Scriptures

The Coming of Alexander And Hellenism

Introduction

The story of the Old Testament ends around 430 B.C. with the prophet Malachi but the Persian Empire under which he lived would continue on until 332 B.C. The great Persian army had reached as far as the Aegean Sea and crossed over into Greece. This is as far as they ever advanced for the Greeks drove them out. This would mark the beginning of a period in history known as ‘Hellenism’ (Greek culture).

Alexander the Great was the dominant personality in the beginning of this period. He was the son of King Philip of Macedonia, whose kingdom covered the northern part of Greece. In 336 B.C., at the age of 20 Alexander assumed command of the Greek army and swept eastward over lands that had been under the kings of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia for long periods of time.

The stories of his conquest of the world are amazing. He sought an end of the Persian Empire, which had ruled the world at that time and made Greece become the ruling power of the world. Educated under Aristotle he became an ardent disciple and spokesman for Greek culture.

Greek culture reached its zenith in the city of Athens in the 5th century B.C., the Golden Age of Greece. This was the era of great statesmen and philosophers. This was approximately the same period of time during which the temple and walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah after they had returned from exile.

In Daniel 10:20 an angel tells Daniel who was still in exile that ‘the prince of Greece would come.’ The angel is referring to the coming of Alexander the Great. History records he invaded Persia in 332 B.C. and completed his conquest by 323 B.C.

In history the word ‘Hellenism’ is commonly used to describe the civilisation of the three centuries or so from the time when Alexander ruled until the time of the Romans. It was a distinct culture. It was the cherished desire of Alexander to find a worldwide empire bound together in unity of language, customs and civilisation.

In his great military conquests, he did much to realise these ideals. Wherever his armies went, along with them came the institutions of Greek culture. In many cities he left behind a gymnasium, an amphitheatre, a hippodrome, a stadium and a library. Emphasis was placed on games and races. The human body, its form and development were of chief interest. Probably his greatest contribution was to give to the world the Greek language, which in time would become the universal language.

Alexander invaded Palestine in 332 B.C. As he approached Jerusalem, Judea the high priest, with a group of priests in their official dress, went out to meet him, to ask for mercy. It is said that the prophecies of Daniel concerning Alexander were rehearsed in his hearing. No doubt flattered he showed great consideration for the Jews, sparing Jerusalem from any destruction.

When he came to Jerusalem many looked upon him with favour. He in turn allowed them to have freedom of religion. Thus the priests carried on as usual their sacrifices at the Temple and other priestly functions.

Josephus tells a story of Alexander’s offering a sacrifice at the Temple, ‘according to the High-priest’s direction.’ While this may be unhistorical it does show the friendly attitude, they had for Alexander. From that day on they became among his favourites.

He employed them in his army and gave them equal citizenship with the Greeks. He offered the Jews inducements to settle in Alexandria. This resulted with many Jews becoming citizens of Alexandria in Egypt and other Greek cities, which he founded. Alexandria would become home to thousands of Jews containing many synagogues.

In time the Jews would emigrate to neighbouring countries for the purpose of trade and commerce. A strong Hellenistic spirit was created among the Jews. In New Testament times there were more Jews living outside of Palestine than in it. Acts 2:5-12 shows the extent of the ‘Diaspora’ (Jews living outside Palestine while maintaining their religious faith).

About 17 countries were represented. He would die at the age of 33 of a fever in 323 B.C. upon returning from Persia back to Greece. His rule was for only 12 years, yet no one has ever accomplished as much as he did in his short rule. His empire did not last, but his dreams did. Hellenism would dominate the world.

At no time was his empire as strong as at his death. After his death his empire never regained its greatness and was never united. It would be divided among four of his generals. In Daniel Alexander is spoken of as a great ‘he-goat.’

‘The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.’ Daniel 8:8

Here Daniel speaks of the death of Alexander. He is depicted as having his horn broken off. The four ‘four prominent horns’ represented the division of Alexander’s Empire into four separate kingdoms ruled by four of his generals. Thus Daniel is given a clear picture of the future, which would have a great influence on the future of the Jews.

The Old Testament scriptures were translated into Greek in the city of Alexandria, which had become a literary centre. It is the oldest translation of scripture. Greek had become the language of the Jews living outside of Palestine.

While in Babylonian captivity the Jews lost their mother tongue of Hebrew and could no longer read or understand it. When they returned to Palestine after their captivity Aramaic replaced Hebrew as the common language in Palestine.

It was a Semitic language related to Hebrew, yet different enough that it could not readily be understood by the average person in Old Testament times. As the Jews became scattered out to other countries they spoke Greek, because Greek had became the universal language. Its role was similar to that of English in the modern world today where English has become a second language in many foreign countries.

