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The presence of antisemitism in the New Testament is a debated topic in biblical scholarship, though there is a growing trend to prefer the term Anti-Judaism to antisemitism. It is also argued that the New Testament contributed toward subsequent antisemitism in the Christian community. Most authorities concur that Christianity began as a Jewish sect in Israel.
The New Testament and Christian antisemitism
A. Roy Eckardt, a pioneer in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, asserted that the foundation of antisemitism and responsibility for the Holocaust lies ultimately in the New Testament. Eckardt insisted that Christian repentance must include a reexamination of basic theological attitudes toward Jews and the New Testament in order to deal effectively with antisemitism.
The general message that scholars such as Eckardt are trying to convey is that, using the New Testament as its authoritative source, the Church has stereotyped the Jewish people as an icon of unredeemed humanity;[Need quotation to verify] they became an image of a blind, stubborn, carnal, and perverse people. According to this view, this dehumanization is the vehicle that formed the psychological prerequisite to the atrocities that followed.[Need quotation to verify]
According to Rabbi Michael J. Cook, Professor of Intertestamental and Early Christian Literature at the Hebrew Union College, there are ten themes in the New Testament that are the greatest sources of anxiety for Jews concerning Christian anti-Semitism:
- The Jews are culpable for crucifying Jesus – as such they are guilty of deicide
- The tribulations of the Jewish people throughout history constitute God’s punishment of them for killing Jesus
- Jesus originally came to preach only to the Jews, but when they rejected him, he abandoned them for Gentiles instead
- The Children of Israel were God’s original chosen people by virtue of an ancient covenant, but by rejecting Jesus they forfeited their chosenness – and now, by virtue of a new covenant (or “testament”), Christians have replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people, the Church having become the “People of God.”
- The Jewish Bible (“Old” Testament) repeatedly portrays the opaqueness and stubbornness of the Jewish people and their disloyalty to God.
- The Jewish Bible (“Old” Testament) contains many predictions of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah (or “Christ”), yet the Jews are blind to the meaning of their own Bible.
- By the time of Jesus’ ministry, Judaism had ceased to be a living faith.
- Judaism’s essence is a restrictive and burdensome legalism.
- Christianity emphasizes excessive love, while Judaism maintains a balance of justice, God of wrath and love of peace.
- Judaism’s oppressiveness reflects the disposition of Jesus’ opponents called “Pharisees” (predecessors of the “rabbis”), who in their teachings and behavior were hypocrites (see Woes of the Pharisees).
Cook believes that both contemporary Jews and contemporary Christians need to reexamine the history of early Christianity, and the transformation of Christianity from a Jewish sect consisting of followers of a Jewish Jesus, to a separate religion often dependent on the tolerance of Rome while proselytizing among Gentiles loyal to the Roman empire, to understand how the story of Jesus came to be recast in an anti-Jewish form as the Gospels took their final form.
Some scholars assert that critical verses in the New Testament have been used to incite prejudice and violence against Jewish people. Professor Lillian C. Freudmann, author of Antisemitism in the New Testament (University Press of America, 1994) has published a study of such verses and the effects that they have had in the Christian community throughout history.[Need quotation to verify] Similar studies have been made by both Christian and Jewish scholars, including, Professors Clark Williamsom[Need quotation to verify] (Christian Theological Seminary), Hyam Maccoby[Need quotation to verify] (The Leo Baeck Institute), Norman A. Beck (Texas Lutheran College),[Need quotation to verify] and Michael Berenbaum[Need quotation to verify](Georgetown University).
