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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

Only occasionally does the Bible mention Greece by that name, though it frequently mentions parts of Greece. The ancient land of Javan, for instance, was possibly part of Greece ( Genesis 10:4;  Isaiah 66:19;  Ezekiel 27:13). In local language, Greece was Hellas, and Greeks were Hellenes.

Greece’s influence on the world of the New Testament came through events resulting from the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. Yet, though there was a Greek Empire, there was no ‘official’ Greek nation. The country known today as Greece consisted in those times of various separate states. The most important of these was the northern state of Macedonia, which was the centre of the Greek Empire ( Acts 16:12;  2 Corinthians 8:1; see Macedonia ). In New Testament times the region referred to as Greece was the southern part of the Greek peninsular known as Achaia ( Acts 19:21;  Acts 20:1-2; see Achaia ).

The Greek Empire

The rise of Greek power in the pre-Christian era was rapid and spectacular. Alexander the Great, having come to power in Macedonia in 336 BC, rapidly overran what remained of the Persian Empire, and within a few years ruled a region that stretched from Greece to India ( Daniel 8:5-7;  Daniel 8:20-21;  Daniel 11:2-3).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

(or Hellas; Lat. Grœcia , Gr. Ἕλλας)

The southernmost part of what is now called the Balkan Peninsula was the cradle of a race whose ideas contained the germs of our present Western civilization. As the religious life of mankind divides itself into the time before and after the dawn of Christianity, so the rational and political life of mankind divides itself into the time before and after the expansion of Hellenism. The mental activity of the Greeks in the great classical period, culminating in the 5th and 4th centuries b.c., made not only the Hellas of later times but all the world their debtor. The language they spoke, the art and literature they created, the spirit of liberty they fostered, and the philosophical temper in which they faced the problems of life, form essential elements in the finest modern culture. If criticism is, as M. Arnold said, ‘a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world’ ( Essays in Criticism , London, 1895, i. 38), the contribution of Greece can never be neglected.

Like Palestine, the other ancient home of great ideas, Hellas proper was a small country. The Hellenic part of the peninsula (to the south of Macedonia and Thrace), with the isles of Greece, was much the same in extent as the modern Greek kingdom-about 250 miles in greatest length and 180 in greatest breadth. In a large sense, however, Hellas was an ethnological rather than a geographical term, for it embraced every country inhabited by the sea-loving and enterprising Hellenes-all their settlements on the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean, on the coasts of the Hellespont, the Bosporus, and the Euxine Sea. As the west coast of the homeland was mountainous and harbourless, while the east was full of gulfs, bays, and havens, Greece turned her back on Italy and her face to the aegean and Asia Minor, so much so that in the 6th and the beginning of the 5th centuries b.c. the centre of gravity of Hellenic civilization is to be looked for in Ionia rather than in Attica, the moat famous names in science, philosophy, and poetry being at that time associated with the Asiatic coast or the neighbouring Cyclades. But the Ionian Greeks, isolated by the estranging sea and weakened by internal jealousies, were unable to offer a successful resistance to the Persian advance, and the glory of saving European culture is due to the Athenians who fought at Marathon and Salamis.

In the classical period, Greece was an aggregate of self-governing city-States, of which Aristotle surveys no fewer than 158. These States combined for once, with brilliant results, in face of the Asiatic peril, but they never afterwards seemed to be capable of united action. Wasting their strength and resources in fratricidal wars which gave now Athens, now Sparta, now Thebes, a temporary hegemony, they proved in the day of reckoning too feeble to resist the military power either of the Macedonian monarchy or of the Roman republic. The career of Alexander, the pupil of Aristotle, closed the Hellenic and opened the Hellenistic period of history. It created a world-Empire and a world-culture, both of which borrowed their best features from a Greece which was ‘living Greece no more.’ While the new order reinforced the old Hellenic elements in Asia Minor, it brought into being a vast number of Greek cities-the conqueror himself is said to have founded seventy-in lands hitherto barbarian. It made Greek the language of literature and religion, of commerce and administration, throughout the Nearer East. And when the Romans became the sovereign people, it was Greek rather than Roman ideals that they sought to make effective throughout their Oriental dominions. ‘The desire to become at least internally Hellenised, to become partakers of the manners and the culture, of the art and the science of Hellas, to be-in the footsteps of the great Macedonian-shield and sword of the Greeks of the East, and to be allowed further to civilise this East not after an Italian but after a Hellenic fashion-this desire pervades the later centuries of the Roman republic and the better times of the empire with a power and an ideality which are almost no less tragic than that political toil of the Hellenes failing to attain its goal’ (T. Mommsen, The Provinces of the Rom. Emp .2, 1909, i. 253).

