This essay introduces similarities and differences between the Hebrew and Greek cultures.
|The Hebrews vs. The Greeks:
Differing Religion-Based Societies
Though both the Hebrew and Greek societies are based directly on religion, they had many distinct differences. The Hebrew society was based on a monotheistic religion (Reader, p.21) while, on the other hand, the Greek society was based on a polytheistic religion (Reader, p.30). However, both nations virtually had a nationwide religion. The Hebrews kept their culture to themselves while the Greeks spread their culture to other nations and societies. The Hebrew nation was separated into different tribes while the Greek nation was separated into different city-states. The Hebrews were generally located in the southeast Mediterranean. The Greeks were located in the north Mediterranean. Both nations had distinct rulers at different periods of time. There were many differences and similarities between these two cultures.
Both the Hebrews and the Greeks had effectively a nationwide religion. However, they believed in different forms of religion. The Hebrews believed in only one God. “And God spoke all these words, saying,… You shall have no other gods before me” (Reader, p.21). They believed in strict devotion to their one God. The Hebrews did so much as to even follow a set of commandments from their one God. They followed these commandments with stern fidelity (Reader, p.21).
The Greeks, on the other hand, believed in many Gods. They followed these Gods with less fidelity than the Hebrews, but they enforced their religion nationally. “…Plutus, the god of riches, is blind…” (Reader, p.31). They believed that these Gods even made their laws. Some of these laws were called Rhetras. “These laws were called the Rhetras, to intimate that they were divine sanctions and revelations” (Reader, p.31).
The Hebrews kept their own lands. They weren’t, for the most part, an empiric people. They preferred to keep to themselves. They shared their religion with each other but kept away from spreading their religion to other nations and countries. Though they believed in helping their fellow men, they seemingly had an attitude of helping themselves and their close family and friends first (Reader, p.24). “Then Job answered: Teach me, and I will be silent…” (Reader, p.24). The Hebrews had a sense of superiority over other nations and people. They believed in exalting themselves over exalting others. “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?” (Reader, p.25). At times, they were even angry that other nations weren’t disempowered by their God. “The wicked… Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them” (Reader, p.25).
The Greeks were entirely dissimilar to this. They ran an empiric culture. They spread their power and cultural beliefs. At times, their nation spanned enormous distances. The Greeks alleged to assimilating other people into their own culture. They would conquer a nation and then teach their beliefs and policies in that nation. They prompted change and assimilation not only in other nations, however, but also in their own country (Reader, p.30). “The very songs… were exhortations to obedience and concord,… and had so great an influence on the minds of the listeners, that they were insensibly softened and civilized” (Reader, p.30).
Both the Hebrews and the Greeks were united as one nation but separated into different groups. The Hebrews were separated into twelve different tribes. These tribes were named after the sons of Jacob. Though united, the Hebrews often had struggles between tribes (Reader, p.27).
The Greeks, though united also, were separated into different city-states accordingly. Unlike the Hebrews, however, the city-states were based more on location than birth. These city-states, also, had struggles against each other at differing times. Rulers of city-states fought between one another for small power gains (Reader, p.30). “When things were ripe for action, he gave orders to thirty of the principal men of Sparta to be ready armed at the market-place by break of day, to the end that he might strike a terror into the opposite party” (Reader, p.30). The leaders of different city-states attempted to work together sometimes, but, much of the time, fought against each other. “After the creation of the thirty senators, his next task, and, indeed, the most hazardous he ever undertook, was the making of a new division of the lands” (Reader, p.30).
The location in which the Hebrews and Greeks were located told a story in itself. The Hebrews were situated on the southeast Mediterranean. While having quite a deal of fishing in the coastline lands, most of the Hebrew economy was in farming and raising livestock. The keeping of their farmlands and livestock was essential for their survival. So, the Hebrews placed strict laws for protection of personal property and land (Reader, p.22). “When a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard” (Reader, p.22). The Hebrews even covered the protection of one man’s animal from another. “When one man’s ox hurts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the price of it; and the dead beast also they shall divide” (Reader, p.22).
The Greeks, unlike the Hebrews, were located on the north Mediterranean. Their society was built greatly on fishing in the Mediterranean. It was also based greatly on trading over the Mediterranean. Their location enabled war by sea instead of war by land entirely. This compelled them to develop great sea-faring warships and trade ships. War at sea was a great part of their society (Reader, p.42). “… they should train and instruct them in war, by habituating them to defend themselves” (Reader, p.31).
Their location also brought many enemies on land. This caused them to spend much of their time and efforts into defense of themselves, along with their expansion (Reader, p.32). “… their husbands, who spent the best part of their lives in the wars…” (Reader, p.32). The men’s point in life was to become great defenders and soldiers. Education came second in their priorities. They had to be ready at all time to defend their country. “Reading and writing they gave them, just enough to serve their turn; their chief care was to make them good subjects, and to teach them to endure pain and conquer in battle” (Reader, p.33).
Both the Hebrews and the Greeks had very distinct rulers at different periods of time. Even though struggles ensued between Hebrew rulers, they always held their leaders in very high esteem. Hebrew leaders were nearly always divine, or appointed as a leader by God. Many of them were esteemed as prophets and believed to receive divine prophecy and revelation from God (Reader, p.21). “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments…’” (Reader, p.21). Many of their leaders were believed to have talked to and seen their God themselves. “… Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven’” (Reader, p.21).
Greek rulers, unlike Hebrew rulers, weren’t held as divine leaders as often. They were usually held in very high esteem. However, they typically weren’t the great thinkers of the time (Reader, p.30). “…’for kings indeed we have,’ they said, ‘who wear the marks and assume the titles of royalty, but as for the qualities of their minds, they have nothing by which they are to be distinguished from their subjects…’” (Reader, p.30).
Both the Hebrews and the Greeks based their philosophies almost entirely upon the principles of virtue. The Hebrews, however, did this in a more bold way. Their scriptures and commandments were based completely on being virtuous. Their commandments were set in place to bring virtue to the people. “You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness…” (Reader, p.21). The Hebrews felt very strongly about being virtuous and praiseworthy.
The Greeks also believed in being virtuous, but their idea of virtue was somewhat different from the Hebrews. They believed in ejecting greed, lavishness, and offense from their land. They wanted peace, tranquility, and a common belief in their polytheistic religion. (Reader, p.30). “… therefore, that he might expel from the state arrogance and envy, luxury and crime, and those yet more inveterate diseases of want and superfluity…” (Reader, p.30) They, like the Hebrews, wanted a more wholesome government as well as a more wholesome people.
The Hebrew and Greek civilizations had many differences and even more similarities. The Hebrews were monotheistic while the Greeks were Polytheistic. The Hebrews kept their culture to themselves. The Greeks spread and assimilated other people into their culture and religion. Whether into tribes or city-states, both the Hebrews and Greeks were separated into different factions. The Hebrews were located around the southeast Mediterranean. The Greeks were situated on the north Mediterranean. Both civilizations had very distinct leaders and rulers. Though in different locations and different circumstances, both the Hebrew civilization and the Greek civilization believed in being praiseworthy and strong in virtue. They were exceptionally strong in all of their beliefs.