Invasion of the Greeks
This is where we should begin because it will help us to understand what happened to both the Hebrews who chose not to believe in Yeshua and why, and also what happened to the grafted-in believers after the apostles went to be with their fathers. Reading about the History of Christianity and the History of Judaism is one thing, but we must also know how those histories came to happen the way they did.
Ancient Greek culture is what happened, but I believe we must know about this very unique culture that infiltrated all mankind’s ways of life, including the very protected Hebrews. And if you look around you today, you will find that this ancient Greek culture is still in all areas of our lives.
When the Hebrews came back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, they vowed to keep God’s commandments. This vow is still permeating the lives of today’s Jews (Nehemiah 10:29-32):
“And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands for the Torah of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, everyone having knowledge and having understanding: they clove to their brothers, their nobles and entered a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Torah, which was given by Moshe the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of Yahweh our God and His judgments and His statutes.
And that we would not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. And if the peoples of the land bring wares or any food on the Sabbath to sell, that we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day, and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.”
This oath goes on and on, through verse 40, but the gist of it is that they swore that they would keep the commandments of God, even to the point of being cursed if they did not, which is pretty much what God states in Deuteronomy 28. They were not cursed as a punishment, but a curse, calamity and sickness are direct results of not keeping God’s commandments.
Today the Jews have no idea that they are not keeping God’s commandments as they are written - even though they still celebrate God’s Feasts, they have changed all of them. And these changes are a direct result of ancient Greek culture invading their lives. As we can see in Ezra and Nehemiah, the Israelites had a hard time keeping to this vow. At the end of Nehemiah, we see the Israelites once again violating God’s commandment to rest on the Sabbath.
Ezra and Zerubbabel thought they had set the stage for God’s Way to continue as it should be, but only for the first two hundred years - once ancient Greek culture took over, Israel was in deep trouble - again.
The dispersion seems to have saved Israel from spiritual inbreeding and physical destruction as a people. The Hebrew dispersion also seems to have turned to the Holy Land for guidance, and in turn it has been thought the Land determined the destinies of its inhabitants. This was the first hint that Israel leaned heavily toward identifying with the land rather than God. The dispersion also caused many external forces to cause Israel to develop into a people alike at home in the ancestral land, as well as in the lands of possible future dispersions. And they have remained one people.
While in captivity, no matter where they were, there was a unique paradox not only among the Hebrews, but also among those around them. The Hebrews clung to their unique God and to Jerusalem, which was the center of their lawful worship. But the God of Zion, the great and terrible God, was not only the God of the Hebrews, He was the sole God in heaven and earth. The deities of the pagans were nothing but idols. It was well known that the sole Lord of the Universe dwelt on the hill of Zion. This theological paradox held the Hebrews together from all points in the dispersion. Even in these last two thousand years, the Jews (formerly Hebrews) have always looked to Jerusalem, and longed in their hearts to return to Israel, their homeland.
But there is also the political aspect to consider. By the Hebrew’s influence in the Persian king’s court, as long as they were obeying orders given by the king, they could act on behalf of all Hebrews everywhere and impose a uniform standard of faith and behavior. There is a communication written in 419BC to a Hebrew settlement at the other end of the world, giving rules of the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These instructions were forwarded by King Darius of Persia. In other words, there has always been much communication between the Hebrews no matter where in the world they had been dispersed.
There was a tiny bit of ancient Greek influence in the surrounding regions of Jerusalem, but for the most part the Hebrews were still sheltered from this foreign culture until the Macedonian conquest against Persian rule. But we must consider the archeological evidence that the commercial influence of Greece in the Palestine region was so great that it appears that Athenian coins had become the principal currency for trade transactions in the fifth and fourth centuries BC.
On the other hand, Persian influence had a small hand in the forming of the Hebrew generations to come. The Hebrews knew that God had set them apart from the heathen nations, but they called Him the God of Heaven, which was the title of the deity of their Persian rulers.
Many of the characteristics that eventually formed what is known today as Judaism began as early as the fifth and fourth centuries BC. The Hebrews thought that they were living according to the Torah of Moshe, but the synagogue, that is never mentioned in the Torah, was becoming a fundamental part of their lives by the third century BC.
The knowledge of the Torah had always been taught by the priests, but in the fourth century BC the instruction of the Torah “throughout all the cities of Judah” (2 Chronicles 17:9) had opened the way to the coming scribe, who compromised the supremacy of the priest. But it was ancient Greek cultural influence that caused the superiority of learned argument over authoritative decree to prevail.
Alexander the Great picked up where his father left off in trying to conquer the Persian empire. Alexander did in fact conquer this vast empire, and even expanded it down to Egypt and India. When he traveled down the coast of Syria toward Egypt, most people in the cities on his route, including Jerusalem, readily submitted to Alexander’s Greek ways.
