January 22, 2017 1 Comment
In the sixth chapter of Acts, Luke—writing from a ca. 90 CE perspective—narrates a very old tradition about conflict and dissent in the early Christian church. When we talk of this episode, we usually ignore the meaning of the outcome, which may be the most important influence on the course of Christianity after Jesus.
Luke tells us this (Acts 6:1):
in these days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews.
“Hellenists” refers to Christian believers in Jerusalem who had a Greek/Gentile/Roman Jewish diaspora background in some way, Luke doesn’t explain, but he does give some names: Phillip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas (the proselyte), all are Greek names. They are Jews, but the text draws a distinction between them and the “Hebrews,” meaning natives of the city perhaps. That both groups are Jews and Christians, is the important point. As Luke tells us about Hellenist leaders he makes sure to say that one of them was a proselyte (convert to Judaism) meaning that the rest of them were born Jews.
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