Greek And Hebrew Belief In God


Greek And Hebrew Belief In God Essay, Research Paper

The Hebrews started out enslaved by the Egyptians until they were freed by Moses around 1250 BC. Then the Exodus began from Egypt to the promised land. Moses led the Hebrews to Mt. Sinai to await the word of the lord. Moses dies and his successor Joshua, son of Nun, comes to bring his people to attack east of the Jordan river in Jericho against the Canaanites. Next, was the conquest of Hazor, one of the strongest towns in Canaan the Isrealites took over Hazor and the most Canaanite empire. Before Israel had its first monarchy there was a system of tribal society. There were twelve tribes who were led in times of peace by the elders and in times of war by the judges. The Judges were more like the tribal chieftains several of the Judges were active at the same time, each leading his own tribe into battle with a different foe. There was war constantly with many different peoples: “the five lords of the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived on Mt. Lebanon” (Judges,3:3) The most fierce of all the people were the Philistines ,a sea people, who landed on the shores of Canaan around the end of the thirteenth century BCE. By the eleventh century the Philistines had five major kingdoms in Canaan (Gaza, Ashdod, Asshkelon, Eekron, and Gath) and were constantly at war with the Israelites attempting to force them inland. The last verse in the book of Judges “In those days there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes” this proves that the Israelites needed a King. Samuel last of the Judges was chosen to appoint a king. The first king of the Israelites in 1029 BCE was Saul who came from the tribe of Benjamin which was between the northern tribes of Ephriam and the southern tribes of Judah. Saul defeated the Ammonites in Gilead, the Moabites, the Amalekites, the Arameans, the Edomites. Saul even held the advance of the Philistines. Despite Saul’s victories he failed to push the Philistines to the coastal plain and tension grew between Saul and the prophet Samuel. Saul not performing up to par to the word of the lord according to Samuel; Saul was ousted and a new king to be named. Saul would die in battle a short while after his dethroning against the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa. The Israelites would need a new king to rule the newly formed kingdom so Samuel chose David of Bethlehem, the slayer of Goliath. For seven years a civil war was fought between the tribes controlled by David the new king and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul. The civil war ended when Ish-Bosheth was murdered and the people asked David to save them from the Philistines. David not only maintained the empire left to him by Saul but fortified it to a major political and religious power in that area. The new king defeated the Arameans and annexed Aram-Damascus in the east he routed the Moabites, subjugated the state of Edom, and defeated the Ammonites. In order to keep a secure northern border David made a pact with Hiram, King of Tyre. David would not stop there he would go on to abolish all Canaanite enclaves and took the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites fortifying a capital for the strongest kingdom on the Fertile Crescent. David was getting old and his declining health started to cause fighting between the sons and priests who the next king would be. The next king was Solomon who was appointed by David before his death in 967 BCE. Solomon to show every one in the kingdom he was a serious leader he began to strike out against all his enemies. Some were banished some exiled. Solomon built temples and permanent towns. Solomon’s kingdom did not outlive his death. The kingdom was immediately split in two Rehoboam ruled the south and Jeroboam ruled the north. The two kingdoms fought a war for decades over land, culture, and religion. The Israelites lost most of the kingdom due to the internal fighting. Samiaria was founded in 877 BCE and Jehoshaphat was the ruler (of Judah) from 870 BCE who ruled