In the 4th Century B.C. Alexander the Great conquered a significant portion of the Mediterranean and Asian world, extending to Egypt (in Africa), Afghanistan, and northern India. Greek culture had already spread westward into Italy, Sicily, and elsewhere along the western Mediterranean coast.
The uninformed contemporary person may think of these far-off times as remote, and may think of communication and travel as limited. The fact is that until the invention of the steam engine and later the railroad that people traveled much the same way in Alexander’s time as they did during our American Revolution. Had Alexander colonized our Atlantic coast there would have been little time differential in sending a message from Boston to Charleston in 1300 B.C. as opposed to 1776 A.D.
I write this to say that with Alexander’s conquests came the spread of the Greek language, the language in which the Gospel would initially be primarily communicated, the language in which the New Testament would be written. Greek was not only the language of statesmen and scholars, it was also the language of commerce. Much as English is the language of air traffic control, Greek was the language of bills of lading, contracts, invoices, and correspondence. The Greek language was an ancient internet just waiting for the Good News that God had come to earth to bring mankind back to Himself.
It reminds me of when, as a young man, I lived in New York City. While there were ethnic enclaves in which you heard the language of the home countries spoken, the people in those enclaves also spoke English.
Another result of the spread of Greek culture in the east was the Hellenization of many Jews. Many Jews learned not only Greek, but also Greek culture, including the Greek classics. This set the stage for men like Paul the Apostle to use Greek culture and classical learning when communicating the Gospel; see Acts Chapter 17 for a look at Paul doing this in Athens.
Next post we’ll look briefly at the role the Romans played in setting the stage for the birth of Jesus Christ.