The Hellenistic period and the Hasmoneans – 19
With the conquest of the Middle East by Alexander the Great (331 BCE), Judah confronted a new cultural context, different in important ways from the cultures of Mesopotamia that had dominated the region for almost 500 years. The dilemma of how to draw the line between faithfulness to the Torah and acceptance of values and behaviors from the dominant culture became more complicated during the Hellenistic period than in the days of the First Temple. The same problem of the connection between political and cultural independence continued to exist, but was made more difficult by certain emphases of Hellenistic culture: on individualism, on cosmopolitanism, and on rationalism. These qualities made it possible for the individual Jew to define an integrated identity, incorporating elements of both Jewish and Hellenistic cultures. Thus, the meeting with Hellenism confronted Judaism with new challenges.