HELLENISM (from έλληνίζειν , "to speak Greek," or "to make Greek"):
Word used to express the assimilation, especially by the Jews, of Greek speech, manners, and culture, from the fourth century
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. This influence extended in later times over the whole of the district east of the Jordan and of the Sea of Gennesaret, especially inTrachonitis, Batanæa, and Auranitis. 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, and even in the very strongholds of Judaism it modified the organization of the state, the laws, and public affairs, art, science, and industry, affecting even the ordinary things of life and the common associations of the people.
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 Jews thus became sharers in a world-culture if not in a world-empire. It was a denationalizing influence from the strictly Jewish point of view; this was the principal reason for the dislike which many Jewish teachers felt for things Hellenic. In addition to this, Hellenism in its Eastern dress was not always the Hellenism of Greece proper. It was in some respects a bastard culture. It led its new votaries to the highest flights of philosophy; but through the allegorical explanations which, coming from Stoicism, were applied to the Bible, especially in Alexandria, a real danger menaced the development of Jewish life and thought, the danger of Antinomianism (see
How early traces of Hellenism are to be found in Jewish literature can not be ascertained. It has been supposed by some that such traces are to be seen in Prov. viii., where Wisdom is described its the artist or master workman who, fashioned by God before the world, was ever by Him in His creative work (Montefiore, "Hibbert Lectures," 1892, p. 380); by others, that some of the universalist passages in Isaiah were inspired in this period; and the Book of Ecclesiastes has been suspected of containing Stoic and Epicurean doctrines, and even references to the teachings of Heraclitus. But these theories are open to much doubt; the influence of Greek philosophy and thought came in later. It is seen in some of the Apocrypha and in the writings of the Hellenistic Jews in Egypt (Cheyne, "Origin and Religious Contents of the Psalter," pp. 423 et seq.). The Greek words in Daniel prove nothing, as that book is generally conceded to be of Maccabean origin.Reaction Against Hellenic Influence.
The work commenced by Alexander the Great was furthered by the first Ptolemies and Seleucids, who treated their Jewish subjects with much benevolence, though even at this time the high priest Onias III. fought bravely against the introduction of Hellenism. But the high-priestly family was divided owing to the intrigues of the Tobiads, especially of Joseph; and the high priests, instead of defending their patrimony, degraded it. Of such a kind were Menelaus and Jason, the latter of whom is said to have sent contributions to Hercules' games at Tyre, and to have built an arena in Jerusalem, which the priests were wont to frequent in place of the Temple (II Macc. iv. 13, 19). 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. By so doing he brought on the Maccabean revolt, which bade fair to sweep the new influence off the field. It had, however, entered too deeply into the flesh to be entirely eradicated, though the newly aroused spirit proved an efficient control. There were still high priests who headed the Hellenist party. 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; specimens exist which date back even to the time of Alexandra Salome. The Hasmoneans Aristobulus and John Hyrcanus leaned also to the Hellenists. But it was especially with the advent of the Idumean Herod and his dynasty that Hellenism once more threatened to overwhelm Jewish culture. Herod's theater, his amphitheater, his hippodrome, and his palace, though such buildings existed also in Jericho, Tiberias, and Tarichæa, were thoroughly Greek buildings in the very midst of Jerusalem; his Temple also showed this influence in its architecture. 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). It is therefore no wonder that there were synagogues of the Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians, and Asiatics in the Holy City itself (Acts vi. 9).At Alexandria.
It was, however, in Alexandria that Jewish Hellenism reached its greatest development. Here, freed from the national bonds which held it firmlyto tradition in Palestine, Hellenistic Judaism became more Hellenistic than Jewish (see Alexandria). It is not true to say with Güdemann ("Monatsschrift," xlvii. 248) that Hellenism had no appreciable influence upon the development of Judaism; its influence was appreciable for many centuries; but it was driven out of the Jewish camp by the national sentiment aroused in the Maccabean and Bar Kokba revolts, and in forming the bridge between Judaism and Christianity it lost whatever permanent influence it might have possessed. Since that time, even in Egypt, the classical home of Hellenism, rabbinical Jewish communities have flourished that have borne no perceptible trace of the movement which made Alexandria great.Greek Versions of the Bible.
