[b-greek] Re: ELLHNISTAS

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Sun Feb 11 2001 - 07:28:30 EST

At 9:10 PM -0700 2/10/01, lance w seevers wrote:
>My question pertains to the usage in Acts 11:20. It is my understanding
>that ELLHNISTAS means any one who observes Greek customs or uses the
>Greek language. It is used in Acts 6:1 and 9:29, referring to Jews.
>Of course there is a variation in Acts 11:20. Is this, perhaps, because
>ELLHNISTAS was understood to refer to Jews?
>Does this word have a broad definition, one that includes both native and
>non-native speakers of Greek? Could it refer to any ethnic group overcome
>by Greek culture? Did the native inhabitants of Antioch come under Greek
>influence and adopt the Greek language to a limited degree?
> BAGD says it is a Greek speaking Jew. Liddell gives the broad definition
>but says that in the N. T. it is used to refer to Greek speaking Jews.
>Thanks for your assistance.
>Walt Seevers

I think one must distinguish between the usage of the author of Acts (who
alone in the GNT uses this word) and a broader usage of the term referenced
in LSJ. The word itself is an agent noun based upon the causative verb
hELLHNIZW which means "cause to assimilate to Greek mores." In the era of
Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabean struggles the term would refer to
those Jews attempting to cast off their parochial ethnicity and become
"Greek" not only in the language they spoke but the culture they lived by,
even to the extent of trying to disguise the fact that they had been

However I think that the author of Acts (presumably Luke) consistently uses
the word for Greek-speaking Jews, most of whom were probably native
speakers of Greek from the Diaspora in Alexandria or Asia Minor or Syria,
still practicing Judaism but using the LXX as their scripture and Greek for
their worship. I think that what Louw & Nida offer for the term is pretty

"11.93 hELLHNISTHS, OU v m: a Greek-speaking Jew in contrast to one
speaking a Semitic language - 'Greek-speaking Jew.' EGENETO GOGGUSMOS TWN
hELLHNISTWN PROS TOUS hEBRAIOUS 'a quarrel arose between the Greek-speaking
Jews and the native Jews' Ac 6:1; SUNEZHTEI PROS TOUS hELLHNISTAS 'he
argued with the Greek-speaking Jews' Ac 9:29. The Greek-speaking Jews were
basically Jewish in culture and religion, but they had adopted certain
customs typical of the larger Greco-Roman world in which many of them
lived. This inevitably resulted in certain suspicions and

In Acts 11 it's a matter of Greek-speaking Christians who are evangelizing
Greek-speaking Jews in Antioch. Antioch was one of the authentically
"Hellenistic" cities of the eastern Mediterranean like Alexandria in Egypt
and so many cities named "Philadelphia" and the like, established
originally by Alexander himself or by his generals who succeeded him and
became rulers over parts of the east that Alexander had conquered. So, yes,
Antioch was to a very great extent a Greek-speaking city, peopled by an
upper-crust of Macedonian Greek-speakers who colonized it originally and by
a native Syrian population that had learned Greek to take jobs in the civil
service and to reap the advantages of a new commercial center as tradesmen.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: [jwrobie@mindspring.com]
To unsubscribe, forward this message to leave-b-greek-327Q@franklin.oit.unc.edu
To subscribe, send a message to subscribe-b-greek@franklin.oit.unc.edu

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:36:50 EDT