Part C. Hellenization and the infant church

After the gospels, the next place we witness this collision of cultural values is after the ascension of Christ and the birth of the local church. Fast forward to Acts chapter 6.

At that time, there were Hebrews from every nation dwelling in Jerusalem because God had commanded all able-bodied Hebrew men to be present in Jerusalem for the feast of Sukkoth (Pentecost). Some also lived there because it was the hub of religious Judaism.

The scriptures mention that a daily distribution had been taking place among the local church in Jerusalem. Acts 2:1 tells us that a complaint arose among the Hellenistic Jews. Their complaint arose because their widows were being neglected in this daily distribution. This word selection indicates that apparently, the native Jews did not have this problem of neglecting their widows.  

The apostles responded by asking the congregation to select men from among themselves whom they felt would be able to oversee them. The congregation found this idea favorable and selected seven men who would lead them. 

Interesting to note – until elders are mentioned in Acts 14, all references to ‘elders’ are always Jewish elders! Furthermore, one can never witness:

1) Someone being chosen for, appointed to, or otherwise transitioning to this role…
2) Any instructions as to what being such an elder entails…
3) Any change from the status quo in the role of  elders from the gospels up until this point.

Before Acts 14, there is never a reference to an elder in a Gentile or Hellenistic Jewish context. This is because no such structure is described in scripture pertaining to Hellenized Greek culture. These were mostly foreign concepts to the Hellenized mind, not to mention those living under the governing rule of Rome. 

Apparently, the native Jews already had overseers. How would this be? There is no record of any kind of the selection or placement of overseers among non-Hellenistic Jews. It is fair to conclude that this concept was not new to the mostly Jewish early church. There is no indication that the infant church (prior to Acts 14) needed any such help with such things.

Perhaps this is because this concept of elders was already common place among traditional Jews as one can easily witness in the Gospels? This is a key concept to observe when reading the New Testament. By the time Acts 14-15 take place, there are already established elders in the local church at Jerusalem. How else did they get there if they were not already there prior to the birth of the Church? At the very least, one could conclude that if major changes were taking place, the writers of scripture had no concerns for elaborating on these matters. 


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