It was Aristotle who taught Alexander to be the man you want to seem to others. I like to think of our own attempts to do this as the ideal man. We are told in Josephus that the Lord himself spoke to Alexander in a dream while he was in Macedonia, at Dios. He was considering how he “might obtain the dominion of Asia” – when God told Alexander that He would go with his army and give him “the dominion over the Persians.” It was because of this vision from God that Alexander believed with all of his heart, that he told his most senior general [Parmenion] “I believe that I bring this army under the divine conduct.”
When he arrived at the outskirts of Jerusalem after the long and difficult siege of Tyre, the High Priest along with all the Jewish people turned out to meet him, dressed in their Sunday best (as we would say in the West). It was this very High Priest who had spoke to Alexander in his dream, telling him that God would be with him and his army – that now showed him where he himself was spoken of in the book of Daniel, which had been written more than two centuries earlier while Daniel was a captive in Babylon. Which was the very city where Alexander would die in 323 B.C.
It must have been one of the greatest twilight zone moments in history when it’s greatest conquerer reads about himself [in Jerusalem], from a book in the Bible. Written by a Prophet from Jerusalem, while he had been a captive in Babylon – more than 200 years before Alexander would die there. If that makes your head spin, let me tell you that all things are connected in ways and at levels we don’t even know. I’m just telling you the tiny little bit that I know. It was no accident or coincidence that one of Alexander’s boyhood friends and one of his most trusted generals [Ptolemy], and later his son [Ptolemy Philadelphus] would give us the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh, which is the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.
Among ancient historians there are the credible and highly reliable, and there are the less credible and unreliable. Just as there are with journalists and writers of non fiction today. You can read the Journal of Applied Nutrition, or you can read the National Enquirer. They both offer cures. One is highly reliable, the other is unreliable. To say it kindly. When writing about a person from antiquity, the ancient sources are all you have to go on. There are 6 for Alexander. They range from Josephus and Arrian on the highly reliable end, to Quintus Curtius Rufus, whose florid style and tendency toward exaggeration, have made him less reliable in much, and unreliable in some.
The relatively few secular historians and classicists who know that Josephus’ voluminous writings contain accounts of Alexander and other notables from history – cannot stand the fact that a former pharisee and priest in Israel wrote such things. Nearly two thousand years ago. He is too difficult for them to overcome. So they just deny him, or ignore him completely. Every Christian should be at least aware that his writings exist. For any who love the truth the rule of Scripture applies well here: We look at Scripture in the light of other Scripture.
Below is an abriged version of a letter that I wrote to a fellow Minister about 10 years ago, after I had heard him say so many erroneous things about Alexander during a sermon he gave at a church I was attending – that I had to answer him. He is a mighty man of God, and well known in our circles, especially for his work in Russia. At the time, he had a church in Moscow across from the Kremlin. He’s also a Greek Scholar [language not literature]. When I saw him next and spoke to Him about the letter, he told me he had read it. I gave him a copy of the book I had recommended. I know it helped him, and I’m sure he doesn’t say those things anymore. Brother Rick Joyner in one of his visions speaks of seeing a world conquerer in Heaven, whom he was very surprised to see. I’m certain it was Alexander.
– If you’ll permit me brother, in line with being both accurate and correct while pursuing the more excellent way – allow me to say something about Alexander, as he is one of my favorite subjects. I’ve read 5 different biographies on him, and I don’t read bio’s. Two from the ancient sources (Plutarch , and Arrian). Two from men of this century (Peter Greene and Ulrich Wilken), and the only one written by a woman. Which is far and away the best of them all, ‘The Nature of Alexander’ by Mary Renault .
Women seem to have more intuition than men, and certainly more grace. If you consider the sentiment in Athens at the time of Alexander’s death among the philosophers who decided both it (it was both anti Alexander and anti Macedonian) and the history of the man whom they despised and hated – that would be passed down to the rest of us. It is no wonder that it would take a woman’s hand to piece together some of the wreckage of a destroyed reputation. The destruction began even before his death and it’s chief architects were Demosthenes (the main mouth in Athens at the time) and Cassander. The latter of which was the son of Antipater, who was Regent in Macedon for Alexander while he was off conquering the world, as he had been for his father Philip before him, and for his son Alexander IV after him. Before Cassander murdered the boy, his mother, and Alexander’s mother Olympias.
I’m not sure what you’ve read, or perhaps you’ve just heard some things – but I would definitely make people quote their sources, because I assure you brother, we don’t have a record anywhere of Alexander being in a bar (if they had such things). Let alone dying from a wound he got in one. We really don’t know exactly what he died from but all of the evidence suggests pleurisy, from a wound to the lung by an arrow in battle – which almost killed him at the time (3 years earlier).
You may be referring to the tale of him draining a “cup of Heracles” at a party held for him by his friend Medius and the supposed sharp cry of pain that followed (since it was poisoned). Let me simply say that two noted, solid, trustworthy historians of their day (Plutarch and Arrian) who lived much closer to Alexander’s time than anybody of the nearly two millennia that have followed – both dismiss the tale as absurd, and in fact only mention it to dismiss it. It’s also important to remember that Arrian, having been a revered and well rewarded general under Hadrian, was writing as a fellow soldier and had all the primary source material available to him (in the as yet unburned libraries).
