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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

The Hebrew word translated in English as ‘Gentile’ meant originally ‘a nation’. When Israel became in a special sense God’s people, Israelites used the expression ‘the nations’ (‘the Gentiles’) to refer to all non-Israelite people ( Deuteronomy 7:6;  Galatians 2:15).

God’s law prohibited Israelites from copying any Gentile customs that were likely to corrupt their religion ( Deuteronomy 18:9). But they repeatedly ignored that law, with the result that eventually their nation was conquered and the people taken into captivity ( 2 Kings 17:7-8). The Gentiles, whose ways Israel had copied, then became the means God used to punish Israel ( Judges 2:20-23;  Isaiah 10:5-6).

Since God’s purpose was that Israel take the message of his salvation to the Gentiles, Jesus announced the gospel to the Jews first. But he knew that on the whole they would not accept it and that as a result the gospel would go to the Gentiles ( Isaiah 49:6;  Matthew 10:5-7;  Matthew 12:18-21;  Matthew 28:19;  Luke 2:32;  Luke 4:25-28). Paul likewise preached the gospel to the Jews first, but when they refused it he turned to the Gentiles and there was a great response ( Acts 13:46-48;  Acts 18:5-6;  Acts 22:21;  Acts 28:28;  Romans 9:30-31;  Romans 11:11;  Romans 15:16).

Gentile people who did not know God had the reputation of being selfish, immoral, greedy, ungodly and idolatrous ( Matthew 5:47;  Matthew 6:32;  Romans 1:18-32;  1 Corinthians 12:2;  Galatians 2:15;  Ephesians 4:17-19;  1 Thessalonians 1:9;  1 Thessalonians 4:5). Although they did not have the law of Moses as a guide, that was no excuse for their behaviour. Their own consciences told them that certain things were either right or wrong, and God would judge them accordingly ( Romans 2:12-16).

In the eyes of the Jews, Gentiles had no hope of salvation, because they were excluded from the covenant promises that God gave to Israel ( Ephesians 2:11-12). Only by becoming converts to the Jewish religion could they have hope of salvation ( Matthew 23:15;  Acts 2:10; see Proselyte ). It is therefore easy to see why, in the early days of the church, many Jewish Christians did not want to accept Gentiles into the church unless they kept the Jewish law ( Acts 11:2-3;  Acts 15:1;  Acts 15:5). It soon became clear, however, that the old Jewish regulations did not apply in the new community of God’s people ( Acts 15:8-11;  Acts 15:19;  Colossians 2:13-14). Gentiles and Jews were equals; more than that, they were united in one body ( Romans 1:16;  Romans 3:29;  Romans 9:24;  Galatians 3:28;  Ephesians 2:13-22;  Ephesians 3:4-6;  Revelation 5:9-10).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

The Hebrews called the Gentiles גויים , εθνη , the nations, that is, those who have not received the faith or law of God. All who are not Jews, and circumcised, are goiim. Those who were converted, and embraced Judaism, they called proselytes. Since the Gospel, the true religion is not confined to any one nation or country, as heretofore. God, who had promised by his prophets to call the Gentiles to the faith, with a superabundance of grace, has fulfilled his promise; so that the Christian church is now composed principally of Gentile converts; and the Jews, too proud of their particular privileges, and abandoned to their reprobate sense of things, have disowned Jesus Christ, their Messiah and Redeemer, for whom, during so many ages, they had looked so impatiently. In the writings of St. Paul, the Gentiles are generally denoted as Greeks,   Romans 1:14;  Romans 1:16;  Romans 2:9-10; Romans 3;  Romans 10:12;  1 Corinthians 1:22-24;  Galatians 3:28 . St. Luke, in the Acts, expresses himself in the same manner,  Acts 6:1;  Acts 11:20; Acts 18, &c.

