Alexander and Hebrews

Ralph Stewart
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Alexander and Hebrews

Are there any writings from ether the Greeks or Hebrews concerning the time when Alexander moved through the middle east? Did the Hebrews put up a spirited defense?

 

 


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Well, most of the

Well, most of the Hebrew writing from the period is lost, so no joy for you there. There is however a fair bit of Greek text kicking around but that is mostly copies of earlier work and hand copies of text tend to lose out on accuracy.

 

As far as the military aspect, no joy to be had there either. A couple of years earlier, Alexander had two decisive victories against the Persian empire in what is now modern day Turkey. Shortly after that, he instituted a policy of allowing opposing forces to switch sides if they would become loyal to him. So on his way through the area where the Hebrews lived, they mostly went belly up. In fact, one web site that I checked with suggested that the Hebrews may have offered to name all male children born that year after Alexander as a quid pro quo for not erecting a statue of himself in the temple.

 

What significant action there was amounted to the siege of Tyre and Gaza, which were both Persian strongholds at the time. Also of note is the fact that strong national identities had yet to develop and most people in that general area held their highest loyalty to their city. As a result, when the Tyrean Navy returned from elsewhere to find the city under Alexandrian rule, they threw in with him, thus giving him the first significant navy he had.

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Josephus ( Antiquities XI,

Josephus ( Antiquities XI, 231-247 ) makes mention of a visit to Jerusalem by Alexander. He supposedly made a sacrifice at the temple of Solomon, told the peasants to carry on their business, and left.  The event is echoed in the Talmud. Alexander became a Jewish name from then on, probably in gratitude that he didn't crush their petty little state like a bug. The Jews commemorated the date ( 25th of Tevet ) as a minor holiday.

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Ralph Stewart wrote: Are

Ralph Stewart wrote:

Are there any writings from ether the Greeks or Hebrews concerning the time when Alexander moved through the middle east? Did the Hebrews put up a spirited defense?

 

http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/1maccabees.html

 

I had this question a long time ago and I believe it was Zarathustra/Nietzsche's Student that gave me this answer.

At the time, I had thought there was only one book of Maccabees. Turned out I had read only the 3rd.

That's a good site for initial knowledge. At least I think so.

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yes, it's in the Bible

There is one book of the Bible that discusses Alexander the Great, the Book of Daniel.  Now, I'm sure a bunch of you are thinking, that book was written before Alexander lived, and you're right.  But how else can you explain the prophecy in Daniel 8 that a King of Greece will defete the Medes and the Persians, defeating four kingdoms in total (Alexander also defeated the Indians and the Egyptians) and usher in a time of great prosperity, but nevertheless die (and not in battle) at the height of his power?

The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.  And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.  Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.  And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. Daniel 8:21-25

The Book of Maccabees in the Apocyrpha begins with a discussion of Alexander.  I accept this as an important historical document, but, unlike the Book of Daniel and other books in the Bible proper, it is not out Christian belief that the Apocryphal books are the inerrant Word of God (except, as I understand it, to Catholics, but you'd have to ask them about their views).  Maccabees does not discuss any resistance to the Greeks until after the death of Alexander, but there's nothing in the Greek histories that indicates any significant resistance to Alexander in Palestine.

BTW, I'm growing more and more amused by the number of posts in the Biblical Errancy forum that have nothing to do with Biblical Errancy.  If you guys need a dictionary, www.merriam-webster.com is pretty good.

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RespectfulButBelieving wrote:

There is one book of the Bible that discusses Alexander the Great, the Book of Daniel.  Now, I'm sure a bunch of you are thinking, that book was written before Alexander lived, and you're right.  But how else can you explain the prophecy in Daniel 8 that a King of Greece will defete the Medes and the Persians, defeating four kingdoms in total (Alexander also defeated the Indians and the Egyptians) and usher in a time of great prosperity, but nevertheless die (and not in battle) at the height of his power?

The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.  And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.  Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.  And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. Daniel 8:21-25

I'm sorry, but you've really put a lot of interpretation into that to extrapolate Alexander from it. Yes, you could say that Alexander was a Grecian king, but it doesn't actually say there that he destroys the four nations previously mentioned. It just says that he has a fierce countenance and he shall destroy the mighty and holy people. I'm not sure when Alexander stood up against the prince of princes, so I don't know what that refers to, either. The passage is vague enough to apply equally to Alexander's father, actually.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
BTW, I'm growing more and more amused by the number of posts in the Biblical Errancy forum that have nothing to do with Biblical Errancy.  If you guys need a dictionary, www.merriam-webster.com is pretty good.

If you're going to be condescending about specificity, kindly don't do it after you've interpreted a vague passage in the Bible as specifically referring to a historical person. That makes you look rude and willfully ignorant.

