Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"The Rise and Fall of Alexandria, Birthplace of the Modern World", by Pollard and Reid.

Continuing on the last post, one things that struck me was the need for kings to be acknowledged as god-king, or at least descendant of God, but King. Alexander the Great certainly did this while having a historian in his train to record all of his great deeds. His generals broke the empire up and made themselves kings over different portions, but followed in the claims of being descended from deities. The Seleucid Empire followed this pattern with Antiochus Theos Epiphanes (Antiochus IV - "god revealed") being one who embraced this identity. What I didn't know was that the Ptolemies seem to have followed a similar tact, setting up their own deity, Serapis, and claiming they were descended from the gods. Ptolemy V also took up the name Epiphanes, proving that the Seleucids weren't the only ones who could do this. (Just to add to the trivia, John Paul Jones defeated the Serapis in his famous sea battle. That should teach the English to name their ships after an artificial pagan deity!)

In the end, it was the Romans claiming to be deities who broke the Greek empires. The main conflict with both the Christians and the Jews was that they refused to bow to a statue, unlike members of all the other religions. When a pagan philosopher, Celsus, wrote his rebuttal to the Christians he asked why, if Jesus were raised from the dead, that Jesus didn't bother to reveal himself to the philosophers. Everyone thinks they are so important! Jesus reveals himself to the humble and simple. Alexander brought along educated historians to chronicle his deeds. Jesus didn't bother. These other god-kings were all born of wealth and privilege. Jesus was born in a manger. The greatest education possible was provided to the other god-kings with world famous tutors being hired for this one purpose. Jesus trained to be a carpenter. Yes, everything was wrong. At least everything was wrong per the expectations of the philosophers.


Delirious said...

Very interesting. This is a part of history that I fully admit I know nothing about. lol

When you say that Jesus reveals Himself to the humble, what do you mean by "reveal"?

Looney said...

Thanks Delirious.

James 4:6 says -

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

We also see who Jesus spent time with and commended, as well as who he opposed in the gospels. Certainly I am proud, some I have been even more blessed that God should allow me to see Christ as my savior. When John the Baptist says, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?", it is talking about me.

Regarding history, there is too much to read. On the other hand, Alexandria was an important city for Christians as the Septuagint was translated there and figures into the books of the Bible written in the period between Malachi and the New Testament such as Maccabees. I always feel that studying related parallel history helps me to better understand the Bible, or at least makes it easier to put things into context.

Livingsword said...

Interestingly I have been having conversations lately with people about the fact that one of the titles of the Dali Lama is god-king….

I have always found it fascinating that the Romans initially thought of Jews and Christians as atheists for believing in only one God.

The conversation of Paul with the philosophers at the Areopagus is interesting in that it should how then as now philosophers can be incredibly close minded…

Delirious said...

I understand the principle of how God gives grace to the humble. That possibly is because the proud see no need for that grace, or think they have no sin. (or dare I add....they believe that there IS NO sin). :)But as we all know, we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

I wasn't sure what you meant by the word "reveal" as I had never heard it used in this context before. I think I understand what you meant now.

I wish I had a better mind for history and geography. My husband has incredible skills in these areas...hmm...could it be the engineering mind? lol Although I think his geography skills come more from collecting postage stamps. lol