The Grecian spirit created a divide in Jewish society that eventually gave us the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees represented the priesthood and the preeminence of the temple and its accompanying sacrifices. They tended to be wealthier and to attract the wealthier elements within Jewish society. They evolved to believe that there was no resurrection, I would love to understand how they came to believe this and still take their religious duties seriously; but that will have to wait until another time. The Sadducees welcomed the Grecian spirit as another path to greater wealth and prestige to gain while traveling their lifespans upon this earth. They were the natural elements that allied with the Greek governments that were created by Alexander’s four generals after his death. As earlier stated, they even allowed Jerusalem to become a “polis” or Greek city named Antioch. The establishment of a Greek city called for a Greek military presence as well as Greek temples, education and the gymnasium. All of this was seen as nothing but good for the advancement of the young nobility of the Jewish nation.
This Grecian spirit led to an intermingling of faiths in Jerusalem. Jewish leadership was willing to make this compromise in order to obtain the fruits of a better life in flowing with the Grecian spirit that animated the powers to be. Compromise was the order of the day in Jerusalem, but outrage was being fanned among the large majority of Jews. Under normal circumstances the Grecian spirit was free to work its magic of reaching that place where all the roads lead to Rome, but there were other issues at play in the disintegrating Seleucid kingdom of Antiochus. He needed to shore up the strength of his kingdom and a Israel linked to his interests is what he wanted. He correctly saw that the religion of the Jews wouldn’t allow them to zealously partner with him in strengthening his kingdom. He therefore did something that was unheard of in the Greek world. He took direct actions to suppress and replace the Jewish national religion.
This created the atmosphere that led to rebellion; foreigners in Jerusalem was one thing but sacrifices to other gods on the temple grounds was too much to handle for most of Israel. There was a van guard in the resistance known as the Hasidim. As Antiochus took aim at the Jewish religion he assumed it would wither away. This led him to not only persecuting what he thought was a small fanatical minority, but speeding up the process of introducing the Syrian cults into temple worship that included temple prostitutes. This would culminate in what is called the “abomination of desolation” described in Maccabees and prophesied in Daniel. The civil disobedience engendered in the Hasidim was taken over by the Hasmonean family leading to the Maccabees rebellion that eventually led to an independent Israeli state.
In this new state the Hasidim evolved into the Pharisees. Whereas the Sadducees were linked with the upper classes and Jerusalem the influence of the Pharisees was far and wide throughout the country as well as any place where there was a Jewish population. They became the defenders of the faith. They believed in the resurrection and they faithfully awaited the Messiah. Their job was to shepherd a people who were faithful to the laws of God, a people ready to welcome and follow the Messiah when he came. Now we can gain greater insight into the conversations between Jesus, John the Baptist and the Pharisees.
We must take note that the Jews were the only people of all of Alexander’s conquered lands to not embrace the Grecian spirit. The “how” and “why” are answered by one word: Jehovah. For the Jew Jehovah was not a god, but the God.