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 Gentiles or Nations

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PostSubject: Gentiles or Nations   Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:03 pm


A study by J.O.Adams

T hroughout this study I have used my own translation unless otherwise marked. I have used italics for 'understood' words required in translating. Where the definite article occurs in the original language but is not required in English I have used an asterisk. Thus at times *God is used to represent 'the God'. I have also used italics for Hebrew, Greek or Latin words. In typing Greek words 'e' is used for epsilon, 'E' for eta, 'o' for omicron and 'O' for omega.

In our English Bibles, in the books of both the Old and New Testaments, the word 'gentiles' occurs frequently. The word is used to translate the Hebrew word goi of the Old Testament, and the Greek ethnos of the New. (There is also another word rendered 'gentiles' in the A.V of the New Testament. This is the Greek, 'hellEn', but I will mention this later.)

Both words denote 'a nation' or 'people' - i.e. they refer to a body of people, irrespective of racial origin, organized as a separate political state, and occupying a definite territory. The Hebrew lexicons tell us that goi, properly 'a confluence of men', denotes 'a body politic, or whole people' (Gesenius). It is also pointed out, that in the singular, goi usually refers to the 'nation' of Israel, and in the plural it is specially used of the (other) nations besides Israel. However both singular and plural are at times used of Israel. For instance it was said to Jacob; 'A nation (goi) and a company of nations (goyim) shall be from thee,' (Gen.35:11). The N.T word is used similarly. In the A.V we find both words represented by 'nations', 'gentiles', 'heathen', and 'people'. The following remarks are pertinent to both Old and New Testaments, but I will confine them to the N.T. ethnos.

In translating this word the A.V. uses 'heathen' five times and 'people' twice.'Nations' occurs 64 times and 'gentiles' 93. Of these, 'nations' occurs 21 times in the gospels, and 43 in the other books. 'Gentiles' only occurs 15 times in the gospels, but 78 times in the other books. (Only one of these is in the Book of Revelation). It is the usage in the epistles, and especially those of Paul, that most interests me.

It has been suggested that 'gentiles' should he replaced by the correct meaning of ethnos, which is a 'nation'. However this is not as clear cut as it may appear. Paul does not always apply this word to nations as a whole, but rather to groups of his 'brethren' - persons of Israel stock, who are residing in nations other than Israel. It is noteworthy that all his epistles were written to Greeks. (Even his epistle to the Romans is directed to Greeks living in that country.)

His letter is addressed: 'to all those beloved of God, called ones, set apart (or 'holy') ones, being in Rome'. (Rom.1:7) 'Called' and 'set apart ones' are terms that are specifically used of Israel. It is noticeable that Rome is only mentioned twice in the whole epistle. It was well known, both to the Jews and the Greeks at this time, that they were kinsmen. (See I Macc. 12, and Josephus - Books 12 & 13.)

Paul then, was writing to his 'brethren' - a word which should always be given its literal meaning of kinsmen. He makes this clear in Rom. 9:3, which in the A.V reads: 'For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.'

I would like to digress here to explain this verse, for this is an incorrect and misleading rendition. Could anyone imagine that Paul would wish to be accursed from Christ! The first verb in the verse is in the imperfect tense. Giving this its proper value, Paul's words become: 'For I used to wish, I myself, to be accursed (or 'anathema'); alienated from the anointed One (or 'the Christ'), for the sake of my *brethren, my *kinsmen according to flesh.' As the correct translation shows, Paul was alluding to the time before his conversion, when, as Saul, he persecuted our Lord's followers.

So then the people Paul was addressing in all his epistles were his blood brothers - people of his own race, the sons of Jacob. This being so he was not addressing other nations as such, but his fellow countrymen, who were living in other countries. These are people to whom the word 'gentile', if properly understood, is applicable. Before dealing with the proper meaning of this word, let us look at a few passages, which clearly show to whom he was writing when he used ethnos, 'a nation'.

Romans 11:13,14.

'But to you, the nations I say, Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of nations, I magnify my ministry if by any means I may excite my flesh to emulation and save some from among them.'