Neither the Macedonians nor the Romans ever treated the conquered Greeks as ordinary subjects. The sacred land of art and poetry was not ruled like Egypt or Gaul. There was a province of Achaia, but never of Hellas, Such cities as Athena and Sparta were spared the humiliation of being placed under the fasces of a Roman governor and having to pay tribute to Rome. New Corinth, Caesar’s Roman colony, the least Hellenic of the cities of Greece, became the seat of government. Nevertheless, the free communities had little more than a simulacrum of their ancient power. The Roman governor could always make his voice heard in their councils, and a rescript from him brooked no delay in obedience. The right of bringing a proposal before the Ecclesia no longer belonged to every citizen, but was confined to definite officials, and the conduct of business was placed in the hands of a single στρατηγός. The citizens were always liable to be called to account for their proceedings (cf.  Acts 19:40), while the sovereign power could at any moment cancel the constitution of a free city, and take the offenders under its own direct administration. At the best, Hellenistic life was now sorely cramped by the limitation of its sphere; ‘high ambition lacked a corresponding aim, and therefore the low and degrading ambition flourished luxuriantly’ (Mommsen, op. cit. i. 283). Shadowy assemblies still convened, engaged in grave debate, passed solemn resolutions, made appointments, and distributed honours. But political life of a serious kind was a thing of the past. Hellenism as described by such a writer as Plutarch already suggests ‘a gilded halo hovering round decay’ (Byron, The Giaour ). ‘The general effect produced by the many pictures, allusions, references, illustrations which he takes from the Greek world of his times is that romantic adventures, great passions, monstrous crimes, were foreign to the small and shabby gentility of Roman Greece. The highest rewards he can set before the keenest ambitions are no better than if we should now fire our youths’ imagination with the prospect of becoming parish beadles, vestrymen, or at most town councillors’ (J. P. Mahaffy, The Silver Age of the, Greek World , 1906, p. 349).

The twenty years’ civil war, which ended in the transformation of the Roman Republic into an Empire, was calamitous to the Greeks, who seemed fated to be always on the losing side. They preferred Pompey to Caesar, Brutus to Antony, and they were compelled in the end to raise levies for Antony’s campaign against Octavian. The three decisive battles of the war-Pharsalus, Philippi, and Actium-were fought on the soil or the coast of Greece, and the contending armies almost bled the poor country to death. Many of its cities fell into decay, vast tracts of arable land were turned into pasture or reverted to the state of Nature, and ‘Greece remained desolate for all time to come’ (Mommsen, op. cit. i. 268). The dawn of the Christian era saw the nadir of her fortunes, the hour in which she was most neglected and despised. Thinking that an improvement might be effected by a change of administration, the Greeks petitioned Tiberius in a.d. 15 to transfer Achaia from the senatorial proconsul to an Imperial legate. This arrangement was sanctioned, and lasted till a.d. 44, when Claudius restored the province to the senate; whence there was once more a proconsul (ἀνθύπατος) in Corinth ( Acts 18:12). Nero, who posed as a Philhellene, was accorded so flattering a reception during a progress through Greece that he bestowed freedom and exemption from tribute upon all the Greeks; but Vespasian found it necessary to restore the provincial government in order to avoid civil war. Greece received its greatest Imperial benefactions in the beginning of the 2nd century.