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. The strange legends which are connected with the origin of this translation, and which go back to the Letter of Aristeas, are discussed under Aristeas and Bible; it is sufficient to say that the whole translation was probably completed by the middle of the second century
Hellenistic literature, however, was for the time being too great an intellectual factor to be entirely set aside in the Diaspora. No strong line of demarcation was drawn between the sacred books originally written in Hebrew and those written in Greek; because the former also were available only in Greek translations. Greek versions of various sacred books were accepted, such as the Greek Book of Ezra; as were also the Greek additions to Ezra and to the books of Esther and Daniel, the Prayer of Manasses, the pseudepigraphic Book of Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah.
The Jews outside of Palestine were so different from the peoples among whom they lived that they were bound to attract attention. The Jewish customs were strange to outsiders, and their religious observances provoked the derision of the Greeks, who gave expression to their views in satiric allusions to Jewish history, or even in malicious fabrications. It was especially in Egypt that the Jews found many enemies in Greek-writing literati. Foremost among these was the Egyptian priest Manetho, at the time of Ptolemy II., Philadelphus (285-247
There were many Hellenistic Jews who went beyond the confines of their own literature and imitated the works of Greek writers in the domain of history and poetry. The most important historical productions of this kind are the fragments of Jewish and Samaritan historical works preserved by Alexander Polyhistor and by the Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius (see especially Freudenthal, "Hellenistische Studien," Nos. i, ii., Breslau, 1875). These histories were intended not only for Jews, but also for educated pagans who knew Greek. Following the example of Alexandrian chronologists, Demetrius, a Jew living in Egypt under Ptolemy II., wrote a work on the Jewish kings (Περὶ τῶν ἐν τγ Ἰουδαία Βασιλέων, Clemens Alexandrinus, i. 21, 141). Although the fragments of this history that have beenpreserved deal chiefly with Jacob, Moses, etc., and contain no allusions to the Jewish kings, there are no grounds for doubting the correctness of the title. Demetrius cared less for facts than for the chronology of the several events which he treated, even as regards the life of Jacob. (For an excellent restoration of this text see Freudenthal, l.c. pp. 219-223, comp. pp. 35-82; Schürer, "Gesch." pp. 349-351; Hilgenfeld, in "Zeit. für Wissenschaftliche Theologie," 1897, xviii. 475.) The Judean Eupolemus is more concerned with narrating events in his book "On the Kings in Judea," fragments from which, intermingled with work by another hand, have also been preserved by Alexander Polyhistor. Though Eupolemus bases his narrative on the Biblical accounts, he draws upon other traditions, and also upon his imagination. The Egyptian Jew Artapanus adopts the method of fabricating history that was popular at Alexandria. He transforms "Moses" into "Musæus," teacher of Orpheus, conqueror of the Ethiopians, and inventor of the hieroglyphics, of philosophy, and of many other things. All that is great and splendid in Egypt is ascribed to Moses, who appears as the greatest benefactor of that country. By this means the author sought to counteract the enmity which the Egyptians and the Greeks in Egypt showed toward the Hebrews; for this reason Moses is described as having founded the Egyptian religion, introduced circumcision among the Egyptians, divided the country into nomes, etc.Historians.
The work "On the Jews," attributed to Aristeas, also aims to glorify Judaism in the eyes of the pagans; the story of Job is here told with many elaborations (e.g., Job was formerly called "Jobab"; Gen. xxxvi. 33). This interpretation may be explained as due to the similarity in Greek between the two names. Fragments from two Samaritan historians have likewise been preserved by the Hellenists. Josephus ("Ant." i. 15) refers to a Samaritan (quoted also by Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 20) who, under the name Κλεόδημος ὁ προφήτης ὅ καὶ Μάλχος, tells the story of three sons of Abraham and Keturah who joined Hercules in a campaign against Libya. Passages from another anonymous Samaritan chronicle were combined by Alexander Polyhistor with extracts from the work of Eupolemus, mentioned above. Freudenthal (l.c. pp. 82-103, 207 et seq., 223-225), by separating these passages, which are preserved in Eusebius (l.c. ix. 17-18), has brought order out of confusion. Jason of Cyrene (the author of II Maccabees), the author of III Maccabees, and Philo of Alexandria must be included among the Hellenistic writers who treated of later Jewish history.