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vague? you've got to be kidding me

HisWillness wrote:
I'm sorry, but you've really put a lot of interpretation into that to extrapolate Alexander from it. Yes, you could say that Alexander was a Grecian king, but it doesn't actually say there that he destroys the four nations previously mentioned. It just says that he has a fierce countenance and he shall destroy the mighty and holy people. I'm not sure when Alexander stood up against the prince of princes, so I don't know what that refers to, either. The passage is vague enough to apply equally to Alexander's father, actually.
It's funny how rarely athiests are interested in discussing prophecy.  If you're right about the way the world works, you'd think that prophecy would be your first line of defense:  Show me a single prophesy that has not happened and is incapable of ever happening, and I (and any other honest Christian) would immediately reject the Bible.  That would be an appropriate topic for a Bible Errancy discussion.  So I admire the fact that you're willing to discuss the subject.  Nevertheless, I don't see how you can find the Alexander prophecy vague at all.

Philip II of Macedon, Alexander's father, defeated neither the Persians nor the Medes, and he was assassinated (and therefore very much broken with hand), so the prophecy cannot apply to him.  Other Greeks did defeat the Persians on occasion, but the Medes were in present-day Iran, and Alexander is the only Greek ruler ever to have conquered them.  So we have now narrowed down the prophecy to a single person out of the billions who have ever lived.  Moreover, there is nothing in the prophecy that is untrue if applied to Alexander.  He did bring peace and prosperity to many lands.  He did die in the full measure of his power, but not in battle.  He did defeat four, and only four, dominant civilizations.  Here's a contemporary sculpture of Alexander: www.ancientsculpturegallery.com/253.html. I'll leave it to you to decide whether he had a fierce countenance; I certainly think so.

Daniel's prophecy is so specific that, if I didn't know better, I would have said it had been written after Alexander lived and inserted into the Book of Daniel surreptitiously. If you still think the Alexander prophecy is vague, it just shows the extraordinary leaps of illogic that athiests are willing to make to avoid having the fact of fulfilled prophecy challenge your narrow world view.  Tell me, do you also deny that the Temple of Herod was destroyed as Jesus prophesied in Luke 21?

And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.  Luke 21:5-6

Please, please say that you find that prophecy vague, too.  That would pretty much put the capstone on my argument that athiests are in denial.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
If you're going to be condescending about specificity, kindly don't do it after you've interpreted a vague passage in the Bible as specifically referring to a historical person. That makes you look rude and willfully ignorant.
I didn't write the rules for this forum, and a lot of people in here apparently haven't read them.   I just think it's a little presumptuous for someone who doesn't know what the Bible says on a subject to post an inquiry in a Bible Errancy forum.  It's a valid question to ask, but you guys ought at least see what the Bible says on a particular subject before you adjudge it before the world to be inaccurate.

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RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Philip II of Macedon, Alexander's father, defeated neither the Persians nor the Medes, and he was killed in a fight (and therefore very much broken with hand), so the prophesy cannot apply to him.

Hold your horses. First of all, there is no talk of defeat in the paragraph you gave. Here it is again:

Bible wrote:
The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.  And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.  Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.  And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

We have the kings of Media and Persia mentioned, yes. Four nations are not in his power. Then, at the latter time of their kingdom, a king of fierce countenance shall stand up. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power, and he shall destroy wonderfully, etc.

You would have to interpret who he was destroying, there. The mighty and holy people, certainly, but he also destroys "wonderfully" and "by peace". But it does not say that he destroys the nations previously mentioned. It says that he stands up against the prince of princes, is that a reference to the time of Jesus? (I mean, is he the prince of princes? I'm not up on my Bible, so I'm asking if that's the usual interpretation.) Does that mean Tiberius, then? He's not really Greek, I suppose.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
If you still think the Alexander prophesy is vague, it just shows the extraordinary leaps of illogic that athiests are willing to make to avoid having the fact of fulfilled prophecy challenge your narrow world view.

Slow down, for crying out loud. One thing at a time. Tell me where I've strayed logically, and we can discuss that.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Tell me, do you also deny that the Temple of Herod was destroyed as Jesus prophesied in Luke 21?

I don't know! Jeez. Are there ruins of Herod's temple? I mean, if there are, it would be difficult to deny that the thing was destroyed, wouldn't it?

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Please, please say that you find that prophesy vague, too.  That would pretty much put the capstone on my argument that athiests are in denial.

No, that one's actually pretty straightforward. Not a lot to interpret, there.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
I just think it's a little presumptuous for someone who doesn't know what the Bible says on a subject to post an inquiry in a Bible Errancy forum.  It's a valid question to ask, but you guys ought at least see what the Bible says on a particular subject before you adjudge it before the world to be inaccurate.

