Hellenistic Judaism

Hellenistic Judaism was a form of Judaism in classical antiquity that combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture. Until the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the early Muslim conquests of the eastern Mediterranean, the main centers of Hellenistic Judaism were Alexandria, Egypt and Antioch (now in southern Turkey), the two main Greek urban settlements of the Middle East and North Africa area, both founded at the end of the fourth century BCE in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Hellenistic Judaism also existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period, where there was conflict between Hellenizers and traditionalists (sometimes called Judaizers).

The major literary product of the contact of Second Temple Judaism and Hellenistic culture is the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible from Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic to Koine Greek, specifically, Jewish Koiné Greek. Mentionable are also the philosophic and ethical treatises of Philo and the historiographical works of the other Hellenistic Jewish authors.[1][2]

The decline of Hellenistic Judaism started in the second century and its causes are still not fully understood. It may be that it was eventually marginalized by, partially absorbed into or became progressively the Koine-speaking core of Early Christianity centered on Antioch and its traditions, such as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch.


Map of Alexander's empire, extending east and south of ancient Macedonia.

The conquests of Alexander in the late fourth century BCE spread Greek culture and colonization—a process of cultural change called Hellenization—over non-Greek lands, including the Levant. This gave rise to the Hellenistic period, which sought to create a common or universal culture in the Alexandrian empire based on that of fifth-century Athens, along with a fusion of Near Eastern cultures.[3] The period is characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa,[4] the most famous being Alexandria in Egypt. New cities were established composed of colonists who came from different parts of the Greek world, and not from a specific metropolis ("mother city") as before.[4]

Mosaic Floor of a Jewish Synagogue in Greece - 300 CE
Mosaic floor of a Jewish Synagogue Aegina (300 BCE).

These Jews living in countries west of the Levant formed the Hellenistic diaspora. The Egyptian diaspora is the most well-known of these.[5] It witnessed close ties, indeed the firm economic integration, of Judea with the Ptolemaic Kingdom ruled from Alexandria, and the friendly relations which existed between the royal court and the leaders of the Jewish community. This was a diaspora of choice, not of imposition. Information is less robust regarding diasporas in other territories. It suggests that the situation was by and large the same as it was in Egypt.[6]

Jewish life in both Judea and the diaspora was influenced by the culture and language of Hellenism. The Greeks viewed Jewish culture favorably, while vice versa, Hellenism gained adherents among the Jews. While Hellenism has sometimes been presented (under the influence of 2 Maccabees, itself notably a work in Koine Greek), as a threat of assimilation diametrically opposed to Jewish tradition,

Adaptation to Hellenic culture did not require compromise of Jewish precepts or conscience. When a Greek gymnasium was introduced into Jerusalem, it was installed by a Jewish High Priest. And other priests soon engaged in wrestling matches in the palaestra. They plainly did not reckon such activities as undermining their priestly duties.

— Erich S. Gruen[7]:73–74

The main religious issue dividing Hellenized Jews from traditional Jews was the application of biblical laws in a Hellenistic (or Roman or other non-Jewish) empire.[8]

Hellenistic rulers of Judea

Under the suzerainty of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and later the Seleucid Empire, Judea witnessed a period of peace and protection of its institutions.[9] For their aid against his Ptolemaic enemies, Antiochus III the Great promised his Jewish subjects a reduction in taxes and funds to repair the city of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.[9]

Relations deteriorated under Antiochus's successor Seleucus IV Philopator, and then, for reasons not fully understood, his successor Antiochus IV Epiphanes drastically overturned the previous policy of respect and protection, banning key Jewish religious rites and traditions in Judea (though not among the diaspora) and sparking a traditionalist revolt against Greek rule.[9] Out of this revolt was formed an independent Jewish kingdom known as the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted from 165 BCE to 63 BCE. The Hasmonean Dynasty eventually disintegrated due to civil war, which coincided with civil wars in Rome.

Hasmonean civil war

The Hasmonean civil war began when the High Priest Hyrcanus II (a supporter of the Pharisees) was overthrown by his younger brother, Aristobulus II (a supporter of the Sadducees). A third faction, consisting primarily of Idumeans from Maresha, led by Antipater and his son Herod, re-installed Hyrcanus, who, according to Josephus, was merely Antipater's puppet. In 47 BCE, Antigonus, a nephew of Hyrcanus II and son of Aristobulus II, asked Julius Caesar for permission to overthrow Antipater. Caesar ignored him, and in 42 BCE Antigonus, with the aid of the Parthians defeated Herod. Antigonus ruled for only three years, until Herod, with the aid of Rome, overthrew him and had him executed. Antigonus was the last Hasmonean ruler.


The major literary product of the contact of Judaism and Hellenistic culture is the Septuagint, as well as the apocrypha and pseudepigraphic apocalyptic literature (such as the Assumption of Moses, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Book of Baruch, the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, etc.) dating to the period. Important sources are Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus. Some scholars[10] consider Paul of Tarsus to be a Hellenist as well, even though he himself claimed to be a Pharisee (Acts 23:6).

Philo of Alexandria was an important apologist of Judaism, presenting it as a tradition of venerable antiquity that, far from being a barbarian cult of an oriental nomadic tribe, with its doctrine of monotheism had anticipated tenets of Hellenistic philosophy. Philo could draw on Jewish tradition to use customs which Greeks thought as primitive or exotic as the basis for metaphors: such as "circumcision of the heart" in the pursuit of virtue.[11] Consequently, Hellenistic Judaism emphasized monotheistic doctrine (heis theos), and represented reason (logos) and wisdom (sophia) as emanations from God.