Jason of Cyrene, who, according to Niese, lived in the second century
III Maccabees, a history merely in form, is a fictitious story. It recounts an alleged attempt of Ptolemy IV., Philopator to enter the Temple, and narrates that on being unsuccessful, he ordered a persecution of the Jews of Alexandria, although they were in no way responsible for the miscarriage of his plans. The persecution, however, came to naught, as two angels benumbed the power of the king and his army, while the latter was trodden under foot by its own elephants. The king thereupon relented in regard to the Jews, and permitted them to kill their faithless compatriots who had made it appear that his failure to enter the Temple at Jerusalem was chargeable to the Jews of Alexandria.
The philosopher Philo also belongs in a certain sense to the Hellenistic historians. He undertook the task of showing how God had constituted the world materially and spiritually through the Creation and the Law ("De Opificio Mundi"; comp. "De Abrahamo," i.; "De Præmiis et Pœnis," i.; "De Vita Moysis," ii., § 8), and through the history of the Patriarchs. He describes in five books, two of which, "In Flaccum" and "De Legatione," have been preserved, the persecution of the Jews under Caligula. By way of introduction he also treats of the persecutions by Sejanus in the reign of Tiberius.
Thallus wrote a chronicle of the world from the Creation down to about the time of Tiberius. He may be identical with the Samaritan Thallus mentioned by Josephus ("Ant." xviii. 6, § 4). Josephus, the foremost Jewish historian, must also be named here. His Ἰουδαïκὴ Ἀρχαιολογια is a narrative of Jewish history from its beginning down to his own time. His object in writing this work in Greek was to win the respect of the educated Romans for the conquered Jewish people. His other large work, "De Bello Judaico," is an inflated and not always sincere account of his own experiences (See Josephus, Flavius). His contemporary Justus of Tiberias dealt with the same subjects, but less successfully, and his works have therefore not been preserved.Poetry.
In the field of poetry only the epic and the drama were cultivated, traces of which, but no fully developed products, are found in ancient Hebrew literature. The poem of a certain Philo, on Jerusalem (Περὶ τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα), must be classed as an epic; but only three fragments of it (given by Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 20, 24, 37) have beenpreserved. These treat of Abraham, Joseph, and the fountains and conduits of Jerusalem, in hexameters that betray the author's complete ignorance of the laws of scansion. This Philo is probably identical with the Φίλων ὁ Πρεσβύτερος mentioned by Josephus ("Contra Ap." i., § 23). Josephus takes him to be a pagan, but a pagan could hardly have written such slipshod hexameters. (On Philo's poem see Franz Delitzsch, "Gesch. der Jüd. Poesie," 1836, pp. 24, 209.) A similar poem on Shechem, by the Samaritan Theodotus, of which a long fragment has been preserved by Eusebius (l.c. ix. 22), recounts the history of the city according to the Bible, with various amplifications from other traditions and from Greek mythology.
There was also a dramatist named Ezekielus among the Hellenists, mentioned by Clement of Alexandria ("Stromata," i. 23, 155) and Eusebius (l.c. ix. 29, § 14). Under the title Ἐξαγωγή, extracts from a single work of his, dealing with the Exodus, have been preserved by the Church Fathers mentioned above. His power of imagination was very poor; and he appears to have depended chiefly upon the Bible for his material. The verse-form, however, is fairly good.The Sibyllines.
