"The cultural roots of the world of first Christians were embedded in Hellenism" - John Drane

The hellenist movement created a cultural unity within the Greek controlled territory ruled by the Romans. The hellenistic approach was embraced by the Romans which is reflected in their reinterpretation of the Greek polytheistic religion, the architecture of the Empire and also the continued use of Greek as a primary language. 

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The Rise of Hellenism

Hellenism was a movement which began during the reign of Alexander the Great. The movement sought to unify the Greek territories. Alexander had a huge appreciation of his Greek heritage and felt that the Greek way of life would benefit all aspects of society and civilisation would meet its ultimate goal. 

Within Palestine, hellenism wasn't entirely embraced for both political and religious reasons. Initially, the leaders of the Greek empire had not enforced this way of life however, in the 2nd Century BC, Antiochus Epiphanes sought to enforce hellenism upon the people. He saw that it was illegal to observe Jewish customs and dedicated the Temple to the God Zeus which promptly led to the Maccabean uprising. 

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  • School of thought from the 4th Century BC 
  • F.F. Bruce argues this was an essentially "materialist doctrine" 
  • John Drane describes that the Epicureans viewed death as the end of existence and that the persuit of pleasure was the key to a good life
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  • movement of the philosopher Zeno and the Stoa Poikole (porch) from which he taught
  • Zeno argued "the world and its people depend on one principle: reason)"
  • A good life was one where one lived in harmony with nature and according to conscience 
  • Brown argued the Stoic believed "virtue is the only good"
  • Believed that "the universe is a single organism energised by a 'world soul' or 'LOGOS', A FORM OF DIVINE REASON THAT GUIDES ALL THINGS" 
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  • intellectual movements that developed during 1st Century 
  • unlikely therefore that Gnosticism existed in an organised form during the New Testament period 
  • Believed there are 2 worlds: World of spirit and a world of matter 
  • World of Spirit: God is present, it is pure and holy 
  • World of Matter: Corrupted and evil
  • Life's purpose is to escape the world of matter to the spirit world --> gaining salvation via an appreciation of the gnosis (knowledge of the supreme deity) 
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