2. St. Paul is commonly called the Apostle of the Gentiles,   1 Timothy 2:7 , or Greeks; because he, principally, preached Jesus Christ to them; whereas Peter, and the other Apostles, preached generally to the Jews, and are called Apostles of the circumcision,  Galatians 2:8 . The prophets declared very particularly the calling of the Gentiles. Jacob foretold that the Messiah, he who was to be sent, the Shiloh, should gather the Gentiles to himself. Solomon, at the dedication of his temple, prays for "the stranger" who should there entreat God. The Psalmist says, that the Lord would give the Gentiles to the Messiah for his inheritance; that Egypt and Babylon shall know him; that Ethiopia shall hasten to bring him presents; that the kings of Tarshish, and of the isles, the kings of Arabia and Sheba, shall be tributary to him,  Psalms 2:8;  Psalms 67:4;  Psalms 72:9-10 . Isaiah abounds with prophecies of the like nature, on which account he has justly been distinguished by the name of "the prophet of the Gentiles."

People's Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Gentile ( Jĕn'Tîle ). This was the name by which the Jews designated all men but themselves— I.E. , all pagan nations who were ignorant of the true God, and idolaters.  Luke 2:32;  Acts 26:17;  Acts 26:20;  Romans 2:9, where the R. V. reads "Greek;" 9:24, etc. In opposition to the Gentiles, the Hebrews regarded themselves, and were in fact, the "chosen people of God." Sometimes the "Greeks," as the most cultivated among the heathen, stand for them.  Romans 1:16;  Acts 16:1;  Acts 16:3, etc. Paul is called the "apostle to the Gentiles" on account of his special mission and work among them.

Court of the Gentiles. See Temple.

Isles of the Gentiles, R. V., "Isles of the nations."  Genesis 10:5. The Hebrew word signifies any land bordering on the sea. It refers to land on the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian seas.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [4]

In matters of religion, a Pagan, or worshipper of false gods. The origin of this word is deduced from the Jews, who called all those who were not of their name gojim, 1:e. gentes, which in the Greek translation of the Old Testament is rendered in which sense it frequently occurs in the New Testament; as in  Matthew 6:32 . "All these things the nations or Gentiles seek." Whence the Latin church also used gentes in the same sense as our Gentiles, especially in the New Testament. But the word gentes soon got another signification, and no longer mean: all such as were not Jews, but those only who were neither Jews nor Christians, but followed the superstitions of the Greeks and Romans, &c. In this sense it continued among the Christian writers, till their manner of speech, together with their religion, was publicly, and by authority, received in the empire, when gentiles, from gentes, came into use; and then both words had two significations; viz., in treatises or laws concerning religion, they signified Pagans, neither Jews nor Christians; and in civil affairs they are used for all such as were not Romans.

See Heathen, Paganism

King James Dictionary [5]

GEN'TILE, n. L. gentilis from L. gens, nation, race applied to pagans.

In the scriptures, a pagan a worshipper of false gods any person not a Jew or a christian a heathen. The Hebrews included in the term goim or nations, all the tribes of men who had not received the true faith,and were not circumcised. The christians translated goim by the L. gentes, and imitated the Jews in giving the name gentiles to all nations who were not Jews nor christians. In affairs, the denomination was given to all nations who were not Romans.

GEN'TILE, a. Pertaining to pagans or heathens.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [6]

The Hebrews called the Gentiles, Goyim; that is, the nations who did not receive and acknowledge the law: all such were called Goyim. And in case of the conversion of any to Judaism, they were then called Proselytes of the Gate.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [7]

(usually in the plur. גּוֹיַם , Goyim'; Sept. and N.T. Ἔθνη ). The Hebrew word גּוֹי , A People, is derived from the obsolete verb גָּתָה , To Flow Together, as a Crowd, and was originally used in a general sense of any nation, including the Jews themselves, both in the singular ( Genesis 12:2;  Deuteronomy 32:28;  Isaiah 1:4), and in the plural ( Genesis 35:11). It is also used poetically (like the Gr. Ἔθνεα , Hom. 11. 2:87; Od. 14:73, and the Latin gentes, Virg. Georg. 4:430) of insects and animals ( Joel 1:6;  Zephaniah 2:14).

