Sunday, October 24, 2010

Alexander's Vision

Now, then, do not go asking me Alexander who?! In Greece, there’s only one and you know that’s Megas Alexandros. (And here, hardly any serious discussion fails to mention him at least once, so large does he loom in the Greek consciousness, especially in this city, which he founded.) It's just like in Virginia, where you don't ask General who? "The General" is always Robert E. Lee.

And Josephus, the Jewish historian (37-110 AD) records the fascinating story we Christians would probably have to call something like “Alexander’s Dream of Christ,” although for Josephus, it was probably more about, “How Alexander Took Jerusalem Without A Fight and Won the Hearts and Minds of Her People.” I here summarize and paraphrase it for you. If you’d like to read it yourself it’s in The History of the Jews XI,8,5.

Alexander, having already utterly destroyed Tyre, was marching toward Jerusalem, intending to punish the city severely for its staunch loyalty to his enemy, Darius, King of Persia. The inhabitants of the city came out of it to meet him, all dressed in white, with the chief priest, who was dressed in his liturgical vestments, white and purple.

When Alexander saw this, from some distance, he dismounted and walked toward the people. When he came to the archpriest, he bowed himself to the ground, and then, arising, kissed and embraced him.

Then all the people hailed and welcomed him, with one voice. Alexander put out his hand to the chief priest and they walked together into Jerusalem peaceably, followed by the people.

Parmenion, one of Alexander’s generals and his right-hand man, asked him how it was that while everybody else in the world bowed to him, Great Alexander himself bowed to an Israelite priest.

Alexander replied, “It wasn’t to him I bowed; it was to his God. I saw this God in a dream while we were still back in Macedonia and I was deliberating whether to try to overthrow the Persian Empire. This God appeared to me dressed in exactly the same garments as this chief priest, and He encouraged me to undertake the campaign. I never saw garments like those before. So when I saw the chief priest, I remembered my dream and I knew by his clothing Whose priest he was, and that is why I bowed to him.”

Entering into the Temple, Alexander desired the priests to guide him in offering sacrifice to God.

Then the priests took out a scroll of the Book of Daniel and showed Alexander the prophecy that some monarch “of the Greeks” would destroy the Persian Empire. Alexander, accepting the priests’ implication, construed or recognized (your choice) that prophecy as signifying himself. Now, he said, he knew he would succeed in conquering Persia.

As, of course, he did.

* * *

This story raises far more questions than it answers and that, to me, is part of its fascination. What do you make of it?


Anam Cara said...

WOW! Wonderful! i had no idea any story like this existed.

GretchenJoanna said...

Thank you - I'd never heard this story either. Amazing.