Occasionally, these verses have also been used to encourage anti-Christian sentiment among non-Christians. Christian apologists argue that by taking isolated verses out of context, people distort the message of Christianity.[Need quotation to verify]
Jewish-Christian conflict in the New Testament
Competition for converts and other factors led to an intensification of Jewish-Christian conflict towards the end of the first century, although there is also evidence of continued Jewish-Christian interaction, including Christian participation in Sabbath worship, in some areas well beyond that.[Need quotation to verify] These conflicts are thought by some scholars to have had a negative impact on the writers of certain parts of the New Testament.[Need quotation to verify]
There are some verses in the New Testament that describe Jews in a positive way, attributing to them salvation John 4:22 or divine love (Epistle to the Romans 11:28). In the story of the crucifixion, meanwhile, Jews prompt Jesus‘ execution and say “His blood be on us, and on our children” Matthew 27:25. In the Book of John, Jesus calls certain Pharisees “children of the devil”. John 8:44
Gospel of Mark
|“||Although Mark depicts all of the Jewish groups united in their opposition to Jesus, his passion narratives are not “overtly” anti-Jewish, since they can be interpreted as falling within the range of “acceptable” intra-Jewish disputes. To some readers, the “cleansing of the Temple” scene (11:15-19) framed by the “withered fig tree” pericopes confirms God’s judgment against the Jews and their Temple. Most likely, however, the story explains for this small sect of Jesus followers that survived the Roman-Jewish War why God permitted the destruction of the Temple. It is an in-house interpretation and, therefore, not anti-Jewish. Likewise, the parable of the vineyard (12:1-12), by which the traditional allegorical interpretation casts the tenants as the Jews, the murdered heir as Jesus, and the owner as God, must be set within the context of an intra-Jewish dispute.||”|
The New Testament records that Jesus’ (Jewish) disciple Judas Iscariot (Mark 14:43-46), the Roman governor Pontius Pilate along with Roman forces (John 19:11; Acts 4:27) and Judean (Jewish) leaders and people of Jerusalem were (to varying degrees) responsible for the death of Jesus.(Acts 13:27)
Gospel of Matthew
Although the Gospel of Matthew is considered to be the “most Jewish” of the Gospels, it contains one of the most anti-Jewish passages found in the Second Testament. Probably located in Syrian Antioch, the Matthean community defined itself over and against the synagogue.
Thus, the term “Jews” in the Gospel represents those who deny the resurrection and believe that the disciples stole Jesus’s corpse (28:13-15). Through Jesus, membership in the one people of God is extended to include the Gentiles (24:14; 28:16-20; see also Great Commission), but they do not replace the Jews (4:18-13:58). Both Jew and Gentile participate in God’s plan for salvation. 
As Matthew’s narrative marches toward the passion, the anti-Jewish rhetoric increases. In chapter 21, the parable of the vineyard (to which we have already referred) is followed by the great “stone” text, an early christological midrash of Psalm 118:22-23: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Matt. 21:42). Then, in chapters 23 and 24, three successive hostile pericopes are recorded. First, a series of “woes” are pronounced against the Pharisees: “you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets…You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?” (23:31, 33).
According to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus, on his fateful entry into Jerusalem before Passover, was received by a great crowd of people. While at the Temple, Jesus had attacked the money changers. Jesus was duly arrested and purportedly tried by the Sanhedrin. After the trial, Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate, who duly tried him again and, at the urging of the people, had him crucified.
Then, Jesus laments over the capital: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it…See, your house is left to you, desolate” (23:37-38). And finally, Jesus predicts the demise of the Temple: “Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down” (24:2b).
The culmination of this rhetoric, and arguably the one verse that has caused more Jewish suffering than any other second Testament passage, is the uniquely Matthean attribution to the Jewish people: “His [Jesus’s] blood be on us and on our children!” (27:25). This so-called “blood guilt” text has been interpreted to mean that “all Jews, of Jesus’ time and forever afterward, accept the responsibility and blame for Jesus’ death.” As discussed previously, the one time that the passion narratives break away from the method of “prophecy historicized” is when the Gospels assert Jewish responsibility and Roman innocence. Thus, Matthew “invented” this verse to address the fate of Jerusalem as just punishment for its rejection of Jesus.
