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Volume 27 - Page 9 of 212 Index | Zoom | |
First, the Received Text Hellenistes, "Greek-speaking Jews". Almost without
exception, this is the reading of B, D, E, G, H, and the cursive MSS. Supporting this
reading is the statement of James in Acts 15: 14. "Simeon hath declared how God at the
first did visit the Gentiles." For if these at Antioch were "Gentiles" Peter could hardly
have been called "the first". To this may be added Peter's own testimony "That the
Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel" (Acts 15: 7).
While in their sequence in the sacred page verses 19 and 20 of Acts 11: follow the
narrative concerning Cornelius, the events they describe occurred at a much earlier
period, when the persecution arose about Stephen. This was before the conversion of
Paul. At first these scattered believers limited their ministry "to Jews only", but later,
certain men from Cyrene and Cyprus evangelized the Greek-speaking Jews, the Grecians.
Stephen had been martyred largely at the instigation of Hellenistes, or Greek-speaking
Jews (Acts 6: 9), and it was the same class that plotted the assassination of Paul after his
conversion (Acts 9: 29). It would therefore be a signal triumph of the gospel for a great
company of these Greek-speaking Jews to be brought to acknowledge the Lord. The fact
that Barnabas was cognizant of the Grecian plot against the life of the apostle makes it
doubly interesting that he should seek Saul and bring him back from Tarsus to Antioch.
Second, the Revised Text: The margin of the R.V. reminds the reader that while
"Greeks" is placed in the text, many ancient authorities read "Grecian Jews". The main
arguments in favour of the Reviser's reading are (1) The trend of the narrative rather
leads us to expect an added triumph, yet it would make no point if these conversions at
Antioch were merely among the Jewish population. (2) The conversion of a number of
Greek-speaking Jews at Antioch would not have excited special notice, nor necessitated
that special mission of Barnabas.
"The entire context, therefore, conclusively proves that Hellenes, `Greeks', is the right
reading, and it has accordingly been received into the text in spite of external evidence
against it by all the best editors" (Farrar).
But we should not be content to introduce a reading into the text because of the
deductions of commentators. Our first concern is to ascertain what is written in the
Scriptures, and then to seek explanation. If we are to allow our opinion as to the fitness
of a rendering to override evidences, where will it lead us? Our own conclusion is that
the ministry of the dispersion at Antioch did not go so far as the inclusion of the
uncircumcised Gentile, and that as there had already arisen grave troubles at Jerusalem on
account of the conversion of the "Grecians", those in authority made no delay in sending
Barnabas, "a good man" (Acts 11: 24), and one most likely to conciliate where friction
When Barnabas had studied the situation at Antioch, he seems to have felt that the
case demanded something freer and less cramped than any ministry that might be
expected to emanate from Jerusalem: someone of the stamp of the martyred Stephen was
needed. Immediately there would come to his mind Saul of Tarsus. Without hesitation
he traveled north, and not without difficulty, as the original indicates he found Saul.