Beyond Tarsus, Alexandretta, Antioch and Northwestern Syria (the main "Cilician and Asiatic" centers of Hellenistic Judaism in the Levant), the second half of the Second Temple period witnessed an acceleration of Hellenization in Israel itself, with Jewish high priests and aristocrats alike adopting Greek names:

'Ḥoni' became 'Menelaus'; 'Joshua' became 'Jason' or 'Jesus' [Ἰησοῦς]. 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 […] 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).[12]

'There is neither Jew nor Greek'

Ethnic, cultural, and social tensions within the Hellenistic Jewish world were partly overcome by the emergence of a new, typically Antiochian, Middle-Eastern Greek doctrine (doxa), either by

  1. established, autochthonous Hellenized Cilician-Western Syrian Jews (themselves descendants of Babylonian Jewish migrants who had long adopted various elements of Greek culture and civilization while retaining a generally conservative, strict attachment to Halakha),
  2. heathen, 'Classical' Greeks, Macedonian Greeks and Greco-Syrian gentiles, or
  3. the local, autochthonous descendants of Greek or Greco-Syrian converts to mainstream Judaism – known as proselytes (Greek: προσήλυτος/proselytes) and Greek-speaking Jews born of mixed marriages.

Their efforts were probably facilitated by the arrival of a fourth wave of Greek-speaking newcomers to Cilicia/Southern Turkey and Northwestern Syria: Cypriot Jews and 'Cyrenian' (Libyan) Jewish migrants of non-Egyptian North African Jewish origin, as well as gentile Roman settlers from Italy—many of whom already spoke fluent Koine Greek and/or sent their children to Greek schools. Some scholars believe that, at the time, these Cypriot and Cyrenian North African Jewish migrants, such as Simon of Cyrene, were generally less affluent than the autochthonous Cilician-Syrian Jews and practiced a more 'liberal' form of Judaism, more propitious for the formation of a new canon:

[North African] Cyrenian Jews were of sufficient importance in those days to have their name associated with a synagogue at Jerusalem (Acts 6:9). And when the persecution arose about Stephen [a Hellenized Syrian-Cilician Jew], some of these Jews of Cyrene who had been converted at Jerusalem, were scattered abroad and came with others to Antioch and [initially] preached the word "unto the Jews only" (Acts 11:19, 20 the King James Version), and one of them, Lucius, became a prophet in the early church there [the nascent Greek 'Orthodox' community of Antioch].

— International Standard Bible Encyclopedia[13]

But Paul, himself a relatively 'liberal' Hellenist convert to Christianity, was later threatened by more religiously conservative Jewish Hellenists as seen in the New Testament Acts 9 verse 29: "And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him."

These subtle, progressive socio-cultural shifts and tensions are somehow summarized succinctly in Chapter 3 of the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.[14]

Decline of the Hellenistai and partial conversion to Christianity

The reasons for the decline of Hellenistic Judaism are obscure. It may be that it was marginalized by, absorbed into, or became Early Christianity (see the Gospel according to the Hebrews). The Epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles report that, after his initial focus on the conversion of Hellenized Jews across Anatolia, Macedonia, Thrace and Northern Syria without criticizing their laws and traditions,[15][16] Paul the Apostle eventually preferred to evangelize communities of Greek and Macedonian proselytes and Godfearers, or Greek circles sympathetic to Judaism: the Apostolic Decree allowing converts to forego circumcision made Christianity a more attractive option for interested pagans than Rabbinic Judaism, which required ritual circumcision for converts (see Brit milah). See also Circumcision controversy in early Christianity[17][18] and the Abrogation of Old Covenant laws.

The attractiveness of Christianity may, however, have suffered a setback with its being explicitly outlawed in the 80s CE by Domitian as a "Jewish superstition", while Judaism retained its privileges as long as members paid the fiscus Judaicus.

The opening verse of Acts 6 points to the problematic cultural divisions between Hellenized Jews and Aramaic-speaking Israelites in Jerusalem, a disunion that reverberated within the emerging Christian community itself:

it speaks of "Hellenists" and "Hebrews." The existence of these two distinct groups characterizes the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem. The Hebrews were Jewish Christians who spoke almost exclusively Aramaic, and the Hellenists were also Jewish Christians whose mother tongue was Greek. They were Greek-speaking Jews of the Diaspora, who returned to settle in Jerusalem. To identify them, Luke uses the term Hellenistai. When he had in mind Greeks, gentiles, non-Jews who spoke Greek and lived according to the Greek fashion, then he used the word Hellenes (Acts 21.28). As the very context of Acts 6 makes clear, the Hellenistai are not Hellenes.[19]

Some historians believe that a sizeable proportion of the Hellenized Jewish communities of Southern Turkey (Antioch, Alexandretta and neighboring cities) and Syria/Lebanon converted progressively to the Greco-Roman branch of Christianity that eventually constituted the "Melkite" (or "Imperial") Hellenistic churches of the MENA area:

As Jewish Christianity originated at Jerusalem, so Gentile Christianity started at Antioch, then the leading center of the Hellenistic East, with Peter and Paul as its apostles. From Antioch it spread to the various cities and provinces of Syria, among the Hellenistic Syrians as well as among the Hellenistic Jews who, as a result of the great rebellions against the Romans in A.D. 70 and 130, were driven out from Jerusalem and Palestine into Syria.[20]

Cultural legacy

Widespread influence beyond Second Temple Judaism

Both Early Christianity and Early Rabbinical Judaism were far less 'orthodox' and less theologically homogeneous than they are today; and both were significantly influenced by Hellenistic religion and borrowed allegories and concepts from Classical Hellenistic philosophy and the works of Greek-speaking Jewish authors of the end of the Second Temple period before the two schools of thought eventually affirmed their respective 'norms' and doctrines, notably by diverging increasingly on key issues such as the status of 'purity laws', the validity of Judeo-Christian messianic beliefs, and, more importantly, the use of Koiné Greek and Latin as liturgical languages replacing Biblical Hebrew[21]...etc.

