Re: reading the NT- from a Greek worldview or a Hebrew???

From: Edgar Krentz (
Date: Wed Apr 21 1999 - 09:31:46 EDT

>Some on list have suggested that palestine in the first century CE was so
>permeated by Hellenistic thought that one must understand the Gospels and
>the other writings of the NT as virtually Hellenistic documents. I have
>pointed out that there is precious little hard evidence for such a suppostion.
>As reading material for those genuinely interested in the topic, I offer the
>"The Semitic Background of the New Testament", Joseph Fitzmyer,
>(Eerdmans/Dove: 1997), esp. sections 2-4.
>"An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts", Matthew Black.
>"Arbeit Und Sitte in Palaestina", Gustaf Dalman, 7 vols.
>"Grammar of the Greek New Testament", vol 4- "Style", Nigel Turner.
>"Der Glaube im Neuen Testament", Adolf Schlatter.
>"Light from the Ancient East", Adolf Deismann.
>What these volumes show is that it is neither "pretentious" nor inaccurate
>to say that the NT has its cradle in Judaism and not Hellenism.

Jim West's bibliography above is very useful; but his conclusion is too

I just returned from a three day conference on Hellenism in Palestine,
jointly sponsored in honor of Martin Hengel by Notre Dame University and
the University of Chicago. Presenters came from all over the world, Jewish,
Christian and secular. It was clear by the end of the conference that the
distinction between Judaism and Hellenism is false; Palestine from the
second century BCE through the Bar Kochba revolt, was permeated by
Hellenistic influcences. 55% of the Jewish inscriptions from Palestine in
this period are in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic. The struggle of the
Maccabees was as much against other factions in Judaism as against Greek
culture. Or to put it differently, the struggle was cultic, but not

Thus Jim's conclusion-like many of the works above-was written before some
of the basic study of Hellenism in Palestine was really studied in detail.
This is not to say that the works above are useless. They do show that
Palestinian linguistic features characterize much of the Synoptic Gospels;
but the rest of the NT is somewhat different. And it is generally
recognized that Nigel Turner has far over-stated the situation in his voume
cited above.

The papers will be publish within the next year by Notre Dame University Press.

Edgar Krentz
Professor of New Testament Emeritus
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
1100 E. 55th Street
Chicago, IL 60615 USA
e-mail: (Office) (Home)

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