Who were the Hellenists in Acts 6:1?
Here’s the verse in question:
Acts 6:1 (ESV)
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
The word “Hellenists” comes from the Greek term hellenistes, which is defined by Strong’s Concordance as “a Greek-speaking Jew.” Guy Woods, in his answer to a similar question in the Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, brought out how a Hellenist was “a Jew born out of Palestine, who had been educated under Greek influence, who spoke the Greek language, and who had adopted, in large measure, the customs and modes of living characteristic of the Greeks.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives a similar definition.
Concerning the Hellenists of Acts 6:1, Wayne Jackson surmised, “Apparently there were many Grecian Jews living in the Jerusalem area. These were Jews born beyond the borders of Palestine and educated in Greek culture. It was the practice of many of these non-Palestinian Jews to return to the holy city in their declining years so as to die at ‘home’ and be buried there. Since they were not native to Jerusalem, the widows would have no means of regular sustenance. The Hellenists thus began to complain that their widows were neglected in their daily needs.”