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Who they were, we cannot say exactly. But there might be many such men in Judea, and in other countries all over the world, where the Jewish people resided. Some of them may have been descendants of such as had joined themselves to the people of Israel in former times; and others may have been new converts to the Jewish religion.
I have imagined, that proselytes pow living in Judea, who were poor, may have been chiefly, or for the most part, servants of the Roman governors, or of their officers; who having come into Judea with their masters, were converted to the Jewish religion; and, when their masters returned home, got leave to stay behind. Having renounced gentilism, they could not expect very agreeable treatment from their friends and relatives at home. And though they had not the prospect of any considerable advantage in Judea, yet they might hope for civilities among those, whose religion they had embraced. Besides, new converts have a great deal of zeal. Some of them might conceive a particular affection for the land of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem, where was the temple.
Beside the servants of Roman officers, who had resided in Judea, probably, there were others, who had served Jews out of Judea; who, having for some reasons left their masters, chose to come, and seek subsistence in Judea, not being willing to serve heathens.
There might be also divers other persons of different stations, who being converted to Judaism, preferred Jerusalem to all other places.
Nicolas, chosen to be one of the seven, a proselyte of Antioch, now at Jerusalem, was, very probably, a man of good substance. And it is observable, that Helena, queen of the Adiabenes, not long after her conversion went to Jerusalem. And she must have often visited that city, or resided there very much. For she was there, when her son Izates" died. And several of the brothers and sons of Izates" were shut in at the last siege of Jerusalem.
That therefore is my third and last argument, that these Grecians were proselytes; forasmuch as upon their complaints a proselyte was chosen to be one of the seven, to preside in the daily ministration, even Nicolas of Antioch. The rest, I presume, were Hebrews, that is, Jews by birth, descendants of the patriarchs. Some of whom may have been born in Judea, others of them out of it, but were now at Jerusalem.
It is no sufficient reason to believe that any of the rest De B. J. 1. 6. vi. 4.
Jos. Ant. 1. 20. ii. 6.
m Ib. iii. 3.
were proselytes, or that all the rest were Jews, who were born in other countries, because their names are Greek. For several of our Saviour's disciples had Greek names, though they were all men of Galilee; as Philip, and Andrew, and Thomas called Didymus, and Simon, called also Cephas, and Peter, by which last name he was generally called, and best known.
That Stephen was a Jew by birth, is highly probable from the whole of his speech before the council, and particularly from the beginning of it. Acts vii. 2, "Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia."
Philip, the second of the seven, was a person of great eminence, who first preached the gospel in Samaria, and wrought there many miracles. Acts viii. 1-5. Who also converted the chamberlain, and treasurer of Candace queen of the Ethiopians. There cannot be any reason to make a doubt, whether Philip, so eminent an evangelist, of an order next in authority and dignity to Christ's apostles, was of the seed of Israel. It would be altogether absurd to suppose, that one so early employed in such signal services for promoting the gospel, was only a proselyte.
When the eunuch had been baptized," the spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more. But Philip was found at Azotus; and passing through, he preached in all the cities, till he came to Cæsarea," ver. 39, 40. There he seems to have settled. For there he was, when St. Paul came to Jerusalem in the year fifty-eight, as we learn from Acts xxi. 8-10," And the next day we came to Cesarea. And we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven, and abode there."
Stephen suffered martyrdom soon after he was chosen. Philip likewise, as we perceive, not long after removed from Jerusalem. Indeed, the seven seem to have been appointed upon occasion of a particular emergency. However, the other five, or some of them, may have stayed at Jerusalem, and may have continued to officiate in the service, to which they had been appointed. And moreover, others may have been chosen in the room of Stephen, who died, and of Philip, who removed.
Dr. Whitby upon Acts vi. 1, objects against our opinion from ch. ix. 29; where it is said, "That Paul disputed against the Grecians; but they went about to slay him." Which, as he argues, shows they must be Jews by birth, and not only strangers of other nations come hither. For
how dared they to kill a Jew among the Jews, without bringing him to their tribunals?'
Which is an argument of no moment. For I presume, that neither had a Jew by birth a right to assassinate a man without any trial. And, generally, such things must have been disliked. But a proselyte might attempt it as well as another. And considering how unpopular a person Paul now was, the killing him might be passed by, and overlooked, or even approved of, by whomsoever it was done. Proselytes were as likely as any men to be bigoted in their sentiments, and to practise violence against those who differed from them. What sort of men most of the proselytes of that time were, may be concluded from what our Lord said to the pharisees without reserve. Matt. xxiii. 15. But there were some of a better temper, who believed in Jesus after his resurrection, and joined themselves to his apostles, when the profession of his name must have exposed them to difficulties.
