Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Survey (or possible exam question for NT and Christian Origins)

Who were the Hellenists mentioned in Acts? Why do you think this? Please leave your answer in a comment. I am interested to collect opinions on this question.

1. Greek-speaking Jews moved into Jerusalem from the diaspora, conservative-minded toward the Law.
2. Greek-speaking Jews moved into Jerusalem from the diaspora, liberal tendencies toward the Law.
3. Greek-speaking Gentiles associated with a local Jerusalem synagogue, "god-fearers".
4. Greek-speaking Gentiles and Jews associated with a local Jerusalem synagogue.
5. Greek-speaking Gentiles with no affiliation with a local Jerusalem synagogue.
6. These folks are a fabrication of the author of Acts.
7. Other


Doug Chaplin said...

I have to say that I'm not entirely sure I could completely sign up to any of these. First I'm not entirely sure what you include in the categories "conservative" (1) and liberal (2). Second, while I suspect that there is likely to be some sort of synagogue (or more than one) involved, I'm not sure if the distinction is actually Greek-Torah-reading rather than Greek-speaking, though obviously the former entails the latter. One might also reasonably suspect that a Greek speaking-rading-praying synagogue might well be more comfortable for Gentile worshippers of Israel's God, but still see it as fundamentally one for Jews. I have no idea if any of that is a helpful or unhelpful comment.

David said...

Descendants of the Maccabees who co-opted the priesthood from the Zadokites, kicked the Essenes out (whether Zadokite or Enochic), adopted Hellenistic culture, got in tight with the Romans, and included many, if not all, Sadduccees.

Pastor Bob said...

I'm with Doug. I don't know what you mean by conservative and liberal. Further, the assumption that Hellenists have to have moved to Jerusalem from the diaspora suggests that the word is primarily about language and not about behavior. If Acts is to be believed, Saul/Paul was from Tarshish. Would that make him a Hellenist even though he claimed (if you believe Philippians was written by him) to be a Pharisee? Were Pharisees liberal or conservative? If we accept the Talmud stories as historical was Rabbi Hillel liberal or conservative? And how about Sadducees? If you define your terms better I might be able to answer the question!

Juan said...

My guess would be 5.


MatteoGrosso said...

As an exam question, I find it quite tricky! But I'm sure you will give to your students all the elements useful to figure out a well documented answer!
Personally I would need some time and study to give an answer; at this moment I like very much number 4.
As for the "conservative/liberal debate", I note that in Act. 9,29 the term Ellenists seems to refer to “conservative” oriented folks, since they are not open-minded in respect to Saul’s preaching (they try to kill him).
Let me add a thing: At Act. 9,29 codex A reads “hellenas” (= Greeks = pagans) instead of “hellenistas” (Ellenists) of the textus receptus.
Also at 11,20, ℘74, A, D, along with the 2nd corrector of the Sinaiticus, read “hellenas” instead of "hellenistas".
These details make the case more complicated. How can we interpret them? Possibly the term “Ellenists” caused difficulty already in ancient time?

Ralph Hitchens said...

I'm with David -- Jews who embraced Hellenic culture ("Theophilus" may well have been a member of the Sanhedrin), although I'm unsure if they were liberal or conservative re. the Law. Probably the former.

Geoff Hudson said...


Acts 6 originally had nothing to do with disputes between Hellenists/Greek-speaking Gentiles/Greek-speaking Jews, and Hebraic/conservative Jews who supported the keeping of the law. The setting was the very beginning of the earliest Christian movement when there were few anointed ones (Christianos) in Rome. The Greek names of Acts 6.7 were fabricated by the editor to give the impression that the chosen seven who were ‘full of the Spirit’ (6.3) were Greek speakers.

The key words to note are 'daily' (6.1), ‘wait on’ (6.2), and ‘priests’ (6.7). 6.1 had nothing to do with the nonsense of daily distribution of food, but with daily prayers when they came together. In 5.42 it wasn’t ‘teaching’ that they did when they met together day after day, but praying. How do we know it was for prayer? The key word words are ‘wait on’ (6.2). They ‘waited on the Spirit’ during their worship. Waiting on tables was sheer nonsense.

So what was the Christian’s complaint in 6.1? It was that their leaders were too busy ‘proclaiming’ (explicit in 5.42), not ‘that Jesus is the Christ’ (5.42), but that the Spirit is God (5.42). Or they were too busy proclaiming the Spirit of God, not ‘the word of God’ (6.2). Thus their leaders were giving insufficient time to leading the group worship and in waiting on the Spirit and prophesying.

The answer was to appoint seven Christians ‘known to be full of the Spirit’ (explicit in 6.3) to lead the worship, possibly one person for each day of the week. This then left their leaders free to continue ‘the ministry of the word’ (6.4), i.e. the proclamation of the Spirit. The leaders, or prophets, were particularly keen to proclaim the Spirit to the many priests in Rome, a large number of whom became OBEDIENT (explicit in 6.7), not to an undefined ‘faith’, but to the Spirit. And it was the Spirit of God that ‘spread’, like an infection, not the ‘word of God’.

Similarly, the word ‘waiting’ occurs In 1 Cor.11, which originally was not about the Lord's supper at all. Nor was it about eating (11.20), but about praying when they came together. And it wasn't about eating without waiting for anybody else, it was about praying without WAITING FOR THE SPIRIT - ‘For as you eat (i.e. pray), one of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else (i.e. waiting for the Spirit) (11.21). Thus 'one remains hungry (i.e. remains standing - they stood in prayer), another gets drunk’ (i.e. gets up to pray), and there was bedlam.. Thus ‘Without waiting for anybody else’, ‘remains hungry’, and ‘drunk’ were an editor’s nonsenses.

Geoff Hudson said...

The idea of waiting for the Spirit occurs in Romans 8.23, where I suggest that the Christians did 'groan inwardly as we WAIT eagerly for the Spirit', not the Pauline: 'groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies'. This was in response to the idea of the Spirit 'groaning' (not the Pauline 'whole creation') of 8.22. This then agrees with 8.26, where explicitly, 'the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express'. The whole of 8.18-27 was originally about the Spirit.

Geoff Hudson said...

I suggest that after the 'fever' (in Jewish terms unclean spirit) left Simon's mother-in-law (Mk.1.31), she began to WAIT for the Spirit, not 'wait on them'. The Spirit could come into a cleansed body.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, there is no mention in Mark 1.31 of Simon's mother-in law getting up, i.e. she wasn't in bed, even though Mk.1.30 says she was. She simply had an unclean spirit, as the writer of Luke recognises where he has the prophet 'rebuke' the so-called 'fever' (Lk.4.39).

Geoff Hudson said...

Correction - Simon's mother-in-law would have been cleansed of her 'fever' (unclean spirit) by the Spirit of God when she received it. Waiting on, or ministering to, the Spirit meant listening in a prayerful attitude to what the Spirit was telling you, and then doing what was commanded. Thus it wasn't a matter of waiting for the Spirit to be received, but of listening to and obeying the Spirit of God already possessed.

Geoff Hudson said...

The editor of Acts 1 showed that he was aware of the Christian’s practice of waiting on the Spirit already possessed when he had Jesus command: ”Do not leave Jerusalem, but ‘WAIT for the gift, my Father promised…” (1.4) . Given that the Christian’s already had the Spirit, and that Jesus was fictitious, then one might well understand that it was the Spirit commanding, not Jesus, and the command was, “Leave Jerusalem.” – there was no need to wait to receive the Spirit they already had. It was probably a handful of Christians who left for Rome (the sons of Judas - James and Simon, their wives, and their mother Mary).