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Greek and Jew

  • Date Submitted: 06/24/2011 09:03 AM
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Greek and Jew
In the late 4th century (332 BC) Alexander’s troops took control of Palestine en route to a successful conquest of Egypt. The arrival of Greek conquerors in the eastern Mediterranean, with their vibrant, expansive culture, presented a major challenge to the Jews, especially to the theocracy of Judaea. The Greeks now embraced the ‘known world’ and integrated all its many cultures into their own. The product was a multifaceted, cosmopolitan and secular civilization. According to one historian, Alexander ‘treated the Jews generously’ (Cantor, The Sacred Chain - A History of the Jews). Initially, the Jews were ruled by the Greeks of Alexandria. Then, for a 150 years, Syrian Greeks governed the land of Palestine.
As elsewhere in the Greek empire, city-colonies were established, with a rich culture of art, philosophy, medicine, and science. Some cities, like Sebaste (Sepphoris), the major city of Galilee, were entirely Greek (and, as it happens, go unmentioned in the Bible). Entire regions, like the Decapolis, were thoroughly Hellenized. Only small, rustic settlements and the inaccessible city of Jerusalem remained relatively untouched. Some Jews were completely seduced by Greek modernity and became Hellenes. A number - in particular landowners and those educated in the Greek language - adopted the values and ethos of the Greek world even though they remained nominally ‘Jews.’ Others, despite their loathing for the Greeks, could not help but be influenced by them, though some, defensively, argued that ‘Plato had borrowed from Moses’!

World Culture versus Blind Faith
The ‘world culture’ of the Greeks brought Egyptian mythology, Indian metaphysics and Greek philosophy into direct contact with each other, giving birth to a syncretic method of enquiry, an intellectual movement to gain knowledge or ‘gnosis’ from nature itself. If Gnosticism was a ‘religion’ then it was one that held to a fantastic if ultimately vain hope: that a place could be found for...


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