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What is Hellenism? Did it influence the early church?

Hellenism is the term used to describe the influence of Greek culture on the peoples the Greek and Roman Empires conquered or interacted with. Upon the Jews' return from exile in Babylon, they tried to protect their national identity by following the law closely. This led to the rise of the hyper-conservative Pharisees and their many added, unnecessary laws. About one hundred years after the Jews returned, Alexander the Great swept across western Asia, extending his territory from his native Greece, down into Egypt, and east to the border of India. The influence of the Greek culture continued past the first century B.C., when the Roman Empire took control of Palestine. The Pharisees' rival sect, the Sadducees, welcomed the Greek influence. The Sadducees were wealthy, powerful Jewish aristocrats who openly worked with their Gentile rulers to maintain peace and ensure a measure of political clout. All Jews were influenced by Greek culture, however. The Greek language was as well-known as the native Aramaic, the Jewish leadership changed from the God-ordained priesthood to the Sadducee-controlled Sanhedrin, and the law of the land more closely reflected Grecian laws than those given through Moses. Hellenism also expressed itself in minor ways, such as Saul taking the name Paul. Hellenism had a great influence during the early years of Christianity. Here are some ways Hellenism affected Christianity:
*****nosticism. One of the most dangerous influences of Greek thought on Christianity concerned Greek beliefs about the physical and the spiritual realms. Greek philosophy taught that the Earth was created NOT by the Most High God, but by an underling, several levels below, who instilled the physical nature of his creation with imperfection. The physical was seen as evil. Only the spirit was good. These beliefs manifested in several ways. If the physical is evil, then Jesus cannot be fully man and fully God; He either only appears to be physical, or He cannot be the Son of God. In the same way, if the physical is evil, there is no resurrection from the dead. Instead, "salvation" is reuniting in spirit with the High God.
*****Apatheia. Stoicism was a school of Greek thought that taught the best way to live was to understand nature and be in tune with it, reacting to it organically, instead of fighting against it. When nature is seen as an unstoppable force, personal desires melt away and a state of apathy . . . apatheia . . . is reached. Faced with misunderstanding and the constant threat of state-sanctioned persecution, the early church found comfort in this way of thinking. Steadfastness, courage, and self-control, even to the point of martyrdom, were highly valued virtues and gave Christians strength when their faith conflicted with the world.
*****Rejection of Monotheism. The Christian-Judeo belief in one God was completely foreign to the Greeks. They accepted other religions, wishing not to destroy nations, like the Assyrians did, but incorporate them. The Jewish, and later Christian, insisted on keeping their religion pure amused and sometimes angered the Greeks. It was the cause of the Maccabean Revolts, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and the martyrdom of many Christians. Hellenism did not infiltrate the Christian belief of monotheism, but it did reject it, and Christians (and Jews) paid a heavy price for their faithfulness.
*****The Septuagint. During the time Jews were dispersed to Babylon and farther places, many lost the ability to speak and read Hebrew and thus could not read the Scriptures. With the establishment of Greek as the universal language, a solution presented itself. From the 3rd century B.C. to 132 B.C., Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. The resulting text, called the Septuagint, is what most of the New Testament writers quote. It also introduced the Greek word Christ for the Hebrew Messiah.
*****Apologetics. Even the word apologetics comes from Greek. It means “the practice of defending a belief through a logical speech or explanation.” The actual word is found in Paul's explanation to Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26:2), his defense of the Gospel to the Philippians (Phil.1:7,16), and Peter's admonition to always have an answer ready (1 Pet.3:15). Paul and later Christian apologists used several Greek methods to argue for the validity of Christianity.
*****Logos. John 1:1 is one of the many examples in which Christian Scriptures use Greek concepts to explain a truth: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This "Word," refers to Jesus, is the Greek logos. Logos originally meant “an opinion, word, speech, or reason,” but the Stoics came to associate it with the spiritual creative force in the Universe . . . reason within the physical. This is related to Plato's "form," which he defined as the ultimate, perfect model held in the mind or realm of the Creator on which earthly things are based. Jesus’ identification as the logos means that His teachings directly reflect the universal truths of creation.

Although Greek culture exerted influence on the spread, language and culture of Christianity, and even produced unbiblical cults, it did NOT affect the orthodox Gospel. The story of a single, triune God, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ remain absolutely untouched by Hellenism. Martyrs went to their graves to make sure the Gospel message stayed true. Hellenism in the days of the early church remains an example of how to use a culture to spread the message while not allowing the culture to change the message.

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What Is the New Covenant?

What Is Total Depravity?

What Is Trinitarianism?

What Is Universalism?

What Is Unlimited Atonement?

What is . . . WHO are the Elect?

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