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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Alexander the Great

Alexan´der the Great. This mighty king is named in the opening of the first book of Maccabees, and is alluded to in the prophecies of Daniel. These, however, are not the best reason for giving his name a place in this work: he is chiefly entitled to notice here because his military career permanently affected the political state of the Jewish people, as well as their philosophy and literature. It is not our part, therefore, to detail even the outlines of his history, but to point out the causes and nature of this great revolution, and the influence which, formally through Alexander, Greece has exerted over the religious history of the West.


Fig. 23—Alexander the Great

The conquest of Western Asia by Greeks was so thoroughly provided for by predisposing causes, as to be no mere accident ascribable to Alexander as an individual. The personal genius of the Macedonian hero, however, determined the form and the suddenness of the conquest; and, in spite of his premature death, the policy which he pursued seems to have left some permanent effects.

His respectful behavior to the Jewish high-priest has been much dwelt on by Josephus (Antiq. xi. 8, 4-6), a writer whose trustworthiness has been much overrated. The story has been questioned on several grounds. Some of the results, however, can hardly be erroneous, such as, that Alexander guaranteed to the Jews, not in Judea only, but in Babylonia and Media, the free observance of their hereditary laws, and on this ground exempted them from tribute every seventh (or sabbatical) year. It is then far from improbable that the politic invader affected to have seen and heard the high-priest in a dream (as Josephus relates), and showed him great reverence, as to one who had declared 'that he would go before him and give the empire of Persia into his hand.'

Immediately after, Alexander invaded and conquered Egypt, and showed to its gods the same respect as to those of Greece. Almost without a pause he founded the celebrated city of Alexandria (B.C. 332), an event which, perhaps more than any other cause, permanently altered the state of the East, and brought about a direct interchange of mind between Greece, Egypt, and Judea [ALEXANDRIA].

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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Alexander'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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