Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes

One of the undersung virtues of the internet, and the people that it connects, is the ease with which one can tug on the sleeve of genuine experts and authorites.

I was puzzled yesterday by the phrase "strangers of Rome" from the Acts of the Apostles, but it occurred to me today that Profesor Honora Howell Chapman of the California State University (with whom I am familiar from www.victorhanson.com) might very well know the answer off the top of her head. I fired off a speculative email and received a reply by return from which I quote below:

The Greek reads: "hoi epidemountes Romaioi," "the Romans who were visiting (home) from out of town"--so these were people from Rome who were both Jews and converts to Judaism (proselytes) who were there to witness Pentecost.
It seems that I was right therefore when I speculated that the list "strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes" represented an array of degrees of Jewish observance.

The reply also stirred a recollection that A N Wilson in his "Paul: The Mind of an Apostle" suggested that "perhaps one tenth of the entire population of the Empire were Jewish"; an amazing fact - at least to me - that Professor Chapman has also graciously confirmed which puts a whole new spin on the ancient world.

When I win the lottery I think that I will apply myself full time to the study of classical Greek.

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