Larry Hurtado on the ‘Hellenists’ in Acts

larry hurtado

Here’s another excellent piece by Larry Hurtado, expounding the view which I have also argued in print, that there is zero evidence that the ‘Hellenists’ in Acts 6:1, etc. were a group who held a different theological position to the ‘Hebrews’. This view has a history going back to F. C. Baur in the nineteenth century, and reaching through to Martin Hengel and Jimmy Dunn in our day. Reconstructions of the development of earliest Christianity are built like castles in the air on this assumption: a popular version is that the Hellenists were the ‘liberals’ of early Christianity who opposed the temple and pioneered the Gentile mission

All of this is exceedingly unlikely, alas, for it lacks evidence, as Craig Hill argued in an important, but neglected book, Hellenists and Hebrews (which Hurtado cites extensively in his blog post)—and the picture Acts gives is much more likely, and fits well with the picture from (e.g.) Galatians: namely, that the first major division among believers was between a torah-observant group of Jewish believers and Peter, Paul and others, who practised a mission among Gentiles which was torah-free (but did not require Jewish believers to abandon the torah).

My essay ‘How Mighty a Minority were the Hellenists’ is published in Earliest Christian History. Thanks to Larry for his excellent brief piece!