The second enlightened leader that influenced the Bible was Ptolemy II of Egypt. Under his leadership he established with his father the great library in Alexandria. This was the largest library of its day and time in the world. To fill the library Ptolemy II actively sought to put all of the holy works of the Jewish people in the library and to translate all of the works into the Greek language. This is how the Septuagint was begun. Ptolemy II put together a group of seventy two Jewish scholars to translate the books into one collection. The Septuagint became the oldest Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures (3rd-2nd c. BCE) and the standard version used in Hellenistic synagogues & early Christian churches. This allowed for Hellenization of the many of the Jewish customs and thoughts. This not only influenced Jewish thought of its day but it influenced all of its neighbors as well.
In this period of time we also see the fighting between the Ptolemy and Seleucid Empire for the control of Jerusalem. Finally around 200 BCE, the Seleucid Empire invaded and took over Judea. The new ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to suppress the practice of basic Jewish religious law, resulting in a Jewish backlash against Seleucid rule that ended with the Maccabees Revolt. For the little more than one hundred years under Ptolemy rule the Jews were allowed to maintain their customs and religion. However under the Seleucid this practice changed drastically. The Temple was desecrated and many of the Jewish customs were made illegal. Even the basic worship of God in the Temple was changed as Antiochus IV tried to impose false Gods on God's chosen people.
It is also interesting to note that Antiochus IV was the third great grandson of the founder of Antioch- Seleucus I. Seleucus laid out Antioch to be just like Alexandria with its grid-like pattern and four parts to the city. Antiochus IV completed the fourth quarter of the city during his reign and it was estimated that the city was the third largest city in the world around the time of the birth of Christ with an estimated population of six hundred thousand people. (Glanville Downey, Ancient Antioch (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1963)
Antiochus IV was not only interested in adding on to his capital city of Antioch, he wanted to add on to his empire as well. Antiochus IV invaded Egypt and wrestled Judea away from the Ptolemy’s. Instead of being respectful to the wants, cultures, and religions of the conquered people, Antiochus IV wanted all his new people to worship him and his beliefs. His new edicts with the Jews did not go over very well at all. In 1 Maccabees 41-51 we can see exactly how important these events were to the people of Israel. (Catholic Bible on Line)
41 The king then issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each nation renouncing its particular customs.
42 All the gentiles conformed to the king's decree,
43 and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the Sabbath.
44 The king also sent edicts by messenger to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, directing them to adopt customs foreign to the country,
45 banning burnt offerings, sacrifices and libations from the sanctuary, profaning Sabbaths and feasts,
46 defiling the sanctuary and everything holy,
47 building altars, shrines and temples for idols, sacrificing pigs and unclean beasts,
48 leaving their sons uncircumcised, and prostituting themselves to all kinds of impurity and abomination,
49 so that they should forget the Law and revoke all observance of it.
50 Anyone not obeying the king's command was to be put to death.
51 Writing in such terms to every part of his kingdom, the king appointed inspectors for the whole people and directed all the towns of Judah to offer sacrifice city by city.
The first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote his account of this and other Jewish history of the time period in his work Antiquities of the Jews. Chapter 1 of Book 1 explained in some detail what took place in Jerusalem during those days. (Scared Texts. com)
- At the same time that Antiochus, who was called Epiphanies, had a quarrel with the sixth Ptolemy about his right to the whole country of Syria, a great sedition fell among the men of power in Judea, and they had a contention about obtaining the government; while each of those that were of dignity could not endure to be subject to their equals. However, Onias, one of the high priests, got the better, and cast the sons of Tobias out of the city; who fled to Antiochus, and besought him to make use of them for his leaders, and to make an expedition into Judea. The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months. But Onias, the high priest, fled to Ptolemy, and received a place from him in the Nomus of Heliopolis, where he built a city resembling Jerusalem, and a temple that was like its temple concerning which we shall speak more in its proper place hereafter.
- Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city, or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there; but being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar; against which they all opposed themselves, and the most approved among them were put to death. Bacchides also, who was sent to keep the fortresses, having these wicked commands, joined to his own natural barbarity, indulged all sorts of the extremist wickedness, and tormented the worthiest of the inhabitants, man by man, and threatened their city every day with open destruction, till at length he provoked the poor sufferers by the extremity of his wicked doings to avenge themselves.
- Accordingly Matthias, the son of Asamoneus, one of the priests who lived in a village called Modin, armed himself, together with his own family, which had five sons of his in it, and slew Bacchides with daggers; and thereupon, out of the fear of the many garrisons [of the enemy], he fled to the mountains; and so many of the people followed him, that he was encouraged to come down from the mountains, and to give battle to Antiochus's generals, when he beat them, and drove them out of Judea. So he came to the government by this his success, and became the prince of his own people by their own free consent, and then died, leaving the government to Judas, his eldest son.
