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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(τὰ ἔθνη, ‘the nations,’ as opposed to Israel, ὁ λαός. The opposition comes out clearly in  Luke 2:32,  Acts 26:17;  Acts 26:23,  Romans 15:10. Cf. ‘am and gôyîm in  Deuteronomy 26:18-19;  Deuteronomy 32:43,  Isaiah 42:6. In  Romans 11:13;  Romans 15:27;  Romans 16:4,  Galatians 2:12;  Galatians 2:14,  Ephesians 3:1 ἔθνη = Gentile Christians; but in  1 Corinthians 12:2,  Ephesians 2:11;  Ephesians 4:17,  1 Thessalonians 4:5 St. Paul lays stress upon the moral separation of such from the ἕθνη (cf. Harnack, Expansion , i. 67, n.[Note: . note.]1]. The Vulgatehas gentes for ἔθνη, but nearly always Gentilis for Ἔλλην [Ελληνίς]. This may have led our translators to render Ἕλλην six times by ‘Gentile’ [uniformly ‘Greek,’ however, in Revised Version]. When the Koine [vernacular and business Greek] became the international language, those Jews who spoke it began to apply the handy designation of ‘Greeks’ to all non-Jews in order to distinguish them from themselves; hence the phrase Ἰουδαῖοι τε καὶ Ἕλληνες came to be the colloquial equivalent of ὁ λαὸς καὶ τὰ ἔθνη. But there are passages in the NT where Ἕλληνες appears to retain its proper national sense [ Acts 16:1;  Acts 16:3;  Acts 21:28,  Romans 1:14,  1 Corinthians 1:22,  Galatians 2:3,  Colossians 3:11; cf. Zahn, Introd. to NT , i. 373; Harnack, Acts of the Apostles , p. 5]).- Introductory .-The account of what occurred at Pisidian Antioch when St. Paul and Barnabas preached there the second time ( Acts 13:44 f.) may be taken as a short outline of the principal part of the history of the Apostolic Age. The Jews, filled with jealousy, contradict and rail at the preaching of the gospel. The two apostles then speak out boldly, and say: ‘It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you … lo, we turn to the Gentiles.’ The Gentiles receive the word with joy, and many of them believe. The history of the Apostolic Age is mainly the history of how Christ was brought to the Gentile world, and how the Jewish nation ‘hardened its heart more and more against the appeal of Christianity’ (Harnack, op. cit. p. xxx). Add another important feature to the history of this period-that the door which was set wide open for thy admission of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God was kept wide open in spite of the attempt of a large section of the Judaeo-Christian Church to shut it-and the outline is complete.

1. The Gentiles and the purpose of God .-When we speak of God’s revealing Himself, we mean His opening man’s eyes to such a sight of His nature and will as meets a universal want of man’s spirit. We believe that, since man’s history began, there has never been an age or a country in which ‘the Father of spirits’ has not entered into close relation with His spiritual children. We agree with Justin Martyr when he says that the wise heathen lived in company with ‘The Word,’ and that all that they have truly said is part of Christianity ( Apol . i. 46, ii. 13). The revelation which most concerns us is the special one contained in the Holy Scriptures. In the OT, it disclosed certain fundamental principles which, when we study them in the light of Christianity, we perceive to have been also promises of a purpose of mercy for the whole world. One is the Unity of God . This implied that God should be the one object of worship to the whole human race. Another is His entering into successive covenants with men of various periods . This pointed to a progressive purpose which should finally be realized in His drawing all men unto Himself. Further, the announcement of His design of blessing all the families of the earth through that family which He chose to be the special depositary of His revealed will, was virtually His calling Abraham and his descendants to be fellow-workers with Himself in bringing all nations to love and obey Him. Those principles and promises, understood now in the light of the gospel, convey to us the assurance that the cause or the salvation of the Gentiles is to be found ‘in the bosom and counsel of God.’

2. The OT and the Gentiles .-When we turn our attention to the OT on its human side, we meet with a confusing variety of opinions respecting the Gentiles. There is no consistency of view, no authoritative standard of judgment whereby conflicting utterances may be reconciled; and the effect of this is often depressing to those readers who do not bear in mind that ‘we have the treasure in earthen vessels,’ or that the instruments whom God employed in revealing His will were imperfect men. OT writers often speak of the Gentiles in the language of reprobation. In  Psalms 9:17 the gôyîm are synonymous with the r e shâ‘îm , ‘the wicked’ (cf.  Deuteronomy 9:5); they are the ‘am-nâbhâl , ‘the foolish people,’ in  Psalms 74:18 (cf.  Sirach 50:26); they are the b e nçnçkhâr , ‘the strangers’ (in a hostile sense), ‘whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood,’ in  Psalms 144:11 (contrast Zephaniah 3:13). Israel is strictly prohibited from ‘walking in their statutes,’ or following their idolatrous practices ( ḥukkôth hag-gôyîm [ Leviticus 18:3;  Leviticus 20:23,  2 Kings 17:8]).

