As much as a good many discussions of the relationship(s) between Christianity and culture lack a certain degree of care and nuance, Ken has a number of highly astute insights, not least on issues related to the anthropology of the modern, Western Christian community. In addition, Ken’s irenic disposition in these lectures and in the colloquium that followed made his observations and suggestions all the more engaging.
Through his vast conquests, Alexander’s comparatively short life left several important marks on history:
Alexander’s conquests effected a substantial influx of Greeks into various areas around the known world, and these Greeks brought their distinctive culture with them (Ferguson 13). To be sure, the Greeks had already established several colonies outside the Balkan Peninsula by this time, but after Alexander’s conquests, the numbers of Greeks living in other lands and degree of their influence with these lands’ native peoples significantly increased (Ferguson 13; Schürer 1:11).
Alexander’s life allowed the culture that the Greek conquerors and settlers had carried with them to take hold more quickly and firmly in foreign soil than it might otherwise have done (Ferguson 14). This increased exposure to Greek culture was especially significant for the peoples of the Near East, including the Jews (Ferguson 14).
Alexander’s campaigns spread Attic-standard currency throughout the known world, and this distribution enhanced economic consistency also increased people’s economic interconnectedness (Ferguson 14; Wright 153).
The non-Greek world became vastly more acquainted with Greek philosophy and the use of it to describe a way of life (Ferguson 14; Wright 153).
The increased acquaintance with Greek philosophy entailed a general increase in the overall level of education (Ferguson 14). While this increase in education was certainly not evenly distributed throughout the empire (Schürer 1:11), more people were better educated and more literate than they had previously been, and this fact, combined with the use of Koine as a lingua franca for the Greek empire as a whole, increased communication among people from different cultures (Ferguson 14).
As Greek language and philosophy spread, so did Greek religion, though it too had begun to spread before Alexander’s time (Ferguson 14; cf. Schürer 1:11). In particular, Alexander’s conquests abroad significantly increased the adoption of Greek deities and the practice of identifying local deities with the members of the Greek pantheon (Ferguson 14; see Schürer 1:11–29).
The Alexandrian conquests effected greater urbanization in the lands they affected, tending to present the polis, rather than the countryside, village, or temple-state, as the fundamental backbone of societal structure (cf. Plato 414d–415e; see Ferguson 14).
Finally, despite the spread of things like similar language, philosophy, culture, and economics more broadly (Blass & Debrunner §2; Deissmann 59; Voelz 912, 931; Wallace 15, 17; Wright 153), Grecian conquest introduced greater opportunities for individualism as Greek conventions provided alternatives to traditional ones (Ferguson 14). In such an environment, perhaps contrary to what had gone before it, choices of individuals in the conquered lands could receive greater priority than the things that these individuals would have otherwise inherited from their communities of origin (Ferguson 14–15).
In large measure, therefore, Alexander’s conquests accelerated the development or increased the strength of Hellenic influences that were already beginning to creep toward many of the areas that he subjugated.
Although it certainly can be used otherwise, a progress tracking system like the one Paul Silvia suggests in his book How to Write a Lot seems to work best for writing that can be open ended: by following a regular writing schedule, projects can regularly and reliably come to completion. What happens, however, if one is working under a deadline (be it self-imposed or not) and, therefore, needs to develop a writing schedule backwards from this due date?
This spreadsheet is at least an elementary attempt to provide a tool for performing such a task. Yet, one obvious limitation of this spreadsheet method is that all the writing projects are arranged serially along the completion timeline rather than allowing for working on more than one project at once.
If anyone else should find this tool useful and has refinement suggestions, I would be very interested in seeing them. These formulae appear to work on Google Docs exactly as they do on Excel when that program is operated on a Windows platform, but to my understanding, Excel calculates dates differently on Mac OS than it does on Windows, so Mac users may need to adjust this spreadsheet’s formulae.
After Alexander’s death, his major generals divided his empire among themselves (cf. 1 Macc 1:8–9). Ptolemy inherited Egypt and soon obtained Palestine also, winning it over from Antipater, also known as Antigonus, who had held Palestine for the first twenty years after Alexander’s death (Ferguson 403; Turner 118–23). Seleucus received Mesopotamia and briefly held Syria (Bosworth 210–45; Ferguson 404), and Antipater and Cassander ruled Macedonia and Greece (Ferguson 16; Walbank 221–56). Nevertheless, although the empire had become politically divided, its language and culture essentially remained Greek (Wright 157).
Is academic writing more important than spending time with your family and friends, petting the dog, and drinking coffee? A dog unpetted is a sad dog; a cup of coffee forsaken is caffeine lost forever. Protect your real-world time just as you protect your scheduled writing time (Silvia 132).
Over the coming weeks, I plan to write a series of posts that outline some background issues that seem particularly relevant for New Testament interpretation. Of the numerous points of historical background that could be included here, four dimensions of the period leading up to the turn of the era will initially receive attention. These background dynamics will include: (1) the Greek conquest and its continuing effects, (2) the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean period, (3) the Roman conquest, and (4) sectarian developments within Judaism. As the series grows, if other areas suggest themselves as being particularly salient, thoughts about additional topics will certainly be welcome.
Lastly, as a final “programming note,” in this series, discussion of the hermeneutical justification for this background material’s relevance and its possible role(s) will be left to the side and addressed separately at some other point. For the present, an assumption of value, at least within the context of a certain kind(s) of interpretive activity, may simply be made, though some indicators of one possible means of justifying this material’s significance may be found in this blog’s first post.