- Now Judas, supposing that Antiochus would not lie still, gathered an army out of his own countrymen, and was the first that made a league of friendship with the Romans, and drove Epiphanes out of the country when he had made a second expedition into it, and this by giving him a great defeat there; and when he was warmed by this great success, he made an assault upon the garrison that was in the city, for it had not been cut off hitherto; so he ejected them out of the upper city, and drove the soldiers into the lower, which part of the city was called the Citadel. He then got the temple under his power, and cleansed the whole place, and walled it round about, and made new vessels for sacred ministrations, and brought them into the temple, because the former vessels had been profaned. He also built another altar, and began to offer the sacrifices; and when the city had already received its sacred constitution again, Antiochus died; whose son Antiochus succeeded him in the kingdom and in his hatred to the Jews also.
- So this Antiochus got together fifty thousand footmen, and five thousand horsemen, and fourscore elephants, and marched through Judea into the mountainous parts. He then took Bethsura, which was a small city; but at a place called Bethzacharis, where the passage was narrow, Judas met him with his army. However, before the forces joined battle, Judas's brother Eleazar, seeing the very highest of the elephants adorned with a large tower, and with military trappings of gold to guard him, and supposing that Antiochus himself was upon him, he ran a great way before his own army, and cutting his way through the enemy's troops, he got up to the elephant; yet could he not reach him who seemed to be the king, by reason of his being so high; but still he ran his weapon into the belly of the beast, and brought him down upon himself, and was crushed to death, having done no more than attempted great things, and showed that he preferred glory before life. Now he that governed the elephant was but a private man; and had he proved to be Antiochus, Eleazar had performed nothing more by this bold stroke than that it might appear he chose to die, when he had the bare hope of thereby doing a glorious action; nay, this disappointment proved an omen to his brother [Judas] how the entire battle would end. It is true that the Jews fought it out bravely for a long time, but the king's forces, being superior in number, and having fortune on their side, obtained the victory. And when a great many of his men were slain, Judas took the rest with him, and fled to the toparchy of Gophna. So Antiochus went to Jerusalem, and staid there but a few days, for he wanted provisions, and so he went his way. He left indeed a garrison behind him, such as he thought sufficient to keep the place, but drew the rest of his army off, to take their winter-quarters in Syria.
- Now, after the king was departed, Judas was not idle; for as many of his own nation came to him, so did he gather those that had escaped out of the battle together, and gave battle again to Antiochus's generals at a village called Adasa; and being too hard for his enemies in the battle, and killing a great number of them, he was at last himself slain also. Nor was it many days afterward that his brother John had a plot laid against him by Antiochus's party, and was slain by them.
It is a very interesting argument that Protestant’s make saying the Maccabees is not an inspired work of God. This is especially true when you read the words of Mattathias in 1 Maccabees 19-22.
1 Maccabees 19-22 (Maccabees)
- But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: "Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, 20. Yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers. 21. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. 22. We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left."
Clearly seen by the events of what took place with the Greek influence that started with Ptolemy II and his desire to increase knowledge had a two edged sword when it comes to Bible history. By rejecting the Maccabees books, the Protestants reject the concept of purifying the Church- the very essence of their reasons to break away from the Church in the first place. If you can’t hold it holy to try to purify or correct the Church when they are doing wrong- then you can’t justify your justification that you are doing the same thing.
Overall, it helped to codify and preserve the writings of the Jews. It helped to share these writings with a new group of people by putting them in the language of the people – Greek. Since the majority of the people now spoke Greek instead of Hebrew. It also helped to destroy many of the customs that Jews held to be important like Temple worship and circumcision.
The truly inspired aspect of this research can be seen by this particular point, the Maccabees revolt was made by a group of Jews against the Hellenistic removal of the items that made the Jewish people Jewish. The interesting aspect about this one event is that writing about this fact includes the books of: 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, and 4 Maccabees. They were written about God's chosen people and their fight against outside influences that crept into their religion. This fact some people after the fact then decided that these writings should be included in the Bible- goes to the heart of the problem here. The four books of the Maccabees were written about the real problems and more importantly show future generations what people should do when it comes to outside influences when they try to over power your religion. The Catholic Church accepts the first of these books as part of their Bible. The Armenian Church accepts the first three books as part of their Bible. The Orthodox Church accepted all four books as part of their Bible. Yet under direction of “reformer” Martin Luther Protestants have refused to add these books to their Bible. By refusing to accept these books, Luther actually undercut a great deal of his own reasons to break away from the Church in the first place.
This simple fact of refusal becomes interesting because what would have happened if Ptolemy II would have refused to translate the Jewish Holy Works into Greek in the first place? What would have happened if the Septuagint wasn't written- what would the people have done in the time of Christ or in the early Christian Church times? More importantly what would have happened if the Maccabees had not rebelled against Hellenistic take over their religion? How could have Jesus come to Jerusalem two hundred years later to the Temple if the Temple was the temple of Zeus? God works through mysterious ways indeed. He inspired Ptolemy II and the results of this ended up with the Maccabees revolt. How can the writings about this not be inspired? If we pick and choose what we read or do not read we are acting just like Seleucid King who took over Judea his will on God's people. Therefore just like Cyrus the Great before him, Ptolemy influenced the complying of the Bible, the amount of Books that are in the Bible, and fact New Testament was even written in Greek in the first place.