The Empire of Alexander the Great

Though the conquests of Alexander the Great are barely mentioned in the Old Testament and never mentioned in the New Testament, the eventual impact of his accomplishments upon the world of the New Testament can hardly be overstated. Alexander was born in 356 B.C. in Macedonia, a region in northern Greece that had formerly been subjugated by the Persians from 512 B.C. to 479 B.C. In 336 B.C. at the age of 20 Alexander assumed the throne of Macedonia from his father Philip II, and he immediately united all of Greece under his rule and launched a 10 year campaign with his army to overthrow the entire Persian Empire–a feat he accomplished without losing a single battle to the Persians. Technically speaking, Alexander lived between the Old and New Testament eras, but the prophet Daniel had foretold of Alexander’s actions in chapters 8 and 11 of his book. During his conquests, Alexander passed through Palestine on his way to Egypt, and the cities of Tyre and Gaza made futile attempts to stop him, thereby suffering devastating consequences for their resistance. The high priest of Judea, however, openly submitted to Alexander’s rule and spared the nation from destruction at his hands. Alexander continued his victorious campaign eastward through Babylon, Persepolis, Ecbatana, and Kabul, eventually bringing virtually the entire Persian domain under his rule. After reaching what was called India by the Greeks, Alexander’s army refused to continue pushing eastward, so Alexander was forced to begin the long journey home to Macedonia with his army. Along the way, however, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon in 323 B.C., and his empire was eventually divided among his generals. The impact of Alexander’s actions, however, lived far beyond his death. Besides founding or renaming over 20 cities with the name Alexandria (those most famous being the one in Egypt), Alexander united the entire eastern world under a common language, a simplified form of Greek called Koine. Eventually this led to a new translation of the Old Testament in Koine Greek (the Septuagint), and the New Testament was written in Koine Greek as well, because by that time it had become the most widely spoken language throughout the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Over the following centuries, many of these eastern peoples also adopted Greek values and beliefs in a process commonly called Hellenization (from Hellas, the ancient name of Greece). Many Jews in Palestine and throughout the eastern world were among those who adopted Hellenistic lifestyles and beliefs as well, often mixing them together with more traditional beliefs and practices of Judaism. Over time tensions in Palestine increased between traditional Jews and Hellenistic Jews, eventually erupting into open conflict under the leadership of Mattathias Maccabeus and his sons.

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