Considering the chasm between the Jews and the pagans, it is remarkable with what zeal and cleverness the Hellenistic Jews sought under pagan masks to make propaganda for Judaism. They wrote works in the name of pagan authorities, and these stole their way into the circle of pagan readers. As forgeries of this kind were common in the Hellenistic period, no blame attached to any famous man for having committed them, and the Jews could not be expected to be superior to their time. The Sibylline Books are distinguished from all other works of this kind by their loftiness of purpose. It was their avowed object to reform paganism; while other contemporaneous works were merely intended to glorify the Jewish name; the former endeavored to act as Jewish missionaries, while the latter sought merely to make an impression. Collections of the Sibylline Oracles were kept in different places; they were an easy medium for religious propaganda, and Hellenistic Judaism, subsequently also Christianity, made clever use of them. The ancient Sibyl was made to address the pagans in Greek hexameters, threatening dire punishment for pagan idolatry and pagan vices, and promising forgiveness for repentance and conversion. The collection of the Sibyllines was made from the most diverse sources.
The earliest sentences, aside from a few pagan oracles, are chiefly Jewish in form, while most of the later ones are of Christian origin. The greater part of the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles is probably of Jewish origin, with Christian interpolations that can not be in all cases distinguished. The dates which are assigned to some of the oracles vary between the first century
A work, "On the Jews," or "On Abraham," under the name of "Hecatæus of Abdera," is quoted by Aristeas, Josephus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. The book from which they quoted may have contained genuine extracts from this Hecatæus, traces of whose work are found in Diodorus Siculus. It appears from the extant fragments of the spurious work that the life of Abraham served as the point of departure for a glorifying description of Judaism. To this class also belongs the Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates on the Greek translation of the Jewish law. The letter probably originated about 200
Greek ethics cast in the mold of the Jewish Wisdom literature is presented in the Wisdom of Solomon. Solomon appears as the, speaker, addressing a hortatory discourse to his royal colleagues who rule over the heathen peoples. He shows them the folly of impiety, and especially of idolatry, and exhorts them to follow true wisdom and to serve God. Although the author may have addressed himself principally to Jewish readers, yet the descriptions of the dangers of impiety and the folly of idolatry presuppose also a pagan audience, or one that included at least Jews who had adopted pagan practises. In his conception of Wisdom he follows Prov. viii. and ix. andEcclus. (Sirach) xxiv.; but Wisdom becomes in his hands an independent being, existing apart from the Deity, and, in a way, acting as the mediator between the divine activity and the world. The terms in which he describes this mediation show the influence of Greek philosophy, especially of Stoicism, recalling the doctrine of divine reason immanent in the world. The book follows the Platonic psychology, according to which the soul has an independent existence, living only for a time in the earthly house of the body, that crumbles again into dust. The author was probably an Alexandrian Hellenist who took up the thought that was subsequently further developed by Philo (see Wisdom, Book of).Aristobulus.
Although the author of the Wisdom of Solomon touches upon Greek philosophy, he yet remains within the limits of the Palestinian Wisdom literature. But Aristobulus was a full-fledged Alexandrian, thoroughly acquainted with Greek philosophy and accepting it. He was a contemporary of Ptolemy VI., Philometor, living about 17O—15O
The so-called Fourth Book of Maccabees contains a philosophical discourse which, on account of its edifying character, may also be called a sermon, although it was probably not delivered in a synagogue, its theme being a philosophical proposition. It derives its name from the fact that it refers to the execution of a mother and her seven sons, as related in II Macc. vii., and endeavors to prove by the principles of argumentation followed by Greek rhetoricians that pious reason is able to conquer all emotions. In his religious convictions the author is entirely a Jew. Although he uses the Greek terminology in unfolding his doctrine of God, his views are wholly Biblical.
The Church Fathers ascribe this work to Josephus, but the statement can not be accepted, as that author in his "Antiquities" does not draw upon II Maccabees as does the work in question. The book is assigned to the first century
- Schürer, Gesch. ii. 21 et seq.;
- Wellhausen, I. J. G. pp. 182 et seq.;
- M. Friedländer, Zur Entstchung des Christenthums, pp. 143 et seq., Vienna, 1894;
- Joël, Blicke in die Religionsgesch. i., Breslau, 1880;
- idem, Das Judenthum in der Vorchristlichen, Welt, 1897;
- Siegfried, in Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1875, xviii. 465, et seq.;
- Willrich, Juden und Griechen vor der Makkabäischen Erhebung, 1895.