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innovation. The young men who desired cultivation
could not be prevented from acquiring the tongue of
Plato and Sophocles. They studied under Greek

i^'^) History of Rome ; Mommsen, II, ch. xix.

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rhetoricians and philosophers. Even in the theatres the
very comedies could not be understood without a knowl-
edge of Greek — -the language had been so much modi-
fied by the introduction of Greek words. Greek be-
came the language both of commerce and of polite
intercourse, as well as of diplomacy. *' Greek," says
Caesar, " is read in almost all nations." The Greek
schoolmaster went wherever the centurion led the
way — no less a conqueror in his own way than he ; and
the teachers of the Greek language settled not only in
Italy, but were found even in the distant cities of
Spain. ^**^ Inasmuch as the Romans placed the work of
elementary instruction, like every other work which
was performed for hire, in the hands of slaves, freed-
men or foreigners, the great bulk of the Roman popu-
lation was committed to the hands of the Greeks, and
in this way the western world was hellenized.

We shall deal more particularly with Greek influ-
ence in Italy in a succeeding chapter.


It is apparent that if there was any providential
meaning in the hellenizing of the nations the people
of God themselves must to a considerable extent
be brought under Greek influences. The Jew was
indeed no exception in the hellenizing of the nations.
Indeed the most striking effects of hellenism in the
age preceding the coming of Christ appear in that peo-
ple whose system was the most venerable and whose
prejudices were the most impregnable. These effects
are also connected with the division of the empire of

iy^) Be\^inni ft j^s of Christianity ; Fisher, p. 57.

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Alexander and serve to set forth the singular provi-
dence of God as it was manifested therein. As the
Syrian metropolis of Antioch, founded by one of the
successors of Alexander, is seen to have exercised a
vast influence upon the course of Christianity, so also
the new Egyptian metropolis of Alexandria, founded
by Alexander himself, exercised a corresponding in-
fluence, but of a different kind. But it will be impos-
sible to include the history of this influence in the pres-
ent chapter; we pass therefore to the next, in which we
shall treat of hellenism and the Jew in connection with
the metropolis of Alexandria.

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Chapter IX.


We have already observed in a previous chapter
that following the Babylonian captivity and under the
favoring influences of the Persian empire the Jew had
been in a measure revolutionized. His character was
not, however, thereby altered except in its external
aspect. The revolution had accomplished little else
than to bring him into contact with the nations of the
world. It broke up his habits of seclusion and ren-
dered him content to live outside the narrow bounds
of his own country. But he still continued to speak
the same language, to adhere to the same exclusive
regard for his own institutions, and to explain all
things by the only philosophy with which he was
acquainted — the tradition of his fathers. This was true
of all the Jews; there was but one class of them. We
find, however, when we open the New Testament that
two distinct classes are recognized. The first is known
by the ancient name, "Jews;" the second are called
" Grecians." ^^^ We observe, also, that these Grecians
comprise a large element, probably the majority, of
the early Christian church. We discover, upon the
first mention of them, that there is a certain amount
of friction between them and their brethren who bear
the ancient name. They are introduced to our atten-

(1) Hereafter this word will invariably be used to designate the Greek-
speaking Jews.

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tion in Acts vi: i, where we are told that ''there arose
a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews,
because their widows were neglected in the daily min-
istration." They are mentioned again in chapter ix:
29, where we are told that Saul of Tarsus, when he
returned from Damascus to Jerusalem, after his con-
version "disputed against the Grecians; but they went
about to slay him." In chapter xi: 20, we read that
certain believers who had come to Antioch ''spake
unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus." ^*^ We
should be disposed to conclude even from these simple
statements, although we were ignorant of foregoing
history, that some great providential movement had
been in progress since the close of the Old Testament,
in the course of which a people had been furnished out
of the Jewish church itself, forming a connecting link
between that church and the Gentile world. This con-
clusion would be a just one. It is a mistake to sup-
pose — as the uninstructed reader of the New Testa-
ment is liable to do — that in the day wherein the hope
of Israel was to be extended to all nations there was
no mediator between the Jew and the Gentile. The
very reverse was the case. The mediator had been
provided, and his production is one of the most re-
markable illustrations of divine providence, in its con-
trol of human history, which is anywhere afforded.
The Gospel was not to depend for its agencies solely
upon the Jew of Palestine, with his provincialism and
prejudice. Under the omniscient leadership of God a
fusion of races had been in progress, and there had