While the Persians generally accepted the Hebrew God and even worshipped Him in Samaria and Jerusalem, the Greeks did not. When Alexander planted his Macedonian colonists in the city of Samaria, he destroyed the fusion between Samaria and the countryside, and thus upset the whole balance of things. It is said that the Hebrew Temple in Samaria was established and built during the time of Alexander the Great.
Greek scholars in Alexander’s time thought that the Hebrews were untouched by the influence of modern (Greek) civilization, which they thought conserved the purity of religion and the perfection of social organization. The Greek philosophers attributed this to man in a state of nature. But they also thought that this mid-eastern knowledge was the monopoly of the priests. Having discovered a people led by priests and obeying a Teaching that came directly from God, the Greeks put the Hebrews in the same class as the Indian Brahmans and Persian Magi.
Many Greeks claimed the origins of philosophy was from the Hebrews, when in fact the Greeks were the originators of this pagan practice. But the Greeks also concluded that Moshe, as a lawgiver, had conquered the Promised Land and founded Jerusalem. In truth, the Greeks were confounded with these Hebrews. Monotheism, as well as the absence of divine images, agreed with their philosophical conceptions of the Hebrews. But although they were fascinated with the Hebrews and their Way of Life, they misinterpreted what this life was all about. In their Greek polytheistic and philosophical minds, all things could be explained by their own cultural experiences - much like the western mind today.
Alexander didn’t actually set out to change the Hebrews, but he filled their cities with Greeks and being a highly influenced people, most of the Hebrews succumbed to many of the Greek ways.
Alexander’s ideal empire was filled with cities called polis which were to be transformed into Greek colonies. The most famous polis he founded is Alexandria in Egypt. The Hebrews in Egypt were convinced that Alexander worshipped the God of Israel, and treated him as such.
Alexander mysteriously died eight years after conquering the Persian empire, and his ten generals fought over who would take over his empire. After Alexander’s death in 324 BC, these wars between his generals ended in the dismemberment of his empire. After 301 BC there were three great powers governed by the Macedonian dynasties: Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and a large portion of Asia Minor were under the Seleucids; Egypt was under the Ptolemies; and Macedonia in Europe. In the midst of all this warring between the Greeks, was Jerusalem. And thus, the political unity of the world of the Hebrews was shattered.
Israel became a dominion of Egypt, but was reconquered by Antiochus III of Asia in 200 BC. Both the political principles of the Ptolemies and the Seleucid governments was the same, so the Greek culture still had a hold of Jerusalem, and could not help but be influential for the next 125 years or so.
As the story goes, Antiochus IV Epiphanes marched into Jerusalem, stopped the Hebrew sacrifices, offered a pig on the altar of God, and put a statue of Zeus in the Temple. Most of the Hebrews thought this to be the most evil thing to do because the pig being a scavenger, is an unclean animal to God, and the statue of Zeus completely defied God’s second commandment. But it was simply the Greek way. Zeus was one of their gods, and the pig was a sacred animal to the Greeks. But Antiochus was not as tolerant of the Hebrews and their Way as those Greeks before him.
There are stories of how Antiochus threw Hebrew children off a cliff, but then there are also stories about some of the Hebrew priests who had become Greekized, and had accepted his ways. We don’t know for sure what really happened because of so many conflicting stories, but what we do know for sure is that the Maccabeans, although also highly influenced by Greek ways, were of the Hebrews who still clung to some form of the Way of God. They were of the same Hebrews that thought Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a horrible tyrant. And we actually have a prophecy by Daniel that describes him as just that - a very evil man, and the miqra (rehearsal) to the final end times antimessiah to come.
The Maccabean struggle delivered Jerusalem from Antiochus, but not from ancient Greek culture. In fact, even the Maccabeans succumbed to this culture and invited it into the Temple of God. The Maccabeans were the later Hasmonean dynasty, which became quite corrupt and changed the priesthood as well as the kingship of the Hebrews.
In Yeshua’s time, Herod was the corrupt king who was an Idumean (half Hebrew) and converted to God’s Way. But he and the priesthood (Sadducees) and the other sects that had formed as a direct result of this invasion of Greek culture, succumbed to this culture. So much of this culture infiltrated the Pharisees’ lives and teachings, even though they considered themselves pure and separated.
So what was so wrong about this Greek culture that it was so destructive to the Hebrews’ Way of Life?
The influence of a new, foreign and technologically superior civilization acted as a powerful dissolvent which destroyed the Hebrew discipline of life. There was a mixture of population and language, and a diffusion of the foreign culture that was unparalleled in the Persian empire.
