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From Alexander to Jesus

From Alexander to Jesus

Ory Amitay
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    From Alexander to Jesus
    Book Description:

    Scholars have long recognized the relevance to Christianity of the many stories surrounding the life of Alexander the Great, who claimed to be the son of Zeus. But until now, no comprehensive effort has been made to connect the mythic life and career of Alexander to the stories about Jesus and to the earliest theology of the nascent Christian churches. Ory Amitay delves into a wide range of primary texts in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew to trace Alexander as a mythological figure, from his relationship to his ancestor and rival, Herakles, to the idea of his divinity as the son of a god. In compelling detail, Amitay illuminates both Alexander’s links to Herakles and to two important and enduring ideas: that of divine sonship and that of reconciliation among peoples.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94817-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ix)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The idea for this book was conceived more than a decade ago near the tiny hamlet of Malana, situated in the modern-day Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, three or four days’ march from the fonts of the Hyphasis River. It is a small settlement, a mere five hundred strong when I visited there in the mid-1990s. Its inhabitants are secluded from their neighbors by language and custom, live by their own sacred ancestral law (dealing in depth with matters of purity) and are, in fact, a people unto themselves. They tell the following story: When Alexander the Great marched through...

  5. 1 Son of Man, Son of God
    (pp. 9-26)

    Herakles begat Hyllos; Hyllos begat Kleadates and he Aristomachos; Aristomachos begat Temenos, who ruled in Argos.¹ Three of the descendants of Temenos went from Argos as exiles; the youngest of these, Perdikkas, became the ruler of the Macedonians. Perdikkas begat Argaios, Argaios Philippos and Philippos Aeropos; his son was Alketes and his Amyntas. Amyntas begat Alexander, who ran thestadionin Olympia and was recognized as a Greek from Argos by theHellenodikai—the official referees of the ancient Olympic games.² This Alexander bore Amyntas and he Arrhidaios and he Amyntas, who was King.³ His son was Philippos, who subdued...

  6. 2 In the Footsteps of Herakles
    (pp. 27-38)

    In the winter of 330/329 Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush from southwest to northeast. Crossing the snow-clad mountains was a bitter experience and his men suffered badly. High altitude, thin and freezing air, blinding snow and lack of provisions all took their toll. This solitary landscape put the Macedonian army through all kinds of suffering. Many soldiers and camp-followers never came down the other side of the path. It was certainly one of the expedition’s cruelest struggles against the elements.¹

    Somewhere in the middle of the mountain range the Macedonians reached a huge crag, some 1.8 km. in perimeter and...

  7. 3 The Passage to India
    (pp. 39-55)

    In late spring or early summer of 327 Alexander once more crossed the Hindu Kush—his Caucasus—and passed into India. His first stop was in the recent foundation, Alexandria in Paropamisadai, where he tarried for long months.¹ At this point he was met by a number of kinglets from the neighborhood. They showed great delight at his arrival, and congratulated him as the third son of Zeus who had come to visit them. Unlike his two predecessors, Dionysos and Herakles, known to them only from legend, he was there in person, to be seen and obeyed.²

    The implications of...

  8. 4 Symbiosis
    (pp. 56-77)

    In the previous chapters we followed the course of Alexander’s life from the Danube to the Indus, examining the appearances of Herakles along the way. We have seen how Herakles was a constant companion of Alexander in his long, arduous campaign. The importance of this companionship to a man of Alexander’s religious awareness cannot be overstated. Herakles had a unique life, one of constant toil and danger. His reward was ultimate: he became a God. Alexander’s extraordinary successes, equaling those of Herakles (at the Rock Aornos even surpassing them), brought about theological consequences of mathematical clearness. If the achievements of...

  9. 5 Amazon Queen
    (pp. 78-86)

    In the first half of this book we have followed the close relationship of Alexander with the myth of his ancestral Hero, Herakles. We have seen how the constant contact with the memory of Herakles served as encouragement in war, but also as a tool in diplomacy. In general, it provided a yardstick against which Alexander (and his contemporaries) could measure his achievements, and at the same time supplied the means to come to terms with them. Most importantly, the comparison of Alexander’s successes with those of Herakles both legitimized and encouraged his eventual deification.

    One of the fascinating aspects...

  10. 6 Post Mortem
    (pp. 87-103)

    Alexander’s death caught the world by surprise. Indeed, he was a relentless fighter and a heavy drinker, but he had escaped death so many times before, that he looked practically immortal.¹ Many fates now hung in the balance: of empire, of immense fortunes, of personal careers and innumerable lives. And so did Alexander’s myth. As we have seen in the previous chapters, the King was the chief author and promoter of his own myth. After his death, the band of flatterers, “those men who have always afflicted the affairs of kings and will never stop doing so,”² was left in...

  11. 7 Alexander and the End of Days
    (pp. 104-122)

    It is fair to say that no one who had ever met Alexander the man could remain indifferent; the Jews ofEretz-Israelwere no exception. Alexander, whose character never failed to capture the imagination of storytellers, became a frequent guest in Jewish literature.¹ How deep was his impact on Jewish perception may be learned from the following fact: from among the wide variety of Greek names given to Jews in antiquity—Antigonos, Aristoboulos, Dositheos, Menelaos and Iason, to name a few—Alexander’s alone remained popular after the demise of Greek aslingua franca. It has remained in use ever since....

  12. 8 Alexander and Jesus
    (pp. 123-146)

    The poem, titled “Jesus and Alexander,” makes a clear distinction between the two figures at the heart of this book. Their characters are diametrically opposed. The Macedonian lived a life of violence, enslaving those whom he met or drowning them in blood. “The Jew,” on the other hand, shed his own blood for the sake of humanity. Their personalities and situations are as different as can be: one was an agonistic and egotistic leader of men, the other walked selflessly and alone. The same dichotomy is apparent also in their respective fates: Alexander gained his victories in this world, Jesus...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 147-150)

    It is the narrowest of corridors, which leads from humanity to Divinity. A precious few have made that transition successfully, and kept their status over time. To judge by modern-day parallels: Michael Jordan is sometimes called “God” for his marvelous athletic skills and leadership qualities. Elvis Presley, a mere King, nonetheless has an active cult in North America with branches worldwide. But how long will basketball and rock ’n’ roll be played? Will they survive Jesus’ 2000 years (and counting), or even Alexander’s near-millennium in Augila?

    This book has covered a wide stretch from the early beginnings of Alexander’s career,...

  14. APPENDIX A. Alexander and David
    (pp. 151-154)
  15. APPENDIX B. Sacrifices and Other Religious Matters in the Alexander Histories
    (pp. 155-162)
  16. APPENDIX C. Alexander Alcoholicus
    (pp. 163-166)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 167-216)
    (pp. 217-232)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 233-246)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)