But as the sense of a peculiar privilege dawned on the minds of the Jewish people, they began to confine the word גּוֹיַם to other nations ( Nehemiah 5:8), and although at first it did not connote any unpleasant associations, it began gradually to acquire a hostile sense, which never attached itself to the other terms, לְשׁוֹנוֹת Tongues ( Isaiah 66:18), or

הִעִמַּים , The Peoples. In proportion as the Jews began to pride themselves upon being "the first-born of God" ( Exodus 4:22), "the people of the covenant," "a holy nation, and a kingdom of priests" ( Exodus 19:4), they learned to use the indifferent expression Goyim to imply that all other nations were more or less barbarous ( Psalms 2:1;  Psalms 2:8;  Psalms 9:7;  Psalms 10:16;  Psalms 106:47), profane ( Jeremiah 31:10;  Ezekiel 23:30), idolatrous, uncircumcised, and unclean ( Isaiah 52:1;  Jeremiah 9:26). Thus age after age the word became more invidious, and acquired a significance even more contemptuous than that of the Greek Βάρβαρος , which, being an onomatopoeia to imitate the strange sound of foreign tongues, is paralleled by the Hebrew לָעֵג לָעֵז , a Staemm Erer, applied to foreigners in  Psalms 114:1;  Isaiah 28:11;  Isaiah 33:19. The word גּוֹיַם gains its last tinge of hatred as applied by Jews to all Christians. Other expressions, intended to point out the same distinction, are used with a shade less of scorn; such, for instance, as הִחַיצוֹנַים (see Buxtorf, Lex. col. 723), Ἔξω , Those Without, which is Hebraistically used in the N.T. ( 1 Timothy 3:9. See Otho, Lex. Rab. page 111; Schittgen, Hor. Hebr. in  1 Corinthians 5:12. In  Mark 4:11 it is applied to the incredulous Jews themselves); and מִמְלְכוֹת , Kingdoms ( 1 Chronicles 29:30). The Jews applied the terms אֲרָצוֹת , Lands, and, according to some Rabbis, מְרַינִת תִיָּם , Region Of The Sea, to all countries except Palestine, just as the Greeks distinguished between Hellas and Βάρβαρος ( 2 Chronicles 13:9 to  2 Chronicles 17:10;  Ezra 9:1;  Luke 12:30; Lightfoot, Centuria Chorogr. 1, ad init.). Although the Jews thus separated between themselves and other nations, they hesitated as little as the Romans did to include themselves in the Greek term Βάρβαρος (Josephus, Ant. 11:7, 1; comp. Justin Mar. Apol. 1:46). (See Barbarian).

In the N.T. Ἔθνη (although sometimes used in the singular of the Jewish nation,  Acts 10:22;  Luke 7:5) is generally opposed to Israel ( Τῷ Λαῷ Θεοῦ ), God's people ( Luke 2:32). But the term most frequently thus rendered is (not Ἔθνη , but) ῞Ελληνες , which is distinguished from ῾Ελληνισταί ( Acts 6:1), and, although literally meaning Greeks (as in  Acts 16:1;  Acts 16:3;  Acts 18:17;  Romans 1:14), yet usually denotes any non- Jews, because of the general prevalence of the Greek language ( Romans 1:16, and passim;  1 Corinthians 1:22;  Galatians 3:28, etc.). Thus Timothy, who was of Lystra, is called " ῞Ελλην ( Acts 16:1;  Acts 16:3), and a Syrophoenician woman ῾Ελληνίς ( Mark 7:26), and the Jews of the Dispersion, Διασπορὰ Τῶν ῾Ελλήνων ( John 7:35). This usage is even found in the apocryphal writings, where Ἑλληνισμός is made a synonym to Ἀλλοφυλισμός ( 2 Maccabees 4:13), and ra Τὰ Ἑλληνικὰ Ἔθη are pagan morals (6:9); and even so early as the Sept. version of  Isaiah 9:12, Ἕλληνες is adopted as a rendering of פְּלַשְׁתַּים , Philistines. In the Greek fathers ῾Ελληνισμός is used for the pagan, in contradistinction to the Christian world (Justin Mart. Resp. Ad Qucest. 42, etc.), and they call their Apologies Λᾠγοι Πρὸς ῞Ελληνας , or Κατὰ ῾Ελλήνων (Schleusner, Lex. N.T. 2:759). (See Greek).

