The Impact of Judaism on the Greek Empire

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The Jews have been in Greece since the 4th Century BCE, and their presence had a lot of influence on different aspects of the Greek culture and religion especially during the Greek Empire (Tziovas, 6). There is considerable evidence that Jews influenced many advancements of Greece particularly in the field of architecture and education. Therefore, this paper will discuss how Judaism impacted the Greek empire through culture, religion, and education as revealed by Shurpin and NJOP.


            Judaism had a significant impact on the religion of the Greeks during the Greek Empire. Many of the Greeks at the time embraced Hellenism which involved belief in several gods and goddesses. However, Judaism through the Jews introduced the aspect of Monotheism (NJOP). The Jews believed that man was created through the image of God while the Greeks thought that gods and goddesses were in the images of humans. These conflicting views led to different religious opinions between the Jews and the Greeks during the Greek Empire. However, the element of Monotheism continued to spread quickly and its influence continued such that towards the end of the Greek Empire, Hellenism had lost its popularity among the Greeks (NJOP). Judaism also led to the emergence of Christianity. The Jews in Greeks were among the early founders Christianity, another Monotheistic religion. The introduction of Christianity further influenced the religious perspective of the Greeks and diluted their traditional religious beliefs (NJOP). Both Judaism and Christianity brought forth the Ten Commandments and Sabbath which were entirely new to the religious beliefs of the Greeks (Finkelman, 1477).


             Judaism influenced the culture of the Greeks during the Greek Empire. The Jewish population in the Greek Empire introduced various elements of Judaism culture which had a considerable impact on the Greeks’ way of life (Tziovas, 1-16). One of the significant aspects of Judaism culture that Jews introduced in the Greek Empire was circumcision. The Greeks did not practice circumcision as depicted in their ancient sculptures and arts. However, the continued practice of circumcision among the Jewish population in the Greek Empire influenced the culture of the Greeks (Aitken and Carleton, 24). Second, Judaism also introduced Sabbath traditions. Ideally, the Greeks did not observe Sabbath or its traditions. However, the continued Jewish practice which involved not working entirely during the Sabbath day significantly influenced the religious perspectives of the Greeks (Aitken and Carleton, 24). The Greeks during that time began to embrace the religious beliefs of the Jews and incorporated some of the elements into their mode of life. Third, Judaism introduced Jewish religious celebration like the Passover feast (NJOP).

The Jewish population in the Greek Empire continued to practice their religious festivities, and that had a considerable influence on the culture of the Greeks. Many Greeks also began to observe the Passover feast. Forth, Judaism introduced the food culture of the Jews. Jews strictly adhered to Judaism teachings on food. Judaism allowed Jews to take some food and avoid others. For example, Jews were only permitted to eat meat from ungulate animals with split hooves and some species of birds. Judaism prohibited Jews from eating animals like pigs (Regenstein and Regenstein, 116). Greeks did not have such prohibition, and the continued practice of Judaism by the Jews significantly influenced the food culture of the Greeks. Fifth, Judaism introduced the Hebrew language. Greeks spoke Greek and Judaism was only taught in Hebrew hence some Hebrew words were passed onto the Greek language. For example, the word gold in Hebrew is ‘kharutz’ while in Greek is ‘khrusos’ and the word pledge in Hebrew is ‘eravon’ while in Greek is ‘arrabon’

(Tziovas, 1-16). The Greek words are loan words from Hebrew and have almost similar pronunciation indicating Hebrew origin. Additionally, many Greeks that embraced Judaism had to learn Hebrew which was believed as the only accepted language in Judaism.

Sixth, Judaism introduced unique literature and arts into the Greek culture. Judaism had religious literature, the Torah. Torah was a unique form of writing that contained laws and rules that governed the Jewish way of life and had a considerable influence on the Greeks. The Jews also had a culture of embedding the Ten Commandments (known as the Law of Mosses) on stones and other materials (Shurpin). The culture quickly influenced the Greek arts during the Greek Empire where laws and additional relevant information and depictions were embedded on rocks, stones, and other durable materials (Shurpin). The seventh element is the architecture. Jewish population during the Greek Empire built temples for worship. The unique way in which they made their temples influenced Greek architecture. Many of the structures built during the Greek Empire had some elements of Jewish influence (Shurpin).


            Judaism had an impact on education during the Greek Empire. One of the significant influences of Judaism on education was through its influence on the Greek alphabet through the Hebrew language. The Hebrew language has had a considerable impact on the Greek alphabet (Shurpin). Most of the Greek alphabets have Hebrew origin. Additionally, Judaism involved a lot of teaching where Jews taught their children about Torah and the universal Judaism religion through the synagogue. The synagogue set-up, in which the Jews were taught, influenced the education in the Greek (NJOP). The Greeks began to use similar techniques and methods in educating their children about their culture and religion. Jewish education involved a leader (usually a priest-Rabbi) and people mostly children (NJOP). The Jewish education system played a huge role in influencing the education system of the Greeks during the Greek Empire. One of the significant elements of Jewish education was reciting and cramming important laws and scriptures of the Torah. The reciting and cramming aspect of Jewish education impacted profoundly on the Greek education at that time and has had some effects on modern education (NJOP).


            Judaism had an immense impact on Greeks during the Greek Empire. Judaism influenced the Greek culture, education, and religion which significantly transformed the belief and ideologies of the Greek. The influence of Judaism and especially its role in the foundation of Christianity led to the diminished importance of Hellenism in the Greek Empire. Judaism introduced circumcision, unique literature and arts, and religious-based food which were not present in the Greek Empire. Furthermore, Judaism influenced education through its synagogue religious structure and Hebrew’s influence on the Greek alphabet. Hebrew also had an impact on the Greek language where the Greek borrowed several vocabularies and words from the Hebrew. Therefore, Judaism played an essential role in the shaping of the Greek culture, religion, and system of governance during the Greek Empire. 

Works Cited

Aitken, James K., and James Carleton Paget, eds. The Jewish-Greek tradition in antiquity and the Byzantine empire. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Finkelman, Paul. "The Ten Commandments on the Courthouse Lawn and Elsewhere." Fordham L. Rev. 73 (2004): 1477.

NJOP. "Judaism Vs. Hellenism." NJOP, 2018,

Regenstein, J. M., M. M. Chaudry, and C. E. Regenstein. "The kosher and halal food laws." Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety 2.3 (2003): 111-127.

Shurpin, Yehuda. "Jewish Impact on Greek and Western Philosophy?" Judaism, Torah and Jewish Info - Chabad Lubavitch, 4 Aug. 2011,

Tziovas, Dimitris. "Introduction." Greece and the Balkans. Routledge, 2017. 1-16.

November 13, 2023


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