" - - and also to the Greek"


This phrase, or one similar, occurs five times in the New Testament, so its significance should be the concern of every seeker for the Truth of God. The importance of it has been obscured by the general assumption that Greek is only a synonym for Gentile;  a term which has been wrongly used to translate ethnos - which means "nation"; a term for a concept which, apart from the single instance of allophulos in Acts 10:28, is foreign to the New Testament. This assumption is fostered by the King James or Authorised Version, its translators having no compunction at all about rendering hellEn as "gentile" in seven places where it should' read "Greek", as indeed it does in the R.V. 

That the word "Greek" carries a particular meaning was observed fifty years ago by a notable Bible student, who wrote, "While Greeks are Gentiles, the Scripture suggests a difference between the two. Mention is made of 'Jews and Greeks' in a manner which suggests that they were united in some way which could not equally be said of all Gentiles" Berean Expositor Vol.XXV p.68. As far as can be known, the view that., in NT usage "the Greek" refers to a 'hellenised Israelite' was pioneered by the late Carl Elleby, about 1956, in his 'This I Believe No.4'. He suggested that Jews called their alienated Hebrew brethren Greeks, implying a degree of censure of those they would not recognise as Israelites. 

To the Jew the dominant offence of Hellenism was the abandoning of the rite of circumcision; and so some of them, wanting an even more derogatory designation, applied to these greeks collectively the term akrobustia (which means that which was removed by circumcision, not "uncircumcision"). It seems that Elleby was the first to draw attention to this though the subject was later developed by Otis Sellers in his Ephesian studies. But neither of these two teachers explained how 'hellenised Israelites' became such, nor when their forebears left the 'fold'. 

After the return from the Babylonian captivity there was a falling away to Hellenism which is recounted in the books of the Maccabees. If the N.T. Greeks were a residue from that apostasy, they might well have been called 'lost sheep of the House of Judah', but the number would have been insignificantly small. The House of Judah did then still exist though The House of Israel did not, having become Lo Ammi several centuries earlier, not to be revived until the time appointed in the yet future. But "lost sheep of the House of Israel" did exist. The reason for regarding these Greeks as persons in the lineage of the Northern House of Israel is because the Pauline OT allusions relate to their prophecies. 

It is understood that certain persons associated with the Open Bible Trust recently held several meetings to consider the challenge presented by this view of "the Greek". So far their findings have not been published. This is a pity, as even if the report ran to "thirty pages" the sincere pursuit of the truth would call for it to be made known. However, an OBT spokesman has listed four "important points" in a letter to a correspondent who in turn has passed this information on to the present writer who proposes to deal with them in order.

(l) The woman from the borders of Sidon was not a Canaanite;  rather she was Canaanitish, see Matt.l5:22. RV. In Mark 7:26 we learn she was a Syrophoenician by race and a Greekess. As such she was in the same class as tliose "honourable women" of Berea, Acts 17:12., and there is no reason to suppose that any were not 'hellenised Israelites'. Her reference to the "son of David" supports this; for the original secession of the House of Israel was from David's house, see 1 Kings 12:16.. It is a presumption to assert of the Lord Jesus that "He should - - have helped her straight away", and in His own time He did "deal with her". Those disciples, who must have been other than the twelve who in Matt.10:6. had been sent "to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" and who were to "cast out demons", asked for her to be sent away. With an obvious play on the word "sent" Jesus then said "1 am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel', that is, such as she was. His comment was not an explanation of His previous silence but the reason why He could not send her away without a blessing.

(2) When "any Hellenised Israelites - - - became Christians then, to ensure that they brought forth fruits worthy of repentance, they would need to keep the Law". So also thought certain believing Pharisees at the Council of Jerusalem, who maintained, "It is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the Law of Moses" Acts 15.5.. But the decision of the Apostles and Elders at that Council was to lay upon them "no greater burden" than a few "necessary things", ch.15:28/29.. Paul's Galatian Epistle is entirely devoted to resisting the proponents of circumcision, the "false brethren privily brought in - - - to spy out our liberty"; then he adds, "to whom we gave no place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour", ch.2:4/5.

There was no requirement, therefore, for the circumcising of Titus or of Timothy. It was a matter of expediency rather than of law that Timothy was circumcised by Paul "because of the Jews in those parts". This surely was not to placate the circumcisionists, but rather in line with that principle Paul expresses in 1 Cor. 9:20.

(3) The commission of the twelve apostles to the lost sheep of Israel's house, i.e. to the Greeks, evidently was successfully accomplished -"according to Luke 9:10. Such an authorised campaign certainly would have born fruit among these people, so it is not unexpected that "there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast" John 12:20., though at the Passover they would have been merely onlookers. There is no case at all to deny that these Greeks were 'hellenised Israelite", still less to invent for them so contradictory and absurd a notion as "Hellenised Gentiles". 

It would seem that this early apostolic mission resulted in many Greeks beginning to attend the synagogues, so that the Acts history finds them there. The full ministration to the Greeks awaited the appearance of Paul but the gospel was first proclaimed "unto the Greeks also" at Antioch by Simeon Niger and his fellow Cyrenians, Acts 11:20 & 13:1.. It should not here read "the Hellenists" but "Greeks", as Alford, Darby, Weymouth, R.V., H.S.V. & N.I.V. on the basis of the texts of Griesbach, Tregelles and Tischendorf."

(4) Let it be considered that what Paul wrote was, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" Gal.3:28.. In its own context this verse declares that no real physical distinctions may debar any believers from being "one in Christ Jesus"; and whether or not the reader or the writer is in any one of these categories matters not at all. However, if one should invert and rearrange Paul's words, that is, to "wrest" this scripture, then it is possible to make them appear to say what is quite wrong. In this way the false allegation is made that "all humanity is covered" and "a person is either a Jew or a Greek". Well, this writer is neither, and Cornelius also was neither!  But as what Paul did say was "neither Jew nor Greek" that brings both of us within its scope. 

This synthetic proposition is not even a "point", let alone "important". 

While mutual discussion among a group may be helpful, it is not possible to collectively embrace any aspect of the Truth of God - though it certainly may be rejected in this way. The noble Bereans evinced a concerted "readiness of mind" and evidently "searched the Scriptures" as a group, but it was as individuals that "many of them believed". The truth is not reached by means of logical persuasion but only by a personal faith in the written Word of God under the influence of the Holy Spirit. 

M.S.Lloyd Glasgow August 1986

NOTE:  A Trustee of The OBT has asked that it be stated that the Trust has no views other than as set out in the published Doctrinal Basis

Return to contents