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By Eliezer Segal

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He was moved by an intense expectation that the world was on the verge of an apocalyptic transformation. Like the authors of Daniel and of many apocalyptic visions that were being composed at that time, Jesus believed that God was about to overthrow the wicked Roman Empire and establish a new order in the world, the kingdom of God. Only those who have proven themselves righteous will be allowed to enjoy the wonders of the new world; all others will be excluded. Like his mentor John the Baptist, Jesus devoted his life to convincing his contemporaries of the urgency of preparing themselves to be worthy of admission to the kingdom of God.

They could also invoke the ancestral tradition in order to justify customs and institutions that had developed among the common folk or were borrowed from Babylonian and Persian cultures. Josephus states that the Pharisees were considered the most accurate interpreters of the law, and he suggests that they were influential enough to impose their own interpretations even on those who did not really accept them. To the extent that we may reconstruct a picture of Pharisaism based on the later evolution of rabbinic Judaism (and this must be done with much scholarly caution), it is evident that the Pharisees cultivated intensive study of the Bible and of other sources of their religious tradition, and that they believed that religious authority was founded on a person’s scholarly credentials.

A keystone of Greek life was the city-state, polis, the civic structure in which their society operated; therefore they attached great importance to the establishment of Greek-style cities throughout their empire, such as Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria. Involvement in the civic affairs of the polis was usually associated with religious rites. Although Alexander may have envisioned a unidirectional spread of Greek enlightenment to the barbaric frontiers, the actual historical process known as “Hellenism” was a far more complex phenomenon.

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