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by Wayne Blank
Hellenes were the early inhabitants of Greece (in our time now, Greece is still officially known as the Hellenic Republic, after the ancient Hellenes). From the Hellenes came the term "Hellenism," which was used to describe Greek language and culture; from that, "Hellenists" were non-Greeks who spoke Greek and lived according to Greek ways. Thanks largely to the grand imperialistic accomplishments of the young Greek king/warlord Alexander the Great (a photograph of a statue of him is shown below, see also Alexander The Great In Prophecy) whose military conquests covered a vast region from across southern Europe, through the Middle East and deep into Asia (see Ancient Empires - Greece), Hellenists were found in many varied nations, and the Greek language in the ancient world was used very much like English is now in the modern world (the fact that the New Testament was originally written in Greek is the most obvious evidence of that).
Hellenists Of The New Testament
Hellenists are mentioned specifically twice in The Bible, both in referring to Jews who spoke Greek and lived somewhat according to Greek ways. They did not congregate with the Hebrew-speaking Jews of Jerusalem during the time of Christ, but had their own synagogues.
As with the Hebrew-speaking Jews of Israel, many Hellenists became Christians, although even within the church the cultural division between the Hebrew and Greek-speaking Jews remained, at least for a time:
"Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve [i.e. The Twelve Apostles] summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty [see also Deacon and Deaconess]. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
"And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them."
"And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:1-7 RSV)
Christianity began as a division among Jews; some recognized and accepted Jesus of Nazareth [see Nazarene] as the long-awaited Messiah, and some did not, or would not (it should be kept in mind that in Scriptures that describe "the Jews" opposing the early church, it was almost always other Jews, Christian Jews, that they were opposing - for every Jew there was that wanted Jesus crucified, there was another Jew who was horrified to see it happen). While the pro-Roman Hebrew-speaking Jews were the ones who got one of their own fellow Jews, the Messiah, killed (i.e. "They cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar" - John 19:15 RSV), some of the Hellenistic Jews, also known as "Grecians," also opposed the early Christian church, or at least some of the leadership, such as the newly-converted apostle Paul (although their opposition to him may have been based on the before-then justifiable fear of the man who not so long before was deadly anti-Christian):
"And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road [see On The Road To Damascus] he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus."
"So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied." (Acts 9:26-31 RSV)
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