The virtues of individual Gentiles, it is true, are often referred to with approval. The native chiefs of Canaan treat Abraham with respect; the Pharaoh who makes Joseph lord of his house calls him ‘a man in whom the spirit of God is’; the daughter of the Pharaoh of the oppression is moved with compassion at the sight of the child Moses, and brings him up as her son; Jethro receives Moses when an exile into his family, guides him in the desert, and instructs him in the art of governing; Rahab and Ruth ‘take refuge under the wings of the God of Israel,’ and their names are in the regal genealogy; Ittai the Gittite cleaves to David, when almost all have forsaken him; the Queen of Sheba comes to hear the wisdom of Solomon; the Tyrian Hiram supplies him with materials when building the Temple, having been ‘ever a lover of David’; the widow of Zarephath, nearly destitute herself, feeds the famishing Elijah; and Naaman, the Syrian general, confesses his faith in the God of Elisha as the one true God; Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian slave, rescues Jeremiah from death, and is rewarded with a promise of personal immunity from danger; Job, an Arabian shaikh, is the lofty teacher of how ‘to suffer and be strong’; Cyrus the Persian Is the Lord’s anointed, and the deliverer of His people.

Nor is the fundamental principle of the unity of the human race (Genesis 1-11), or of God’s having ‘made of one every nation of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth’ ( Acts 17:26), ever lost sight of by OT writers. He who brought up Israel from Egypt, Amos says ( Amos 9:7), is the same God who brought the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir. But neither in this saying nor in the later one about ‘all the nations over whom my name has been called’ (cf. Driver on  Amos 9:12) does the prophet voice the belief that He who made all ‘loveth all,’ or will admit all into the covenant of His grace.

Very little is taught by the pre-Exilic prophets as to the world being Israel’s mission-field, but much is said about God’s chastising the nations. In the great post-Exilic book of national consolation the proof of Jahweh’s Godhead is followed by the proclamation of salvation to all mankind: ‘Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth’ ( Isaiah 45:22). When we read those words, and ‘the Servant of the Lord Songs,’ with their bright outlook on the Gentile world, the expectation is raised that the missionary calling of Israel is about to be fulfilled. It is true that a beginning was made, but only by the Jews of the Dispersion. The home-Jews, led by Nehemiah, took the course of setting up an impenetrable fence between them and their nearest neighbours. E. G. Hirsch says that the necessities of the situation justified the narrower policy in this case ( Jewish Encyclopedia v. 616a). But we cannot fall in with this view, when we think of the books of Job, Jonah, and Ruth-of the larger hope of the later Psalmists (Psalms 67, 87, 100, 117, 145), and the remarkable assertion of Malachi ( Malachi 1:11) that the name of God is honoured by the sincere worship offered to Him among the Gentiles from East to West.

From the Wisdom Literature the national feeling against Gentiles is almost entirely absent. But it is far otherwise with Jewish apocalyptic, the Book of Daniel and its numerous extra-canonical successors-far inferior to it in religious value-in which much true spiritual insight is mixed with carnal views and human passion. The noble Maccabaean struggle, which was contemporaneous with the rise of this class of literature, saved Israel from becoming hellenized; but it had the result also of intensifying the exclusiveness and intolerance of which Tacitus speaks ( Hist . v. 5: ‘adversus omnes alios hostile odium’).

The teaching of the OT respecting the Gentiles may be characterized as hostile, hesitating, and hopeful by turns. It is to be observed that in many of its most liberal utterances a position of superiority is assigned to Israel. The Gentiles are still servants, not equals. In  Isaiah 60:14 they come and bend at Israel’s feet as suppliants and vassals. Even in  Isaiah 19:23-25, while Egypt and Assyria are admitted into covenant with God, Israel is still distinguished as His inheritance, His peculiar possession. ‘His house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’ ( Isaiah 56:7), but it is Jewish feasts that the nations shall keep there ( Zechariah 14:16-19), and they shall be joined to Israel by absorption, not by co-ordination ( Isaiah 45:20-25,  Jeremiah 12:16,  Zephaniah 3:9,  Zechariah 8:20-23). A great concession in the direction of equality is made in  Isaiah 66:21, if it be Gentiles whom God is to take to minister in His sanctuary; but the promise may relate to Jews of the Dispersion. In the magnificent prophecy of  Isaiah 2:2-4,  Micah 4:1-4 the Temple-mountain is still the centre from which the laws of God go forth to the subjects of a kingdom of universal peace. But the material and spiritual elements in this prophecy are combined in a way that the Christian Church will not fully comprehend before the coming of a glory that shall be revealed.

