the world. The book follows the Platonic psychology, according to which the soul has an independent existence, living only for a time in the earthly house of the body, that crumbles again into dust. The author was probably an Alexandrian Hellenist who took up the thought that was subsequently further developed by Philo (see Wisdom, Book of).

Although the author of the Wisdom of Solomon touches upon Greek philosophy, he yet remains within the limits of the Palestinian Wisdom literature. But Aristobulus was a full-fledged Alexandrian, thoroughly acquainted with Greek philosophy and accepting it. He was a contemporary of Ptolemy VI., Philometor, living about 17O—15O B.C. He wrote a voluminous work on the Mosaic laws, which was not a commentary but a free paraphrase of the text of the Pentateuch, together with a philosophic explanation of its laws. He directly addresses Ptolemy Philometor and an exclusively pagan audience. He undertakes to show that the Peripatetic philosophy was influenced by the Pentateuch and the Hebrew Prophets (Clement of Alexandria, "Stromata," v. 14, 97) he essays to prove that all the Greek philosophers and many Greek poets, as well as Aristotle, borrowed from the Pentateuch, and that the entire Greek culture is derived from the Old Testament. He especially endeavors to remove from the Old Testament conception of God the reproach of anthropomorphism by explaining the anthropomorphic allusions as symbols for spiritual relations. There is no reason for doubting the genuineness of this work of Aristobulus, as both older and more recent authorities have done, since it belongs both in thought and in expression to Hellenistic literature. The interspersed Greek verse, which is obviously spurious, but which Aristobulus certainly regarded as genuine, was inserted in agreement with a practise general in Hellenistic literature, so that its presence is no argument against the genuineness of the work (see Jew. Encyc. ii. 97).

The so-called Fourth Book of Maccabees contains a philosophical discourse which, on account of its edifying character, may also be called a sermon, although it was probably not delivered in a synagogue, its theme being a philosophical proposition. It derives its name from the fact that it refers to the execution of a mother and her seven sons, as related in II Macc. vii., and endeavors to prove by the principles of argumentation followed by Greek rhetoricians that pious reason is able to conquer all emotions. In his religious convictions the author is entirely a Jew. Although he uses the Greek terminology in unfolding his doctrine of God, his views are wholly Biblical.


The Scribes Discover Greek Logic

Without question, Hellenization had a dramatic impact on the Jews as a whole, leaving no area of life untouched. However, the effects of Greek culture on the Jews' religion were most significant&mdashin three specific areas. First, as amazing as it sounds, the priesthood's response to Hellenism was outright acceptance&mdashand, as we will see, not without considerable consequences. Second, Hellenization led to the rise of a new religious element&mdash the Hasidim, a grassroots movement of pious Jews who stood for the &ldquoold time&rdquo religion of Moses and the prophets.

Third, in the case of the scribes, the effects of Greek culture were subtle, yet equally profound. Though no longer functioning as an organized body (such as through the Great Assembly) the sopherim continued to be held in high regard. They continued in their study of the Scriptures, passing on their esoteric knowledge to eager students. For the most part, the scribes resisted the liberal ideas of Hellenism, finding them contrary to Scripture. But then, there was Greek logic&mdashutterly irresistible to the scholarly mind of the scribe. Of this time, John Phillips writes that while many Jews, such as those of the Aaronic priesthood, &ldquobecame outright Hellenists and openly embraced the liberal ideas of the day,&rdquo the Jewish scholars &ldquoadded new ideas to their approach to biblical truth. They replaced the old and approved allegorical approach with a new, exciting logical approach.&rdquo It would not be long, he adds, &ldquobefore a lush new tangle of exegetical undergrowth began to emerge to add to the already spreading&rdquo oral tradition (Exploring the World of the Jew, pp. 34-35 emphasis added).

Further tracing the development of the oral law to the time of Greek influence, Phillips makes this telling statement: &ldquoIt was in the [oral commentaries of the] Midrash&rdquo&mdashwhich first appeared following the time of Ezra&mdash &ldquothat the seeds of [what would become] the Talmud were sown. In the conquests of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Hellenizing of the world, the Jews faced a tremendous survival challenge. The naive and artless interpretations of the [written] Torah, offered by the Midrash, would no longer suffice in an age of intellectual vigor [liberal thinking]. The rabbis [scribes] began to add Greek reasoning to biblical revelation. The result was the Mishnah,the work of a new set of Jewish scholars known as the Tannas&rdquo (pp. 58-59 emphasis added see Appendix One). Mishnah means &ldquoteachings.&rdquo It is derived from the Hebrew root shanah, which originally meant &ldquoto repeat&rdquo&mdashas in orally passing on a teaching. Composing a major portion of the Talmud, Mishnah&mdashas &ldquothe oral doctrine from the earliest Midrash of the Sopherim&rdquo&mdashis used generally to &ldquodesignate the law which was transmitted orally&rdquo (The Jewish Encyclopedia, &ldquoMishnah&rdquo). Tannas is Aramaic and, not surprisingly, means &ldquorepeaters.&rdquo

Continuing Phillips' quote: &ldquoInstead of the allegories and homilies of the Midrash, the Tannas employed logic and reasoning borrowed from the Greeks. Like the Midrash, [the Mishnah that developed] was a somewhat jumbled exposition of truth, and, like the Midrash, it kept on diluting the Word of God with liberal quantities of fallible human opinion&rdquo (p. 59 emphasis added). &ldquoThe artless commentaries of the Midrash&rdquo&mdashthe simple, oral exegesis of Scripture&mdash&rdquowere [during the time of Ptolemaic rule of Judah] seen by the Jews as inadequate in an age of Greek enlightenment. Adding Greek logic to their hermeneutics, the rabbis [scribes] overhauled their views and developed the Mishnah&rdquo (p. 63 emphasis added).

By &ldquoartless,&rdquo Phillips suggests that the scribes' midrashim were, as yet, uncontrived. They were genuine attempts to explain the Scriptures. But the idea of a so-called &ldquooral law&rdquo was most contrived. In fact, with religious constraints cast off, new ideas found fertile ground among these Jewish scholars. Thus, while outwardly supporting the Scriptures and resisting Hel-lenization, the scribes could justify virtually any doctrine by making the claim that it was part of an esoteric oral tradition&mdashhidden all along in the depths of the written Torah.


Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World : Attitudes and Interactions from Alexander to Justinian

Relations between Jews and non-Jews in the Hellenistic-Roman period were marked by suspicion and hate, maintain most studies of that topic. But if such conjectures are true, asks Louis Feldman, how did Jews succeed in winning so many adherents, whether full-fledged proselytes or "sympathizers" who adopted one or more Jewish practices? Systematically evaluating attitudes toward Jews from the time of Alexander the Great to the fifth century A.D., Feldman finds that Judaism elicited strongly positive and not merely unfavorable responses from the non-Jewish population. Jews were a vigorous presence in the ancient world, and Judaism was strengthened substantially by the development of the Talmud. Although Jews in the Diaspora were deeply Hellenized, those who remained in Israel were able to resist the cultural inroads of Hellenism and even to initiate intellectual counterattacks.


Feldman draws on a wide variety of material, from Philo, Josephus, and other Graeco-Jewish writers through the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Church Councils, Church Fathers, and imperial decrees to Talmudic and Midrashic writings and inscriptions and papyri. What emerges is a rich description of a long era to which conceptions of Jewish history as uninterrupted weakness and suffering do not apply.


Watch the video: The Late Classical and Hellenistic