The Hellenistic Period

The Hellenistic Period

The Hellenistic Period roughly begins in the era of the Greek civilization sweeping all over the European and Asian continent through the great perseverance of the conqueror Alexander the Great - The Hellenistic Period introduction. Upon Alexander’s death, there has been a great diversion of his power that was fought for in about two to five years. His great empire broke into its native boundaries. Nevertheless, the Greek influence has been quite prominent in the cities and kingdom that it has conquered even for only a short period of time.

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Bickerman’s The Jews in the Greek Age

Elias Bickerman have portrayed the Hellenistic period as an era wherein there have been a struggle between the Greek culture that was brought about by the inclusion to the empire of Alexander the Great. Bickerman have highlighted several instances of Jews participation to the wars along with the character that they have portrayed during the Greek domination.

It was said that the Jews are in no way to participate in any idolatry, even it was commanded by Alexander the Great himself. Thus, in Bickerman’s account it seemed as though the Jews have not really like Alexander at all despite his being mentioned to cross certain mountains or path. The only account that Bickerman’s portrayal of the Jews had for Alexander was his being mentioned as a sort of he-ram which is bound to conquer the whole of Persia.

At the start of the Third century, there have been many changes in the Jewish beliefs, although these changes are not significant as to overthrow their previous faith, but only to support it. This change was considered by Bickerman as a reaction to the culture that was brought about by the Greeks and the possibility of Roman domination.

The Jews, upon Alexander’s death were left to create or to rule their own territories. This was what Bickerman called as a Ptolemaic Palestine. Afterwards, the rules of the Jews were called as Torah, in Bickerman’s book; he denotes that it is a Greek Torah since there were some influences by the Greek although not directly, it was translated in the Greek language nevertheless.

Bickerman’s presentation of the Jews and the Greeks were unbiased, in the sense that he have successfully created a book that have equally presented the Jewish and the Greek version of the story. In the final parts of his book, he have identified the division and over-lapping content of the Jews and the Greek culture in their economic practices, laws, language and how one have interrupt the growth of another.

Gruen’s Diaspora: Jewish Amidst Greeks and Romans

While Bickerman’s presentation of the Jewish tradition in the Hellenistic period have started with a review of Alexander the Great’s reign, Erich S. Gruen’s depiction of the Hellenistic Era started upon the mention of the Jewish population and history in Roman literature.

In his book, Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans, Gruen have mentioned that since the rule of the Roman’s the Jews have been banished from their lands. Nevertheless, Gruen have provided different versions of this history, which is up until today disputed if it had really happened or not.

Gruen have repeatedly in the entire context of his book, tried to defend the Jews from the unlikely versions created by the Romans. Thus, his book, have served as a defense from the various misconception of the Jewish history due to the meddling of some Roman historians. In his book, he has demonstrated how Jews were treated mostly by the Romans. Their journey as the Greeks have began its conquest to create the greatest empire until its ruin which have brought fort the “Diaspora” which is the different dispersion which have happened during the Hellenistic Period.

Compare and Contrast

On both of the books, there was a portrayal of Jews being the real owners and inhibitors of certain places such as Syria and Jerusalem. Nevertheless, they were pushed out and beyond its territories due to the different political and economic changes brought about by the Greeks and the Romans.

Bickerman’s account was more of a historical clarification of what has transpired during the Hellenistic Period. It was a depiction of how the Greeks have affected the Jewish traditions, culture and religion. The importance of the Palestinian settlement for the Jews and the effect of the language translation imposed by the Greeks are also mentioned.

Aside from this, in his book, he has created a view of the Greek as the main inhibitors of the proliferation and growth of the Jewish traditions. He have also discussed the Hellenistic period using the economy and historical themes of Jerusalem and Judea and how political Greek figures have tried to dominate Jewish tradition.

Gruen’s account, on the other hand, reflected on the time even before the Greeks have set their feet on the Jewish land. Gruen’s approach was more of political, in which he argued about the different accounts that have flourished with connection to the Jewish people and how they have been portrayed by the Romans. He had also argued about the influences and the positive implications derived from the translation of torah to a Greek counterpart which had helped the religion gain more supporters than before. He had also focus on the life of the Jews under the rule of the Greeks and the Romans.

In Gruen’s wording, the Jews were perceived by others as wanderers since the Jews have no permanent land to call their own. They did pose a national consciousness that was given to them by their religious affiliation; nevertheless, it is not enough since they do not have a land which would bind them all as one.

Personally, I believe that the portrayal of the Hellenistic era had been elaborately in an overemphasized manner by both writers because they seemed to create a version of history in their personal point of view. The perspective of one writer differs from the other in the sense of the things that it had focused.

Religion was indeed a part of history that could be connected to several other issues. Social, Political and economic circumstance are mentioned in the different countries, kingdom or places wherein the Jewish religion had been active during the Hellenistic Era.

The concepts that have been generated from the two books shows that the Jewish religion had encountered several changes during the invasion of the Greeks and the lost of their lands when they were held as captives in Babylonia. It would be seen in the details on the two books that the Jewish traditions and their existence have been challenge many times during the Hellenistic Era but have survived up until today.

Works Cited

Bickerman, E. J. (1990). The Jews in the Greek Age. Harvard University Press.

Gruen, E.S. (2002). Diaspora: Jews Amidst Greeks and Romans. Harvard University Press.

Hooker, R. (2007). Greeks and Jews. The American-Israeli Corporative Enterprise. Retrieve on November 20, 2007. Retrieved from the World Wide Web:


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