First synagogues in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East

The word synagogue itself comes from Jewish Koiné Greek, a language spoken by Hellenized Jews across Southeastern Europe (Macedonia, Thrace, Northern Greece), North Africa and the Middle East after the 3rd century BCE. Many synagogues were built by the Hellenistai or adherents of Hellenistic Judaism in the Greek Isles, Cilicia, Northwestern and Eastern Syria and Northern Israel as early as the first century BCE- notably in Delos, Antioch, Alexandretta, Galilee and Dura-Europos: because of the mosaics and frescos representing heroic figures and Biblical characters (viewed as potentially conductive of "image worship" by later generations of Jewish scholars and rabbis), many of these early synagogues were at first mistaken for heathen Greek temples or Antiochian Greek Orthodox churches.

Mishnaic and Talmudic concepts

Many of the Jewish sages who compiled the Mishnah and earliest versions of the Talmud were Hellenized Jews, including Johanan ben Zakai, the first Jewish sage attributed the title of rabbi and Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes, the son of Proselyte Anatolian Greek converts to Early Rabbinical Judaism.

Even Israeli rabbis of Babylonian Jewish descent such as Hillel the Elder whose parents were Aramaic-speaking Jewish migrants from Babylonia (hence the nickname "Ha-Bavli"), had to learn Greek language and Greek philosophy in order to be conversant with sophisticated rabbinical language – many of the theological innovations introduced by Hillel had Greek names, most famously the Talmudic notion of Prozbul, from Koine Greek προσβολή, "to deliver":

Unlike literary Hebrew, popular Aramaic or Hebrew constantly adopted new Greek loanwords, as is shown by the language of the Mishnaic and Talmudic literature. While it reflects the situation at a later period, its origins go back well before the Christian era. The collection of the loanwords in the Mishna to be found in Schürer shows the areas in which Hellenistic influence first became visible- military matters, state administration and legislature, trade and commerce, clothing and household utensils, and not least in building. The so-called copper scroll with its utopian list of treasures also contains a series of Greek loanwords. When towards the end of the first century BCE, Hillel in practice repealed the regulation of the remission of debts in the sabbath year (Deut. 15.1-11) by the possibility of a special reservation on the part of the creditor, this reservation was given a Greek name introduced into Palestinian legal language- perōzebbōl = προσβολή, a sign that even at that time legal language was shot through with Greek.

— Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (1974)

Influence on Levantine Byzantine traditions

The unique combination of ethnocultural traits inhered from the fusion of a Greek-Macedonian cultural base, Hellenistic Judaism and Roman civilization gave birth to the distinctly Antiochian “Middle Eastern-Roman” Christian traditions of Cilicia (Southeastern Turkey) and Syria/Lebanon:

"The mixture of Roman, Greek, and Jewish elements admirably adapted Antioch for the great part it played in the early history of Christianity. The city was the cradle of the church".[22]

Some typically Grecian "Ancient Synagogal" priestly rites and hymns have survived partially to the present, notably in the distinct church services of the followers of the Melkite Greek Catholic church and its sister-church the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in the Hatay Province of Southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Northern Israel, and in the Greek-Levantine Christian diasporas of Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Canada.

But many of the surviving liturgical traditions of these communities rooted in Hellenistic Judaism and, more generally, Second Temple Greco-Jewish Septuagint culture, were expunged progressively in the late medieval and modern eras by both Phanariot European-Greek (Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople) and Vatican (Roman Catholic) gentile theologians who sought to 'bring back' Levantine Greek Orthodox and Greek-Catholic communities into the European Christian fold: some ancient Judeo-Greek traditions were thus deliberately abolished or reduced in the process.

Members of these communities still call themselves "Rûm" (literally "Roman"; usually referred to as "Byzantine" in English) and referring to Greeks in Turkish, Persian and Levantine Arabic. In that context, the term Rûm is preferred over Yāvāni or Ionani (literally "Ionian"), also referring to Greeks in Ancient Hebrew, Sanskrit and Classical Arabic.

