the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
NICOLAS (lit. ‘conqueror of the people’). Among the Seven chosen in Acts 6:1-15 to minister to the Hellenists or Greek-speaking Jews, was Nicolas, a ‘proselyte of Antioch.’ The remaining six, we infer, were of Jewish birth, for ‘ proselyte ’ is the emphatic word ( Acts 6:5 ). At a later age the Jews divided converts to Judaism into two classes, ‘proselytes of righteousness,’ who were circumcised and who kept the whole Law, and ‘proselytes of the gate,’ who had only a somewhat undefined connexion with Israel. It is probable that this difference in its essence also holds in NT, where the latter class are called ‘ God-fearing ’ or ‘ devout ,’ a description which in Acts appears to be technical (so Lightfoot, Ramsay; this is disputed, however). If the view here stated be true, there were three stages in the advance towards the idea of a Catholic Church: (1) the admission of Nicolas, a full proselyte, to office in the Christian Church, followed by the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, also probably a full proselyte ( Acts 8:27 ); (2) the baptism of Cornelius, a ‘God-fearing’ proselyte, i.e . of the latter class; (3) the direct admission of heathen to the Church without their having had any connexion with Judaism.
Nicolas is not further mentioned in NT, but IrenÃ¦us and Hippolytus assert that he was the founder of the Nicolaitans of Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:15 (if indeed a real sect is there meant); and Lightfoot thinks that ‘there might well be a heresiarch among the Seven’ ( Galatians 6:1-18 , p. 297). It is, however, equally probable that this was only a vain claim of the late 2nd cent. sect of that name mentioned by Tertullian, for both heretics and orthodox of that and succeeding ages apocryphally claimed Apostolic authority for their opinions and writings; or it is not unlikely that the Nicolaitans of Revelation 2:1-29 were so called because they exaggerated and distorted in an antinomian sense the doctrine of Nicolas, who probably preached the liberty of the gospel. IrenÃ¦us and Hippolytus are not likely to have known more about the matter than we do.
A. J. Maclean.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Nicolas'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​n/nicolas.html. 1909.