C^) The Revised Ver^^ion says "(jreeks," with '* Grecians" in the

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been produced a new species, which intellectually
realized what some ethnologists say is physically im-
possible, a true hybrid. That hybrid was the Grecian.
He was a true Jew and a true Greek in the same per-
son, but in him the stern and repulsive stiffness of
Judaism had been softened by the elements of hellenic
culture/^^ He adhered to the God of Israel and prayed
toward the temple at Jerusalem; but he spake the lan-
guage of Athens and lived in the atmosphere of the
Acropolis. He was the ordained mediator of the new
era. He was personified in Paul, the Apostle to the


The production of the Grecian is an integral part
of the great intellectual revolution which we have con-
sidered. His history begins with Alexander; so that
Alexander becomes the herald not only of a mighty
change in the thought of the Pagan world, but also
the forerunner of a mighty change in the Jewish mind

Josephus tells us that after Alexander had passed
through Asia Minor and subjugated Tyre he made
haste to go up to Jerusalem; that the notice of his
coming produced great confusion and fear in the Jew-
ish capital, which was only allayed when Jaddua, the
high-priest, announced that God had appeared to him
in a dream, assuring him that the advent of the con-
queror would not be attended by any ill. Josephus
then continues:

"When the high-priest understood that Alexandtr was not
far from the city he went out in procession with the priests and

(3) See Neander's Church History ; Introduction.

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a multitude of citizens. The procession was venerable ; and the
manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to
a place called Sapha, which place translated into Greek signifies a
*prospect'{ Scopus), for thence you have a prospect both of Jerusa-
lem and of the temple. And when the Phoenicians and the Chal-
daeans that followed him (Alexander) thought they should have
liberty to plunder the city and torment the high-priest to death, the
very reverse of it happened, for Alexander when he saw the multi-
tude at a distance in white garments, while the priests stood near
them in fine linen, and the high-priest in purple and scarlet cloth-
ing with his mitre on his head, having the golden plate whereon
the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself and
adored that name and first saluted the high-priest. The Jews
also did altogether with one voice salute Alexander and encom-
pass him about, whereupon the king of Syria and the rest were
surprised at what Alexander had done and supposed him disor-
dered in his mind. However, Parmenio alone went up to him
and asked him how it came to pass that when all others adored
him, he should adore the high-priest of the Jews. To whom be
replied, ' I did not adore him, but that God who hath honored
him with his h igh -priesthood ; for I saw this sexy person in a
dream in this very habit when I was at Diosin Macedonia; who,
when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the
dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay but boldly to
pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army
and give me the dominion over the Persians.' " Josephus con-
tinues: "The next day Alexander called them to him and bade
them ask what favors they pleased of him, whereupon the'high-
priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers
and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all
they desired and when they entreated him that he would permit
the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also,
he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired."^*)

The kindness which the great conqueror showed to
the Jews bore fruit in the honor which they paid to his
memory. They soon began to name their children after
him, employing his name as a substitute for the name of

i^^ Antiquities ; xi, 8.

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their own great king, Solomon. A large number of
Alexanders of Jewish fame are remembered in his-
tory — some even in the New Testament itself; but what
is still more remarkable, the feminine of the name,
Alexandra, which scarcely ever occurs in Greek nomen-
clature, was a common Jewish name, as it is a common
Christian one.

