Had Alexander the Great (and his successors) have the idea on monotheism available to him, he would had been probably more successful in his dream of unifying different peoples. Christianity did find that and with the help of monotheism it send Europe towards the path of future unification. Indeed, religion is far from being the root of all evil.
The Israelites had a specific worldview, and they imposed that worldview; that radical new world view was monotheism. Alexander the Great knew that basic structures are part of any kind of Greek city in the Ancient World. And what Alexander the Great and his successors did was they took that basic Greek structure, and they transplanted it all over the Eastern Mediterranean, whether they were in Egypt or Syria or Asia Minor or anyplace else. One can travel right now to Turkey or Syria or Israel or Jordan or Egypt, and one can see excavations of towns, and it’s remarkable how they all look so much alike, because they’re all inspired by this originally Greek model of the city. Alexander and his successors Hellenized the entire eastern Mediterranean, and that meant, every major city would have a certain commonality to it. It would have a certain koine to it; that is, a Greek overlay, over what may be also be there, the original indigenous kind of cultures and languages. Just what was this high priest named Jason thinking, when he built a gymnasium in Jerusalem in 175BC; he also founded a Greek City structure.
The Greek polis, which is simply the Greek word for city, had several institutions that are very important; They all practiced a certain kind of Greek education. The Greek word paideia, means education, but it also means more than simply role learning or memorization or learning to read, like we think. Paideia is the Greek word that means the formation of the young man. Throughout all this it was mainly young men and boys who were educated, girls could be given some education, if their families were wealthy enough, but the cities didn’t really concern themselves so much with girls’ education. Their family might, but the cities concerned themselves with the education of their boys. So paideia referred to the education of the young man, both mentally, but militarily=so one was taught to fight=and culturally; one might be taught other things about culture. One might even have some music training or something like that. The place where this education took place was the gymnasium. Now a gymnasium doesn’t mean what it means in English, it actually comes from the Greek word for naked, gymnos. And the reason it was called ‘the naked place’ is because, of course, young Greek men always exercised in the nude and played sports in the nude. But this also became the place where one would do other kinds of learning. So if one was learning rhetoric, for example, you might practice giving speeches at the gymnasium. But also men in town would just kind of gather there, it was kind of a place where men gathered and they had gone to school at the same place. One would meet your friends, play games; so this would all take place in the gymnasium.
Another institution was what they called the ephebeia. When one was a young boy, one would have studied just reading and writing Homer. When one got to be 16 or 22 around their, one might enter the ephebeia; one would become an ephebe, and that just meant that one was past their sort of early secondary training and now one was being really in training to be a warrior and a citizen. They would march together in a parade in town. They would go on military training perhaps together. They would also engage in sports together, and they would develop a camaraderie because they were expected then to be the fighting force for their city, their city-state. So the ephebeia was this institution that every boy had to go through in order then to be a full citizen of a city.
Their also was these political structures, the first political structure is the demos. Demos just means the “people,” It’s just a Greek word for “the people.” But it actually referred more politically to all of the male citizens, and in Greek cities, by tradition, only men were citizens of a city. But all the men who were citizens had a vote, and the demos referred to that political body of voting men. Now they kept this idea that the demos=that is, the adult citizen males of a city-were a political body. And that’s when, if you had everybody come to the theater for a big debate about something, you could still have people voting in certain things that the city might decide to do, although they couldn’t rule themselves completely by themselves. Then they had a smaller council that might be 50 people. It varied the size, according to the city. The council was called the boule, and that referred to a smaller council of older men, usually, who made decisions that they then would put before the whole the demos the whole voting population. These are the basic structures that are part of a Greek City, and Jason just brought Alexander’s dream to Jerusalem.
Their was a group of former high priests, who have been dislocated and other priestly families withdrawing from Jerusalem, and apparently going out in the desert, and maybe building a community out there, and we find out about them in the twentieth century when the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the late 1940’s. So that may have been another way to respond to this increasing Hellenization in Jerusalem, to just pull away and from a different community.
The Romans, when they came on the scene, in the East, and they gradually became more and more powerful, they destroyed Corinth in a big battle in 144BC. Pompey was the Roman general who took over Jerusalem in 63BC. So the Romans were in charge of Judah from 63BC on. And this is very important, because the Romans, as their power grew in the East, they simply moved increasingly into the eastern Mediterranean and they adopted the whole Greek system, the Greek world, and they didn’t even try to make it non-Greek. So Romans didn’t go around trying to get people in the East to speak Latin. They might put up an official inscription in an Eastern City in Latin, but they’d almost always, if it was an official inscription, it would also be listed in Greek, So Romans who ruled in the East were expected to speak Greek. And by this time all educated Roman men were expected to be able to speak Greek, well if possible. So the Romans didn’t try to make the East Roman, in that sense, culturally, nor did they try to change the language. Greek language, culture, and religions, different religions and the syncretism, Greek education, the polis structure-all of these things remained in the East throughout the Roman rule of the East, all the way up until the time you had a Christian emperor with Constantine, and later. From this point on the creeds of man enter.