Alexander’s ancient Greek culture brought many Hellenic cities to the Palestine region. The Hebrew territory of Israel was right in the midst of these cities. It is in these cities that the Hebrews came into contact with Greek men, their institutions, arts, soldiers from Macedonia, Greek poetasters and sculptors. There was the Greek system of paved streets that formed quadrangular blocks with large open places at the main streets - a view quite different from the maze that constituted a Hebrew town.
Knowledge was worshiped by the Greeks, so the introduction to the absorption of knowledge and schools was introduced to the Hebrews by the Greeks. Commercialization of everything is the way of the Greeks. One of the most disturbing elements of the ancient Greek impact on the Hebrews was the formation of a group of highly educated people, which was different from the clergy and not dependent on the Temple. This new class of Hebrews were called scribes.
Scribe was the technical term for a public official who entered the civil service as a profession. From the scribes came the wisdom literature, which eventually developed into all the arguments and debates of the Talmud. The priests actually became the scribes, who were the judge and the sole teachers of the Hebrew people, and the Temple was reduced to a center of Hebrew learning. The scribe became a legitimate interpreter of the Torah, thus justice was no longer in the hands of the priests by the third century BC.
It was in the next generation that the sect of the Parush (Pharisees) sprang up. The Parush were proud scholars of the Torah, but also of what eventually became what they called the Oral Torah (the Talmud). The Parush scholar regarded learning as the highest of human values, no doubt a Greek thought process.
Physical training was the foundation of ancient Greek life, and athletics, as well as competitive games of athletics is Greek. The aristocracy and government of the Greeks also took over the priesthood of the Hebrews.
The gymnasia became the centers of Greek intellectual activity and was the principal instrument of later Hellenization. The original gymnasiums had nothing to do with sports or games. The gymnasiums that the ancient Greeks participated in were strictly for debates and intellectual discussions. The Greeks brought debating and arguing over anything to determine truth into the lives of the Hebrews, which eventually became the things of God for the Hebrews. The seduction of the Greek penchant for rationalization was inevitable. Before the Greeks, the Hebrews would never have even thought to question God’s Word, or to add and take away from it, a direct disobedience of God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 4:2 & 13:1).
As well as the belief in many gods, the practice of praying to other gods (made with hands or created out of thin air) rather than God Himself, is Greek.
The High Priest was appointed by the king, also a Greek thing. The High Priest had always been a descendant of Aaron, and the king had always been a descendant of David - both appointments were originally by God.
The most dangerous notions of all to the Hebrews were philosophy, and the debating and learning gymnasiums, both very ancient Greek phenomenons. Art of all kinds is of the Greeks, and they were obsessed with images of themselves in their art - in paintings and in statues. Many Greeks often posed for these images in the nude, which also seems to be a standard practice by them. They even played their athletics in the nude - or at least that is what has been determined from their many nude statues.
To summarize the ancient Greek culture and life: competition in just about anything, sporting games, images (statues and paintings), philosophy, gymnasiums that were the centers of debate and learning, speaking the Greek language, obsessed with the gathering of knowledge, polytheism, licentiousness, social classes among the High Priesthood and other priests and the election of kings. Judah Maccabee’s lifework had been to prevent the threatening Hellenization of the Hebrew people and the surrender of the Torah. But his successors sought to accommodate Hellenism into the lives of the Hebrews. Under them Judea became a Hellenistic principality. From the time of Alexander the Great, the ancient Greeks have been masters of the East (and even the West today).
These Greek ways were a very foreign lifestyle to the ancient Hebrews. This Greek lifestyle was from the devil himself, and it infiltrated the Hebrews’ lives in order to destroy them. But miraculously, it did not destroy them. They managed to survive even with this perverted invasion of their Godly unity. BUT, it caused the Hebrews to change almost everything about God’s Way.
Survive they did, but they have suffered as a direct result of this sin against God. They do not realize that they have been in sin, and therefore exile, for the last 2300 hundred years because they still continue to celebrate God’s Appointed Times. But today they have changed all of the God’s Feasts and His Sabbaths too, even leaving out some of the most important Appointed Times such as Yom Bikkur, Rosh Chodesh and especially Yobel.
Taking a look at what these changes were, and how and when they occurred, we see that by all accounts, it appears that it is hopeless for the Hebrews. But God planned it all - He knew the hearts of mankind and so some of the Hebrews were caused to be in unbelief, which opened the door for the goyim (heathen) to be included within God’s protection.
By the time Yeshua came into our world, He had some mess to clean up. Yeshua came not only to save His people from their sins, He also came to restore His Way back to His people. As we know, only some Hebrews realized Who Yeshua was and accepted Him as their Moshiach. The rest became as lost as the other ten tribes. Remember, yesterday’s Parush (Pharisees) are today’s Jews.
Updated June 27, 2018
July 27, 2018 Still working on this page, but it should be done soon!