International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
gre'-shanz, greks: In the Old Testament the word "Grecians" occurs but once (Joel 3 (4):6). For references to Greece in the Old Testament see JAVAN. In the King James Version of the Old Testament Apocrypha "Grecians" and "Greeks" are used without distinction, e.g. 1 Macc 1:10; 6:2; 8:9; 2 Macc 4:15,36. Thus, in 1 Macc 1:1, Alexander the Great is spoken of as king of Greece, and in 1 Macc 1:10 the Macedonian empire is called "the kingdom of the Greeks" (basileia Hellenon). In 2 Macc 13:2 the army of Antiochus, king of Syria, is called "Grecian" (dunamis Hellenike), and in 2 Macc 6:8 the "Greek cities" (poleis Hellenides) are Macedonian colonies. Reference is made in 2 Macc 6:1 to an aged Athenian who was sent by Antiochus the king charged with the duty of Hellenizing the Jews; in 2 Macc 9:15 Antiochus vows that he will make the Jews equal to the Athenians; in 1 Macc 12 through 14, reference is made to negotiations of Jonathan, the high priest, with the Spartans, whom he calls brethren, seeking the renewal of a treaty of alliance and amity against the Syrians. With the spread of Greek power and influence, everything not specifically Jewish was called Greek; thus in 2 Macc 4:36; 11:2; 3 Macc 3:3,1 the "Greeks" contrasted with the Jews are simply non-Jews, so called because of the prevalence of Greek institutions and culture, and "Greek" even came to be used in the sense of "anti-Jewish" (2 Macc 4:10,15; 6:9; 11:24).
In Isa 9:12 the Septuagint reads tous Hellenas, for Pelishtim, "Philistines"; but we are not therefore justified in assuming a racial connection between the Philistines and the Greeks. Further light on the ethnography of the Mediterranean
basin may in time show that there was actually such a connection; but the rendering in question proves nothing, since "the oppressing sword" of Jer 46:16 and 50:16 is likewise rendered in the Septuagint with "the sword of the Greeks" (machaira Hellenike). In all these cases the translators were influenced by the conditions existing in their own day, and were certainly not disclosing obscure relations long forgotten and newly discovered.
In the New Testament, English Versions of the Bible attempts to distinguish between (Hellenes), which is rendered "Greeks," and (Hellenistai), which is rendered "Grecians" or "Grecian Jews," or in the Revised Version, margin "Hellenists," e.g. Acts 6:1; 9:29. These latter were Jews of the Dispersion, who spoke Greek (see HELLENISM; HELLENIST), as distinguished from Palestinian Jews; but since many of the latter also spoke Greek by preference, the distinction could in no sense be absolute. Indeed in Jn 7:35, "the Dispersion among (the Revised Version, margin, Greek "of") the Greeks," can hardly refer to any but "Grecian Jews" (Hellenistai), although Hellenes is used, and in Jn 12:20 the "Greeks" (Hellenes) who went up to worship at the feast of the Passover were almost certainly "Grecian Jews" (Hellenistai). Thus, while English Versions of the Bible consistently renders Hellenes with "Greeks," we are not by that rendering apprised of the real character of the people so designated. This difficulty is aggravated by the fact, already noted in connection with the Old Testament Apocrypha, that, in consequence of the spread of Hellenism, the term Hellenes was applied not only to such as were of Hellenic descent, but also to all those who had appropriated the language of Greece, as the universal means of communication, and the ideals and customs collectively known as Hellenism. The latter were thus in the strict sense Hellenists, differing from the "Grecians" of English Versions of the Bible only in that they were not of Jewish descent. In other words, Hellenes (except perhaps in Jn 7:35 and 12:20, as noted above) is, in general, equivalent to ta ethne, "Gentiles" (see GENTILES). The various readings of the manuscripts (and hence the difference between the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)) in 1 Cor 1:23 well illustrate this. There is consequently much confusion, which it is quite impossible, with our limited knowledge of the facts in particular cases, to clear up. In general, it would seem probable that where "Greeks" are comprehensively contrasted with "Jews," the reference is to "Gentiles," as in Acts 14:1; 17:4; 18:4; 19:10,17; 20:21; Rom 1:16; 10:12; 1 Cor 1:22-24 (the Revised Version (British and American) "Gentiles," representing ethnesin; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11. In Mk 7:26 the woman of Tyre, called "a Greek (the Revised Version, margin "Gentile") a Syrophoenician," was clearly not of Hellenic descent. Whether Titus (Gal 2:3) and the father of Timothy; (Acts 16:1,3) were in the strict sense "Greeks," we have no means of knowing. In Rom 1:14, "I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians," there is an undoubted reference to Greeks strictly so called; possibly, though by no means certainly, the "Greeks" of Acts 21:28, alluding to Trophimus the Ephesian (Acts 21:29), are to be taken in the same sense. References to the Greek language occur in Jn 19:20 (Lk 23:38 is properly omitted in the Revised Version (British and American)); Acts 21:37; Rev 9:11.
In Acts 11:20 the manuscripts vary between Hellenistas, and Hellenas (the King James Version "Grecians," the Revised Version (British and American) "Greeks"), with the preponderance of authority in favor of the former; but even if one adopts the latter, it is not clear whether true Greeks or Gentiles are intended.
William Arthur Heidel
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'GRECIANS; GREEKS'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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