He chose as his sources Ptolemy, Aristobulus and Nearchus – all of whom knew Alexander in life. Two of them having grown up with him since boyhood. Ptolemy had already established both himself and his dynasty in Egypt for 20 years after Alexander’s death before writing his History, and was completely lacking in motive to tell anything but the truth. Being a King now himself and living in a world that was still filled with plenty of veterans of their campaigns together who could refute anything other than testimony, and would. As any Macedonian could freely approach the King and tell him exactly what he thought.
We’re talking about a guy who named one town after his horse and another after his dog, who gave lavishly to everybody, who inspired lifelong loyalty and rewarded it. He knew thousands of his men by their first names and had personally saved many of their lives as well as payed off many of their debts with his own money. He restored many conquered rulers to their former place (under him of course), and tolerated to live many who he knew hated him and wanted him dead – both in Athens and in his own camp. When he could have easily had them killed, and nobody would have said anything. But he did not. Not the least of which were Demosthenes in Athens and Cassander in Macedon.
War brings horrible things as a matter of course and there are those who are better and worse among the one’s who wage it, and I have no doubt he was an arrogant bastard (actually a virtue in ancient Greece). But I have to tell you I have heard more preachers talk smack about this man and attack his character than any other person of antiquity. Always with a different death, after living a horrible life drawn from some perverted image of the drunken, orientalized, lecherous despot. These images were passed down to us by men like Theophrastus, professor of science at the Lyceum, who proclaimed that alcoholism had made Alexander’s semen watery. Even though he hadn’t laid eyes on Alexander in 15 years. Alexander had only been to Athens once in his entire life, when he was 18. Wine was what everybody drank, especially on campaign, as the water was often toxic or sickening. The loss of life to disease and bad water was much greater than that in all the battles put together. He actually drank much less than most of his comrades and had to be persuaded to attend many gatherings.
Pursuing deification was standard fare for a ruler from before Egypt to the fall of Rome. His father Philip had sought it before him, but was assassinated by an offended ex-lover (Pausanias), who just happened to be the Captain of his Bodyguard. The Egyptians hailed Alexander as a deliverer (he didn’t even have to fight them) and it is they who made him Pharaoh and called him son of Ra and son of Ammon, making him a god. He didn’t have to ask anybody for it. Even when he journeyed to the Oracle at Siwah to consult Ammon about his future he was already a god. Though from this time on his sense of destiny acquired a daimonic force. Interestingly, Dake says in his notes on Daniel that the Prince of Grecia is the spirit (now in the abyss) that caused Alexander to have such success and will be released in the last days to give the Antichrist his initial victories. One of the few places where Biblical and secular history speaking of something spiritual actually shake hands.
I’ll end with this. Arrian says of Alexander that unlike other Kings, he repented when he knew he had done wrong. Though most secular historians believe that Xenophon’s Cyrus was the model for Alexander, I know it was David. He was the closest any warrior King outside the Covenant had ever come to being like David. Several things he did were exact copies of those David did. I’ve found so many parallels over my years of studying Alexander that I’ve often thought of writing a book about it, ‘David and Alexander’ is what I’d call it. I’ve written a book already ‘Confessions of a God Hater’ (the Lord told me to call it that) , but it’s not published yet. I guess I want you to know brother that I’ve never read anything even slightly indicating that Alexander was a wicked man, or even a bad one.
All that I’ve seen shows him to be a good man, a great King and a brilliant general, still greatly honored and revered today. He simply didn’t know God. But of course nobody else at that time did either. Even the Jews who God was busy trying to reveal himself to, were busy disobeying everything He said. I have read a fair amount by men who seemed to me jealous of him, and others who made the historical nonsequitur of judging him by the standards of their day instead of those of his own. It’s also worth remembering that one of his boyhood friends and most trusted generals, Ptolemy, was the man responsible for the Hebrew Bible being translated into Greek giving us the Septuagint. His son (Ptolemy Philadelphus) finished the project.
When Alexander became King of Macedon at a little past 20 years old, all that he had inherited from his father were a few gold and silver cups, less than 60 talents in the treasury and debts of 500 that he owed. Upon borrowing 800 more, he gave away everything he had to friends and loyal supporters. Some would take nothing from him. The man who would become his second in command, Perdiccas, asked him “What are you keeping for yourself?” “Hope,” said Alexander, to which Perdiccas replied “That I’ll share.”
I hope that he’s in Heaven. And although it would be cool for you to be sitting next to him at the Marriage Supper asking him to pass you the mashed potatoes, and he looks you in the eye smiling as he does, causing you to turn a slightly spiritual shade of red . . . what I’d really like is for you to give the man a break – and read the book I’ve suggested. Don’t go asking some Greek Classicist what he thinks about him, ask a Macedonian one. The Greeks today aren’t any fonder of their northern cousins than they were back then. If you want to know about Canada don’t ask someone from the United States, ask a Canadian. –
Full Grown Ministry