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God as viewed in the hebrews and greeks cultures

Although we might notice this language, it is easy to read over it without understanding its significance.

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In a previous post, I promised to demonstrate how Bible background knowledge history, culture, language, etc. Why is it Important, How does it Help? Jews and Greeks Style of dress can be a marker of ethnic identity The most elementary definition of identity might define a Jew as someone from Judea and a Greek as someone from Greece.

This definition not only oversimplifies the problem, but it ignores the fact that by the first century A. Jews and Greeks were scattered across the Roman empire and beyond. The Assyrian and Babylonian captivities 722 B. Similarly, the conquest of Alexander the Great 333-321 B. This means that by the first century, Jews and Greeks were living side by side in cities throughout the Roman Empire.

How does a person maintain their ethnic identity when they are separated from their homeland over the span of many years and miles? For a Jew these 3 factors are easily identifiable. These distinctions, however, would not only apply to someone born of Israelite blood, but also to any foreigners who became proselytes converts.

Similarly, a Greek came to mean more than just someone who was from Greece, but someone who had also adopted Greek Hellenistic culture, and spoke Greek. Therefore, in the eyes of a Jew, all Greeks were Gentiles, but, to be accurate, not all Gentiles were Greeks.

Therefore, context should determine what is meant by these terms. For the purposes of this article, the words will usually refer to the same people group unless otherwise specified. The Greeks viewed even the great Persian empire as barbarians.

Like the Jews, the Greeks also divided the world into two distinct populations. After all, considering the legacy of language, art, philosophy, politics, and culture, who in their right mind would not want to be Greek? This two-fold way of viewing the world by both Jews and Greeks reveals a deep-seated pride on the part of both groups. Commentaries have made us well-aware that the Jews could be capable of arrogance. What is often overlooked although modern studies have come a long way in correcting this viewwas that the Greeks could be just as arrogant concerning their culture and way god as viewed in the hebrews and greeks cultures life.

In other words, when it comes to pride and arrogance, there was plenty of blame to spread around whether one is talking about Jews or Greeks in the first century. Conflict Between Jews and Greeks Attitudes of arrogance and the natural human tendency toward viewing those outside our group as inferior, naturally leads to prejudice and conflict. But before discussing the differences between Jews and Greeks that led to conflict in the Roman world, it should be noted that many Jews adopted various facets of Hellenistic culture, including speaking Greek.

In fact, following the conquest of Alexander the Great, it would have been impossible to not be affected in some way by Hellenistic culture. Indeed, some Jewish writers such as Josephus and Philo sought to explain Jewish beliefs and practices by appealing to Greeks using Greek terminology and philosophy. There were also Greeks, and other Gentiles, who spoke well of Judaism. In spite of the attraction that some from each ethnic group had for the other, prejudice and conflict were a common response.

Ancient Greeks are famous for the glorification of the human body, well-evidenced in the statuary they have left behind. Greeks loved athletic competition and this competition took place in the nude.

Is Hebrew Better Than Greek?

Circumcision was abhorrent to a Greek and considered to be a mutilation of the body. When Judea was taken over by the Romans 63 B. Fortunately, the Jews also had some gracious Roman patrons, including Julius Caesar and Augustus, nonetheless, many well known ancient writers derided them for their beliefs and culture. Roman emperors twice expelled the Jews from Rome once in 19 A. These examples could be multiplied, but they demonstrate the uneasy tension that existed between Jews and Greeks in the ancient world.

Violent conflict between Jews and Greeks erupted in many of the cities found on this map An investigation of the period between 50 B. This is an historical fact known to scholars, but not as familiar to lay people. Stanley in the article cited above categorizes this violence into 4 phases. Phase 1 occurred roughly between the years of 49 B.

Some of the troubled areas included Sardis 49 B. Phase 2 occurred between the years of 38 — 44 A. Some of the cities included Alexandria, Egypt 38-41 A. Phase 3 occurred during the years of the Jewish Revolt 66-73 A. Phase 4 occurred during the years of the Diaspora Revolt 115-117 A.

First, however, it has been necessary to sketch the historical and cultural background. If you look at the cities mentioned above where ethnic conflict and violence between Jews and Greeks was known to occur you will notice many familiar names found in the New Testament such as Ephesus, Sardis, Antioch, Damascus, Cyrene, etc.

It is phenomenal to think that in the midst of this ethnic tension and hatred, often expressed through god as viewed in the hebrews and greeks cultures violence, that a group of Jewish believers were commissioned to take the gospel to the Greeks and the rest of the Gentiles!

Gallio shows no concern for the Greeks who beat the ruler of the synagogue. In every city that Paul travels to he begins in the synagogue. Some Jews believe, some Greeks believe and this volatile combination creates civic unrest for the remainder of the population. In Iconium some Jews and Greeks believe which causes unbelieving Jews to stir up a mob of Gentiles to persecute the fledgling church Acts 14: This same scenario is repeated in cities throughout the Roman empire. In Philippi, Paul and Silas are dragged to the market place before the city authorities.

When one becomes aware of the violence between Jews and Greeks, these accounts recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts take on a sober realism. By becoming sensitive to the ethnic problems that existed between Jew and Greek, the above passages, as well as the ones mentioned at the beginning of this article, take on a richer and deeper meaning.

This is just one example of how a study of Bible backgrounds can greatly enhance our understanding and appreciation of Scripture.

To read the follow up article, click here. More from my site.