From this point, therefore, dates the hellenizing of
the Jews throughout the Macedonian empire and the
kingdoms which succeeded it. It was in the nature of
things impossible that the Jewish communities in the
West should remain unaffected by Grecian culture and
modes of thought; and all that seems to have been
necessary in order to render the Jew accessible to Greek
influences was a manifestation of friendship upon the part
of the great Greek conqueror. Here then as Eders-
heim beautifully says:

^' While we behold old Israel groping back into the darkness
of the past, in the Judaism of the East; we behold young Israel,
in the Judaism of the West, stretching forth its hands to where
the dawn of a better day was about to break.'W

These Jews of the West had no local history to look
back upon nor did they form a compact body like their
brethren of the East. To them Jerusalem was only a
symbol not a home. They were craftsmen, traders,
merchants — settled for a time here or there. They
might combine for a while into communities, but they
could not form one people. Greek influences also were
in the air, and the Jew could no more shut his mind
against them than he could withdraw his body from
the influences of the climate in which his lot was cast.

(5) Life of the Messiah ; Vol. I, p. 17.

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Jewish communities were of course loyal to the customs
of their fathers in all essential matters. The Grecian
Jew looked with contempt and pity upon the idola-
trous rites which were practiced about him, and upon
the dissoluteness of public and private life; and yet when
he stepped outside of the little company whom he met
in his own synagogue, or withdrew himself from his
own dwelling, he found himself confronted upon every
side by Grecianism — in the forum, in the market-place,
in the shop and upon the street; in all he saw, in all
whom he met. He beheld its refinement, its elegance,
the profundity of its thought, the attractiveness of its
form. He might endeavor to resist it; but he could
not overcome it. It thus became necessary for him
to defend himself. But in the very process of self-de-
fence he began to enquire whether the truths of divine
revelation were all the trutUs that God had ever per-
mitted mankind to learn ; and whether there were not
some things in the thought of those about him worth
adopting — in form at least, if not in substance.

At first he was disposed to resist Greek influences to
the uttermost. It was forbidden him to study Greek
philosophy or even to speak the Greek language. A
j'oung man once asked his uncle, a learned rabbi,
whether he might not study Greek, since he had already
mastered the Law. The rabbi replied by a reference
to Joshua i: 8: " Go and search what is the hour which
is neither of the day nor of the night, and in it thou
mayst study Greek philosophy."

But the very question was prophetic of the rising
tendencies, and the subtle proof of surrounding influ-
ences. As those influences encroached on the strong-

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holds of Judaism they became the more resistless.
The Greek met the Jew at his own threshold, even in
Palestine itself. Grecianism invaded the holy places
which patriarchs and prophets had sanctified by their
presence. Caesarea, Gaza, Askelon and Joppa first
became Greek cities, and there were many such be-
tween Hermon and the Dead Sea.^®^ In some of these
the people were compelled to speak Greek by imperial
ordinance,^^^ and it began to displace the native lan-
guage. The Romans published their decrees in Greek
and Latin, never in Aramaic or Hebrew. It is a sig-
nificant illustration of the state of the spoken language
in the age of Christ, that the Apostle Paul succeeding
in stilling the mob which threatened his life at Jerusa-
lem by speaking to them '* in the Hebrew tongue,"
showing that he ordinarily spoke in another tongue. ^®^
The providence of God thus fairly forced upon the
Jews the Greek language and some attention at least
to Greek learning. They began to speak Greek ; their
children learned to read Greek authors, and their
grandchildren — some of them, actually married
Greeks, and the intellectual hybrid at last appeared.
The chasm was bridged by a single cable, where soon
should be suspended a solid highway.

In such a case as this it could not be but that the
Grecian Jews should form, in some large city of the
world, an important center, at which they should learn
to apply their studies of Greek to the interpretation
of the Scriptures, and from which the theories which

(8) See a complete list in Schurer's Jewish People in the Time of
Christ. Div. II, Vol, I. See also Merivale, xxix.

(7) Mommsen's Provinces ; Book VIII, ch. ii.

(8) Acts xxii:2.

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they had formed in consequence should radiate
throughout the earth. What more natural thing than
that this center should be found in the great city
which their royal benefactor had himself founded, and
to which was subsequently given his own name.