Shelly Matthews writes:
|“||In Matthew, as in many books of the New Testament, the idea that Christ followers are persecuted is pervasive. Blessings are pronounced on those who are persecuted for righteousness sake in the Sermon on the Mount; the woes against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 culminate in predictions that they will “kill and crucify, flog in synagogues, and pursue from town to town;” the parable of the banquet in Matthew 22 implies that servants of the king will be killed by those to whom they are sent.||”|
The pervasiveness of the accusation that Jews persecute, kill or intend to kill Christ believers in Matthew is accompanied by a dearth of specifics regarding the charges, the motives, the causes, and the specific agents of the persecution.
Douglas Hare noted that the Gospel of Matthew avoids sociological explanations for persecution:
|“||Only the theological cause, the obduracy of Israel is of interest to the author [of Matthew]. Nor is the mystery of Israel’s sin probed, whether in terms of dualistic categories or in terms of predestinarianism. Israel’s sin is a fact of history which requires no explanation.||”|
Gospel of John
The Gospel of John is the only one that collectively describes the enemies of Jesus as “the Jews”.[Need quotation to verify] In none of the other gospels do “the Jews” demand, en masse, the death of Jesus.[Need quotation to verify] In the other three gospels the plot to arrest Jesus and put him to death is always presented as coming from a small group of priests and rulers, the Sadducees.[Need quotation to verify]
However, John’s use of the term ‘Jews’ is a complex and debated area of biblical scholarship. New Testament scholar J.G. Dunn writes:
- “The Fourth Evangelist is still operating within a context of intra-Jewish factional dispute, although the boundaries and definitions themselves are part of that dispute. It is clear beyond doubt that once the Fourth Gospel is removed from that context, and the constraints of that context, it was all too easily read as an anti-Jewish polemic and became a tool of anti-semitism. But it is highly questionable whether the Fourth Evangelist himself can fairly be indicted for either anti-Judaism or anti-semitism.”
In none of the other gospels do “the Jews” demand, en masse, the death of Jesus. In the other three gospels, the plot to arrest Jesus and put him to death is always presented as coming from a small group of priests and rulers, the Sadducees. Whoever was the author of John’s Gospel, one thing has become clear: the image of “the Jews” acting collectively as the enemy of Jesus became fixed in the Christian mind.
The Gospel’s treatment of the role of the Jewish authorities in the Crucifixion has given rise to allegations of anti-Semitism. The Gospel often employs the title “the Jews” when discussing the opponents of Jesus. The meaning of this usage has been the subject of debate, though critics of the “anti-Semitic” theory cite that the author most likely considered himself Jewish and was probably speaking to a largely Jewish community.
Hence it is argued[who?] that “the Jews” properly refers to the Jewish religious authorities (see: Sanhedrin), and not the Jewish people as a whole. It is because of this controversy that some modern English translations, such as Today’s New International Version, remove the term “Jews” and replace it with more specific terms to avoid anti-Semitic connotations, citing the above argument. Most critics of these translations, conceding this point, argue that the context (since it is obvious that Jesus, John himself, and the other disciples were all Jews) makes John’s true meaning sufficiently clear, and that a literal translation is preferred.
Paul Jones writes:
|“||The Gospel of John has the dubious distinction of being both the most popular Gospel (considered the most “spiritual” of the canonical Gospels) and the most anti-Jewish. The term “the Jews” (Ioudaios) in the Gospel functions as a “hostile collective stereotype” and is identified with “evil” and the “devil.” Yet the Gospel of John is intimately connected with Judaism. Jesus is thoroughly Jewish in this Gospel. His life revolves around the Jewish festivals, and his identity as the Messiah is confirmed by the Jewish scriptures. According to John 20:31, the book was written so “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” Christology, therefore, is the key to understanding both the theology of the Gospel and its strained relationship with the larger Pharisaic Jewish tradition.||”|
The Gospel of John in particular records a hostile attitude between Jesus and the “Jews” (the Jesus Seminar translates this as “Judeans”, i.e. residents of Judea, in contrast to residents of Galilee). For example, in John 7:1-9 Jesus moves around in Galilee but avoids Judea, because “the Jews/Judeans” were looking for a chance to kill him. John 6:60-66 records “many disciples” (who were largely Jewish) leaving Jesus after he said that those who eat his body and drink his blood will remain in him and have eternal life, for interpretations of this passage, see Transubstantiation.
