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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Semitic Origins of the NT

Jewish Perception of the Greek Language and Culture

By Jeff A. Benner

The book of Maccabees, one of the books of the Apocrypha, tells the story of the Jewish Revolt about 150 years before the time of the New Testament. The Greeks, lead by Antiochus Epiphines, conquered the land of Israel and forced the Jews to leave their national heritage and the Torah and begin following the Greek culture. Because of the Jews hatred for all things Hellenistic, including the culture and language, Judah Maccabee lead a revolt against Antiochus Epiphines, both expelling the Greeks and slaughtering those Jews that had adopted the Greek language and culture. This revolt demonstrates the Jewish hatred of the Hellistic culture and the incorrect assumption that the Jews freely adopted the Greek language during the time of the New Testament.


Josephus was a first-century Jewish historian who recorded Jewish life and sentiment during the time of the New Testament. In his work Antiquity of the Jews he writes "I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understanding the elements of the Greek language although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own language that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness: for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations". (Josephus, Ant.20.11.2)

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