‘As Hadrian created a new Athens, so he created also a new Hellas. Under him the representatives of all the autonomous and non-autonomous towns of the province of Achaia were allowed to constitute themselves in Athens as united Greece, as the Panhellenes. The national union, often dreamed of and never attained in better times, was thereby created, and what youth had wished for old age possessed in imperial fulness. It is true that the new Panhellenion did not obtain political prerogatives; but there was no lack of what imperial favour and imperial gold could give. There arose in Athens the temple of the new Zeus Panhellenios, and brilliant popular festivals and games were connected with this foundation, the carrying out of which pertained to the collegium of the Panhellenes, and primarily to the priest of Hadrian as the living god who founded them’ (Mommsen, op. cit. i. 266).

Even in the period of greatest depression Hellas still maintained her old pre-eminence in education, though for a time the universities of Rhodes, Alexandria, and Tarsus rivalled that of Athens. The life of studious ease was to be enjoyed in the cities of Greece as nowhere else, and Plutarch cheerfully turned back from the vulgar splendour of Imperial Rome to the quiet refinement of his native Chaeroneia. In all that pertained to good taste and humanity the Hellenes continued to bear the palm. Gladiatorial shows were never popular in Greece, except in the Roman colony of Corinth, and Dio Chrysostom (i. 385) expressed his disgust and horror when these barbarities began on occasion to be seen even in Athens.

In religious rites and ceremonies Greece was remarkably conservative. Pausanias ( Description of Greece [ed. J. G. Frazer, 6 vols., London, 1898]) records ( passim ) that as he went through the country in the 2nd cent. of our era he found the primitive worships faithfully maintained in every city and village by the simple, unquestioning natives. And the great religious festivals-Olympic, Isthmian, Pythian-never failed to attract crowds. It is a familiar fact that religious beliefs which science has discredited may still have a long life before them. Ever since the days of Plato the traditional religion of Greece had been ‘a bankrupt concern’ (Gilbert Murray, Four Stages of Greek Religion , 1912, p. 107). And among those who not only doubted or denied the existence of the Olympian gods, but turned in weariness and disappointment from Stoic, Epicurean, and Academic systems alike, there was a thirst for some deeper satisfaction of the soul’s wants. When Alexander’s empire extended the bounds of knowledge, attention began to be directed to foreign faiths, and Oriental mysteries gradually came into vogue. Sacrifice and prayer to Hera or Athene were replaced by the orgiastic worship of Cybele or the mystic rites of Isis. The Eleusinian Mysteries-the cult of Demeter and Cora-constitute ‘the one great attempt made by the Hellenic genius to construct for itself a religion that should keep pace with the growth of thought and civilization in Greece’ (W. M. Ramsay, Encyclopaedia Britannica 9 xvii. [1884] 126). The only native gods of Greece who could hold their own against foreign rivals were the mystery-deities, Dionysus and Hecate. The cult of Isis secured a foothold in the aegean islands, spread to Attica in the 3rd cent. b.c., to Rome in the 1st, and ultimately established itself throughout the wide Roman Empire, as the adoration of the Madonna has done in the Catholic world. ‘The great power of Isis “of myriad names” was that, transfigured by Greek influences, she appealed to many orders of intellect, and satisfied many religious needs or fancies’ (S. Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius , 1904, p. 569). Christianity was preached in some of the leading cities of Greece soon after the middle of the 1st cent. (see Athens and Corinth), but made slow progress throughout the country, where paganism, in one form or another, maintained itself till about a.d. 600.

Ionia (Javan) was known to the later Hebrew prophets ( Ezekiel 27:13,  Isaiah 66:19), and the Jews of the 2nd cent. b.c. came into touch with Greece proper. References to Athenians and Spartans occur in 1 Maccabees 12-14,  2 Maccabees 6:1;  2 Maccabees 9:15; a long list of Greek cities is found in  1 Maccabees 15:23; and, according to  1 Maccabees 12:6, Jonathan the Hasmonaean greeted the Spartans as brethren and sought an alliance with them against Syria. During the Maccabaean conflict the term ‘Greek’ came to be used by strict Jews as synonymous with anti-Jewish or heathen ( 2 Maccabees 4:10;  2 Maccabees 4:15;  2 Maccabees 6:9;  2 Maccabees 11:24), and ‘Hellenism’ as identical with heathenism (4:10). See Hellenism.

