This topic has come up on a number of threads, viz.
Rafa, we know how you like to define "East" to such a limited realm in order to fit your agenda, but how does that fit this discussion? Why should we even allow ourselves to be influenced by what you think?
Let's start out with some background of the connections between the East of the Levant with the Levant, and between Jerusalem, Palestine, Antioch etc. with Babylon/Seleucia/Ctesiphon (I don't know if this thread would require adding Baghdad), Mesopotamia, Iran, India
I'll start out with the Neo-Babylonian Empire, when the Hebrews were carried off to Babylon into captivity, several books of the Bible were written there and began to be written in Aramaic which became the language in Palestine and the Lord's family, etc.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Babylonian_Empire
Btw, that city in lower Southeast corner, Tayma (near by ) has a history:
The oldest mention of the oais city appears as "Tiamat" in Assyrian inscriptions dating as far back as the 8th century BCE. The oasis developed into a prosperous city, rich in water wells and handsome buildings. Tiglath-pileser III received tribute from Tayma, and Sennacherib named one of Nineveh's gates as the Desert Gate, recording that "the gifts of the Sumu'anite and the Teymeite enter through it." It was rich and proud enough in the 7th century BCE for Jeremiah to prophesy against it (Jeremiah 25:23). It was ruled then by a local Arab dynasty, known as the Qedarites. The names of two 8th-century BCE queens, Shamsi and Zabibei, are recorded.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tayma#History
In 539 BCE, Nabonidus retired to Tayma for worship and looking for prophecies, entrusting the kingship of Babylon to his son. From this we can recognize Tayma as being an important place.
Cuneiform inscriptions possibly dating from the 6th century BCE have been recovered from Tayma. It is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. The biblical eponym is apparently Tema, one of the sons of Ishmael.
In most ancient accounts, Nabonidus is depicted as a royal anomaly. He is supposed to have worshiped the moongod Sîn beyond all the other gods, to have paid special devotion to Sîn's temple in Harran [the site of Abraham's departure to the Promised Land, Jacob's sojourn with his kinsman led by Laban, and a day's journey from the Church center-especially for Syriac Christianity-of Edessa, whence the Peshitta, the authoritative version of the Bible in Syriac, came from] where his mother was a priestess, and to have neglected the Babylonian primary god, Marduk. Because of the tensions that these religious reforms generated, he had to leave the capital for the desert oasis of Tayma in Arabia early in his reign, from which he only returned after many years. In the meantime, his son Belshazzar ruled from Babylon, supposedly in the manner of an oriental despot.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabonidus#Reign
Thus in the Book of Daniel Daniel is made third in the Kingdom, as Belshazzar was only second. Number one was in Arabia. That led to this:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achaemenid_Empire
which united the lands and peoples from India in the East to Ionia/Greece (including Byzantium, the future Constatinople) and Egypt (including the future Alexandria) and Jerusalem into one world, a world connected by the use of Imperial Aramaic from one end to the other.
Around 500 BCE, following the Achaemenid conquest of Mesopotamia under Darius I, Aramaic (as had been used in that region) was adopted by the conquerors as the "vehicle for written communication between the different regions of the vast empire with its different peoples and languages. The use of a single official language, which modern scholarship has dubbed Official Aramaic or Imperial Aramaic, can be assumed to have greatly contributed to the astonishing success of the Achaemenids in holding their far-flung empire together for as long as they did". In 1955, Richard Frye questioned the classification of Imperial Aramaic as an 'official language', noting that no surviving edict expressly and unambiguously accorded that status to any particular language. Frye reclassifies Imperial Aramaic as the lingua franca of the Achaemenid territories, suggesting then that the Achaemenid-era use of Aramaic was more pervasive than generally thought.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Aramaic#Imperial_Aramaic
Imperial Aramaic was highly standardised; its orthography was based more on historical roots than any spoken dialect, and the inevitable influence of Persian gave the language a new clarity and robust flexibility. For centuries after the fall of the Achaemenid Empire (in 331 BCE), Imperial Aramaic – or near enough for it to be recognisable – would remain an influence on the various native Iranian languages. Aramaic script and – as ideograms – Aramaic vocabulary would survive as the essential characteristics of the Pahlavi writing system.
