Saturday, August 22, 2015

John 12:20 comments: who were the Greeks?

20 ¶  And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

Greeks, Gentiles, who came to worship at the Passover is quite an interesting event. Timothy, Paul’s young preacher protégé, was the son of a Greek unbeliever and a Jewish mother.

Acts 16:1  Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:

In the New Testament the word Greek is used for Gentile or non-Jew as the dominant culture in that part of the world was Greek-centered and the Greek language was commonly spoken, even by many Romans, although far too much has been made about so-called . Any non-Jew in the New Testament might be called a Greek.

Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 10:12  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:11  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

 A person might be of an ethnic background other than Greek but still be called a Greek based on culture in the New Testament while in the Old Testament more attention is paid to specific ethnicity or nation. In the following verse the word nation as elsewhere in the Bible does not  refer to a nation-state as it does today. It refers to ethnicity, as in tribal affiliation or people group like the Hebrews or the Chaldeans, or a kingdom in a couple of instances. See Genesis 12:2,3; 10:5, 32 and then Genesis 18:8 with Acts 3:25.

Mark 7:26  The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

Actual ethnic Greeks, though, had a long history with the Ancient Near East as traders, settlers, and mercenaries who fought for both sides in any given war of which there are a number of historical works including Xenophon’s Anabasis.

Zechariah 9:13  When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man.

Mercenaries are called hired men.

Jeremiah 46:21  Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.

At the Battle of Carchemish, referred to in 2Chronicles 35:20 and Jeremiah 46:2, both Nebuchadnezzar’s and Pharaoh Necho’s armies were at least partly composed of Greek mercenaries.

There is a lamentation regarding children sold as slaves to the Greeks.

Joel 3:6  The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.

My point is that it is in this way that the Greek culture and mainland Greece would have learned about Jewish religion and been influenced to create their mythologies that justified their own political histories. Examples would be how Hercules is a Greek Samson and a Jonah. Not only was he a man-god of great strength but he, too, was swallowed by a sea monster for three days. The myth of Atlantis is the pre-flood civilization. There are a number of similarities in Greek mythology, too many to discuss here, that would suggest that Greece’s mythology is simply a reworking of Bible truths which preceded them by hundreds of years used to justify political and cultural themes.

The Greeks mentioned in this verse did not have to come from mainland Greece although they could have. They may have been Hellenized (Greek culture)  Gentiles of the Near East who had become believers in the Jewish religion as the Ethiopian official in Acts 8 had.