Literature.-A. Holm, History of Greece , Eng. translation, London, 1894-98; J. P. Mahaffy, A Survey of Greek Civilisation , do. 1897, Rambles and Studies in Greece 3, do. 1897, and Progress of Hellenism in Alexander’s Empire , do. 1905; J. G. Frazer, Pausanias and Other Greek Sketches , do. 1900; J. A. Symonds, Sketches and Studies in Italy and Greece , do, 1898; L. R. Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States , 5 vols., Oxford, 1896-1909, The Higher Aspects of Greek Religion , London, 1912; articles ‘Graecia’ in Smith’s DGRG [Note: GRG Dict. of Greek and Roman Geography.], ‘Greece’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Encyclopaedia Biblica , ‘Griechenland’ in RGG [Note: GG Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart.].

James Strahan.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Its mountainous nature has played an important role in the development of the country. First of all, it has an unusually long shoreline for such a small area, resulting from the fact that there are numerous bays and inlets, giving it many natural harbors. Since its mountains were heavily forested in earlier times, shipbuilding and the sea trade developed. Secondly, the rough terrain discouraged a sense of unity among its people since communication between them was not easy. Finally, the land for agriculture, while fertile, was limited so that what was produced could not sustain a large population. Small grains, grapes, and olives were the main agricultural products while the mountains provided pastures for sheep and goats.

Historical Developments About the time of the great prophets in Israel (after 800 B.C.), city-states began to develop in Greece. The limited food supplies had forced Greeks to leave the homeland. As a result, colonies were established on the Mediterranean islands, Asia Minor, Sicily, Italy, and in the Black Sea area. Colonies provided the basis for trade; and trade, in turn, encouraged the growth of cities since the economy was not tied to agriculture.

The high-water mark for the city-states was 500-404 B.C. The dominant city-states of the period were Athens and Sparta. About 500-475 B.C. Athens beat off a threat from the Persians. There followed what is known as the Golden Age of Athens. Under its great leader—Pericles—art, architecture, and drama flourished. Peloponnesian city-states feared the power of Athens, however, and united under the leadership of Sparta to war against Athens. The defeat of Athens in 404 B.C. began a period of decline for the city-states.

About 350 B.C. Philip II came to the throne of Macedonia, a territory in what is now largely northern Greece. In the years that followed Philip brought all the Greek peninsula under his control, only to be assassinated in 336 B.C. He was succeeded by his twenty-year-old son, Alexander, whose schoolmaster had been the great philosopher, Aristotle.

Alexander was one of the most outstanding military and organizational geniuses of human history. By the time of his death in 323 B.C., he had conquered an empire that spanned the Middle East from Greece to the western reaches of India, as well as Syria-Palestine and Egypt. Wherever he went, he left colonies that became dispensers of Greek language and culture, known as Hellenism. When the Romans took over much of this territory two centuries later, they imposed their legal and military system. They, in turn, were conquered by Greek culture. Thus we speak of the Graeco-Roman culture. When Christianity arose, it had Greek, which many linguists call the most flexible language ever devised, as a vehicle to spread its concepts. Christian theologians in later centuries would wed Christian concepts with Greek philosophical methods and ideas to develop Christian theology.

Greece and the Bible Very few references to Greece appear in the Old Testament with most of them being found in the Book of Daniel ( Daniel 8:21;  Daniel 10:20;  Daniel 11:2 . See also  Zechariah 9:13 ). This is not true of the New Testament, however, especially as regards Paul's ministry. Some of his most fruitful work was done in Greek cities. Philippi, in Macedonia, was the first church founded by Paul on European soil ( Acts 16:1 ). It would become Paul's special favorite among his churches and would be the recipient of his most intimate and loving letter, the Epistle to the Philippians. In the district of Thessaly, Paul founded two churches, Thessalonica and Berea ( Acts 17:1-14 ). The Thessalonians also would be the recipients of Pauline letters, two of which are in the New Testament (1,2Thessalonians). Just as Paul had problems while at Thessalonica ( Acts 17:1-9 ), so he had problems explaining to the church about the return of the Lord.

Bible students have long debated about Paul's success or lack of it at Athens ( Acts 17:16-33 ). While the worship of the Greek gods had declined, Paul's experience in the marketplace at Athens shows that it was not entirely dead. It was, however, the sense of the failure of the older religions that led to the rapid acceptance of the Christian religion throughout the Roman empire. Paul, however, did not win a large number of converts at Athens, but he did win some.