To me it seems, that there is great propriety in St. Luke's style, calling the Jews, who were of the seed of Israel, Hebrews, and proselytes, Hellenists, Grecians, or perhaps Hellenes, Greeks, from their origin. For I have sometimes been much inclined to think that to be the true reading in this text, as well as in the rest. And Dr. Ward says, p. 155; That the word Envioral, Hellenists, is used only by St. Luke in this book, and is not perhaps to be found in any other writer so ancient.' Indeed, I believe, it is not to be found in Josephus. And the uncommonness of the word may cause a suspicion, that it is the invention of some christian; though it is ancient. For, in this text, it is in the Alexandrian manuscript. And the word may be seen in Chrysostom.
Any, who are pleased to consider all that was before said, concerning the word Hebrew, are able to judge whether there is not some special propriety in St. Luke's style, according to this interpretation. A Hebrew, denoting a Jew by ancient descent, must be fitly opposed to Grecians, or Greeks, thereby understanding proselytes, who were Jews, by religion only, and not by birth.
The opinion, for which I argue, has been espoused by many learned men, as P Beza, Basnage, and Pearson.
In Act. Ap. hom. 14, p. 111. tom. ix. P In Act. 1.
4 Ann. 35. p. vii.
Hic autem 'EXλnvisai opponuntur 'Eßpatos--Neque enim Hebræi, neque Judæi erant, hoc est, genere: non Hebræi ex Hebræis---Sed Judæi
Which last has asserted it with great strength, and neatness, in a few words. Insomuch, that it may be thought somewhat strange, that this opinion has not been generally received without farther dispute. I have enlarged, being desirous to establish and illustrate it to the best of my power.
PAGE 159. Diss. xxxviii. The term Holy Ghost, in the • New Testament, denotes both a person and a power.'
P. 159, That it often denotes a power, cannot be ques'tioned, as where the apostles and other christians at that ' time, are said to be filled with the Holy Ghost. But that ' it signifies also a person, seems evident from the following passages among others.'
That Dissertation concludes in this manner, p. 161, We 'meet with xapioμa Oce," the gift of God," Rom. vi. 23, and 'xаpioμа Xpioтe," the gift of Christ," 2 Tim. i. 6, according χαρισμα Χριστ8, to some copies; though others have it Oce," the gift of "God," as it is in our version. And agreeably to all analogy χαρισματα ̔Αγιε Πνευματος must signify “ the gifts of the Holy Spirit," in a personal sense: since that word is 'never used otherwise, but of persons in the New Testa'ment, where the donor is mentioned.'
But for this last our author refers not to any text, as he does for the two former; because, I suppose, he found not any such text in the New Testament. Nor do I know
This observation therefore is unsupported by proper authority, and is what one would not have expected in so accurate a writer as Dr. Ward. I think we ought here to recollect, that these Dissertations are posthumous.
But I have no intention to enter into an argument upon this subject. There was an anonymous tract published not long ago, where it is treated more distinctly, to which I refer.
tantum religione, id est, proselyti. Hi igitur proselyti, cum, antequam circumciderentur, 'EXλnveç, sive Gentiles fuerint, etsi jam religione facti Judæi, et totius legis impletionem in se suscipientes, tamen a Judæis seu Hebræis, stirpe et genere ab Abrahamo deducto superbientibus, inferiori loco habebantur. Unde neglectus viduarum, et ex eo neglectu murmur, seu yoyYvoμos Twv Envisov. Pearson, Lec. 3. in Act. Apost. num. v.
* See the First Postscript to a letter written in 1730, p. 116.
PAGE 174. Diss. xlii.
I. An introduction.
II. The Noachic precepts, with observations upon them. III. To whom the apostolic decree was directed; and that there was but one sort of Jewish proselytes.
IV. General observations, showing the occasion and design of the apostolic decree.
V. The several articles of the decree explained.
I. INTRODUCTION. Before I make any remarks upon this article, I would observe, that a good while ago, in the chapter of St. Cyprian, I carefully considered the various readings of this decree, as it stands in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, ch. xv. 20, 29, and xxi. 25. The result of which was, that the readings in our present copies of it, in the New Testament, are right. It was a long discussion. But I do not repent the labour of it. It has formerly, and does still afford satisfaction.
To whom the apostolic decree, And whether it was perpetual.' of considerable length, I shall
Says our learned author, p. 174, The decree is directed τοις αδελφοις εξ εθνων, that is, as seems most probable, to all the heathen converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, who 'were not proselytes of the gate, before they embraced christianity. For the Jewish proselytes were always obliged to regard the things therein mentioned, as they were all contained in the precepts given to Noah. And 'therefore we do not find in Acts x. that Peter laid
injunctions upon Cornelius, and his company.'
Dr. Ward, as seems to me, useth those words, “ proselytes of the gate, and Jewish proselytes," very improperly. But of that more hereafter.
It may be proper to observe here, that the author of Miscellanea Sacra has advanced an opinion, not known before, that the decree of the council of Jerusalem was directed to such converts to christianity only, as were 66 proselytes of the gate," and were, before their conversion to christianity, obliged to observe the several regulations contained in this decree. Which opinion has been embraced by several. Vol. iii. p. 22-35. b See Miscell. Sacra. Essay iv. However, see also Hammond upon Acts xv. 29.