“Greek” Again

“Greek” Again November 12, 2003

This from the TDNT on HELLEN: “In Hellenistic Judaism Hellenism was found to be the most dangerous form of paganism, but as yet there is no simple equation of HELLENES and Gentiles. Hellenism is the historically known magnitude of the Greek world with its language, customs and deities . . . . There can thus be no suggestion that, in the face of the threat of paganism in the form of Gk. culture and religion, Gk. speaking Jews had already begun to use the words HELLEN, HELLENIKOS, HELLENISMOS in the sense of ‘heathen’ or ‘heathenism,’ especially as the Gks. were not the only people of non-Jewish descent, language and religion with whom they had dealings.” The same article points out that for Luke, HELLEN meant “a man of Greek descent, civilization and speech rather than a Gentile.”

On Paul, the TDNT says this: “For Paul HELLENES is thus the non-Jewish part of the race. The formula is determined by the outlook of the Jew, especially of the Anatolian Jew of the dispersion, of the missionary from Judaism who crosses the borders of the Jewish ghetto into the cultural sphere of the HELLENES. The presupposition of the formula is the unified culture of the Mediterranean lands as essentially influenced by the Greek tongue and Greek civilization, and the accompanying fact that Paul as a missionary to the Gentiles does not embrace the whole of the heathen world but confines himself to the HELLENES in Asia Minor, Macedonia, Illyria, and ancient Hellas . . . . As he uses it, however, the formula JOUDAIOI KAI HELLENES expresses the universal relevance of the Gospel, especially the Pauline Gospel. HELLENES are that part of the race which is distinguished from the Jews by language, descent and culture. They are thus the essentially Hellenistic inhabitants of the Roman Empire (apart from Jews).”

Elsewhere, this: “For Paul the Hellenes are also Gentiles. This does not mean, however, that the words are equivalent. The sense of Gentiles is certainly not present in the formula HELLENES KAI BARBAROI . . . . Even the other formula, IOUDAIOI KAI HELLENES, understands the HELLENES primarily as men who are distinguished from others by Greek language and culture.”

Browse Our Archives