In the little fishing-town of Rhacotis the great
Macedonian, with his usual foresight, had seen the
possibility of creating a magnificent harbor such as
had hitherto been lacking along the entire eastern
shore of the Mediterranean. The low, level reef form-
ing the island of Pharos, when connected by the main-
land, would furnish such a shelter for ships as neither
Tyre nor Sidon had ever been able to afford. His
own military cloak supplied the outline of the city.
It was built in the form of an open fan, and contained
more area than Rome herself. It held the second
place, indeed, in the great Roman empire, even when
Rome had become the metropolis. Hither had been
conveyed the remains of the dead king from Chaldaia
in a golden car drawn by sixty-four mules, each
arrayed in golden hangings and golden bells, across
the deserts, over the mountains and through the val-
leys of Palestine, until they were deposited in the
tomb which gave to the whole quarter of Alexandria
in which it stood the name of " The Body." The fact
that it held the sepulcher of Alexander always con-
tributed to the fame and importance of the city. But
its position assured its influence. Three worlds met
in Alexandria — Europe, Asia and Africa. It was first
a' commercial city; but the commerce brought others

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than merchants to its wharves, and lattr sovereigns
patronized the scholars who visited it.^®^ It was fur-
nished with magnificent libraries where the savants
assembled and taught every branch of learning. The
glory of the city increased as that of Athens declined.
The various states of Greece, tossed from the hands of
one tyrant to another under the successors of Alex-
ander, attempted to regain their independence, but
were unable to do so because they could not agree in the
defense of their common cause. Divided among them-
selves, turning for assistance from one ally to another,
they prepared the way for the utter destruction of the
freedom of Greece, which Rome, ere long, was to
accomplish. A great number of Greeks were thus
induced to forsake their own country and seek an
asylum elsewhere, and Alexandria became a second
Athens and the true center of Greek civilization.
This, then, was the place where the Jewish mind was
to come into direct association with the mind of the

The history of the Jewish colonization of Egypt dates
back to the Babylonian captivity. Long before the
coming of Alexander, Jewish settlers were found in the
land of the Pharaohs. In the time of Jeremiah a large
number of them came into Egypt, driven thither by
their fear of the Babylonians.^^^^ A forcible deporta-
tion of Jewish colonists to Egypt is said to have taken
place in the time of the Persian supremacy. But after
the founding of Alexandria the Jews — possibly in grate-
ful remembrance of their royal benefactor, and inas-

(9) Mommsen's Provinces : Book VIII, ch. xii,

(10) See The Bible arid Modem Discoveries; Harper, p. 472.

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much as he had granted them exceptional privileges,
were led to the city which he had built. A large num-
ber of Jewish settlers were directed to the city by the
bestowal upon them of the rights of citizenship. The
later troubles in Palestine under the Syrian kings greatly'
swelled their number, the more so as the Ptolemies,
with a single exception, favored them. Large num-
bers of them were brought in as prisoners of war by
this one — Ptolemy Lagus ; while many more came as
voluntary emigrants. A special quarter of the city
was assigned to them, in order that they might be the
more free to observe the forms of their religion. The
Jewish population, therefore, became very numerous,
reaching in the days of the Saviour to about a million.^"^
These Jews went so far in their disregard of the virtue
of strict Jewish customs as to build a temple, which
their Palestinian brethren regarded as an offensive rival
to that of Jerusalem. There is no reason to suppose
that it was so designed. The Egyptian Jews did not
renounce their allegiance to the authorities at Jerusalem,
yet they became virtually a separate community, under
their own priests, with their own separate council; and
exhibited a forcible illustration of the effect of those
foreign influences which there culminated.

It was from these Jews of Alexandria that a most
remarkable work was to proceed which was to find
acceptance among the Greek-speaking Jews of all
nations, and which was to prepare in a singular manner
the way of the Lord.

(11) Mommsen'5 Provinces ; Book VIII, ch. xii.

