intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
The new cosmopolitanism was made possible by the development of Koine, a bastard Greek dialect, intelligible to all Greeks and, unlike the pure Athenian Greek, easy to learn by barbaroi, foreigners. This new international language, which became the hallmark of the oikoumene, the new evolving Greek world civilization, made it possible for educated people from southern Italy, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, western India,and Eretz Yisrael to communicate with each other. Needless to say, the spread of Koine also facilitated the diffusion of Greek culture among the Barbaroi. There were no longer racial barriers; Hellenism became not a matter of race but rather of culture. Since "everyone could become good Greeks if they tried", Hellenism had an increasingly corrosive influence on local civilizations. The austere religious civilization centered around a modest Temple to an unseen G-d on an obscure mountain-top village in a Lilliputian Judean backwater was no exception. Josephus describes how the aristocratic Tobiads and their "cultured" friends "retired to King Antiochus (IV) and informed him that they were desirous to leave the laws of their country (i.e. the Torah), and the Jewish way of living… and to follow the king's laws, and the Grecian way of living." As a mark of royal favor, they were permitted to build a gymnasium, where unlike today, exercises and competitions were performed in the nude. "And when he (Antiochus IV) had given them leave, they also hid their circumcision (by undergoing a surgical operation), so that even when they were naked, they might appear to be Greeks" (Antiquities 12:241). Victor Tcherikover (Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews pg.183) explains the Hellenists' sad plight. "What was their aim? They sought to abolish Jewish particularism and to come to terms with the peoples around them. In this they were influenced by Greek views, since in Greek eyes, all exclusiveness was barbarism. The Jews therefore faced the alternative of being thought barbarians or of joining the Hellenist world…"
The medium of a common tongue and the intermingling of hundreds of nationalities brought about theocrasia - religious syncretism on a colossal scale. In Alexandria, the great conqueror set an example by building temples to the ancient Egyptians deities as well as to the Greek gods. Over the centuries, "The Persian Mithra cult was at least partially egyptianized; the Egyptian Isiac cult largely hellenized. Stoicism exerted an immense modifying influence upon Gnosticism. The Hermetic (magical) literature is such a blend that scholars are not agreed as to the relative proportion of Egyptian, Babylonian, and Stoic, Platonic… elements. We often cannot tell from sepulchral inscriptions to which cult the deceased belonged…" (S. Agnus, The Mystery Religions p.20). The process of oikoumene-wide theocrasia was well under way in the days of Antiochus IV, who called himself "The God Made Manifest". As the scholar and historian Elias Bickerman proved, the cult foisted on Am Yisrael by the extreme Hellenists and their royal ally did not follow the authentic rites of the Olympian Zeus.
The "Abomination of Desolation", to which swine were sacrificed on the Mikdash altar was Ba'al Shamin ('the Lord of Heaven'), a local Semitic equivalent, who could also serve the religious needs of the Syrian soldiers posted in the Acra, and the non-Jewish population "imported" into Jerusalem. I Maccabees mourns, "...whereupon the city was made a habitation of strangers, and became strange to those who were born in her; and her own children left her..." It is important to note that the soldiers stationed in the Acraand the non-Jewish "importees" were not racially Greeks, they were native Syrians with a thin veneer of Hellenization. After the crushing defeats of Antiochus III at the hands of the Roman legions at Thermopylae (192BCE) and at Magnesia (190BCE), Antiochus III was compelled to evacuate Thrace and Asia Minor. This effectively cut off the Seleucids from new sources of Greek manpower. The Macedonians and Greeks who come with Alexander and the waves of Greek immigration which followed them were in the process of merging with the local population. By Antiochus IV's time, a "Macedonian" was simply a soldier who was trained in the Macedonian fashion.
"Sacred prostitutes" were not found in Grecian shrines but they were quite common in Semitic temples. II Mac. 6 narrates dramatically, "...for the Temple was filled with riot and reveling, with gentiles who dallied with harlots, and had to do with women within the circuit of the holy places… The altar was also filled with profane things that the law forbade." It is likely that these "harlots" were Kedeishot - "sacred prostitutes" who certainly did not participate in any Jewish rite (Devarim 23:18).
Bickerman notes that "the Macedonian settlers, like their Assyrian predecessors (the Samaritans) would probably have accepted the G-d of Israel into their pantheon eventually, but such syncretism was not possible for the Jews (pg. 10). The historian Victor Tcherikover (p.194) points out that "…the local god was always the chief deity in the eyes of alien settlers and his cult had to be respected. It was nevertheless natural that, in the local deity, the Syrians should look to one of the gods known to themselves, so uniting the local cult with that of their homeland; and as the Jewish God was 'the Supreme God,' A God of Heaven, His identification with Ba'al Shamin (with a nod in the direction of the Olympian Zeus in the theocrasia spirit of the age), the chief god of the Syrian pantheon was taken for granted."
Summing up the reign of "The God Made Manifest", the celebrated historian F.E. Peters comments (Harvest of Hellenism, pg. 259), "While preparing for a new assault on Partha in Media in the spring of 163BCE, the Seleucid king fell ill and died, his sins, according to the exultant authors of Maccabees, scarlet upon him (sic.).(But) The (real) sin of Antiochus IV was that he was politically ill-advised on the problem of Judaea… Antiochus IV had grievances in Judaea, attempted treason among others, and this in a state where he tried a particular imaginative political experiment: the granting of the rights and privileges of a polis without at the same time, imposing a totally Greek form of political association…"
Catriel is in the process of writing a book: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service