for twenty-five years. Under Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat the two kingdoms were again unified. he also secure Edom in the south and established a safe trade route through Negev. Uzziah came to power in 785 BCE and was the next ruler. He built the city Elath and extend the rule left to him by Jehoshaphat. In 722 BCE the Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist. The Assyrians captured Samaria and made it one of there provinces. Tiglath-Pileser III who occupied Syria weakened the Israeli empire with constant battles which allowed the Assyrians to take over. Twenty years after the fall of the kingdom of Israel Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem in 701 BCE. The Assyrian power quickly diminished by 598 BCE and was quickly taken over by the Babylonians under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar who swiftly conquered Jerusalem and exiled 10,000 followers of Judah. In 586 BCE the last king Zedekiah was captured and Jerusalem destroyed. Zedekiah sons were slain in his presence and his eyes were taken out Zedekiah was in chains, blind, and banished to Babylon. The Persians under the rule of Cyrus in 539 BCE conquered the Babylonian empire and ruled all of western Asia. Cyrus made a law that all conquered people could return to their homeland and rebuild their temples. Cambyses comes to power of the Persian empire and conquered Egypt 525 BCE. The people revolted and overthrew Cambyses three years later Darius I comes into power. His dynasty would last until Alexander the Great in 331 BCE. The Jews begin to disperse throughout southern Egypt after Alexander the Great took over in 332 BCE. In 301 BCE Ptolemy I attacks Palistine and sends all the Jews to Alexandria The bible (the Septuagint) was translated into Greek in Alexandria circa 250 BCE. During the fifth Syrian war Seleucid Antiochus III conquers all of Syria and Phoniciaexcept Gazacirca 202 BCE. In 161 BCE Judah Maccabee’s emissaries establish diplomatic relations with the Roman Republic. The Romans forbid the Jews proselytize or build temples and are banned from Rome in 139 BCE. Flaccus a Roman governor prevents Jews in his provience to send contributions to Jerusalem. Julius Caesar death is mourned by Jews of Rome as a benefactor of their people March 44 BCE. Augustus allows Jews to send shekel to the Temple. In 19 ACE Tiberius’ reign prohibited the spread of the Jewish faith by taking four-thousand Jews of military age and sends them to fight in Sardinia the rest are banished. Anti-Jewish riots break out in Alexandria during Galius Caligulas’ reign. Many Jews are killed and the rest leave their homes and form gettos in one quarter of the city, Thirty-eight members of the Gerusia are arrested and flogged. The Jews were granted a pardon by the next ruler however, Claudius said, “Because I believe they are worthy of it for their loyalty and friendship to the Romans.” Claudius affirms Jews rights to Alexandria. This however did not stop the hardships for the Jews. The land of Israel is made into a Roman province governed by an official of equestrian rank circa 6 ACE. In 26 ACE Pontius Pilate is appointed procurator and tensions mount between Romans and Jews. The death of John the Baptist in 30 ACE the Romans accused Jesus of Nazareth of pretending to be King of the Jews is crucified. The accession of Claudius wishing to appease the Jews and his personal friendship with Agrippa, Claudius places for the first time in a half-century all the lands of Palestine. Tensions rise between Greeks and Jews towards the end of the 50’s ACE. The great revolt against Rome leaves Jerusalem into Roman hands once again. Around 66 ACE scores of Jews in Damascus are taken to a gymnasium and massacred. Judea becomes a Roman province again under the leadership of a Roman official. During 117 ACE Judea becomes a property of Hadrian. He will visit in 129 ACE and disgrace the Jewish people by building a pagan city on top of the cite of where Jerusalem had stood. From that date until the Arab conquest the Jews are forbidden to live in the city.