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This was the Greek translation of the Old Testa-
ment, venerable not only as the oldest version of the
Scriptures, but as that which, in the time of the Saviour,
held the same place which the King James version
holds in the English-speaking world. The details
connected with the origin of this work are not certainly
known. There is very much that is legendary con-
nected with its story. It probably originated in the
tirst place in the need of the Grecians, who were ignor-
ant of the Hebrew language, of some version of the
Scriptures which they could read and understand.
There were probably in use certain early Greek ver-
sions of separate parts of the Pentateuch, but this was
not sufficient for their needs. There may have been,
besides, some curiosity on the part of students of other
races dwelling in Alexandria to know the sacred books
on which the history and religion of Israel were founded.
We must also take into account the literary tastes of
the first three Ptolemies, who were patrons of learning,
and who founded the museum of Alexandria and its
great library. It is not unlikely that these monarchs
sought to enrich their treasures with an authentic ren-
dering of the sacred books of the Jews, at least that
they encouraged such a translation. The oldest part
of the translation is the Pentateuch, whose origin is said
to be found in the -friendly interposition of Ptoleni}- II.
Philadelphus. At his request the Jewish high-priest is
said to have delegated seventy-two men, by whose
labors the whole was finished in seventy-two days/^^^
This is, however, a suspicious historj', and we can say
with certainty only that the translation was made and

(12) Schurer; Vol. Ill, 160.

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in use by the year 220 B. C, as certain authors after
that time make use of it. Translations of the other
portions of the Old Testament soon followed until the
whole book had been given to the Greek-speaking
world. It soon became more popular and was more
commonl)' found in Jewish use than the Hebrew Scrip-
tures themselves. It was the " People's Bible ^' to that
large Jewish world, through which Christianity was
afterwards to reach mankind. The Grecians regarded
it as inspired like the original, and were accustomed
to make their final appeal to the very words of the
Greek version. It seems to have been read in the
synagogues — the worship probably being conducted
wholly or in part in Greek.^^^^ It was authoritatively
acknowledged even in Palestine itself, where, in con-
nection with its use, it was permitted that prayers
might be said in the Greek tongue. It finally became
to the Jewish Church, even in Palestine, but especially
in the Gentle world, what Luther's translation of the
Bible became to the Evangelical Church of Germany,
and produced a similar effect in enlightening and liber-
alizing the people. This then may be regarded as the
formative point of Grecianism, the point at which the
transformation of the Jew is distinctly accomplished.
The translation of the Sacred Scriptures into Greek
and its acceptance by the Jewish Church, meant very
much more to the world than might seem at first to
have been portended. It was virtually the extension
of the hope of Israel to the Gentiles with whom the
Jews had come in contact It was the expression of a
desire that the benefits of the religion contained in

(13) Eder>heim's " Messiah .'* \'ol. I. p. 20.

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their Scriptures might be communicated to the Greeks,
into whose language those Scriptures were now cast;
and it was the foreshadowing of a truth — ^not as yet
distinctly promulgated, that in the presence of the God
of those Scriptures there was neither Jew nor Greek.
We can well understand the state of the case by a
comparison with the condition of the Mohammedan
world in our own day. The Musselman authorities
have never tolerated any translation or version of the
Koran. The faithful are obliged to read it in the
original. Their exclusiveness is thus preserved; and
whenever such a translation shall be made with the
consent of those in power, or whenever such transla-
tions as have been made by others shall be accepted
by them, the days of the reign of the false prophet will
be numbered. It was just so when the Septuagint was
made and accepted by the Jew. Judaism had well
nigh fulfilled its mission, and the multitudes of prose-
lytes who began to adopt, at least in a measure, the
faith of Jehovah were the earnest of the extension
of that faith to all mankind.

It must not be supposed, however, that these disin-
tegrating influences were allowed to proceed unchal-
lenged. The differences between the Palestinian Jews

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Online LibraryDavid Riddle BreedA history of the preparation of the world for Christ .. → online text (page 15 of 26)