Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Jews with Greek names

Or: 'Just because my name's Patrick, it doesn't mean I'm Irish'.

In Acts 6:5, we meet seven individuals, who were nominated to serve the Christian community in Jerusalem in order to resolve a quarrel between the Ἑλληνισταί and the  Ἑβραῖοι about the unequal distribution of food to their widows:

...Στέφανον, ἄνδρα πλήρης πίστεως καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Πρόχορον καὶ Νικάνορα καὶ Τίμωνα καὶ Παρμενᾶν καὶ Νικόλαον προσήλυτον Ἀντιοχέα,...

All have Greek names. Without the context, we could not know that these men were Jews, Christians, or, in the case of the last, proselytes. We would also be wrong to conclude that there were Greeks. 

BDAG s.v. Τίμων notes 'one of the seven persons appointed to release the apostles from papyrus-work relating to aid for widows'. The entries for these seven men show no consistency.

Prochorus is not attested earlier, according to BDAG.

Note also: Philip and Andrew (Ev.Jo. 12), Alexander - a member of the high priestly family (Act.Ap. 4:6), and Σίμων (9x in NT, of various Jews, a leper, a Pharisee, a Samaritan (?) magician) for Συμεών (Act.Ap.15:14, 2 Ep.Pet.1:1).

In other words, a person of any ethnicity or religion may lie/hide behind a Greek (or a widespread 'Patrick' type) name.

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