In 6:67-71 Jesus asks the Twelve if they also want to leave, but St. Peter responds that they have become believers. In 7:12-13 some said “he is a good man” whereas others said he deceives the people, but these were all “whispers”, no one would speak publicly for “fear of the Jews/Judeans”. Jewish rejection is also recorded in 7:45-52, 8:39-59, 10:22-42, and 12:36-43. 12:42 says many did believe, but they kept it private, for fear the Pharisees would exclude them from the Synagogue. After the crucifixion, 20:19 has the disciples hiding behind locked doors, “for fear of the Jews/Judeans”.
Other critics[who?] go further, arguing that the text displays a shift in emphasis away from the Roman provincial government, which actually carried out the execution, and to the Jewish authorities as a technique used to render a developing Christianity more palatable in official circles. Nevertheless, these passages have been historically used by some Christian groups to justify the persecution of Jews[who?].
In several places John’s gospel associates “the Jews” with darkness and with the devil. This laid the groundwork for centuries of Christian characterization of Jews as agents of the devil, a characterization which found its way into medieval popular religion and eventually into passion plays.Other parts of John’s gospel associate salvation with the Jews, and link darkness with the world in general. Like the other gospels, it makes many references to the Jewish scriptures.
- Jesus speaking to a group of Pharisees: “I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did. … You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is you are not of God.”
Successive generations of Christians read in the Gospel of John the collective guilt of Jews, universally and in all generations, in the death of Christ. John’s use of the collective expression “the Jews” is likely explained by the historical circumstances in which and audience for which he wrote. After the destruction of the Temple in the year 70, the Jewish priesthood, and thus the class of the Sudducees, no longer existed. As John wrote his Gospel after these events, for a Gentile audience, he spoke generically of Jews, rather than specifying a group within Judaism that no longer existed and that would have been unfamiliar to his readers.
Most commentators consider that Jesus’ statements refer to the specific group of Pharisees he was addressing, or possibly the Pharisaic movement as a whole, but not to the Jewish people as a whole, which would have included Jesus and all his followers. On the other hand, some retort that Rabbinic Judaism is the heir of the Pharisees and that the verse should still be considered an attack on Judaism as a whole.
It has been argued[who?] that John’s descriptions of the Jews ought to be read in context of the persecution of Christians in the New Testament. John is commonly thought to be the “last apostle”, given that eleven of the twelve original apostles met a martyr’s death, having been killed in unusual circumstances. Stephen is executed by stoning . Before his conversion, Saul (who later became better known as Paul of Tarsus) puts followers of Jesus in prison . After his conversion, Saul is whipped at various times by Jewish authorities , and is accused by Jewish authorities before Roman courts .
New Testament use of the Prophetic Tradition
In many places in the New Testament, the Jewish nation is condemned and assigned punishment by the quotation of the prophetic literature of the Jewish scriptures in terms at least as condemnatory as the words of Jesus.
Christian responses to the New Testament material
- The classical Christian view is that the verses are condemning those Jews that have not accepted Christian beliefs about God and Jesus.