Paul was not speaking to whole nations, but to those of his kinsrnen, his 'flesh', who were residing in Rome. Continuing in verse 15, he speaks of their 'casting away'. The reference can only be to the outcasts of the people of Israel.

I Corinthians 12:2.

In the preceding verse these people are also called his brethren.

'Ye know that when ye were nations ye were led astray' These too, were not whole nations (plural). These were Paul's kinsmen, scattered among the nations. They had become part of the Greek nation and were residing at Corinth.

Galatians 2:12.

Paul was speaking of Peter: 'For before certain men came from James, he ate with the nations' Peter did not eat with a number of whole nations, but with persons (of his own people) belonging to another nation - i.e. not Jews.

Ephesians 2:11, 12.

'Wherefore remember that when ye were the nations, those being called uncircumcision in flesh, by those called circumcision, which was in the flesh, made by hand, that ye were at that time set apart from an anointed people, having been alienated from the citizenship of *Israel, and become strangers in relation to the covenants of the promise, having no hope, and without God, in the world-order.' These Ephesians were also people from the cast off House of Israel. They were not 'nations' (plural), but people of Israel stock residing at Ephesus - originally a Greek city, but under Roman rule. They had been 'apart from' the Israel nation -not 'without Christ' as in the A.V. The time Paul referred to was prior to the Lords coming.
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PostSubject: Re: Gentiles or Nations   Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:03 pm

Ephesians 3:6.

'That the nations should be joint heirs and a joint body, even joint sharers of the promise, through the good news ('gospel') in respect of an anointed people belonging to Jesus.' The promise is singular, and is that given to Abraham and his seed. I see this as the promise of Genesis 17, the promise of life after death, which is the gist of the covenant symbolised by circumcision. Other nations cannot be heirs to, or share in, that promise. The 'gospel' is that of the kingdom - the good news that the outcast sons of Jacob can be received back into the Israel nation through belief. This too cannot apply to nations other than Israel. Again we see that these Ephesians were not a number of whole nations, but were Paul's kinsmen living in another nation.

The Hebrew goi and the Greek ethnos are equivalent to each other, both meaning 'a nation, a people'. In the Vulgate version, the Latin gens, and occasionally gentilis, is used to represent these two words. From this the word gentilis has been adopted into our language as 'gentile'. The Douay version, a translation of the Latin Vulgate into English, has frequently used 'gentile' for both goi and ethnos. Our A.V. has gone further, and in the N.T, uses 'gentile' more than 'nation' to represent ethnos. Many have said that 'gentiles' is wrong and should be replaced by 'nations' on each occasion. However when the proper meaning of 'gentile' is known this is not always true. Although I dislike the incorporation of this Latin word into our language, in many places it actually expresses the intended rneaning better than does 'nation'. This is particularly the case in many of Paul's writings.

The Latin gens used in the Vulgate, is equivalent to either goi or ethnos. Like these two words gens is a noun and means 'a nation'. From gens the adjective gentilis is formed, and this is the word we have absorbed into the English language. Being an adjective, gentilis does not mean 'a nation', but means 'of', 'belonging to', or 'pertaining to', a nation. If it is employed as a noun it means 'one (or 'ones') belonging to a nation. If used as a noun to represent ta ethnE, which is the plural of ethnos with the article, it means 'those belonging' to the nations'. These meanings also apply to our English word, 'gentile'. In fact the Oxford Dictionary defines gentile as an adjective: 'of or pertaining to any or all of the non-Jewish nations'. as a noun: 'one of any non-Jewish nation'. It is now interesting to go back to any of the examples I have quoted and to substitute either 'gentiles', or 'those belonging to nations', in place of the word 'nations'. For example Ephesians 2:11: 'Wherefore remember that at one time ye were the gentiles' (Or better, 'belonging to another nation.') Ephesians 3:6: 'That those of our people belonging to other nations ... should be joint-heirs, etc.'

