Sep 23

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By this time each reader is asking the question: “How many articles are you going to write on this subject?” Truth is, the answer is unknown!” It is believed that more verses need to be covered which address the “world,” as in the nation of Israel.
Here is a question that will reveal one of the difficulties in any study of the word, “kosmos,” “world” as found in the New Testament: “Just what was the world of the New Testament?” There are at least four worlds in the New Testament: 1) Jewish world, 2) the Hellenistic world, 3) the Samaritan world, and 4) the Roman world (Though other divisions can be made, but this will do for our study). In trying to look at each of these, in any detail a larger series of articles would be required, which we do not intend to address; but only in calling attention to the four “worlds” just identified. If it were our purpose to really study the larger context, we would have to engage in a deep investigation of the following, as the words relate to the four “worlds” of the New Testament. The three areas are: 1) cultural, 2) social, and 3) historical contexts. We shall not do so; however, it is necessary to identify at least one verse where each “world” is seen. First, the Jewish “kosmos,” When Jesus sent out the twelve, he said: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). Here Jesus has introduced three “worlds:” 1) the world of the Gentiles, 2) the world of the Samaritans, and 3) the world of “the house of Israel,” the Jewish world. It might be, that Jesus is using the words, “the Gentiles,” as a reference to the Roman world. This leaves us with one more to identify; and Luke will handle this for us. When the first problem arose in the church, Luke wrote: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration” (Acts 6:1). Here Luke has pointed out for us, two “worlds” within the church; and they are: 1) “the Grecians” and 2) “the Hebrews;” at this time. Just who are these two “worlds” called: 1) “the Grecians” and 2) “the Hebrews?” Even when we think we know who the “Hebrews” are, do we really? First, “the Grecians” and to keep it simple, were called, from the Greek word “Hellēnistēs,” which is used throughout the New Testament to refer to Jews born in a foreign land who spoke Greek. Second, the “Hebrews,” and the Greek word is “Hebraios,” which means: “any one of the Jewish or Israelitish nations (the tribes, frw) who spoke in what was then termed the Hebrew language. Therefore, in only two verses, we have identified the basic four “worlds” of the New Testament. No effort here will be made to address a larger context, as this serves our purpose.
The following will be useful to us; “Read just a few chapters in one of the Gospels (There is but one “gospel” given in four accounts. frw), and you’ll encounter Romans and Herodians, Jews and Gentiles, Pharisees and Sadducees, teachers of the law and ordinary country folk, and many others” (Mel Lawrenz, “How to understand the Bible.”) This is quoted to help us see that the “world” of Jesus’ time, could be divided into smaller groups, “worlds.” The words written and put above the head of Jesus on the cross, helps us see this; they were: “And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Luke 23:38). These words divide the “worlds” of Jesus’ time into three “worlds:” 1) Greek, 2) Latin, and 3) Hebrew. However, do we understand what is meant by the word “Greek?” If we have not done at least some study, more than likely the answer is, “No!” It may come as a surprise that the Greek word translated, “Greek,” is “Hellēnikos;” and means: “Grecian.” Adam Clarke wrote about this verse: “The inscription was written in Greek, on account of the Hellenistic Jews, who were then at Jerusalem because of the passover; it was written in Latin, that being the language of the government under which he was crucified; and it was written in Hebrew, that being the language of the place in which this deed of darkness was committed.” The Bible Illustrator gives us this: “It was the custom of the Romans, that the equity of their proceedings might more clearly appear when they crucified any man, to publish the cause of his death in a table written in capital letters, and placed over the head of the crucified.”
So, you think there is nothing else? Wrong! There is at least one more group, “world,” of people. Let Mark introduce us to this group: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6). The internet page, “Got Questions,” has this: “The Herodians held political power, and most scholars believe that they were a political party that supported King Herod Antipas, the Roman Empire’s ruler over much of the land of the Jews from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39. The Herodians favored submitting to the Herods, and therefore to Rome, for political expediency.”
The “world,” and here the word “world” stands for all of humanity, in the time of Jesus and the apostles of Christ was complex, to say the least! It was to this “world,” that Jesus commissioned the apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15).

Frank R. Williams

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