It was perhaps impossible for the Jews, absorbed as they were in the contemplation of their own especial mission, to rise into any true or profound conception of the common brotherhood of all nations. Hedged round by a multitude of special institutions, and taught to regard the non- observance of these customs as a condition of uncleanness, imbued, too, with a blind and intense national pride-they often seem to regard the heathen as only existing at all for the purpose of punishing the apostasy of Judaea ( Deuteronomy 28:49;  1 Kings 8:33, etc.), or of undergoing vengeance for their enmity towards her ( Isaiah 63:6). The arrogant, unreasoning hatred towards other nations, generated by too exclusive a brooding upon this partial and narrow conception, made the Jews the most unpopular nation of all antiquity (Tacitus, Hist. 5:2; "gens te Terrima," Ib. 5:8; Juvenal, Sat. 14:103; Quint. Just. 3:7, 21; Pliny, 13:9; Diod. Sic. Ecl. 34; Dio Cass. 68:32; Philostr. Apolog. 5:33; Ammian. Marcel. 22:5, "faetentes, Judaei," etc., "contrary to all men,"  1 Thessalonians 2:15). (See Jew).

This disgust and scorn unfortunately fell on the early Christians also, who were generally confused With the Jews until the time of Bar- Cochba (Tacit. Ann. 15:44; Sueton. Claud. 25; Ner. 16). To what lengths the Jews were carried in reciprocating this bitter feeling may be seen in the writings of the-Rabbins-; the Jews did not regard the Gentiles as brethren, might not journey with them, might not even save them when in peril of death (Maimonides, Rozeach. 4:12, etc.), and held that they would all be destroyed and burned at the Messiah's coming (Otho, Lex. Rabbin. s.v. Gentes, page 231; Eisenmenger, Entdeckt. Judent. 2:206 sq.). There is the less excuse for this violent bigotry, because the Jews not only held that all nations sprang from one father (Genesis 10), but had also received abundant prophecies that God was but leaving his heathen children in temporary darkness ( Acts 14:16), and intended hereafter, in his mercy, to bring them under the Messiah's scepter, and make them "one fold, under one shepherd" ( Isaiah 60:2, and passim;  Micah 4:1;  Zephaniah 3:9; Psalm 45:18; 110:1, etc.). The main part of the N.T. history is occupied in narrating the gradual breaking down of this Μεσότοιχον Τοῦ Φραγμοῦ (the strong barrier of immemorial prejudice which separated Jew sand Gentile,  Ephesians 2:14), first in the minds of the apostles, and then of their converts. The final triumph over this obstacle was mainly due to the inspired ministry of him who gloried in the title of Διδάσκαλος Τῶν Ἔθνων ( 1 Timothy 2:7; see Conybeare and Howson, 1:219 sq.), who has also given, in a few pregnant sentences, the most powerful description of the blessings which God had granted to the Gentiles, the means of serving him which they possessed, and the shameless degeneracy which had ensued on their neglect of the natural law, written on their consciences (Romans 1, 18-32). (See Heathen).

In one or two places the words גּוֹיַם and Ἔθνη are used as proper names. Thus we have "Tidal, king of nations," i.e., of several conquered tribes ( Genesis 14:1-2; Kalisch, ad loc.). In  Joshua 12:23 we find "the king of the nations of Gilgal," where Goy Î m Is possibly the name of some local tribe ( Βασιλεὺς Παμφυλίας , Interpr. Anon.). In  Judges 4:2, "Harosheth of the Gentiles" probably received its name from the mixture of races subjugated by Jabin, and settled in the north of Palestine (Donaldson, Jashar, page 263). (See Haroseth). The same mixture of Canaanites, Phcenicians, Syrians, Greeks, and Philistines, originated the common expression "Galilee of the Gentiles," גְּלַיל הִגּוֹיַם , Sept. Γαλιλαία Ἀλλοφύλων v. r. Τῶν Ἔθνων ,  Isaiah 9:1;  Matthew 4:15 (Strabo, 16:760; Josephus, Life, 12; Euseb. Onom. s.v.). (See Galilee).

On the various meanings of the phrase Isles of the Gentiles" ( אַיֵּי הִגּוֹיַם ,  Genesis 10:5;  Zephaniah 2:11;  Ezekiel 27:15, etc.), see Gesenius, Thesaurus, pages 38, 272, and ISLE. On the Court of the Gentiles, (See Temple) and Josephus, War, 6:3.