Continuing with the study of world history leading up to the time of the birth of Jesus. Prevously, we looked briefly at the succession of countries having executed rule over the Jewish people. We looked at Assyria and the Samaritans, Babylon and Persia. Now compleing the discussion on Persia. The Persians ruled a mighty nation, that included Palestine, for about 200 years before being conquered by the armies of a famous man in history, Alexander the Great. The period of Greek dominance in the ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world came about rather suddenly. The brilliance of Alexander the Great is credited for this sudden rise.
Probably more than any other people, the Greeks exercised a long lasting influence on the Jews. The Greek influence extended into the time of Christ. The Grecian culture was the reason. Alexander believed Greek culture was the greatest on earth. Wherever he conquered, Grecian culture was established by skilled leaders. Over time, this cultural influence became an accepted part of nearly every country within the Greek and later the Roman Empire. An important aspect of the culture was language. The Greek language became the common language used in trade and diplomacy throughout Alexander's vast empire. It was the Greek culture and language that worked to tie the people together and make the spread of ideas and values much easier across the empire.
The word Hellenism
is used to describe everything that was connected with ancient Greek culture. When you hear or read the expression Hellenism or Hellenistic, it refers to Greek culture or its influence. Because Greeks were convinced of the greatness of their culture, they believed Greece should do everything necessary to extend its influence everywhere in the civilized world. The desire was to Hellenize their subjects.
Later in this study will be discussed how Hellenism became a great enemy of Judaism. Know for now, that Hellenism began under the rulership of Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great lived a short life. He died at the age of thirty-three. The Grecian Empire became divided soon after his death. His successors divided the empire into four areas. For this study concerning Israel, two areas are a part of this study, Egypt and Syria. For nearly 150 years, these two countries battled each other for possession of Palestine. During the first part of this period, the Ptolemies, Egypt and its rulers, controlled Palestine. In the latter part of the period, after a brief time of independence, the Jewish people fell under the control of the Seleucids, Syria and its leaders.
In turn, two hundred years after its great conquests, the remnants of the Grecian Empire fell victim to the mighty power of Rome. The Roman Empire became the most powerful empire in history. The empire covered the greatest area for the longest period of time. The city of Rome was established a short time before Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom (Israel). During the next few centuries, while Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece were rising and then declining, Rome grew and gained power. The mighty power of Rome endured without serious challenge for nearly six hundred years.
The Roman Empire exerted great influence on the ancient world into which Christ came. In particular, three contributions affected Palestine during Christ's public ministry:
1) Rome established peace throughout the empire that lasted for centuries.
2) Rome incorporated much of what was good about the culture of Greece and continued to promote it. Hellenism continued to be a force for many years.
3) The legal and political system Rome established became a model that many nations would use for centuries.
Because of the peace Rome established, travel and communication everywhere in the empire was easier than at any other time in history. God chose this ideal time to send Christ into the world. The gospel message that followed Christ's life on earth could be spread more easily than at any other time in history.
Rome is the last empire to be discussed in this background introduction in the Study of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels. Each of the empires discussed played the part God determined in preparing Israel for the coming of Christ.
To introduce one more term as we move forward in this study. That term is intertestamental period
. It represents a span of about four hundred years, the years between the last prophet of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament record.
During this intertestamental period, the political boundaries for the nation of Israel were being established and the Jewish people were absorbing the influence of different cultures. The religious system was developed that Christ confronted in His ministry. And, a family arose that had great influence on Palestine during Christ's ministry. The family of Herod the Great will be the focus of the next blog.
Reference Used: Christ in the Synoptic Gospels by Mike McClaflin Chapter 3.2-3.2.2
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