Written Assignments

Hellenism and Judaism


Web Resources for This Assignment

The Hebrews
Read over aspects of the Hebrew world view, particularly terminology and primary texts.
Ancient Greece: Hellenistic Greece
Read the sections on Hellenistic Greece in the Ancient Greece learning module.

What is Hellenism?

   What distinguishes the Hellenistic period from earlier Greek history is the active exporting of Greek culture and language around the known world. Not only did the Greeks control most of the known world, they also felt that their ways of thinking were better than the cultures and world views of the people they dominated. While they were highly tolerant of other cultures, particularly religion, nonetheless the Hellenistic period saw a globalization of Greek values and social systems in a way that was only equalled by the spread of Chinese culture over the face of eastern Asia about the same time (but lasting far longer).

Cultural Change

   The story of Hellenism then, is not merely a Greek story. It's an Egyptian story, a Hebrew story, a Mesopotamian story, and even, to some extent, an Indian story. The spread of Greek thought and culture greatly changed these cultures at a fundamental level. The story, then, that I want you to speculate, concerns one of these cultures.

The Greek Hebrews

   Of all the cultures we've done so far, we've studied the Hebrews in greatest detail. When Alexander marched into Judaea, he found a culture completely foreign to Greek thought and practices. In Judaea as elsewhere, however, the culture quickly began to incorporate ideas from the Greeks. In particular, Diaspora Jews living throughout the Hellenistic world became "Hellenistic Jews," that is, Jews that spoke Greek as a primary language. (It was these Hellenistic Jews that were principally responsible for the spread of Christianity in the first century AD)

   I want you to speculate on how Hellenistic culture might have changed Hebrew culture. To make your argument, I want you to point out aspects of world view that both the Greeks and the Jews had in common. Then, in a second paragraph, I want you to point out aspects of Jewish and Greek world view that are absolutely incompatible. Your third paragraph should explain what, given the material discussed in your first two paragraphs, Hellenist Jewish culture would look like. Would it be closer to Jewish or the Greek world view? What parts of the Greek world view would be adopted by Hellenist Jews? What parts rejected?

The Materials of Your Argument

   In order to make this argument, you need to define the world views of both cultures. To do this, you need to use a.) terminology that defines the world view of both cultures; b.) primary texts from each culture; and c.) a certain amount of historical knowledge from the text. This historical knowledge should be used to help you speculate on what Greeks and Jews would think about the world based on their history.

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