No city received more attention nor provoked more correspondence from Paul than Corinth. Located on the narrow isthmus that connects the Peloponnesus to the rest of Greece, Corinth was a brawling, sinful seaport town, the crossroads of the Mediterranean ( Acts 18:1-17 ). Here Paul met two people who would be among his most valuable helpers, Priscilla and Aquila. He would be brought to trial; he would establish one of his most troublesome and controversial churches, and later he would write at least four letters to that church. Two survived to become a part of the New Testament.

The Greek influence on the New Testament and Christianity is immeasurable. Koine, the Greek of the streets, is the language of the New Testament. At least five New Testament books are written to churches in Greek cities (Philippians, 1,2Thessalonians, 1,2Corinthians). All the other books in the New Testament are written in the Greek language. As the Christian gospel moved out into the the Mediterranean world, it had to communicate its values to people who were steeped in Greek culture and religion. Both gained from the relationship with people being transformed by the gospel and Christianity gaining a vehicle for its spread.

John H. Tullock

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

In the Old Testament, is put for the Hebrew word Javan, which is equivalent to Ionia, and seems to include not only Greece but western Asia Minor, and the intervening isles, all settled by the Ionian race,  Genesis 10:2 . Greece proper, however, is chiefly intended. It is not often mentioned in the Old Testament,  Daniel 8:21   10:20   11:2   Joel 3:6   Zechariah 9:13 . See Javan .

In the New Testament, Greece is called Hellas, a name supposed to have belonged first to a single city, but at length applied to the whole country south of Macedonia. About B. C. 146, the Romans conquered Greece, and afterwards organized two great provinces, namely, Macedonia, including Macedonia proper, Thessaly, Epirus, and Illyricum; and Achaia, including all the country, which lies south of the former province. (See  Acts 20:3 , Greece is probably to be taken in its widest acceptation, as including the whole of Greece proper and the Peloponnesus. This country was bounded north by Macedonia and Illyricum, from which it was separated by mountains, south by the Mediterranean sea, east by the Aegean sea, and west by the Ionian sea. It was generally known under the three great divisions of Peloponnesus, Hellas, and Northern Greece.

Peloponnesus, more anciently called Pelasgia, and Argos, and now the Morea, was the southern peninsula; it included the famous cities, Sparta, Messene, Elis, Corinth, Argos, etc. The division of Hellas, which now constitutes a great part of Livadia, included Thessaly and Epirus, with the cities Larissa, Nicopolis, etc. The large islands of Crete and Euboea belonged to Greece, as well as most of those in the Archipelago and on the west.

The Jews and the Greeks appear to have had little intercourse with each other, until after Alexander the Great overran Egypt, Syria, and the East. They then began to come in contact everywhere, for both races were widely dispersed. The Jews extended the name of Greeks to include the people conquered and ruled by Greeks; and the word is thus nearly synonymous in the New Testament with Gentiles,  Mark 7:26   Acts 20:21   Romans 1:16 . The term "Grecian" or Hellenists, on the contrary, denotes a Jew by birth or religion, who spoke Greek. It is used chiefly of foreign Jews and proselytes, in contrast with the Hebrews, that is, those speaking the vernacular Hebrew, or Aramaean,  Acts 6:1   9:29 . The Greeks were a vivacious, acute, and polished, but superficial people, compared with the Jews. They excelled in all the arts of war and peace; but were worshippers of beauty, not of duty. Their pride of intellect, and their corruption of morals, were almost insurmountable obstacles to their reception of Christianity. Yet it was among the Greek cities and people that chiefly labored, and with great success. Many flourishing churches were, in early times, established among them; and there can be no doubt that they, for a long time, preserved the apostolic customs with much care. At length, however, opinions fluctuated considerably on points of doctrine; schisms and heresies divided the church; and rancor, violence, and even persecution followed in their train. To check these evils, councils were called and various creeds composed. The removal of the seat of government from Rome to Constantinople, gave a preponderance to the Grecian districts of the empire, and the ecclesiastical determinations of the Greek Church were extensively received. In the middle of the eighth century disputes arose, which terminated in a permanent schism between the Greek and Latin churches. The Greek Church has a general resemblance to the Roman-catholic, and embraces a population of not far from fifty millions of souls, in Russia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, etc.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

