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consequently before the Gospel was preached to any Gentile : "It as at their festivals there was a general concourg of Jewish people at Jerusalem from all the parts of the world into which they were dispersed, a conside ble number of those Hellenists or Grecizers, as in ou idiom we should be apt to terin them, must have been present on that occasion. It may be observ by the way, that the Syriac version, probably tholdest extant, which, in the two other passages, colhunds eaanvigao with ελληνες, here marks the distil : former by periphrasis, agreeably the sense above given, those Jews who knew Greek. The only other passage is where we are told ', that
here we are told, that me of those being Cypriots and Cyrenians, who the
no re scattered abroad on the persecution that arose abo
Stephen, spake unto the Grecians (rpos TOS E
.misas) at Antioch, preaching the Lord Jesus.
ether this was before or after the baptism of Corneliu corded in dhe foregoing chapter, is not certain : one thing is certain, that it was before those discipl could know of that memorable event. Concerning the others who were in that dispersion, who were probably Hebrews, we are informed in the verse immediately preceding, that in all those places, Phenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, through which they went, they preached the word to none but Jews.
07. The learned Basnage makes a principal handle of this passage for supporting an opinion,
* Acts, xi. 20.
which had been advanced before by Beza, that by the Hellenists is meant the proselytes to Judaism, they being contrasted here not with the Hebrews, but with the Jews. Mr. Bowyer", on the contrary, thinks that, in the two former places referred to, the word Hellenists means proselytes; but in the last, where those so denominated are expressly distinguished from Jews, it can only mean Heathen Greeks. But, in answer to both, let it be observed that the word Jew was not always, in those days, used in the same sense. Most commonly indeed it referred to the nation, in which sense it was synonymous with Israelite. A man of Jewish extraction was not the less a Jew, because he was neither a na. tive nor an inhabitant of Judea, and understood not a syllable of its language. Sometimes, however, it referred to the country, in which acceptation it be. longed particularly to the inhabitants of Judea or Palestine, including those neighbouring regions wherein the same tongue was spoken. That the Samaritans (though mortally hated as schismatics) were comprehended in this application of the term Jew, is evident from what we learn from the Acts', where we are informed of their being converted by Philip, and receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit by the hands of Peter, sometime before the conversion of Cornelius, the first fruits of the Gentiles to Christ. Nay sometimes, in a still more limited signification, it regarded only the inhabitants of the district be
. Conjectures, Acts vi. 1:
; Acts, viii. 5. &c.
longing to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which had anciently constituted the kingdom of Judah. In this sense we understand the word as used by the Evangelist John, After these things Jesus walked in Galilee : for he would not walk in Jewry (lodava, Ju. dea), because the Jews sought to kill him. Yet Galilee was a part of Judea in the larger and even more common acceptation of the word, and the Galileans, of whom were the Apostles, were, in every sense except this confined one, Jews as well as the others. The same distinction is made between Judea and Galilee by Matthew!. It cannot be doubted therefore, that the term Jews in the passage under examination, ought to be understood in the se. cond sense above mentioned, as equivalent to Hebrews.
A little attention to the case puts this conclusion beyond a doubt. Why should they, in preaching the Gospel, make a distinction between Jews and proselytes, persons who had received the seal of cir. cumcision, and subjected themselves, without reserve, to the Mosaic yoke? The law itself made no distinction ; nay, it expressly prohibited the people from making any. 10 When a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it, and he shall be as one that is born in the land'; for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
8 John, vii. 1.
9 Matth. ii. 22. 1° Exod. xii. 48, 49. See also Numb. xv. 14, 15, 16. 29.
One law shall be to him that is home-born, and to the stranger that sojourneth among you. This last phrase (though sometimes used with greater latitude) became a common periphrasis for a proselyte. We find accordingly that though a question arose early in the church, and was for a time hotly agitated, concerning the lawfulness of admitting the uncircumcised to baptism (for such was Cornelius, though no idolater); there is no hint given that the smallest doubt was entertained concerning the admission of proselytes who had already embraced the Jewish ritual, and were circumcised. So far from it, that the keenest advocates for uniting Judaism with Christianity, insisted only that the Gentile converts might be circumcised, and compelled to join the observance of the law of Moses to their faith in Christ. Where, then, could be the difficulty of receiving those who were already disciples of Moses, and had been circumcised ?-It will perhaps be retorted, “ If the Christians could have no scruple to preach to proselytes, still less could they have to preach to those native Jews, who differed in nothing from their brethren in Palestine but in language.” True, indeed, they could have no scruple ; but those who came at that time to Antioch, were not all qualified for preaching in Greek, for all had not the gift of tongues. And the historian has rendered it evi. dent that the want of the language was the reason they did it not, having observed that those who came thither and preached to the Hellenists, were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, places where Greek was the prevailing tongue.
In regard to the murmuring mentioned in the sixth chapter, which gave rise to the appointment of deacons, nothing can be more improbable than Be. za's hypothesis. The number of the proselytes of righteousness, as they are sometimes called, could not be great; for though several, like Cornelius, had been gained over from Paganism to the worship of the true God, few, comparatively, were induced to adopt the Mosaic ceremonies. Now converts of the first sort were still by the Jews accounted heathens, and had access to no part of the temple inaccessible to Gentiles. Of the Jewish proselytes, it was a part only that was converted to Christianity ; and of that part, those who were both widows and indigent could not surely be a great proportion. Further, if by Hellenists be meant proselytes, where was the occasion for classing them separately from the Jews, or for so much as inquiring who was a Jew by birth, and who a proselyte? It was not agreeable, as we have seen, either to the spirit or to the letter of the law, to make so invidious, not to say odious, a distinction; and if not to the law, still less, if possible, to the Gospel. Whereas the distinction, on the other hypothesis, being founded on their using different languages, was not barely convenient, but necessary. They were classes of people who could not be addressed in the same tongue; and, for this reason, it was probably found expedient to employ different agents in supplying them. Certain it is, they were in the constant practice of as. sembling in different synagogues; for in Jerusalem