I have also mentioned that in the A.V., the meaning 'gentile' is given to another word, the Greek, 'hellEn'. HellEn means 'a Greek', and there are just six occasions where the translators have rendered it, not as Greeks, but as 'gentile'. These are, John 7:35: Romans 2:9,10; 3:9; I Corinthians 10:32; 12:13. Nevertheless this use of 'gentiles' where the Scripture has 'Greeks' is interesting, for it shows that in the minds of our translators, the Greeks were synonymous with the gentiles. In other words they were applying the plural word ethnE, 'nations', to the one nation of the Greeks. It also implies that they, like Paul, used ethnE to indicate some of the people residing in a nation, or nations, other than that of the Jews (or Israel).

Each of the five passages mentioned above will repay closer attention, keeping in mind, that in the places where the A.V. has 'gentiles', the Scripture has 'Greeks'. In Romans 2:9,10 Paul compares Jews and Greeks, but a few verses later, while still discussing the Greeks, he refers to them as gentiles.

Throughout the Book of Acts, and in Paul's epistles, Jews and Greeks are mentioned together, and compared or contrasted on about 15 occasions. In addition to these, the Greeks are frequently referred to in the N.T. books, and their relationship to the Jews - the only official remnant of Israel at that time - is a rewarding study. (See Josephus and I Maccabeus 12).
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PostSubject: Who are the Gentiles?   Sat Aug 08, 2009 11:41 am



Dr. Bertrand Comparet

IT is unfortunate that most people have so many mistaken ideas about their religion, due largely to the many mistranslations of words in the commonly-used King James Version of the Bible. One of these mistaken ideas is that most of the people of the United States and Western Europe - in fact, nearly all the Christians in the world - are “Gentiles”. You hear many of them - even clergymen, who should know better - say, “I’m just a Gentile, saved by grace.” I think it is high time that we learned something about one of the most mis-used words, “Gentile.”

First, you might be surprised to know that there is no such word in the Bible, in its original languages. Oh yes, I know that you are now riffling the pages of your King James Version, looking for some of the many places you will find “Gentile” in it. But I said that there is no such word in the Bible IN ITS ORIGINAL LANGUAGES. The word was put into it by translators, who changed the wording of the Bible centuries after the last book in the Bible was written. If you are a good Christian, you will surely agree with me that what the prophets originally wrote in the books which make up our Bible was inspired by God. It was correct as the prophets wrote it. But not one of them wrote in English, remember, because no such language as English existed until many centuries after the prophets lived. It was written in Hebrew, as to the Old Testament; and the New Testament was originally written in the language which Jesus Christ spoke, Aramaic, a Semitic dialect somewhat similar to, but not the same as, Hebrew. But Aramaic was not generally understood outside of Western Asia; so when Christianity began to spread into southern and southeastern Europe, the New Testament had to be translated into a language which was widely used in Europe. Greek served this purpose nicely, for it was understood by well-educated men over nearly all of Europe. Therefore, the New Testament was first translated into Greek. Protestant English-language translations of the Bible, today, are nearly all translated from Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament and Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. So, let us start at the beginning, with the Old Testament.

The word “Gentile” is not even once used in any Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament, for the good reason that there is no such word in Hebrew, nor any word which corresponds to it. Everywhere you find the word “Gentile” used in the Old Testament, it is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word “GOY,” which means “NATION.” The plural form of it is “GOYIM.” Since it means “nation,” why didn’t they translate it correctly? Sometimes they did; but for the most part, they translated it to fit the official doctrines of the church of their day, no matter what violence that did to the true meaning of the word. The church hierarchy had long since determined what its doctrines should be: and if the Bible didn’t agree with them, so much the worse for the Bible. Men were still being burned at the stake for heresy, in those days, and “heresy” meant any religious idea which differed from the official doctrines proclaimed by the bishops. So the translators did the best the Church would allow them to do. Let us take some examples.