GREECE represents in English the Latin word Græscia , which is derived from GrÅ“ci . This name Græci properly belonged only to a small tribe of Greeks, who lived in the north-west of Greece; but as this tribe was apparently the first to attract the attention of Rome, dwelling as it did on the other side of the Adriatic from Italy, the name came to be applied by the Romans to the whole race. The term Græcia , when used by Romans, is equivalent to the Greek name Hellas , which is still used by the Greeks to describe their own country. In ancient times Hellas was frequently used in a wide sense to include not only Greece proper, but every settlement of Greeks outside their own country as well. Thus a portion of the Crimea, much of the west coast of Asia Minor, settlements in Cyrene, Sicily, Gaul, and Spain, and above all the southern half of Italy, were parts of Hellas in this wide sense. Southern Italy was so studded with Greek settlements that it became known as Magna Græcia . After the conquests of Alexander the Great, who died 323 b.c., all the territory annexed by him, such as the greater part of Asia Minor, as well as Syria and Egypt, could he regarded as in a sense Hellas . Alexander was the chief agent in the spread of the Greek civilization, manners, language, and culture over these countries. The dynasties founded by his generals, the Seleucids and Ptolemys for example, continued his work, and when Rome began to interfere in Eastern politics about the beginning of the 2nd cent. b.c., the Greek language was already firmly established in the East. When, about three centuries after Alexander’s death, practically all his former dominions had become Roman provinces, Greek was the one language which could carry the traveller from the Euphrates to Spain. The Empire had two official languages, Latin for Italy and all provinces north, south-west, and west of it; Greek for all east and south-east of Italy. The Romans wisely made no attempt to force Latin on the Eastern peoples, and were content to let Greek remain in undisputed sway there. All their officials understood and spoke it. Thus it came about that Christianity was preached in Greek, that our NT books were written in Greek, and that the language of the Church, according to all the available evidence, remained Greek till about the middle of the 2nd cent. a.d.

As Galilee was thickly planted with Greek towns, there can be little doubt that Jesus knew the language, and spoke it when necessary, though it is probable that He commonly used Aramaic, as He came first to ‘the lost tribes of Israel.’ With St. Paul the case was different. Most of the Jews of the Dispersion were probably unable to speak Aramaic, and used the OT in the Greek translation. These would naturally be addressed in Greek. It is true that he spoke Aramaic on one occasion ( Acts 21:40 ) at least, but this occasion was exceptional. It was a piece of tact on his part, to secure the respectful attention of his audience. Probably only the inhabitants of the villages in the Eastern Roman provinces were unable to speak Greek, and even they could doubtless understand it when spoken. The Jews were amongst the chief spreaders of the language. Some of the successors of Alexander esteemed them highly as colonists, and they were to be found in large numbers over the Roman Empire, speaking in the first instance Greek (cf.   Acts 2:9 ). When they wrote books, they wrote them in Greek: Philo and Josephus are examples. It is not meant that Greek killed the native languages of the provinces: these had their purpose and subsisted.

The name Hellas occurs only once in the NT (  Acts 20:2 ). There it is used in a narrow sense of the Greek peninsula, exclusive even of Macedonia: it is in fact used in the sense of Achaia (wh. see).

A. Souter.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Greece ( Greeçe ), or Hellas ( Hel'Las ). The well-known country in the southeast of Europe. It is named four times in the Old Testament as Greece or Grecia,  Zechariah 9:13;  Daniel 8:21;  Daniel 10:20;  Daniel 11:2, and once in the New Testament,  Acts 20:2. It or its people are referred to in Hebrew history as Javan,  Isaiah 66:19;  Ezekiel 27:13;  Ezekiel 27:19, and in apostolic history as Achaia. Its cities noticed in Scripture are Athens, Corinth, and Cenchrea.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Acts 20:2

Moses makes mention of Greece under the name of Javan (  Genesis 10:2-5 ); and this name does not again occur in the Old Testament till the time of ( Joel 3:6 ). Then the Greeks and Hebrews first came into contact in the Tyrian slave-market. Prophetic notice is taken of Greece in  Daniel 8:21 .