One of the largest collections of Imperial Aramaic texts is that of the Persepolis fortification tablets, which number about five hundred. Many of the extant documents witnessing to this form of Aramaic come from Egypt, and Elephantine in particular (see Elephantine papyri). Of them, the best known is the Wisdom of Ahiqar, a book of instructive aphorisms quite similar in style to the biblical book of Proverbs. Achaemenid Aramaic is sufficiently uniform that it is often difficult to know where any particular example of the language was written. Only careful examination reveals the occasional loan word from a local language.
A group of thirty Aramaic documents from Bactria have been recently discovered. An analysis was published in November 2006. The texts, which were rendered on leather, reflect the use of Aramaic in the 4th century BCE Achaemenid administration of Bactria and Sogdiana
The fate of that empire was decided at Issus which, as the map shows, was near the future Antioch. That led to this
which united Greece and India even farther further into one world: Bactria became one of many Greek kingdoms in India, something I went into here:
Bactria was surrounded by orientals which is why the Greeks in it were completely absorbed and lost their identity over time.
Evidence of direct religious interaction between Greek and Buddhist thought during the period include the Milinda Panha, a Buddhist discourse in the platonic style, held between king Menander and the Buddhist monk Nagasena.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism#Scriptures
Also the Mahavamsa (Chap. XXIX) records that during Menander's reign, "a Greek ("Yona") Buddhist head monk" named Mahadharmaraksita (literally translated as 'Great Teacher/Preserver of the Dharma') led 30,000 Buddhist monks from "the Greek city of Alexandria" (possibly Alexandria-of-the-Caucasus, around 150 km north of today's Kabul in Afghanistan), to Sri Lanka for the dedication of a stupa, indicating that Buddhism flourished in Menander's territory and that Greeks took a very active part in it.
Several Buddhist dedications by Greeks in India are recorded, such as that of the Greek meridarch (civil governor of a province) named Theodorus, describing in Kharoshthi how he enshrined relics of the Buddha. The inscriptions were found on a vase inside a stupa, dated to the reign of Menander or one his successors in the 1st century BCE (Tarn, p391):
"Theudorena meridarkhena pratithavida ime sarira sakamunisa bhagavato bahu-jana-stitiye":
"The meridarch Theodorus has enshrined relics of Lord Shakyamuni, for the welfare of the mass of the people"
(Swāt relic vase inscription of the Meridarkh Theodoros)
Finally, Buddhist tradition recognizes Menander as one of the great benefactors of the faith, together with Asoka and Kanishka.
Buddhist manuscripts in cursive Greek have been found in Afghanistan, praising various Buddhas and including mentions of the Mahayana Lokesvara-raja Buddha (λωγοασφαροραζοβοδδο). These manuscripts have been dated later than the 2nd century CE. (Nicholas Sims-Williams, "A Bactrian Buddhist Manuscript").
Some elements of the Mahayana movement may have begun around the 1st century BCE in northwestern India, at the time and place of these interactions. According to most scholars, the main sutras of Mahayana were written after 100 BCE, when sectarian conflicts arose among Nikaya Buddhist sects regarding the humanity or super-humanity of the Buddha and questions of metaphysical essentialism, on which Greek thought may have had some influence: "It may have been a Greek-influenced and Greek-carried form of Buddhism that passed north and east along the Silk Road".
The Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana is related by Philostratus in Life of Apollonius Tyana to have visited India, and specifically the city of Taxila around 46 CE. He describes constructions of the Greek type, probably referring to Sirkap, and explains that the Indo-Parthian king of Taxila, named Phraotes, received a Greek education at the court of his father and spoke Greek fluently:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_of_the_Indo-Greeks#Linguistic_legacy
"Tell me, O King, how you acquired such a command of the Greek tongue, and whence you derived all your philosophical attainments in this place?"
[...]-"My father, after a Greek education, brought me to the sages at an age somewhat too early perhaps, for I was only twelve at the time, but they brought me up like their own son; for any that they admit knowing the Greek tongue they are especially fond of, because they consider that in virtue of the similarity of his disposition he already belongs to themselves."
Lastly, from the Rabatak inscription we have the following information, tending to indicate that Greek was still in official use until the time of Kanishka (circa 120 CE):
"He (Kanishka) issued(?) an edict(?) in Greek and then he put it into the Aryan language". …but when Kanishka refers to "the Aryan language" he surely means Bactrian, …"By the grace of Auramazda, I made another text in Aryan, which previously did not exist". It is difficult not to associate Kanishka's emphasis here on the use of the "Aryan language" with the replacement of Greek by Bactrian on his coinage. The numismatic evidence shows that this must have taken place very early in Kanishka's reign, …" — Prof. Nicholas Sims-Williams (University of London).