Well you corrected me, didn't you? So now I know that the function of parables is to confuse the unworthy. That's what I wanted to know.

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HisWillness wrote: old your

HisWillness wrote:
old your horses.
OK, I've got the reins in my hands. 

Quote:
he also destroys "wonderfully" and "by peace"
He Hellenized most of the known world, built the library at Alexandria that was a beacon of knowledge for a millenium, and stopped internecine conflict.  That is wonderful and peaceful.

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But it does not say that he destroys the nations previously mentioned.
Alexander defeated them, and destroyed their governments, but he didn't really destroy the four nations, he conquered them.  India is still around, for example.  I think he might have destroyed the Medes, though.

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It says that he stands up against the prince of princes, is that a reference to the time of Jesus?
Can't be, Jesus hadn't been born yet, and I'm not aware of Jesus being called the Prince of Princes.  The Persian Empire tended to keep local kings in place when they conquered another people, and the Emporer of Persia was known among other titles as the Prince of Princes (which is pretty much what Emporer means). 

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Does that mean Tiberius, then? He's not really Greek, I suppose.
Tiberius didn't conquer Palestine for Rome, Pompey did.  But you're right, neither was Greek, so Daniel 8 can't refer to either.

Quote:
Slow down, for crying out loud. One thing at a time. Tell me where I've strayed logically, and we can discuss that.
I'm more impressed by the four nations than you are, but I'll grant you it lacks specificity.  If Daniel had said a Grecian king will defeat four nations, and nothing more, I'd dismiss the prophecy as pretty thin gruel, because one Greek king conquering another happened all the time, so it's not really going out on a limb to say that some Greek king would someday conquer four kingdoms.  Your logical error is in saying that the combination of (a) a true and very unlikely prediction and (b) a prediction that could be true under some interpretations but is open to many interpretations, none of which is extremely unlikely, is somehow less impressive than (a) alone.  (b) takes nothing away from (a), provided we cannot say with any certainty that (b) is false.

Let me illustrate:  If, in 1600, I had predicted that a nation founded in America would fight two wars in Mesopotamia, winning and yet not achieving peace, and a new leader would arise as a result, I'd say that was pretty impressive prophecy, because it predicted something very unlikely and very specific, the American difficulties in Iraq in the last 20 years.  As for the new leader arising, that isn't so specific--it could refer to President Obama, or any of about 20 Iraqis, or Prime Minister Brown in England, or God only knows whom else.  The fact that part of my prophecy (the new leader) was ambiguous certainly doesn't make my prophecy more impressive.  It does not, however, render my prophecy as a whole less impressive, either--it would still be damned impressive.  The prophecy would obviously have been fulfilled, even though I can't point to a specific new leader who arose as THE new leader.

Daniel's prophecy about Alexander is like this--Greece conquering the Medes and the Persians was as unlikely to his audience as an American nation fighting wars in Iraq would have been in 1600.  The parts that are amazingly detailed are wholly unlikely.  The parts that are not so detailed are plausible, but not as interesting, because they can't be unambiguously identified to a single event.  That doesn't make my prophecy, or Daniel's, any less impressive, though.  Of course, if the ambiguous part were wrong, then the entire prophecy would be rubbish, so it's still worth examining, but that's not the case with the dream in Daniel 8.

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I don't know! Jeez.
It's OK, you can use His full name, Jesus.  He won't bite.

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Are there ruins of Herod's temple? I mean, if there are, it would be difficult to deny that the thing was destroyed, wouldn't it?
No.  The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is the retaining wall for the Temple mount, but the Temple itself was completely removed.  There's a mosque there now, but that's temporary.

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No, that one's actually pretty straightforward. Not a lot to interpret, there.
It was worth a shot.

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Well you corrected me, didn't you? So now I know that the function of parables is to confuse the unworthy. That's what I wanted to know.
Touche.  If God can try to fool you, I suppose it's only fair for you to post whatever you like in the Biblical Errancy section of RRS.  I'll stop complaining that posts are off topic.

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RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Quote:
he also destroys "wonderfully" and "by peace"
He Hellenized most of the known world, built the library at Alexandria that was a beacon of knowledge for a millenium, and stopped internecine conflict.  That is wonderful and peaceful.

But did he destroy by peace? And what could that possibly mean?

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Quote:
But it does not say that he destroys the nations previously mentioned.
Alexander defeated them, and destroyed their governments, but he didn't really destroy the four nations, he conquered them.  India is still around, for example.  I think he might have destroyed the Medes, though.