The cities of Greece were the special scenes of the labours of the apostle Paul.

King James Dictionary [8]

GREECE, n. L. gressus. It ought to be written grese, but it is entirely obsolete. A flight of steps.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [9]

(See Grecians .)

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]

The relations of the Hebrews with the Greeks were always of a distant kind, until the Macedonian conquest of the East: hence in the Old Testament the mention of the Greeks is naturally rare.

The few dealings of the Greeks with the Hebrews seem to have been rather unfriendly, to judge by the notice in . In , the Tyrians are reproached for selling the children of Judah and Jerusalem to the Grecians: but at what time, and in what circumstances, must depend on the date assigned to the book of Joel [see JOEL]. With the Greeks of Cyprus or Chittim, the Hebrews were naturally better acquainted; and this name, it would seem, might easily have extended itself in their tongue to denote the whole Greek nation. Such at least is the most plausible explanation of its use in .

The Greeks were eminent for their appreciation of beauty in all its varieties: indeed their religious creed owed its shape mainly to this peculiarity of their mind; for their logical acuteness was not exercised on such subjects until quite a later period. The puerile or indecent fables of the old mythology may seem to a modern reader to have been the very soul of their religion; but to the Greek himself these were a mere accident, or a vehicle for some embodiment of beauty. He thought little whether a legend concerning Artemis or Apollo was true, but much whether the dance and music celebrating the divinity were solemn, beautiful, and touching. The worship of Apollo, the god of youth and beauty, has been regarded as characterizing the Hellenic in contrast with the older Pelasgian times; nor is the fact without significance, that the ancient temple and oracle of Jupiter at Dodona fell afterwards into the shade in comparison with that of Apollo at Delphi. Indeed the Dorian Spartans and the Ionian Athenians alike regarded Apollo as their tutelary god. Whatever the other varieties of Greek religious ceremonies, no violent or frenzied exhibitions arose out of the national mind; but all such orgies (as they were called) were imported from the East, and had much difficulty in establishing themselves on Greek soil. Quite at a late period the managers of orgies were evidently regarded as mere jugglers of not a very reputable kind; nor do the Greek States, as such, appear to have patronized them. On the contrary, the solemn religious processions, the sacred games and dances, formed a serious item in the public expenditure; and to be permanently exiled from such spectacles would have been a moral death to the Greeks. Wherever they settled they introduced their native institutions, and reared temples, gymnasia, baths, porticoes, sepulchers, of characteristic simple elegance. The morality and the religion of such a people naturally were alike superficial; nor did the two stand in any close union. Bloody and cruel rites could find no place in their creed, because faith was not earnest enough to endure much self-abandonment. Religion was with them a sentiment and a taste rather than a deep-seated conviction. On the loss of beloved relatives they felt a tender and natural sorrow, but unclouded with a shade of anxiety concerning a future life. Through the whole of their later history, during Christian times, it is evident that they had little power of remorse, and little natural firmness of conscientious principle: and, in fact, at an earlier and critical time, when the intellect of the nation was ripening, an atrocious civil war, that lasted for twenty-seven years, inflicted a political and social demoralization, from the effects of which they could never recover. Besides this, their very admiration of beauty, coupled with the degraded state of the female intellect, proved a frightful source of corruption, such as no philosophy could have adequately checked. From such a nation then, whatever its intellectual pretensions, no healthful influence over its neighbors could flow, until other and higher inspiration was infused into its sentiment.