Notable Hellenized Jews

Hellenistic and Hasmonean Period

Herodian and Roman Period

  • Andrew the Apostle (Greek: Ἀνδρέας, translit. Andreas; from the early 1st century – mid to late 1st century CE), Galileean-Hauranian Jew, called in the Greek Orthodox tradition Prōtoklētos (Πρωτόκλητος), or the 'First-called', believed to have preached in Southeastern Europe (Northern Greece) as well as possibly in Southern Russia (Scythia). Patron saint of Ukraine and Scotland
  • Titus Flavius Josephus, was the first Jewish historian. Initially a Jewish military leader during the First Jewish-Roman War, he famously switched sides and became a Roman citizen and acclaimed Romano-Jewish academic. He popularized the idea that Judaism was similar in many ways to Greek philosophy
  • Justus of Tiberias, Jewish historian born in Tiberias, "a highly Hellenistic Galilean city", he was a secretary to governor Herod Agrippa II and rival of Titus Flavius Josephus
  • Julianos (Hellenized form of a Roman name) and Pappos (from Koine Greek pappa or papas 'patriarch' or 'elder') born circa 80 CE in the city of Lod (Hebrew: לוֹד; Greco-Latin: Lydda, Diospolis, Ancient Greek: Λύδδα / Διόσπολις – city of Zeus), one of the main centers of Hellenistic culture in central Israel. Julianos and Pappos led the Jewish resistance movement against the Roman army in Israel during the Kitos War, 115-117 CE (their Hebrew names were Shamayah and Ahiyah respectively)
  • Lukuas, also called Andreas, Libyan Jew born circa 70 CE, was one of the main leaders the Jewish resistance movement against the Roman army in North Africa and Egypt during the Kitos War, 115-117 CE
  • Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes, 'Rabbi Meir the miracle maker', a famous Jewish sage who lived in Galilee in the time of the Mishna, is thought to be the son of Anatolian Greek (Talmud, Tractate Kilayim) gentile proselyte converts to Pharisaic Judaism (folk etymologies and mistranslations connected him, wrongly, to the family of Emperor Nero). He was the son-in-law of Haninah ben Teradion, himself a Hellenized Jewish aristocrat and leading rabbinical figure in late 1st century CE Jewish theology
  • Philo of Alexandria (Greek: Φίλων, Philōn; c. 20 BCE – c. 50 CE), also called Philo Judaeus, of Alexandria, in the Roman province of Egypt, first Jewish philosopher
  • Saul of Tarsus or Sha'ul Tarsi known as Paul the Apostle
  • Simon of Cyrene (Hebrew: שמעון‎, lit. 'hearkening'; 'listening', Standard Hebrew Šimʿon, Tiberian Hebrew Šimʿôn), Libyan Jew born at the end of the 1st century BCE; lived in Jerusalem around 30 CE. Believed to have been "forced [by Roman soldiers] to bear the cross of Jesus after the crucifixtion". His home town, Cyrene, in Northeastern Libya, was a Greek colony, with a large Jewish community where 100,000 Judean Jews had been deported and forced to settle during the reign of Ptolemy Soter (323–285 BCE), the Greco-Macedonian ruler of Egypt, following his invasion of Israel.
  • Rabbi Tarfon (Hebrew: רבי טרפון‎, from the Greek Τρύφων Tryphon), a kohen,[27] was a member of the third generation of the Mishnah sages, who lived in the period between the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and the fall of Betar (135 CE). Thought to be originally from the region of Lod (Hebrew: לוֹד‎; Greco-Latin: Lydda, Diospolis, Ancient Greek: Λύδδα / Διόσπολις – city of Zeus), one of the main centers of Hellenistic culture in central Israel, R. Tarfon was one of the most vociferous Jewish critics of Early Christianity
  • Rabbi Haninah ben Teradion, prominent Galilean Jewish scholar and teacher. His father's name (Teradion) is thought to be of Judeo-Greek origin. Also, 'Hananiah' (or 'Haninah') was a popular name amongst the Hellenized Jews of Syria and Northern Israel (pronounced 'Ananias' in Greek). He was a leading figure in late 1st century CE Jewish theology and one of the Ten Martyrs murdered by the Romans for ignoring the ban on teaching Torah
  • Saint Timothy (Greek: Τιμόθεος, translit. Timótheos, lit. 'honouring God' or 'honored by God') born in Lycaonia (Southeastern Turkey) of Greek father and Hellenized Jewish mother, seconded Paul in his missions to Asia Minor and Southeastern Europe (Thrace, Macedonia, Greece)
  • Trypho the Jew, thought to be a 2nd-century CE rabbi opposed to Christian apologist Justin Martyr, whose Dialogue with Trypho is paradoxically "equally influenced by Greek and Rabbinic thought"[28]

Late Antiquity and Early Medieval Era

  • Rav Pappa (Hebrew: רב פפא‎, from Koine Greek pappa or papas 'patriarch' or 'elder' – originally 'father') (ca. 300 – died 375) was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, at a time when Judeo-Aramaic culture was regaining the upper hand against classical Hellenistic Judaism, notably amongst Jewish communities in Babylonia which reverted progressively to the pre-Hellenistic Aramaic culture
  • Kalonymos family (Kαλώνυμος in Greek), first known rabbinical dynasty of Northern Italy and Central Europe: notable members include Ithiel I, author of Jewish prayer books (born circa 780 CE) and Kalonymus Ben Meshullam born in France circa 1000, spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Mainz in Western Germany
  • The Radhanites: an influential group of Jewish merchants and financiers active in France, Germany, Central Europe, Central Asia and China in the Early Middle Ages – thought to have revolutionized the world economy and contributed to the creation of the 'Medieval Silk Road' long before Italian and Byzantine merchants. Cecil Roth and Claude Cahen, among others, claim their name may have come originally from the Rhône River valley in France, which is Rhodanus in Latin and Rhodanos (Ῥοδανός) in Greek, as the center of Radhanite activity was probably in France where their trade routes began.

