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Who were the Hellenistic Jews in the Bible?

Hellenistic Jews
Question: "Who were the Hellenistic Jews in the Bible?"

The Hellenistic Jews are first mentioned in the Bible in Acts 6:1: “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” The believing Jews are here divided into two groups. There were those who had remained in Judea, near Jerusalem, who used the Hebrew language, and who were appropriately called “Hebrews.” The other group consisted of those who were scattered among the Gentiles, who spoke the Greek language, and who used the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint. These were called “Hellenists,” from a word meaning “Greek” or “Greek-speaking.” To “Hellenize” is to adopt Greek culture and ideas.

Dissensions arose between the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebraic Jews. The Palestinian or Hebraic Jews prided themselves on the fact that they had always lived in the land of the patriarchs and that they used the language that their fathers spoke. They were near the temple and regularly worshiped there. On the other hand, the Hellenistic Jews from other parts of the world were jealous of the first group and made to feel like outsiders. Sadly, the strife between the two groups was not automatically eliminated by their conversion to Christianity, as the complaints concerning food distribution to widows of the two groups show. However, in a wonderful example of godly wisdom and Christian unity, the early church worked through the dispute, and the office of deacon was formed (Acts 6:2–6).

After Acts 6, the Hellenists appear again in Acts 9:29, when Paul “talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him” in Jerusalem. The KJV translates the word for the group as “Grecians.” Among the Grecian Jews, just as among the Hebraic Jews, there were those who rejected Jesus as the Christ and resisted the preaching of the gospel, even to the point of trying to kill the Christian missionaries.

Recommended Resource: Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle Cairns

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