- One claim holds that some of these verses are a critique of “Judeans”, meaning specifically the Jews from Judea, as opposed to Jews from Galilee or Samaria for instance.[Need quotation to verify] This is based on a translation of the Greek word Ioudaioi as Judeans rather than Jews. This view is held by the Jesus Seminar.[Need quotation to verify]
- Another view is that the verses are a critique of some Jews, or specific individuals, or some aspects of Judaism at the time of Jesus, but not of all Jews, nor of the Jewish faith in general, nor of any Jews today. This view has been officially held by the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council.[Need quotation to verify]
- A third view is that these verses are a critique by the writers of the Bible that should not be interpreted as the Word of God, but rather understood in the context of the time and the prejudices of the writers.[Need quotation to verify]
- A fourth view is that these verses are a critique of the Pharisees as the moneyed, self-righteous establishment of the Jewish community. Some modern-day liberal ministers argue that well-to-do, churchgoing Christians, not modern Jews, are the group most comparable to the Pharisees whom Jesus criticized.[Need quotation to verify]
There are many Christian churches which have changed or clarified their teachings on this subject.[Need quotation to verify]
See also: Christianity and anti-Semitism and Christian-Jewish reconciliation.
As one example, the Catholic Church already denounced antisemitic views held by Christians in the past with a series of statements beginning in 1937 (cf. Mit Brennender Sorge of Pope Pius XI). In the decree Nostra Aetate, Pope Paul VI in Council declared that:
- “The Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in Himself”.
- “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues”.
- “the death of Christ … cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today”.
- “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures”.
- “the Church … decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone”.
Proposal to remove verses from Christian lectionaries
Norman Beck, professor of theology and classical languages at Texas Lutheran University, has proposed that Christian lectionaries remove what he calls “… the specific texts identified as most problematic …”. Beck identifies what he deems to be offensive passages in the New Testament and indicates the instances in which these texts or portions thereof are included in major lectionary series.
Daniel Goldhagen, former Associate Professor of Political Science at Harvard University, also suggested in his book A Moral Reckoning that the Roman Catholic Church should change its doctrine and the accepted Biblical canon to excise statements he labels as anti-Semitic, to indicate that “The Jews’ way to God is as legitimate as the Christian way”. See also Dual covenant theology.
- Christianity and antisemitism
- Persecution of Christians
- Nostra Aetate
- Christianity and Judaism
- Origins of Christianity
- Eckhardt, A. Roy. Elder and Younger Brothers: The Encounter of Jews and Christians, Schocken Books (1973)
- Eckhardt, A. Roy. Your People, My People: The Meeting of Christians & Jews, Crown Publishing Group (1974); ISBN 0-81290-4125
- Freudmann, Lillian C. Antisemitism in the New Testament, University Press of America (1994); ISBN 0819192953
- Kee, Howard Clark and Borowsky, Irvin J., Removing the Anti-Judaism from the New Testament, American Interfaith Institute, Philadelphia, PA
- ^ George M. Smiga, Pain and polemic: anti-Judaism in the Gospels, Paulist Press, 1992 p.11.
- ^ Peter Richardson, ‘The Beginnings of Christian Anti-Judaism, 70-C.235,’ in William David Davies, Steven T. Katz, Louis Finkelstein (eds.) The Cambridge History of Judaism: vol.4,The late Roman-Rabbinic period, 2005 Cambridge UP ch.10 pp.244-258 p.244.
- ^ Anthony J.Saldarini, Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community, University of Chicago Press< 1994 p.18:’Most agree that Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the land of Israel’.
- ^ >Gavin I. Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism, University of California Press, 1996, p.7:’Christianity had started as a Jewish sect, and even when Christians separated from Judaism and created their own Christian religions, their reliance on Jewish beliefs and practices remained enormous.’
- ^ John G. Gager, Origins of anti-semitism: attitudes toward Judaism in pagan and Christian antiquity, Oxford University Press US, 1985 pp.113-14: ‘Judaism was the dominant force in the world of early Christianity. While at one level this is simply a truism, its various implications have not always been fully appreciated. The very earliest groups of those who confessed Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) are now generally seen and studied as religious movements within Judaism. They observed the Mosaic commandments; they worshipped in the Jerusalem temple; and they saw in Jesus the long-anticipated prophet, teacher, and messiah, . .as is usual with reformist or revitalizing movements, these early followers of Jesus generated considerable controversy within the various circles or parties of Palestinian Judaism. This was no more true of the Jesus movement than it was of other Jewish sects of the time – the covenanter of Qumran, the Zealots, and the Pharisees, to name but the most prominent . .while we must treat the early Jesus movement in Palestine as intra-Jewish/phenomenon in every respect, we cannot ignore its peculiar character as a minority movement under sharp attack on a variety of social and religious grounds. In time, however, and for a variety of reasons, certain Christian groups began to define themselves in opposition to Judaism, while insisting that they had replaced historical Judaism as the true Israel.