See also


  1. ^ Walter, N. Jüdisch-hellenistische Literatur vor Philon von Alexandrien (unter Ausschluss der Historiker), ANRW II: 20.1.67-120
  2. ^ Barr, James (1989). "Chapter 3 - Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek in the Hellenistic age". In Davies, W.D.; Finkelstein, Louis. The Cambridge history of Judaism. Volume 2: The Hellenistic Age (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 79–114. ISBN 9781139055123.
  3. ^ Roy M. MacLeod, The Library Of Alexandria: Centre Of Learning In The Ancient World
  4. ^ a b Ulrich Wilcken, Griechische Geschichte im Rahmen der Alterumsgeschichte.
  5. ^ "Syracuse University. "The Jewish Diaspora in the Hellenistic Period"". Archived from the original on 2012-04-06. Retrieved 2013-09-11.
  6. ^ Hegermann, Harald (1990). "Chapter 4: The Diaspora in the Hellenistic age". In Davies, W.D.; Finkelstein, Louis. The Cambridge history of Judaism (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 115–166. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521219297.005. ISBN 9781139055123.
  7. ^ Gruen, Erich S. (1997). "Fact and Fiction: Jewish Legends in a Hellenistic Context". Hellenistic Constructs: Essays in Culture, History, and Historiography. University of California Press. pp. 72 ff.
  8. ^ "Hellenism", Jewish Encyclopedia, Quote: "Post-exilic Judaism was largely recruited from those returned exiles who regarded it as their chief task to preserve their religion uncontaminated, a task that required the strict separation of the congregation both from all foreign peoples (Ezra x. 11; Neh. ix. 2) and from the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine who did not strictly observe the Law (Ezra vi. 22; Neh. x. 29). "
  9. ^ a b c Gruen, Erich S. (1993). "Hellenism and Persecution: Antiochus IV and the Jews". In Green, Peter. Hellenistic History and Culture. University of California Press. pp. 238 ff.
  10. ^ "Saul of Tarsus: Not a Hebrew Scholar; a Hellenist", Jewish Encyclopedia
  11. ^ E. g., Leviticus 26:41, Ezekiel 44:7
  12. ^ "Hellenism", Jewish Encyclopedia, Quote: from 'Range of Hellenic Influence' and 'Reaction Against Hellenic Influence' sections
  13. ^ Kyle, M. G. "Cyrene". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – via "Topical Bible: Cyrene". Bible Hub.. templatestyles stripmarker in |via= at position 416 (help)
  14. ^ Galatians 3:15-16, 28-29
  15. ^ Acts 16:1–3
  16. ^ McGarvey on Acts 16: "Yet we see him in the case before us, circumcising Timothy with his own hand, and this 'on account of certain Jews who were in those quarters. '"
  17. ^ 1 Corinthians 7:18
  18. ^ "making themselves foreskins"; I Macc. i. 15; Josephus, "Ant." xii. 5, § 1; Assumptio Mosis, viii.; I Cor. vii. 18;, Tosef.; Talmud tractes Shabbat xv. 9; Yevamot 72a, b; Yerushalmi Peah i. 16b; Yevamot viii. 9a; [1]; Catholic Encyclopedia: Circumcision: "To this epispastic operation performed on the athletes to conceal the marks of circumcision St. Paul alludes, me epispastho (1 Corinthians 7:18)."
  19. ^ " Conflict and Diversity in the Earliest Christian Community" Archived 2013-05-10 at the Wayback Machine, Fr. V. Kesich, O.C.A.
  20. ^ "History of Christianity in Syria", Catholic Encyclopedia
  21. ^ Daniel Boyarin. "Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism" [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, p. 15.
  22. ^ "Antioch," Encyclopaedia Biblica, Vol. I, p. 186 (p. 125 of 612 in online .pdf file.
  23. ^ Alexander II of Judea at the Jewish Encyclopedia
  24. ^ Nehemiah xii. 11
  25. ^ Jewish Antiquities xi. 8, § 7
  26. ^ I Macc. xii. 7, 8, 20
  27. ^ Talmud Bavli, Kiddushin, 71a
  28. ^ Philippe Bobichon (ed.), Justin Martyr, Dialogue avec Tryphon, édition critique, introduction, texte grec, traduction, commentaires, appendices, indices, (Coll. Paradosis nos. 47, vol. I-II.) Editions Universitaires de Fribourg Suisse, (1125 pp.), 2003

Further reading

Foreign language

  • hrsg. von W.G. Kümmel und H. Lichtenberger (1973), Jüdische Schriften aus hellenistisch römischer Zeit (in German), Gütersloh
  • Delling, Gerhard (1987), Die Begegnung zwischen Hellenismus und Judentum Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (in German), Bd. II 20.1


  • Borgen, Peder. Early Christianity and Hellenistic Judaism. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1996.
  • Cohen, Getzel M. The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa. Hellenistic Culture and Society 46. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
  • Gruen, Erich S. Constructs of Identity In Hellenistic Judaism: Essays On Early Jewish Literature and History. Boston: De Gruyter, 2016.
  • Mirguet, Françoise. An Early History of Compassion: Emotion and Imagination In Hellenistic Judaism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
  • Neusner, Jacob, and William Scott Green, eds. Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period: 450 BCE to 600 CE. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1996.
  • Tcherikover, Victor (1975), Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, New York: Atheneum
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia

External links

Bentley Layton

Bentley Layton (born 12 August 1941), is Professor of Religious Studies (Ancient Christianity) and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Coptic) at Yale University (since 1983). He is a Harvard-educated scholar who has been central to the late 20th-century Rediscovery of Gnosticism, which was the title of the international conference he hosted at Yale in 1980 and the volume that came of it. His interests lie in the History of Christianity from its origins until the rise of Islam, Gnostic studies and Coptic.

With a summa cum laude thesis on the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Coptic Treatise on the Resurrection, which he presented in a critical edition in 1978, he has moved on to present critical editions of other texts: The Hypostasis of the Archons, Or, The Reality of the Rulers..., serialized in Harvard Theological Review 67 (1974) 351—425 and 69 (1976) 1—71, and others. His most accessible book is The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations (Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1987), which presents some of the enigmatic literature of gnostic Christianity for nonspecialists. He sets his selection of gnostic scripture, the writings of Valentinus and his followers, and related writings that display gnostic tendencies within the broader context of Early Christianity and Hellenistic Judaism, with generous introductions and plentiful annotations.

For specialists, Layton's Coptic grammar is a standard text. He catalogued all the Coptic manuscripts in the British Library. He is a board member on the Harvard Theological Review and the Journal of Coptic Studies.

Burnt offering (Judaism)

A burnt offering in Judaism (Hebrew: קָרְבַּן עוֹלָה, korban olah) is a form of sacrifice first described in the Hebrew Bible. The term is first used of the sacrifices of Noah. As a tribute to God, a burnt offering was entirely burnt on the altar. A sacrifice (short for sacrifice of well-being) was partly burnt and most of it eaten in communion at a sacrificial meal.During the First Temple and Second Temple periods, the burnt offering was a twice-daily animal sacrifice offered on the altar in the temple in Jerusalem that was completely consumed by fire. The skin of the animal, however, was not burnt but given to the priests respective of their priestly division. These skins are listed as one of the twenty-four priestly gifts in Tosefta Hallah.

Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough

Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough (1893–1965) was a scholar in the history of religion. He is specifically noted for his study of the influence of Greek culture on Judaism, what some call Hellenistic Judaism.

Born in Brooklyn, he studied at Hamilton College, Drew Theological Seminary, and then received a bachelor's degree in theology from Garrett Biblical Institute in 1917. He went on to Harvard University for three years, then three more years at Oxford University, where he received the D.Phil. degree in 1923.

He then began teaching at Yale University in 1923, where he taught until he retired in 1962. He went on Brandeis University, then was given an office in the Widener Library at Harvard. He received honorary degrees from Yale, Hebrew Union College, and the University of Uppsala. He was the father of noted anthropologist Ward Goodenough.

He edited the Journal of Biblical Literature from 1934-1942.

His papers are archived at Yale. After his death, he was honored by a volume of studies in his honor, Religions in Antiquity: Essays in Memory of Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough, edited by Jacob Neusner, published by E.J. Brill in 1968 (reprinted by Wipf and Stock in 2004).


God-fearers (Greek: φοβούμενος τὸν Θεόν, Phoboumenos ton Theon) or God-worshipers (Greek: θεοσεβής, Theosebes) were a numerous class of gentile sympathizers to Hellenistic Judaism that existed in the Greco-Roman world, which observed certain Jewish religious rites and traditions without becoming full converts to Judaism. The concept has precedents in the proselytes of the Hebrew Bible.

Hellenistic philosophy

Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.

Hellenistic religion

Hellenistic religion is any of the various systems of beliefs and practices of the people who lived under the influence of ancient Greek culture during the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire (c. 300 BCE to 300 CE). There was much continuity in Hellenistic religion: the Greek gods continued to be worshipped, and the same rites were practiced as before.

Change came from the addition of new religions from other countries, including the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, and the Syrian gods Atargatis and Hadad, which provided a new outlet for people seeking fulfillment in both the present life and the afterlife. The worship of Hellenistic rulers was also a feature of this period, most notably in Egypt, where the Ptolemies adapted earlier Egyptian practice and Greek hero cults and established themselves as Pharaohs within the new syncretic Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great. Elsewhere, rulers might receive divine status without the full status of a god.

Magic was practiced widely, and this too, was a continuation from earlier times. Throughout the Hellenistic world, people would consult oracles, and use charms and figurines to deter misfortune or to cast spells. Also developed in this era was the complex system of astrology, which sought to determine a person's character and future in the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. The systems of Hellenistic philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, offered an alternative to traditional religion, even if their impact was largely limited to the educated elite.


The Herodians (Herodiani) were a sect or party of Hellenistic Jews mentioned in the New Testament as having on two occasions — first in Galilee, and later in Jerusalem — manifested a hostile disposition towards Jesus (Mark 3:6, 12:13; Matthew 22:16; cf. also Mark 8:15, Luke 13:31-32, Acts 4:27). In each of these cases their name is coupled with that of the Pharisees.According to many interpreters, the courtiers or soldiers of Herod Antipas ("Milites Herodis," Jerome) were intended; others argue that the Herodians were probably a public political party, who distinguished themselves from the two great historical parties of post-exilic Judaism (the Pharisees and Sadducees) by the fact that they were and had been sincerely friendly to Herod the Great, the King of the Jews, and to his dynasty. The Herodians are often mentioned in the gospels at the same time as the Pharisees. Like the Pharisees, the Herodians wanted political independence for the Jewish people. Unlike the Pharisees, who sought to restore the kingdom of David, the Herodians wished to restore a member of the Herodian dynasty to the throne in Judea.Anglican bishop Charles Ellicott notes a consistency in format with other designations such as "Mariani' (supporters of Gaius Marius), Pompeiani (relating to Pompey the Great), and, we may add, Christiani".It is possible that, to gain adherents, the Herodian party may have been in the habit of representing that the establishment of a Herodian Dynasty would be favourable to the realization of the theocracy; and this in turn may account for Pseudo-Tertullian's (Adversis Omnes Haereses [1,1)) allegation that the Herodians regarded Herod himself as the Messiah. The sect was called by the Rabbis Boethusians as being friendly to the family of Boethus, whose daughter Mariamne was one of Herod the Great's wives.

Professor Robert Eisenman of California State University, Long Beach argues that Paul the Apostle was a member of the family of Herod the Great. Professor Eisenman makes a connection between Paul and an individual identified by Josephus as "Saulus," a "kinsman of Agrippa." Another oft-cited element of the case for Paul as a member of Herod's family is found in Romans 16:11 where Paul had written, "Greet Herodion, my kinsman."

Some people think that the Herodians was another name for the Essenes who probably wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

"Nothing is known of them beyond what the Gospels state.""... their precise relation to the other sects or schools among the Jews are consequently matters of conjecture."Their name is the Herodians so people assume they are a political group, not a religious group. That does not follow. If a religious group liked Herod and he liked them then they could be known as the Herodians even though their primary purpose was religious. The only things we know for certain is their name and the fact that they disliked Jesus. All else is conjecture.

