Vol. 30 New Series April, 1968 No. 2
GREEKS OR GRECIANS?
ACTS 11:20—A DISPUTED TEXT

R.B.W., in Baptism, Part 4., page 63 of Vol. 29, No.2, states: "Some did evangelize Christ to the Hellenists (v. 20), but nothing is said about Gentiles, that was to be Paul's function." This statement was challenged as following the A.V. translation, whereas The Englishman's Greek New Testament alters 'ellEnistas to 'ellEnas, from Hellenists to Greeks. In support of this change, five of the six (Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles and Alford) are quoted, only Wordsworth dissents. Normally, such support for correcting the text would be ample and, as it stands, was accepted and the criticism affirmed. However, in view of the statement in verse 19, "preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only," ran contradictory to such change being made. It was in making further investigation that the writer found in his bookselves a copy of 'Greek Testament with Notes—The Acts of the Apostles', by Chr. Wordsworth, D.D., Canon of Westminster (1862), the very dissentient himself. Under this passage Wordsworth gives his reasons in full, in the notes, where he disagrees, not only with the foregoing, but a number of other Editors of the Text. He states, at the outset, "The determination of the true reading here concerns an important point in the history of the Church." He then enumerates the MSS and the Fathers' writings where the word 'ellEnistas is in the text. He then proceeds to demolish the importance of the evidenge for the change to 'ellEnas, showing that some of these use the words interchangeably, various versions using the same word in the several languages for both Greek words. He then divides the problem into two parts:

1. The authority of the MSS is strongly in favour of 'ellEnistas and as the preference for 'ellEnas is mainly based on supposed internal evidence, it is subject to predilection.

2. Wordsworth then points out at length how various ideas have led the several textual critics to reach their conclusions that 'ellEnas is to be preferred and proceeds to demolish their arguments. These arguments are mixed up with supposed chronological order of various events in the context of both Stephen's martyrdom and Cornelius's conversion and the immediate opening wide the door to the full fellowship of Gentiles, which is highlighted by the use of 'ellEnas. He indicates that if Luke had wished to record that the Word was so soon being taken to the Gentiles, he would have used the words ta ethnE (as in 10:45; 11:18; 13:46, 48; 14:2, 5, 27; 15:3, 7, 14). It was the Hellenists that brought about the martyrdom of Stephen and it is ironical that the scattering abroad as far as Antioch, Phenice and Cyprus, should have been enabled to turn so many the like to the Lord. If 'ellEnas had been the word in verse 20, then the last sentence in verse 19 is contradictory, in spite of the 'but' connecting the two verses.

If, in this case one had accepted the verdict of the majority of the critics without question, one would have undoubtedly been in error and would likely have come to conclusions inimical to the right division of Scripture, finishing up with views in accord with tradition and not with truth.

Thus the writer thanks God he was led into further search.

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Should anyone be sufficiently interested to read the full text of the notes by Canon Wordsworth, three copies of these are available in the Editor's hands in typescript and may be had on application.

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The above notes refer only to the establishment of the correct word in the text, but do not solve the problem of the true maning of the words in question, together with others of the same family. Alongside these it is necessary to give thought to the understanding of the words Israel, Jacob, Jew, Gentiles, Nation(s), and people(s). If one were to read the above notes of Canon Wordsworth one would appreciate the great difference of opinion as to their meaning and some modern expositors have put forward ideas that differ from those. The reading of any publication by an expert on the history of the Greeks leads one to see that the word Greek covers quite a large number of peoples of varying origin and of very extended habitation. It covers migrants from the East, invaders from the North, refugees from Macedonia, Attica and Achia. It is used of armies that invaded Persia as far as India. It is the name of traders who formed settlements in Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Carthage, Sicily, Crete and Cyprus, Egypt and Syria, Asia Minor, the Caucasus and the Northern and Western shores of the Black Sea, from the sixteenth century B. C. up to the days of the Apostle Paul. What history has taken place since those days is irrelevant to our search except that it has, in all probability, confused the issue by a considerable change in the usage of the word. This change has worked into the fabric of theology of the past nineteen centuries and has materially affected the interpretation of passages where it is used.

J.G.H.S. Last updated 5.10.2005