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Chapter 3.8

HIS 104 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3.8: Second Temple Judaism, Temple Mount, Septuagint

Course Code
HIS 104
Daniel J. Gargola

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~ Chapter Three: From Classical Greece to the Hellenistic
World ~
Part 8: The Jews in the Hellenistic World
o Jews and Greeks had come into contact for centuries, especially in Egypt, where both nations’
mercenary soldiers served.
o In the second half of the 6th century BCE, the Persian king conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews,
who had been forced to migrate there earlier in the century, to return home to Judah.
o There, they were brought for a time under the control of one of the Hellenistic monarchies,
the Seleucids, with explosive results.
Second Temple Judaism (6th 2nd Centuries BCE)
o Jerusalem, the former capital of Judah, became the center of Jewish life and worship in the 5th and 4th
centuries BCE.
o There, on the Temple Mount, they rebuilt their temple.
Second Temple: The center of Jewish life and worship during the Hellenistic and
early Roman periods. The Second temple (the first having been destroyed by the
Babylonians in 586 BCE) was built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, remaining
until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE.
The only place where Jews could perform sacrifices by their law
Bustled with people, especially over Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkot
This large and richly decorated house of God, which only Jews were deemed
clean enough to enter, was also a central slaughterhouse where thousands
of animals were butchered and eaten at every holiday.
By charging for its services and soliciting donations, the Temple became as
rich as it was elaborate.
The People of the Book
o The Jews had long stood out at monotheists, bound to a single God by a national covenant, which
their ancestors had entered and forbidden to worship others.
o The Persian monarchy pushed subject peoples, including Egyptians and the Jews, to systematize their
o The Persians likely sent Ezra, a professional scribe to Jerusalem with instructions to collect
and organize the laws of the people.
Ezra seemingly compiled what is now the first part of the Hebrew Bible, providing
an authoritative account of the origins of the universe and the history of the Jews, as
well as a summary of their laws and observances.
o Over the coming centuries, the Hebrew Bible took shape as further texts were added to the Five
Books of Moses.
Judaism Translated and Revised
o The Temple, with its wealth, power, and scriptures, helped to maintain the unity of the Jewish
o Yet religious beliefs continued to change, and it took centuries to stabilize the Hebrew Bible.
o They also needed a Bible in the familiar language (Greek) that they could follow.
o From translation to interpretation was only a short step.
o The Septuagint incorporated changes that rationalized and softened parts of its message.
Septuagint: The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made in the 3rd century BCE.
From the Latin word septuaginta (“seventy”), which refers to the legendary seventy
Jewish scholars who worked on the project.
Social and Economic Change in Hebrew Society
o The Hellenistic period was fertile materially as well as culturally for the people of Palestine.
o The peaceful conditions fostered by the Ptolemies encouraged trade, and the vast expansion
of money set loose by Alexander expanded economic activity.
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