Josephus Antiquities of the Jews Book 15 Chapter 10.5 states "5. Now there was one of these Essens [sic], whose name was Manahem, who had this testimony, that he not only conducted his life after an excellent manner, but had the foreknowledge of future events given him by God also. This man once saw Herod when he was a child, and going to school, and saluted him as king of the Jews; but he, thinking that either he did not know him, or that he was in jest, put him in mind that he was but a private man; but Manahem smiled to himself, and clapped him on his backside with his hand, and said," However that be, thou wilt be king, and wilt begin thy reign happily, for God finds thee worthy of it. And do thou remember the blows that Manahem hath given thee, as being a signal of the change of thy fortune. And truly this will be the best reasoning for thee, that thou love justice [towards men], and piety towards God, and clemency towards thy citizens; yet do I know how thy whole conduct will be, that thou wilt not be such a one, for thou wilt excel all men in happiness, and obtain an everlasting reputation, but wilt forget piety and righteousness; and these crimes will not be concealed from God, at the conclusion of thy life, when thou wilt find that he will be mindful of them, and punish time for them." Now at that time Herod did not at all attend to what Manahem said, as having no hopes of such advancement; but a little afterward, when he was so fortunate as to be advanced to the dignity of king, and was in the height of his dominion, he sent for Manahem, and asked him how long he should reign. Manahem did not tell him the full length of his reign; wherefore, upon that silence of his, he asked him further, whether he should reign ten years or not? He replied, "Yes, twenty, nay, thirty years;" but did not assign the just determinate limit of his reign. Herod was satisfied with these replies, and gave Manahem his hand, and dismissed him; and from that time he continued to honor all the Essens [sic]. We have thought it proper to relate these facts to our readers, how strange soever they be, and to declare what hath happened among us, because many of these Essens [sic] have, by their excellent virtue, been thought worthy of this knowledge of Divine revelations."

Josephus said Herod "continued to honor all the Essenes." The people could have thought that the Essenes were Herod's pet and called them the Herodians.

History of the Jews in Cyprus

The history of the Jews in Cyprus dates back at least to the 2nd century BCE, when a considerable community of Jews on the island is first attested. The Jews had close relationships with many of the other religious groups on the island and were seen favourably by the Romans. During the war over the city of Ptolemais between Alexander Jannaeus and Ptolemy IX Lathyros, King of Cyprus, many Jews were killed. During the war the Jewish citizens remained committed in their allegiance to King Lathyros.

Incense offering

The incense offering (Hebrew: קְטֹרֶת‎ qetoret) in Judaism was related to perfumed offerings on the altar of incense in the time of the Tabernacle and the First and Second Temple period, and was an important component of priestly liturgy in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jewish Christian

Jewish Christians were the original members of the Jewish movement that later became Christianity. In the earliest stage the community was made up of all those Jews who believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. As Christianity grew and developed, Jewish Christians became only one strand of the early Christian community, characterised by combining the confession of Jesus as Christ with continued observance of the Torah and adherence to Jewish traditions such as Sabbath observance, Jewish calendar, Jewish laws and customs, circumcision, Kosher diet and synagogue attendance, and by a direct genetic relationship to the earliest followers of Jesus.The term "Jewish Christian" appears in historical texts contrasting Christians of Jewish origin with Gentile Christians, both in discussion of the New Testament church and the second and following centuries. It is also a term used for Jews who converted to Christianity but kept their Jewish heritage and traditions.

First century Jewish Christians were faithful religious Jews; they differed from other contemporary Jews only in their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. Those that taught that Gentile converts to Christianity ought to adopt more Jewish practices to be saved, however, were called "Judaizers". Though the Apostle Peter was initially sympathetic, the Apostle Paul opposed the teaching at the Incident at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-21) and at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:6-35). Nevertheless, Judaizing continued to be encouraged for several centuries, particularly by Jewish Christians.As Christianity grew throughout the Gentile world, Christians diverged from their Jewish and Jerusalem roots. Jewish Christianity fell into decline during the Jewish–Roman wars (66-135) and the growing anti-Judaism perhaps best personified by Marcion of Sinope (c. 150). With persecution by the Nicene Christians from the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, Jewish Christians sought refuge outside the boundaries of the Empire, in Arabia and further afield. Within the Empire and later elsewhere it was dominated by the Gentile based Christianity which became the State church of the Roman Empire and which took control of sites in the Holy Land such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Cenacle and appointed subsequent Bishops of Jerusalem.

Jewish Koine Greek

Jewish Koine Greek, or Jewish Hellenistic Greek, is the variety of Koine Greek or "common Attic" found in a number of Alexandrian dialect texts of Hellenistic Judaism, most notably in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible and associated literature, as well as in Greek Jewish texts from Palestine. The term is largely equivalent with Greek of the Septuagint as a cultural and literary rather than a linguistic category. The minor syntax and vocabulary variations in the Koine Greek of Jewish authors are not as linguistically distinctive as the later language Yevanic, or Judeo-Greek, spoken by the Romaniotes Jews in Greece.

The term "Jewish Koine" is to be distinguished from the concept of a "Jewish koine" as a literary-religious, not a linguistic concept.

Jewish apocrypha

Jewish apocrypha includes texts written in the Jewish religious tradition either in the Intertestamental period or in the early Christian era, but outside the Christian tradition. It does not include books in the canonical Hebrew Bible, nor those accepted into the canon of some or all Christian faiths.


Logos (UK: , US: ; Ancient Greek: λόγος, translit. lógos; from λέγω, légō, lit. 'I say') is a term in Western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a Greek word variously meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", and "discourse". It became a technical term in Western philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (c.  535 – c.  475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge. Logos is the logic behind an argument. Logos tries to persuade an audience using logical arguments and supportive evidence. Logos is a persuasive technique often used in writing and rhetoric.