Among the Greeks the arts of war and peace were carried to greater perfection than among any earlier people. In navigation they were little behind the Tyrians and Carthaginians; in political foresight they equaled them; in military science, both by sea and land, they were decidedly their superiors; while in the power of reconciling subject-foreigners to the conquerors and to their institutions, they perhaps surpassed all nations of the world. Their copious, cultivated, and flexible tongue carried with it no small mental education to all who learned it thoroughly; and so sagacious were the arrangements of the great Alexander throughout his rapidly acquired Asiatic empire, that in the twenty years of dreadful war between his generals which followed his death, no rising of the natives against Greek influence appears to have been thought of. Without any change of population adequate under other circumstances to effect it,' the Greek tongue and Greek feeling spread far and sank deep through the Macedonian dominions. Half of Asia Minor became a new Greece; and the cities of Syria, North Palestine, and Egypt, were deeply imbued with the same influence. Yet the purity of the Hellenic stream varied in various places; and some account of the mixture it underwent will be given in the Article Hellenist.

When a beginning had been made of preaching Christianity to the Gentiles, Greece immediately became a principal sphere for missionary exertion. The vernacular tongue of the Hellenistic Christians was understood over so large an extent of country, as almost of itself to point out in what direction they should exert themselves. The Grecian cities, whether in Europe or Asia, were the peculiar field for the Apostle Paul; for whose labors a superintending Providence had long before been providing, in the large number of devout Greeks who attended the Jewish synagogues. Greece Proper was divided by the Romans into two provinces, of which the northern was called Macedonia, and the southern Achaia (as in , etc.); and we learn incidentally from Acts 18 that the proconsul of the latter resided at Corinth. To determine the exact division between the provinces is difficult; nor is the question of any importance to a Biblical student Achaia, however, had probably very nearly the same frontier as the kingdom of modern Greece, which is limited by a line reaching from the gulf of Volo to that of Arta, in great part along the chain of Mount Othrys. Of the cities celebrated in Greek history, none are prominent in the early Christian times except Corinth. Laconia, and its chief town Sparta, had ceased to be of any importance: Athens was never eminent as a Christian church. In Macedonia were the two great cities of Philippi and Thessalonica (formerly called Therme); yet of these the former was rather recent, being founded by Philip the Great; the latter was not distinguished above the other Grecian cities on the same coast. Nicopolis, on the gulf of Ambracia (or Arta), had been built by Augustus, in memory of his victory at Actium, and was, perhaps, the limit of Achaia on the western coast. It had risen into some importance in St. Paul's days, and, as many suppose, it is to this Nicopolis that he alludes in his epistle to Titus (see further under Achaia and Nicopolis).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [11]

A kingdom of S. Europe occupying the southern portion of a peninsula which projects into the Mediterranean between the peninsula of Italy and the mainland of Turkey in Asia; the N. is bounded by Turkey in Europe; it is made up of the N. and S. divisions connected by the narrow and canalled isthmus of Corinth, the Ionian Islands in the W., and the Cyclades and Sporades in the E.; it is a mountainous region, and many of the peaks are rich in classic associations, e. g . Olympus, Parnassus, and Helicon; the rivers are of no great size, and the lakes though numerous are inconsiderable; in the valleys the soil is fertile and agriculture is actively engaged in, although the methods adopted are still somewhat primitive; but favoured by a delightful climate the vine, olive, and other fruit-trees flourish; currants are the chief article of export, and textiles and cereals the principal imports; milling, dyeing, distilling, and tanning are important industries; various minerals are found, and the marble from Paros is famed as the finest for statue carving; there is a considerable mercantile marine, and a busy shipping trade of a small kind among the islands and along the deeply indented coast, and also valuable coral and sponge fisheries; the government is a limited and hereditary monarchy, and the legislative power is vested in an elected chamber of, at least, 150 paid representatives, called the Boul[=e]; universal suffrage obtains, and the period of election is for four years; the bulk of the people belong to the established Greek Church, but in Thessaly and Epirus there are about 25,000 Mohammedans; education is free and compulsory, but is badly administered, and a good deal of illiteracy exists; the glory of Greece lies in her past, in the imperishable monuments of her ancient literature and art; by 146 B.C. she had fallen before the growing power of the Romans and along with the rest of the Byzantine or Eastern empire was overrun by the Turks in A.D. 1453; her renascence as a modern nation took place between 1821 and 1829, when she threw off the Turkish yoke and reasserted her independence, which she had anew to attempt by arms in 1897, this time with humiliation and defeat, till the other powers of Europe came to the rescue, and put a check to the arrogance of the high-handed Turk.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Greece'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.