And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists [Ἑλληνιστάς]. But they were seeking to kill him. (Acts 9:29, ESV)

This is in Jerusalem, and it is obviously that this verse points out Hellenistic (Greek speaking) Jews as opposed to Hebrew/Aramaic speaking Jews. Why is Paul's conflict with the Hellenists and not the Hebrews? Paul is from the diaspora in Tarsus. Peter reaches the Gentiles in the next chapter. This seems too early for Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles. But, it seems a likely cause for debate that Paul and the Hellenists might have more concern about the Gentiles than the Hebrew Jews. On Paul's missionary journeys he does conflict with the synagogues of the Jewish proselytes turning to Christianity. Can we answer this question?

Note: the following doesn't happen until chapter 13:

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you [the Jews]. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46, ESV)

  • diaspora - spell check didn't help.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


It is true that the main outreach to Gentiles as distinct from Jews appears to occur in the book of acts after Acts 9:32. See appendix below. However, the fact that Saul debated with Greek-speaking Jews in Acts 9:29 is not entirely out of place for the following reasons:

  • The verse in Acts 9:29 is a neat literary preparation or anticipation of the next section and foreshadows the kind of apostle Saul/Paul was to become
  • Jesus had also spoken with Greek speaking Jews some years earlier, and in Jerusalem, as recorded in John 12:21.
  • The Greek -speaking Jews were still Jews and not Gentiles. Thus, up until Peter's experience with Cornelius in the next section of Acts, outreach is still confined to Jews.

APPENDIX - Book of Acts

The book of acts reads like a church report of progress at various stages beginning with Jesus sending out the disciples until the Gospel reached Rome. Each section concludes with a summary of the progress of the Gospel that naturally divides the book into six sections. The table below summarizes this.

Reference Progress Summary Verse in Acts
1:1 – 6:7 Gospel preached in Jerusalem 6:7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
6:8 – 9:31 Gospel spreads from Jerusalem to Samaria 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
9:32 – 12:24 Gospel spreads to Antioch and 1st Gentile convert, Cornelius 12:24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
12:25 – 16:5 Gospel spreads to Asia Minor including Galatia 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
16:6 – 19:20 Gospel spreads to Europe 19:20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
19:20 – 28:31 Gospel spreads to Rome 28:31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ--with all boldness and without hindrance!

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