Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jewish Encyclopedia on Macedonia

The unedited version of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


"The celebrated conqueror of the East, 356-323 B.C. By introducing Hellenic culture into Syria and Egypt, he had probably more influence on the development of Judaism than any one individual not a Jew by race..."

"...Alexander then gave the high priest his right hand, and went into the Temple and "offered sacrifice to God according to the high priest's direction," treating the whole priesthood magnificently. "And when the Book of Daniel was shown him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians..."

"...Alexander permitted the Jews to hold the country of Samaria free from tribute as a reward for their fidelity to him, it was he who Hellenized its capital. The Sibylline Books (iii. 383) speak of Alexander—who claimed to be the son of Zeus Amon—as "of the progeny of the Kronides, though spurious."


"...The First Book of the Maccabees, which originally was written in Hebrew, also uses the word "Kittim" for Macedonians, and mentions Philip and Alexander (i. 1), as well as Philip III. and his illegitimate son Perseus (viii. 5), as kings of the Macedonians. Since the Greek Syrians style themselves "successors of Alexander," these Syrians also are called "Macedonians"..."

"...The Rabbis, whose acquaintance with Greek life was one acquired during the Macedonian era, identified the Hebrew "Yawan" (Javan) with Macedonia..."

"...Many Macedonian idioms, it is claimed, are found in the Jewish-Hellenistic language, especially as it appears in the Septuagint..."


"...Alexander the Great, who through his education had thoroughly imbibed the Greek spirit, treated the Jews with great kindness..."


"...Moreover, the whole city was divided into five districts, which were named after the first five letters of the Greek alphabet..."

"...Moreover, there was no such thing as a council (βōυλέ) during the first two centuries of the Greek domination; this having been abolished by the Ptolemies, or, at the very latest, by Augustus, and only revived under Septimius Severus..."

"...Josephus says ("Contra Ap." ii. 4); "Alexander gave them a place in which to live, and they received the same rights as the Macedonians [Greeks], and up to the present their race has retained the appellation Macedonians." In another place ("B. J." ii. 18, § 7) he declares: "Alexander permitted them the same rights as the Greeks. This privilege they preserved under the successors of Alexander, who permitted them to call themselves Macedonians..."

"...Although the religion of their forefathers was so faithfully followed, the Jews of Alexandria nevertheless imbibed, to a great degree, the culture of the Greeks. Not many generations after the founding of the community, the Torah was translated into Greek (perhaps under Ptolemy II.; at all events not much later). It was read in Greek in the synagogues; indeed this was the language chiefly used in the service (Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 93-95). Greek must, therefore, have been the vernacular of the lower classes also. The better classes studied Greek literature in the schools, and read Homer, the tragic poets, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. This intimate acquaintance with Greek literature naturally exerted a profound influence upon the Alexandrian Jews. They became Greeks without, however, ceasing to be Jews..."


"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... 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... 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..."

"...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 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... 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... 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)..."

"... 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... Even the prejudiced Palestinian teachers accepted it and praised the beauty of the Greek language..."

Source: Jewish Encyclopedia


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