Sacred Writings

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By Eliezer Segal

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Quite the contrary, many of them, like the Jews, had their own ancient traditions that they held in great reverence. Furthermore, 16 2 | The Second Temple Era Part I: The Historical Framework the Greeks continued to constitute a small demographic minority in the colonies. The Greeks who took up long-term residence in the Middle East were not usually the representatives of the highest ideals of Athenian art or philosophy, but simple merchants or pensioned soldiers. Such individuals were at least as likely to be influenced by the native culture as vice versa, especially when they intermarried with local woman.

Although Jewish communities could be found throughout the expanses of the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin, the religious literature that survived as authoritative was confined to two main geographical centers: the land of Israel (which the Romans named Palestine after the Philistines who had occupied its coastal planes in biblical times) and Babylonia (Mesopotamia, the fertile area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers). This was a momentous era in both general and Jewish history. The destruction of Jerusalem left the Jews not only without their cherished center of worship, the holy Temple, but also resulted in immense loss of life and property, political repression, economic deprivation and social dislocation.

These were embodied in the Sadducee and Pharisee movements. • Hellenism was a synthesis of Greek and Middle Eastern cultures. Jews differed in their receptiveness to the phenomenon. 28 2 | The Second Temple Era Part I: The Historical Framework • Greek-speaking diaspora Jewish communities, especially that of Alexandria, produced a remarkable synthesis of Hellenistic and Jewish civilizations, embodied in the Septuagint and the philosophical biblical expositions of Philo. • Decrees against Judaism under the Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV provoked a successful Jewish revolt led by the Hasmonean family.

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