Greek Philosophy

During the Greek Golden Age, art and philosophy expressed

hellenic “weltanschauung”, their unique outlook on the world and

way of life. Through the works of artists, playwrights, and

philosophers, one can see both sides of the conflicted systems of

the world, such as; good vs. evil, order vs. chaos, stability vs.

flux, relativism vs. absolutism and balance and harmony.

The Greeks were materialists. They adopted the philosophical

doctrine which says that physical matter is the only reality in the

universe; everything else, including thought, feeling, mind and

will can be explained in terms of physical laws. Their materialism

was expressed in an excessive regard for worldly, beautiful

material things and concerns. They used their art to show the

glories of humanity and man. The sculptors of the Golden Age aimed

to create graceful, strong and perfectly formed figures. Their art

showed natural positions and thoughtful expressions rather than

abstract art forms. Their standards of order and balance became

standards for classical art in western civilization.

The Greeks were proud of their temples and other architecture,

made to honor the gods and beautify the polis (city-state). Their

famous architectural styles were the heavy Doric columns and the

slender scrolled Ionian columns. The Parthenon, the Greek temple

for the goddess Athena, is a impeccable example of symmetry and

proportion. The sides of the Parthenon give an optical illusion of

perfect balance on all sides. Their desire for balance in art and

architecture represents the balance of the world; order and

moderation are expressed in the simplicity of lines and shapes.

The resulting overall structure works together to achieve harmony.

In ancient Greece, public drama was more than entertainment.

It was a form of public education. It dealt with issues of

importance to the people, such as; the authority of the leaders,

the power of the people, questions of justice, morality, wars,

peace, the duties of the gods, family life and city living.

Aeschylus wrote about the furies and how they punished man for

wrongdoings. This shows that he believed that chaos would be

punished because order (and law) is the ideal state.

Sophocles is best known for his plays of Oedipus. Those plays

dealt with family and civic loyalty. The Greeks emphasized,

particularly in their plays, the importance of loyalty as a goal to

strive for.

We learn a lot about Greek views through their philosophy,

which literally means the love of knowledge. The Greeks educated

through a series of questions and answers, in order to better teach

about life and the universe.

The first philosopher was Thales. He believed in absolutism

and eternal matter. He said that water was the original matter and

that without it, there would be no life.

Parmenides stated that stability and permanence were the

underlying conditions of the universe. He believed that change is

only an illusion and that one’s senses can only grasp superficial

realities of change.

Heroditus argued with Parmenides saying that change was the

basic condition of reality. He further claimed that all permanence

was false. Thus he saw things as naturally being in flux rather

than a stable state.

Democritus argued with both Parmenides and Heroditus. He

insisted that there is nothing spiritual and that only matter

existed. He then went on to say that everything is made of little

invisible particles, hooked up in different arrangements. He was

an atomist.

The Greek philosophers went on to question the nature of being

and the meaning of life. Pythagoras was the first metaphysicist,

one who studies beyond physical existence. He believed in a

separation between spirit and body, an opposition between good and

evil and between discord and harmony.

In the 5th century, the Greeks learned from Sophists, who

believed that the views of society are standards and the sole

measurement of good, truth, justice and beauty. Protagoras was a

sophist. He said that, “man is the measure of all things.” He

believed in a constant flux, and that nothing is absolutely right

or wrong, but subject to change. His view is much like that held

by Parmenides.

The philosophers then asked a question such as; what would

happen if things that were wrong were seen by society as

acceptable? What, for example, if society condoned murder?

Socrates was one who argued this point of view. He stressed truth

as absolute, not changeable depending of the thinking of society as

a given time. He believed in set standards of ethics. He said

that right and wrong can be figured out on an absolute level. If

one understands the truths, he can live a good life, without evil.

Plato agreed with Socrates. He, too, said that morals,

ethics, as well as matter, were absolute. He stated two levels of

existence; the physical world of “shadows” and the real world of

“ideas”. Plato wanted a philosopher-king who would stress harmony

and efficiency, as Plato did.

Another philosopher, Aristotle, believed in a world of

moderation and balance. He disagreed with Plato’s two levels of

existence. Instead, Aristotle said that all functions of the soul

die with the body and that there is no afterlife. Aristotle also

said that truth followed logically from other truths. One must

reason, step by step, before reaching conclusions.

Greek thinkers assumed that the universe was put together in

an orderly way. They insisted that people could understand their

laws, merely, through the process of reason.

There were many conflicting ideas among the elite of ancient

Greece, of what the “Greek outlook” is. Our western society has

learned a lot from the Greeks. We inherited their art and love of

symmetry, their literature and understanding of man, their

philosophies which stimulate our thinking, causing us to ask

questions about our existence. As modern and knowledgeable as we

are today, we would not be nearly as sophisticated if not for our

ancestors the great thinkers of Greece in ancient times.

Jantzen, Steven L., Krieger, Larry S., Neill, Kenneth. World

History, D.C. Health & Company: Massachusetts, 1988.

The American Heritage Dictionary, Dell Publishing Co. Inc.,

New York, 1986.

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