3. Christ and the Gentiles .-Was there present to the mind of Christ, while accomplishing the work of Him that sent Him, a purpose of salvation that included the Gentiles? Did He look beyond ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ to other sheep far off from the mountains of Canaan, who had also to be sought and found? When Satan showed Him the kingdoms of the world, did He turn away from the sight of the world with the repugnance of a Jew of His time, or did the sight move Him to compassion, and enkindle a great hope in His heart? It is not easy to see how the Christian Church can cease believing that Christ had a purpose of mercy for the world, and the expectation of subduing it unto Himself, unless she is to revise her whole doctrine of the Person of her Lord. ‘The day and the hour’ may be unknown to Christ as the Son, but the Father’s purpose of love for the world cannot be unknown; if He be the Son, He must have made that purpose His own.

It has been contended that although His preaching contained ‘a vital love of God and men, which may be described as “implicit universalism,” the Gentile mission cannot have lain within the horizon of Jesus.’ It was the Spirit of Jesus that led His disciples to the universal mission, but He issued no positive command to them to undertake it (Harnack, Expansion , i. 40ff.). This conclusion is based upon an exhaustive, but biased, exposition of the relevant texts in the Synoptic Gospels, the Fourth being set aside with the frank avowal that it ‘is saturated with statements of a directly universalistic character’ (p. 47). It is to be admitted that the view in question largely owes its air of credibility to that perplexing feature of the narrative of Acts-the delay of the original apostles in undertaking the Gentile mission. On this delay, which is one of the unsolved problems of Apostolic Christianity, something will be said later. At present, let us endeavour to appreciate the strength of our position by surveying its defences.

(1) As the fundamental principle of the unity of God implied that He was the God of all nations upon earth, so our Saviour’s calling Himself ‘the Son of man’ expressed His universal relation to the human race. And if a reference to  Daniel 7:13 f. be admitted, His using the title also pointed to His coming Lordship over the world. There is thus an antecedent probability that  Matthew 28:18-20, which so well agrees with the meaning of the title, is a genuine utterance of the Risen Lord.

(2) He accepted the confession at Caesarea Philippi, ‘Thou art the Christ,’ with an emotion of which we feel the glow every time we read  Matthew 16:16-17. It follows that, from the time when the Voice from heaven had proclaimed Him to be God’s Beloved Son, and from the beginning of His ‘training of the Twelve,’ Jesus had been conscious of His right to ‘the name in which all the hopes of the OT were gathered up’ ( Encyclopaedia Biblica iii. 3063). The announcement of His Death and Resurrection which immediately followed showed what His being the true Messiah meant for Him, although His disciples were ‘slow of heart to believe’ that it could mean what He said. The OT picture of the suffering Saviour, placed as it was side by side with that of the ruling descendant of David, became, as Ed. König says ( Expositor , 8th ser., iv. [1912] 113, 118), dimmed in the centuries preceding His Advent. Christ relumined the whole picture by His suffering, and then by His being ‘the first by the resurrection of the dead to proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles’ ( Acts 26:23).

(3) To His limiting the mission of the Twelve to Galilee and Judaea un His first sending them forth ( Matthew 10:5-6), we may apply the words of  Isaiah 28:16 : ‘He that believeth shall not make haste.’ It was consistent with the highest wisdom not to propel them into a wider field than the one in which, with the training they had hitherto received, they could labour with profit. His words, ‘Go not into any way of the Gentiles,’ reveal His wisdom in another way. By giving His disciples this charge. He abstained from needlessly offending His fellow-countrymen, to whom it was His first object to commend the gospel. His heart’s desire for them was that they might be saved; He called the season of His earthly activity among them ‘the acceptable year of the Lord’ ( Luke 4:19), and, after His departure to heaven, extended their opportunity of ‘knowing the things which belonged unto their peace’ (cf.  Luke 19:42) for forty years (cf.  Hebrews 3:9;  Hebrews 3:17). In the story of the Syrophœnician, we hear Jesus first telling His disciples that He limited His own mission of healing, as He had previously limited theirs, to the afflicted in Israel; but in another moment we see Him recognizing in the illustrious faith with which a poor Gentile woman met His refusal of her petition the indication of His Father’s will that those limits should be transcended, and that His saving mercy should go forth to all, without distinction of race, who bad faith like hers to receive it. The words reported by St. Mark ( Mark 7:27), ‘Let the children first be filled,’ also suggest that Jesus had in view, when He spoke them, the Gentiles, who should not have long to wait before they too could come to His full table.

