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In Acts, it talks about a division in Judaism that I had not heard of before:

Acts 6:1 (NIV)
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

Who were these Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews? What was the difference between the two groups?

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Anyone interested in this question should know about Craig Hill, Hellenists and Hebrews: Reappraising Division Within the Earliest Church (Fortress Press, 1991); see also Larry Hurtado's blog post about this topic (with specific reference to Hill's contribution). –  Davïd yesterday

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As you know, Jesus died on Pessach. This is one of the three feasts Jews are commanded to go to Jerusalem. So Jews from all over the world were present at the time of Jesus' dead and resurrection, and many of them gave their lives over to Christ. So Hebraic Jews would be inhabitants of Israel, while Greek Jews would be the rest from all over.

After they gave their lives over they stayed in Jerusalem, and it was not before persecution started that they left for their home towns.

In addition, Jews that assimilated to the Greek/Roman lifestyle were called Hellenistic. This was a movement from about 400 BC to 100 AC. Prominent members were the Sadducees.

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So, this verse is referring to the Jews who were not Christians at that time (so that this is somewhat of a social commentary)? Or were these Christians who still consider themselves Jews? –  Richard Oct 21 '11 at 16:34
@Richard By culture they are Hebraic/Hellenistic, by descent they are Jews, by theology they are disciples of Christ. –  Soldarnal Oct 21 '11 at 16:48
@Soldarnal Aah, I see. "The Hellenistic Jews among them" Yeah, ok... Just didn't read close enough. Thanks! –  Richard Oct 21 '11 at 16:52
While some Hellenized Jews likely became Christians, Christianity is not part of the definition. The split between Hellenized Jews and the rest predated Jesus and had much deeper roots. –  Gone Quiet Nov 29 '12 at 21:28

Hellenism arose in Judaism during the time of the Greek empire, particularly under Alexander the Great. Initially the Greek and Jews seemed to get along well, but eventually religious tensions among Jews arose over the matter. Rabbi Ken Spiro gives an overview of the history:

[After Alexander the Great was impressed and spared Jerusalem] The initial interaction seemed to be very positive. To the Jews, the Greeks were a new and exotic culture from the West. They had a profound intellectual tradition that produced philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (who was Alexander's tutor for two years). [...] While much of the upper crust of Jewish society, along with the rest of the population of the Mediterranean world, readily embraced Hellenistic culture (some to the point of denouncing their Jewish identity), the vast majority of the Jews remained loyal to Judaism. [...] It would be wrong to view the conflict as purely Greece versus the Jews. Internal tension within the Jewish community contributed significantly to the conflict. Many of the Hellenized Jews took it upon themselves to "help" their more traditional brethren by "dragging" them away from what they perceived was their primitive beliefs into the "modern" world of Greek culture.

From the point of the established Jewish community, Jews following this path were assimilating into the surrounding culture and giving up on Judaism. From the point of view of the Hellenistic Jews, they were pursuing modernity and not necessarily abandoning their culture, history, and religion -- though they were willing to violate Jewish law to fit in, like reversing circumcisions so they would fit in at the (Greek) gymnasia.

According to somebody summarizing Rabbi Dov Nimchinsky, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Robert M. Beren Academy, this tension led to the division between the Pharisees and Saduccees.

See also: Wikipedia

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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1 Maccabees lists the sins of Judea that required internal reform. #1 on the list was Hellenization: removing the marks of their circumcision, attending the gymnasium (a place to discuss Greek philosophy as well as work out naked-serious problems), and leaving the covenant. vv. 11-15 (quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=4219672). Things got worse from there (v. 54 tells of the final straw-a foreign offering upon the altar in the Temple). –  Frank Luke Mar 14 '13 at 18:40

the hellenist or grecians in acts 6:1 were those jews born in the greek lands and can speak both greek and hebrew...also in their conduct they look like greek.

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