From Alexander to Jesus

From Alexander to Jesus

From Alexander to Jesus

From Alexander to Jesus

Synopsis

Scholars have long recognized the relevance to Christianity of the many stories surrounding the life of Alexander the Great, who claimed to be the son of Zeus. But until now, no comprehensive effort has been made to connect the mythic life and career of Alexander to the stories about Jesus and to the earliest theology of the nascent Christian churches. Ory Amitay delves into a wide range of primary texts in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew to trace Alexander as a mythological figure, from his relationship to his ancestor and rival, Herakles, to the idea of his divinity as the son of a god. In compelling detail, Amitay illuminates both Alexander's links to Herakles and to two important and enduring ideas: that of divine sonship and that of reconciliation among peoples.

Excerpt

The idea for this book was conceived more than a decade ago near the tiny hamlet of Malana, situated in the modern-day Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, three or four days’ march from the fonts of the Hyphasis River. It is a small settlement, a mere five hundred strong when I visited there in the mid-1990s. Its inhabitants are secluded from their neighbors by language and custom, live by their own sacred ancestral law (dealing in depth with matters of purity) and are, in fact, a people unto themselves. They tell the following story: When Alexander the Great marched through India, he reached the river Beas (the Hyphasis’s modern name). His soldiers would not cross it, and he was compelled to arrest his advance east. Yet one company did not turn back at the river. Rather, its men crossed to the other side and settled there. These were the forefathers of the present-day denizens of Malana.

None of the surviving Greek and Latin authors has preserved as much as a hint of any such group of hearty and adventurous soldiers. For all we know, the story may have been concocted by an enterprising worker in the flourishing north-Indian tourist industry, or perhaps by some clever Briton, back in the days when the Crown had an empire and the classics were widely read. What is certain, however, is that the name of Alexander is still attractive enough to draw a number of western tourists over such terrain as even his hardy Macedonians would deem something more than a pleasant amble. The power of Alexander to enchant, about which I had till then only read in books, manifested itself in the field.

In subsequent years Alexander’s enchantment over me grew stronger, his myth reappearing again and again in the unlikeliest of places. It appeared that Alexander stories could be told anywhere, and in a wild variety of languages. As I continued to read about Alexander, I became increasingly aware of a specific span of time, a crucial era in the history of western civilization and of humankind in general: the . . .

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