- ^ J.G.Dunn. The Question of Anti-Semitism in the New Testament Writings of the Period. Jews and Christians: the parting of the ways, A.D. 70 to 135. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999. Page 179. ‘The challenge thus posed to Christian NT scholars in particular cannot therefore be ducked… The question we must face, then, is whether such attitudes are already inseparable from the scriptures on which they were based. … in terms of the present inquiry, Does the attitude to Jews in the post-70 NT documents indicate that the final breach, the decisive parting of the ways between Christianity and (rabbinic) Judaism, has already happened?’
- ^ In Memoriam: Professor A. Roy Eckardt Holocaust and Genocide Studies 1998 12(3):519
- ^ Eckardt, A. Roy. Elder and Younger Brothers.
- ^ Eckardt, A. Roy. Your People, My People.
- ^ baised on mishna avot “on three pillars the world stands..”
- ^ Michael Cook 2008 Modern Jews Engage the New Testament
- ^ Mark 15:1-15
- ^ “FROM INTRA-JEWISH POLEMICS TO PERSECUTION: The Christian formation of the Jew as religious other” (– Scholar search). Encounter. Sprint 2006. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4044/is_200604/ai_n16452274/pg_1. Retrieved 2007-06-30. [dead link]
- ^ Paul Jones
- ^ Ibid
- ^ Ibid
- ^ Shelly Matthews. “Violence in Matthew: The Question of Text and Reality”. http://www.class.uidaho.edu/jcanders/Matthew/shelly_matthews.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- ^ Douglas Hare. (1967). The Theme of Jewish Persecution of Christians in the Gospel According to St. Matthew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 145.
- ^ J.G.Dunn. The Question of Anti-Semitism in the New Testament Writings of the Period. Jews and Christians: the parting of the ways, A.D. 70 to 135. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999. Page 209.
- ^ Is John’s Gospel antisemitic
- ^ Anti-Semitism and the Gospel of John
- ^ 7:1-9
- ^ 6:60-6:66
- ^ (6:48-59
- ^ John 8:37-39
- ^ John 8:44-47
- ^ Is the Gospel of John Anti-Semitic?
- ^ (Acts 7:58)
- ^ (Acts 8:3
- ^ Galatians 1:13-14
- ^ 1 Timothy 1:13)
- ^ (2 Corinthians 11:24)
- ^ Acts 25:6-7)
- ^ For example: Amos 2.Primary source WP:NOR[Need quotation to verify] from secondary source
- ^ Beck, Norman. “Removing Anti-Jewish Polemic from our Christian Lectionaries: A Proposal by Prof. Norman A. Beck”. http://www.jcrelations.net/en/displayItem.php?id=737. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- ^ Riebling, Mark (January 27, 2003). “Jesus, Jews, and the Shoah”. National Review. Archived from the original on February 8, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070208063622/http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_1_55/ai_96403717. Retrieved January 5, 2008.
Nota de HURANIA: Si aceptamos que semitas son una raza que también comprende a gran parte de los pueblos que aceptan el Corán como “libro sagrado”, tendremos que concluir que el Papa Wojtyla no es “antisemita”.
En el Nuevo Testamento puede haber críticas y condenas contra el judaísmo ó los judíos si se entiende que Jesús de Nazareth fue galileo de nación aunque formalmente pareciera judío en cuanto partícipe de la cultura ó religión judía. Galilea era una región muy helenizada y con prresencia de gentiles.