Ancient Greek philosophers used the term in different ways. The sophists used the term to mean discourse. Aristotle applied the term to refer to "reasoned discourse" or "the argument" in the field of rhetoric, and considered it one of the three modes of persuasion alongside ethos and pathos. Pyrrhonist philosophers used the term to refer to dogmatic accounts of non-evident matters. Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe. Within Hellenistic Judaism, Philo of Alexandria (c.  20 BC – c.  50 AD) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies the Logos, through which all things are made, as divine (theos), and further identifies Jesus Christ as the incarnate Logos. The term is also used in Sufism, and the analytical psychology of Carl Jung.

Despite the conventional translation as "word", it is not used for a word in the grammatical sense; instead, the term lexis (λέξις, léxis) was used. However, both logos and lexis derive from the same verb légō (λέγω), meaning "(I) count, tell, say, speak".Author and Professor Jeanne Fahnestock describes logos as a "premise". She states that, to find the reason behind a rhetor's backing of a certain position or stance, one must acknowledge the different "premises" that the rhetor applies via his or her chosen diction. The rhetor's success, she argues, will come down to "certain objects of agreement...between arguer and audience". "Logos is logical appeal, and the term logic is derived from it. It is normally used to describe facts and figures that support the speaker's topic." Furthermore, logos is credited with appealing to the audience's sense of logic, with the definition of "logic" being concerned with the thing as it is known.

Furthermore, one can appeal to this sense of logic in two ways. The first is through inductive reasoning, providing the audience with relevant examples and using them to point back to the overall statement. The second is through deductive enthymeme, providing the audience with general scenarios and then indicating commonalities among them.Philo distinguished between logos prophorikos ("the uttered word") and the logos endiathetos ("the word remaining within"). The Stoics also spoke of the logos spermatikos (the generative principle of the Universe) which foreshadows related concepts in Neoplatonism. Early translators of the Greek New Testament such as Jerome (in the 4th century AD) were frustrated by the inadequacy of any single Latin word to convey the meaning of the word Logos as used to describe Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. The Vulgate Bible usage of in principio erat verbum was thus constrained to use the (perhaps inadequate) noun verbum for "word", but later Romance language translations had the advantage of nouns such as le mot in French. Reformation translators took another approach. Martin Luther rejected Zeitwort (verb) in favor of Wort (word), for instance, although later commentators repeatedly turned to a more dynamic use involving the living word as felt by Jerome and Augustine.

Origins of Rabbinic Judaism

Rabbinic Judaism or Rabbinism has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century, after the codification of the Talmud. Rabbinic Judaism gained predominance within the Jewish diaspora between the 2nd to 6th centuries, with the development of the oral law and the Talmud to control the interpretation of Jewish scripture (specifically the Masoretic Text) and to encourage the practice of Judaism in the absence of Temple sacrifice and other practices no longer possible, while waiting for the Third Temple.

Paul the Apostle and Judaism

Paul the Apostle has been placed within Second Temple Judaism by recent scholarship since the 1970's. A main point of departure with older scholarship is the understanding of Second Temple Judaism, and the covenant with God and the role of works, as a means to either gain, or to keep the covenant.

A central concern for Paul was the inclusion of Gentiles into God's New Covenant, and the role of faith and observances in the inclusion of Gentiles. Paul didn't deem circomcision necessary, as witnessed throughout his writings, but thought that God included Gentiles into His New Covenant through faith in Christ. This brought him into conflict with Jewish Christians, who requested strict observances by Gentile Christians. Eventually the less strict view prevailed, and led to the separation of this fraction of Christianity from Judaism.


This article is about the poem known as Pseudo-Orpheus, not about the term "Pseudo-Orpheus" as it is applied to the unknown writer of other works falsely attributed to Orpheus.

Pseudo-Orpheus is the name of a poetic text, preserved only in quotations by various Christian writers, which has a complex history. Pseudo-Orpheus appears in multiple recensions (versions created over time). The poem presents the legendary Greek figure Orpheus as giving a poetic speech to his son, Musaeus, identified as the biblical Moses, passing on to him hidden wisdom he learned in Egypt. It presents a monotheistic view of God, whom, according to the poem, no one has seen, except for Abraham, who was able to see God due to his skill at astrology.Although preserved in Christian writers, most scholars believe that it is "of Jewish authorship." Over time, a number of Christian and Jewish authors reworked Greek traditions about Orpheus and used them to support their monotheistic views and to assert the religious supremacy of Moses and monotheism over Greek polytheistic views. The rhetorical device of using legendary non-monotheistic figures to endorse Judaism is likewise found in the Sibylline Oracles.

Synagogue in the Agora of Athens

The Synagogue in the Agora of Athens is an ancient synagogue located in the Ancient Agora of Athens.

During an excavation in the summer of 1977, a piece of Pentelic marble apparently once part of a curvilinear frieze over a doorway or niche was discovered a few meters from the northeast corner of the Metroon. The marble fragment is incised with the images of a seven-branched Menorah and a Lulav, or palm branch. The synagogue is thought to date from the period between 267 and 396 CE.


The Therapeutae were a Jewish sect, including men and women, which existed in Alexandria and other parts of the Diaspora of Hellenistic Judaism in the final years of the Second Temple period.

The primary source concerning the Therapeutae is the De vita contemplativa ("The Contemplative Life") (purportedly by the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE – 50 CE).) The author appears to have been personally acquainted with them. The author describes the Therapeutae as "philosophers" (cf. I.2) and mentions a group that lived on a low hill by the Lake Mareotis close to Alexandria in circumstances resembling lavrite life (cf. III.22). They were "the best" of a kind given to "perfect goodness" that "exists in many places in the inhabited world" (cf. III.21). The author was unsure of the origin of the name and derives the name Therapeutae/Therapeutides from Greek θεραπεύω in the sense of "cure" or "worship" (cf. I.2).

Some interpret the Therapeutae as early Christian monks.

Middle Ages
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