In Genesis 12:2, God said to Abram, “I will make of thee a great nation.” In Hebrew, God said “I will make of thee a great GOY.” It would have been too silly to translate that “I will make a Gentile of you,” so they correctly translated it “nation.” Again Genesis 25:23, Rebekah was pregnant with the twins, Esau and Jacob; and while still in her womb, the unborn children were struggling against each other; so she wondered at this, and asked of God what was the meaning of this? God said to her, “Two GOYIM are in thy womb.” Certainly God was not telling her, “You are an adulteress, pregnant with two Gentile children, when your husband is not a Gentile.” God said “Two NATIONS are in thy womb,” and that is the way it was translated; but it is that same word, “GOYIM,” which elsewhere they generally translate as “Gentiles.”

Now let us take some examples from the New Testament.

Here the word mistranslated “Gentile” is nearly always the Greek word, “ETHNOS” which means just exactly “NATION,” the same as the Hebrew word “Goy.” Luke 7 begins with the incident of a Roman Centurion who appealed to Jesus Christ to heal his servant who was sick unto death. The Elders of the Jews praised him to Jesus, saying “He loveth our ETHNOS, and hath built us a synagogue.” These Jews would never praise anyone for loving the Gentiles; and the Centurion would not have built a synagogue for Gentiles. So, to avoid complete absurdity, the translators were forced to translate “ETHNOS” correctly, as “NATION.” Again, in John 11:50, we find that the Jewish High Priest, Caiaphas, was plotting with the chief priests and Pharisees, to murder Jesus Christ; and Caiaphas told them, “it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole ETHNOS perish not.” Nothing could have pleased this evil Jew more than for all the Gentiles to perish - using the word “Gentile” as we do today. Therefore, the translators had to translate “ETHNOS” correctly, as “nation.” Yet in many other places they mistranslate it “Gentile.”

The Greek word “ETHNOS” means simply “nation,” nothing more or less. It has no pagan, or non-Israel, or even non-Greek connotation. The Greeks distinguished between Greeks and all non-Greek peoples, whom they called “Barbarians.” All educated men of that day knew this, and the Apostle Paul was a very well-educated man, who was quite familiar with the Greek language and its idioms. He recognized this distinction in Romans 1:14, where he said, “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians.” Paul, therefore, never wrote the word “Gentile” in any of his Epistles.

What does this word “Gentile” mean, and from what is it derived? It is derived from the Latin word “GENTILES,” which means “ONE WHO IS NOT A ROMAN CITIZEN.” If you use the word correctly, then you would have to say that Jesus Christ and His twelve disciples were all Gentiles, because none of them was a Roman Citizen. Only Paul could say that he was not a “Gentile,” because in the 22nd chapter of Acts, Paul says that he was a Roman citizen by birth.

How, then, is it used at present when the speaker means to say that someone is non-Jewish? About the fourth century A.D., its use was loosely extended to cover more than its original meaning. It was applied especially to those who were heathen, pagan; it became a term for those who were neither Christian nor Jewish, for Christians and Jews were generally called just that, (Christian; or Jew). But this was centuries after the last book in the New Testament had been written.

The word “Gentile” was never used by the writer of any book of the Old Testament, because none of them had ever heard it, as they had never come in contact with Rome. It was not used by the writer of any book of the New Testament, for there is no such word in the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek languages. They did not borrow the word from the Latin, for if you will look up every place it is used in your King James Version, you will see that it is never used in the correct sense, to say that someone is not a Roman citizen; and that is the only meaning it had, the only way anybody used it, in those days. It was put in by the translators in an effort to make the Bible say what the translators thought it should have said. Therefore, it has no authority at all.

In short, wherever you see the word “Gentile” in the Bible, remember that the correct word is “nation,” “race”, or “people.” Sometimes it is used when speaking of ISRAEL nations or the ISRAELITE race, as we have seen in the examples I have given you. In other instances, the context will show that it is being used of a nation which is non-Israelite. Only the context in which it is used will show you which meaning to give it. When used of non-Israelite peoples, perhaps “Gentile” is as good a word as any, for we seem to have no other in general use. But never be deceived by reading the word “Gentile” in your Bible, for its only correct meaning is “nation” or “race.”
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