In some cities such as Alexandria, there were many Jews whose families had lived there for generations who spoke only Greek. If Judaism was to survive, it was necessary for these people to be able to read and understand the Old Testament in their adopted language.

This version of the Old Testament is known as the Septuagint Version. Both Christ and the apostles quoted from it even though they spoke Aramaic, which means they were bilingual. All quotations from the Old Testament found in the New Testament are taken from the Septuagint Version.

According to tradition, 70 skilful Jewish linguists were sent from Jerusalem to Egypt at the request of Ptolemy II (Philadelphus 285-247 B.C.) the ruler of Egypt. It is said they completed the translation in 70 days. The Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) was translated first. Later the rest of the Old Testament books were added. It was called the Septuagint because of the 70 translators who are reputed to have begun it. ‘Septuaginta’ is the Greek word for 70.

Now Greek speaking Jews who lived outside of Palestine had access to the Old Testament scriptures in a language they understood. Later on the New Testament would also be written in Greek. Hellenism would come to divide the Jews. It would play a major part in later Jewish history. It would divide the Jews into two different camps. Daniel 10-12 gives prophecy of the events of the period between the testaments. If you should read it, then read from a paraphrase. It reads like a history book. Actually, a great portion of the Bible is history.

THE COMING OF ALEXANDER AND HELLENISM

Summary

The Old Testament ends around 430 BC with Malachi 100 years after return from exile but the Persian Empire would continue till 332 B.C. Persians met defeat in Greece. ‘Beginning of Hellenism.’ (Greek Culture).

Alexander the Great becomes dominant personality at the beginning of the age of Hellenism. Educated under Aristotle became ardent disciple and spokesman for Greek culture.

In 336 at the age of 20 he assumed command of Greek army and swept eastward over every country reaching as far as the Ganges River in India. This was the Golden Age of Greece. It was an era of great statesmen and philosophers.

‘Hellenism’ is a word used to describe the civilisation or culture of Greece which reached its zenith in Athens in the 5th Century. It would correspond with the time when the temple and walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt under Zerubbel, Ezra and Nehemiah after Babylonian exile. The Greeks placed emphasis on the harmonious form and beauty of the human body.

Their emphasis on beauty, shape can be seen in their art and sculpture. Great Emphasis was placed on the development of the body. Great emphasis was placed on games, races and exercise.

As Alexander conquered cities He left behind gymnasiums, amphitheatres, hippodromes and stadiums all symbols of Greek culture. Invaded Palestine in 332 BC. Met by High Priest, other priest in official dress. They rehearsed the prophecies of Daniel about him. No doubt flattered. Showed great consideration for Jews, sparing Jerusalem from destruction.

They became favourites. Employed them in his army giving them equal Greek citizenship. Reminds us of Paul’s Roman citizenship. Offered a sacrifice at the temple once under the supervision of High-priest. While this may be unhistorical it does show the favour he had with the Jews. Offered them inducements to settle in Alexandria, Egypt. Thousands went there to live.

Many synagogues were established. Others spread other cities. In New Testament times more lived outside of Palestine than in it. Acts 2:5-12 shows the extent of the Di-as-pora. Seventeen nations represented.

In Daniel 10:20 an angel tells Daniel ‘The prince of Greece would come.’ Alexander would begin his invasion of Persia in 332 B.C. He pushed on into Persia going even as far as India. By 331 B.C. the world lay at his feet.

Stories of his conquests are amazing. In 12 years had conquered the world. His greatest contribution was to give to the world the Greek language. Greek has been called the perfect language. For every emotion and feeling the Greeks had a word for it. It would become the universal language.

In Daniel Alexander is spoken of as a great ‘he-goat.’

‘The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four permanent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.’ Daniel 8:8

Daniel writes of his death (large horn). The four prominent horns represent the division of Alexander’s Empire after his death into four separate kingdoms. Daniel is given a clear picture of the future which would involve the future of the Jews. He would die at age of 33 in the year 323 B.C. returning to Greece.

Old Testament scriptures translated into Greek in Alexandria. Had become literary center. Oldest and first translation of scripture. From Hebrew to Greek. Greek had become the language of the Jews living outside of Palestine. Jews lost their mother tongue in Babylon. No longer read or understand Hebrew. Greek became the universal language.

Similar to English today. For Judaism to survive, necessary people need to be able to read and understand the Old Testament. This version known as Septuagint Version. Christ, apostles all quoted from it. All Old Testament scriptures quoted in the New Testament comes from the Septuagint.

Why so little mentioned in the Bible of these years? However, Daniel Chapters 10-12 gives details of the events between the testaments. If you read it read from a paraphrase. It reads like a history book.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

2 Timothy 3:16

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