After Alexander passed from the scene, the Seleucids took up his mantle in India, Iran, Mesopotamia (including Edessa and Nisibis), Asia Minor
later including Palestine. (btw, note the purple area labeled "Parthia," north of the Seleucian empire. It will be important later).
They founded and ruled the empire from the twin sister capitals of Antioch and Seleucia:
Seleucia, as such, was founded in about 305 BC, when an earlier city was enlarged and dedicated as the first capital of the Seleucid Empire by Seleucus I Nicator. Seleucus was one of the generals of Alexander the Great who, after Alexander's death, divided his empire among themselves. Although Seleucus soon moved his main capital to Antioch, in northern Syria, Seleucia became an important center of trade, Hellenistic culture, and regional government under the Seleucids. The city was populated by Macedonians, Greeks, Syrians and Jews. Standing at the confluence of the Tigris River with a major canal from the Euphrates, Seleucia was placed to receive traffic from both great waterways. During the 3rd and 2nd century BC, it was one of the great Hellenistic cities, comparable to Alexandria in Egypt, and greater than Syrian Antioch.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seleucia_on_the_Tigris#Seleucid_empire
Polybius (5,52ff) uses the Macedonian peliganes for the council of Seleucia, which implies a Macedonian colony, consistently with its rise to prominence under Nicator; Pausanias (1,16) records that Seleucus also settled Babylonians there. Archaeological finds support the presence of a large population not of Greek culture. In 141 BC, the Parthians under Mithridates I conquered the city, and Seleucia became the western capital of the Parthian Empire. Tacitus described its walls, and mentioned that it was, even under Parthian rule, a fully Hellenistic city. Ancient texts say that the city had 600,000 people, and was ruled by a senate of 300 people. It was one of the largest cities in the Western world. Only Rome, Alexandria and possibly Antioch were more populous.
The original city of Seleucus was laid out in imitation of the grid plan of Alexandria by the architect Xenarius. Libanius describes the first building and arrangement of this city (i. p. 300. 17). The citadel was on Mt. Silpius and the city lay mainly on the low ground to the north, fringing the river. Two great colonnaded streets intersected in the centre. Shortly afterwards a second quarter was laid out, probably on the east and by Antiochus I, which, from an expression of Strabo, appears to have been the native, as contrasted with the Greek, town. It was enclosed by a wall of its own. In the Orontes, north of the city, lay a large island, and on this Seleucus II Callinicus began a third walled "city," which was finished by Antiochus III. A fourth and last quarter was added by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC); and thenceforth Antioch was known as Tetrapolis. From west to east the whole was about 6 km in diameter and little less from north to south, this area including many large gardens.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antioch#Hellenistic_age
The new city was populated by a mix of local settlers that Athenians brought from the nearby city of Antigonia, Macedonians, and Jews (who were given full status from the beginning). The total free population of Antioch at its foundation has been estimated at between 17,000 and 25,000, not including slaves and native settlers. During the late Hellenistic period and Early Roman period, Antioch population reached its peak of over 500,000 inhabitants (estimates vary from 400,000 to 600,000) and was the third largest city in the world after Rome and Alexandria. By the 4th century, Antioch's declining population was about 200,000 according to Chrysostom, a figure which again does not include slaves.
Antioch became the capital and court-city of the western Seleucid empire under Antiochus I, its counterpart in the east being Seleucia on the Tigris; but its paramount importance dates from the battle of Ancyra (240 BC), which shifted the Seleucid centre of gravity from Asia Minor, and led indirectly to the rise of Pergamum.
The Seleucids reigned from Antioch. We know little of it in the Hellenistic period, apart from Syria, all our information coming from authors of the late Roman time. Among its great Greek buildings we hear only of the theatre, of which substructures still remain on the flank of Silpius, and of the royal palace, probably situated on the island. It enjoyed a reputation for letters and the arts (Cicero pro Archia, 3); but the only names of distinction in these pursuits during the Seleucid period, that have come down to us, are Apollophanes, the Stoic, and one Phoebus, a writer on dreams. The mass of the population seems to have been only superficially Hellenic, and to have spoken Aramaic in non-official life. The nicknames which they gave to their later kings were Aramaic; and, except Apollo and Daphne, the great divinities of north Syria seem to have remained essentially native, such as the "Persian Artemis" of Meroe and Atargatis of Hierapolis Bambyce.
That brings us down to the closing centuries of the OT, where, Lord willing, I will pick up.