300 - 200 BC, the Holy Land

Judea was drawn slowly into the poltical arena. It lay within the territory controlled by Ptolemy of Egypt, which already had a substantial Jewish community. Alexandria in particular had a large Jewish populace which lived in religious freedom after 250 BC. New generations grew up Jewish in religion but Greek in culture. In Alexandria, a great work of scholarship was undertaken in which the Jewish sacred writings were translated into Greek (the Septuagint) and so made available to the wider world.

Some Jews found an affinity for the austere balance of Greek philophy which they had never felt for the pagan religions of the older civilizations. At the same time, the world was outgrowing the old paganism and finding academic philosophy no substitute. Many people were attracted to the monotheism and morality of the Jews, if not to their strict and separatist legal code.

In Jerusalem, the tide of Hellenization was resisted even through 30 new Greek cities were built in Palestine alone. Tension grew between those willing to accommodate to the new culture and those unwilling to vary from the rigid ways of their fathers and their books.

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