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Hellenistic Judaism Still Prevalent Today Essay

2662 words - 11 pages

Hellenistic Judaism- Still Prevalent Today Comfort, leisure, serenity, prosperity, and dedication are only an understatement of the amazing era in Jewish history in Jerusalem. At the start of the epoch of the Second Temple, the denizens of Jerusalem adapted to new life quite easily to the postexilic period after the Babylonian exile had spewed them out of their homeland. The rebuilding of the Temple gave them new hope and faith, rejuvenating their spirituality. The Jews lived contently and in peace with themselves as well as their Creator. However, their material and spiritual contentment was short-lived. Their tranquil lifestyles gradually transformed into a nightmare, which was all ...view middle of the document...

Did we not as a united nation learn from our mistakes and attempt to prevent history from repeating itself? The history of how the Greeks came to power is quite interesting and significant. Greek culture and influence was initially introduced to the Jews in Jerusalem when Alexander the Great defeated the Persian ruler, Darius III in 330 BCE during the Second Temple era. When Alexander marched into Judaea, he found a culture completely foreign to Greek thoughts and practices. The Jews of Judaea lived comfortably and were not forced to choose between assimilation and resistance to Greek culture. Their Torah was the law of the land, and their traditions remained in tact; therefore, Jews living in Jerusalem had little or no contact with their new neighbors, and, thus, the Greeks posed no threat to the Jews. However, that all changed when Antiochus Epiphanes IV came to power in 175 BCE. Jerusalem transformed into a city of conquests as various armies conquered her six times. The peace quickly vanished. With Antiochus also came the idea of Hellenism, Greek culture that was based on the glory and wonder of the human body, the aesthetics of architecture, and the allure of philosophy. Hellenism presented a challenge to all the fundamental beliefs of Judaism. Where Judaism promoted sanctity in the actions of individuals and declared the supremacy of morals and discipline over instinct and desire, Hellenism saw only abstinence, isolation, and despair. Life had no meaning beyond mundane physical pleasures; nudity was encouraged, while modesty of dress and speech were mocked.Material gain and physical, personal gratification were the measuresof human success. Evidently, Jewish and Greek values seemed to be at opposite poles. Despite the immense contradiction of the two doctrines, the Jewish response was quite complex and the struggle between the two ethnicities continued for nearlythree hundred years. Many Jews recoiled from Greek customs and fiercely clung to old dispensations. They considered the Greeks powerful and wicked; their initial encounter and experience with the notion of Hellenism was neither pleasant nor impressive. However, some found Hellenism profoundly sympathetic to Jewish tradition and desired to partake in and enjoy the freedom, which the Greek lifestyle offered. Interest in Hellenistic civilization was predominantlylimited to the elite aristocrats of Jerusalem. Wealthy Greeks who were granted estates settled close to upper class Jews and were, therefore, able to better integrate and socialize with them. Such cultural modification and the development of foreign ideas inevitably resulted in a loss of interest in the Temple and in Judaism in general, ultimately leading to the dissolution of the Jewish faith. Furthermore, in the second and third centuries BCE, the Greek rulers attempted to reform the local religions of Judaea to correspond more closely to Greek forms and to promote a cultural uniformity to unite...

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