Juggler of words and children…collector of pottery shards
What did Alexander the Great have to do Jesus?
When the doors close on the Old Testament, Israel’s world is pretty predictable. The language spoken is Hebrew. Worship takes place in the Temple, and God’s word comes to His people through the prophets.
But when we turn the blank pages between the Old Testament and New Testament we find the world completely changed! The primary language spoken in Israel is now Greek. The Temple in Jerusalem still stands but new centers of worship, synagogues, now dot the countryside. The prophets are silent. Three main groups of religious leaders have risen to take their place- Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes.
What happened in those 400 years?
His name was Alexander the Great.
He was young, so young…only 20-years-old when he became king, 32-years-old when he died, but Alexander conquered the world. What drove this young man to cross mountains, slay armies, and swallow entire nations by the strength of his will?
Parent problems, of course.
His mother, Olympias, was a powerful personality. She loved snakes and was rumored to even share her bed with them! Scheming Olympia started a rumor that King Philip was not in fact, Alexander’s father. She said Zeus had impregnated her. This, of course, would have made Alexander a demi-god. Alexander spent the rest of his short life pursuing the shining prize of his own divinity.
Alexander’s god complex was not the only driving force behind countless battles, and endless miles of conquest. He also desperately wanted to outshine his father, Philip. Philip The Great was an enigmatic leader and a fearless warrior. His people loved him, but he had a contentious relationship with his first-born son. When Philip was assassinated on the eve of battle, Alexander hardly took time to mourn. Instead he seized the throne and marched into battle in his father’s place. By the time he stopped, he had covered more than two million miles and swept entire kingdoms into his empire.
What does this have to do with Jesus?
Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the adoption to sonship.”
All history, you see, is God’s history. As Alexander was conquering he was unwittingly setting the stage for the coming Messiah. When we close the last pages of the Old Testament in Malachai, and then open the first pages of Matthew 400 years later we find the world greatly changed in the wake of Alexander. There is a new common language, Greek, that enables the good news of Messiah’s coming to spread. Rome is the new superpower, and both the relative stability of her reign and the extensive road system she builds allows for free travel that speeds the spread of the gospel.
Greek culture has been sown far and wide. The Jews of Judea realize they need to be proactive to counteract Hellenism and set up local places for worship and the study of the law throughout the land. These synagogues will become the perfect venue for the proclamation of the good news that Messiah had come!
God was still at work in those blank pages between the Old and New Testaments. In the words of my teaching partner, Kristi McLelland, the hand of God was preparing the nursery to receive the new born King of all Creation.