[b-greek] Re: Dispersed?

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Mon Jul 17 2000 - 06:45:03 EDT

At 4:26 AM +0000 7/17/00, Mark Wilson wrote:
>In the opening section of James (Jacob, for some), the recipients are
>I think I can translate these words, but I am not so sure I can make any
>sense out of them.
>For some reason, I envision these 12 tribes scattered all over the place. In
>fact, I am fairly sure history will support my understanding that these
>tribes were indeed dispersed in MANY places beyond Palestine.
>Are we to understand that James made 12 or more copies of this epistle in
>order to ensure that it found its way to all 12 tribes (the intended
>Or should I understand this designation of the recipients in another way? I
>can translate the words, but I do not think I could explain them.
>This question seems like a stretch for B-Greek, but I thought I would ask.

But actually it IS a question about what the attributive phrase TAIS EN THi
DIASPORAi (which can ONLY function adjectivally with TAIS DWDEKA FULAIS)
may possibly mean in this context. I'd respond in two ways to the question
Mark poses thus:

(1) hH DIASPORA regularly refers to Jews "in the Dispersion"--or almost as
frequently phrased in English, "in the Diaspora" or "Diaspora Jews." And by
that is normally meant those Jews dwelling outside the Palestinian Jewish
homeland wherever they may be, as far westward as Spain or Britain, as far
eastward as Mesopotamia, northwards in Asia Minor and Greece, southward to
Ethiopia but especially to north Africa, including Alexandria and Cyrene as
particular centers. The listing in Acts 2:9-11 seems to refer to Jews and
Proselytes from all over the inhabited world assumed by the author of Acts
to be represented by some representatives in Jerusalem on the day of
Pentecost--and I think that list is probably intended to be inclusive of
all or most of the areas where "Jews in Dispersion" or "Diaspora Jews"
might be expected to be found.

(2) The distinction is sometimes drawn between a "letter"--meaning an
authentic communication written and sent to a particular addressee or group
in a particular time and place and concerned fundamentally with that
addressee's or group's problems and interests--and an "epistle"--meaning an
essay or treatise composed in "letter" format but not really addressed to a
specific individual or group so much as to the general public or (in the
NT) to Christians everywhere or (in the case of James and Hebrews) to
"Jewish Christians" (I really don't want to get bogged down in terminology,
about which there is a wide range of preference). Ephesians is generally
deemed an "epistle" in the sense that EN EFESWi in the salutation is
thought by many to be inserted in order to individualize a copy sent to the
Christians in Ephesus --a copy of a letter sent actually to Christians
throughout the world. In terms of that distinction, the "epistle" of James
is addressed NOT to a particular congregation but rather to "Jews of the
Dispersion" or "Diaspora Jews" (probably meaning "Jewish
Christians"--ethnic Jews who accept Christ) everywhere outside of Palestine.

There may be better ways of explaining these two points, but that, at any
rate, is my understanding of them.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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