I think you may have missed my meaning. What I meant was that the prophesy doesn't actually say the king in question conquers anything. It says he destroys, etc., but it doesn't actually direct his destruction against anything. It says he "stands up", which is inconclusive about the outcome, to say the least. I'm just not sure about your interpretation of that passage as being as cut-and-dried as predicting Alexander. That's why I say it's vague: because it is.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
I'm not aware of Jesus being called the Prince of Princes.  The Persian Empire tended to keep local kings in place when they conquered another people, and the Emporer of Persia was known among other titles as the Prince of Princes (which is pretty much what Emporer means).

Right. I'm thinking "king of kings", which I'm not even sure is an expression used that early for the Messiah.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Quote:
Does that mean Tiberius, then? He's not really Greek, I suppose.
Tiberius didn't conquer Palestine for Rome, Pompey did.  But you're right, neither was Greek, so Daniel 8 can't refer to either.

But again, no conquering is mentioned, so it wouldn't matter. Destroying, yes, conquering no.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
I'm more impressed by the four nations than you are, but I'll grant you it lacks specificity.  If Daniel had said a Grecian king will defeat four nations, and nothing more, I'd dismiss the prophecy as pretty thin gruel

If it said "defeat" anywhere in there, I wouldn't even be arguing with you. It just mentions four nations, and then says a king will destroy wonderfully. That could refer to a civil war just as easily as a foreign war. The mention of the four nations doesn't even have to be connected to the follow-up statements about the king in question. It doesn't say "He will destroy THEM wonderfully", or "Then he took them down" or anything like that. They never end up being the explicit object of his destruction.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Your logical error is in saying that the combination of (a) a true and very unlikely prediction and (b) a prediction that could be true under some interpretations but is open to many interpretations, none of which is extremely unlikely, is somehow less impressive than (a) alone.  (b) takes nothing away from (a), provided we cannot say with any certainty that (b) is false.

Except, again, that the prophesy is too vague to be falsified. 

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
If, in 1600, I had predicted that a nation founded in America would fight two wars in Mesopotamia, winning and yet not achieving peace, and a new leader would arise as a result, I'd say that was pretty impressive prophecy, because it predicted something very unlikely and very specific

Yes, that would be impressive, but that's very specific.

RespectfulButBelieving wrote:
Quote:
Are there ruins of Herod's temple? I mean, if there are, it would be difficult to deny that the thing was destroyed, wouldn't it?
No.  The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is the retaining wall for the Temple mount, but the Temple itself was completely removed.  There's a mosque there now, but that's temporary.

You're suggesting that Jesus prophesied something you can't even assert happened? I mean, that a temple that you can't show me the ruins of was destroyed? That's not so overwhelming as evidence goes, I have to say.

 

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HisWillness wrote:But did he

HisWillness wrote:
But did he destroy by peace? And what could that possibly mean?
He imposed peace among all of the warring petty kingdoms and city-states in his empire in part by Hellenizing them.

Quote:
I think you may have missed my meaning. What I meant was that the prophesy doesn't actually say the king in question conquers anything. It says he destroys, etc., but it doesn't actually direct his destruction against anything. It says he "stands up", which is inconclusive about the outcome, to say the least. I'm just not sure about your interpretation of that passage as being as cut-and-dried as predicting Alexander. That's why I say it's vague: because it is.
You seriously are asking people to believe that a Greek king could destroy the Medean and Persian empires without conquering them?  You might want to reflect on that for a while.

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Right. I'm thinking "king of kings", which I'm not even sure is an expression used that early for the Messiah.
Jesus was called the King of kings in Revelation 17:14.  I should have mentioned that in connection with prince of princes, but, to be honest, I forgot about it.  Jesus said in John 18:36, My kingdom is not of this world, so it appears that he's really King of kings in the world to come.  Of course, this does not mean that He had no temporal authority, for, in Matthew 28:18, Jesus said All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

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If it said "defeat" anywhere in there, I wouldn't even be arguing with you. It just mentions four nations, and then says a king will destroy wonderfully. That could refer to a civil war just as easily as a foreign war."
Four civil wars.  All run by a Grecian king.

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Except, again, that the prophesy is too vague to be falsified.
You really don't have much objectivity when it comes to these things.  How about this prophecy of Jesus:  Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.  Matthew 24:34  Jesus's words are still with us after 2,000 years.  Can I score that one in the confirmed column?

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You're suggesting that Jesus prophesied something you can't even assert happened? I mean, that a temple that you can't show me the ruins of was destroyed? That's not so overwhelming as evidence goes, I have to say.
Wow, you're really putting the blinders on, there.  There are multiple Roman, Jewish, and Christian sources that discuss the Temple of Herod as it existed in Jersusalem on the Temple Mount during the lifetime of Jesus, and it's destruction by the Romans.  But thank you for proving, finally, my point, that you athiests are absolutely blind to crystal clear prophecy.

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