(4) If the Gospel of Mark was written ‘at the latest in the sixth decade of the first century’ (Harnack, Date of the Acts , p. 126), and ‘was known to both the other Synoptists in the same form and with the same contents as we have it now’ (Wellhausen, Einleitung , p. 57, quoted in Burkitt, Gospel Hist. and its Transmission , p. 64), it follows that the sayings, ‘The gospel must first be preached unto all the nations’ and ‘Wheresoever the gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world’ ( Acts 13:10;  Acts 14:9), were put on record in little more than twenty years after they were spoken. ‘The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof,’ is, as Burkitt says ( op. cit. , p. 188), the motto, the special doctrine, of St. Matthew’s Gospel. This sentence occurs in one of the last parables of judgment ( Matthew 21:43), but other sayings reported before lead up to it, as: ‘Many shall come from the east and west’; ‘The field is the world’; ‘The last shall be first, and the first last’ ( Matthew 8:11;  Matthew 13:38;  Matthew 20:16). From St. Luke’s account of our Lord’s discourse at Nazareth it is clear that His hearers understood the references to the ministries of Elijah and Elisha as pointing to the admission of Gentiles into the Kingdom ( Luke 4:28). In Luke, too, Samaritans are exhibited as excelling Jews in compassionate and grateful love ( Luke 10:38;  Luke 17:16). The value of his report of the commission given by our Lord to His disciples in the upper room ( Luke 24:47-49), and repeated at the Ascension ( Acts 1:8), is heightened by the fact that ‘it seems now to be established beyond question that both books of this [Luke’s] great historical work were, written while St. Paul was still alive’ (Harnack, Date of the Acts , p. 124).

(5) Finally, as a historical account of certain incidents and crises in the life of Christ which showed Him to be the Son of God ( John 20:31), the Fourth Gospel claims to have the authority of an eye-witness behind it. The truth of this claim has never been disproved. This Gospel is the crowning proof that there was present to the mind of our Lord from the beginning a purpose of salvation which comprehended the Gentile world. It clinches the argument, it is the keystone of the arch. For here Jesus calls Himself ‘the light of the world,’ speaks of ‘giving his flesh for the life of the world,’ and of ‘sending his disciples into the world in like manner as the Father sent him into the world’; to the woman at the well He speaks of the hour when, not the coming to God at the ancient sanctuaries, but the coming to the Father ‘in spirit and truth,’ will be the mark of the sincere worshipper; He resides two days with the Samaritans; He proclaims to the leaders of the Jewish Church that He has ‘other sheep, not of this fold,’ whom He must bring, and who will recognize in His voice that of their Shepherd; above all, on the eve of those sufferings whereby He was to enter into His glory, He beholds in certain Greeks desiring to see Him a prospect so satisfying to His heart that, in the exultation of His saving love, He cries: ‘And I if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ The preservation of such sayings as these made the work of this Evangelist a gospel of consolation to the Gentile churches of Asia Minor at the close of the 1st cent.; and the assurance of the members of St. John’s immediate circle is now ours: ‘We know that his witness is true’ ( John 21:24).

4. Preparation of the Gentile world for Christ .-That Christ came into a world which God had slowly been preparing in the course of ages for His appearing was perceived by St. Paul and St. John, each from his own special point of view. St. Paul is thinking of Christ as the Redeemer from sin and its curse when he says that ‘God sent forth his Son in the fulness of the time,’ and again, that ‘Christ died for the ungodly in due season’ ( Galatians 4:4,  Romans 5:6). St. John is thinking of Christ as the Incarnate Word when he says: ‘There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man coming into the world’ ( John 1:9 Revised Version; cf.  John 6:33 translationby Gwatkin: ‘[The Bread] is ever coming down, and over giving life unto the world’). This fascinating subject also engaged the attention of many early Christian writers. Its interest has been heightened in our day by the fuller knowledge brought us by archaeological research and the study of comparative religion. Thus it is now more clearly seen that Christianity, as Pfleiderer said, came as ‘the ripe fruit of ages of development in a soil that was already prepared’ ( Early Christian Conception of Christ , 1905, p. 152).

(1) Philosophy .-The early Fathers often spoke of Greek philosophy as a προπαρασκευή or προπαιδεία for Christ. Plato, whose Timœus marks the transition from the polytheism of early Greek ages to monotheistic belief, exercised a profound influence on religious thought and speculation during the two or three centuries preceding our Saviour’s birth; and his teaching was still a living force, although, when St. Paul visited Athens, ‘its Acropolis was still as full of idols as it could hold’ ( Acts 17:16 [Gwatkin]). The Epicureans and Stoics who encountered the Apostle on that occasion ( Acts 17:16) represented the two chief Schools of the period; and both Schools, the one by the gentle humanity of its teaching, the other by its moral earnestness, are justly regarded as having a place in the preparation for the Christian faith. The Stoic philosophy, with its watchwords ‘Endure’ and ‘Refrain,’ was that with which the Roman mind had most affinity; and its great teacher Seneca († a.d. 65) commended self-discipline and self-renunciation as the true healing of the diseases of the soul, with a passion approaching that of the Christian preacher (Dill, Roman Society , 298, 321; cf. Tertullian, de Anima , xx: ‘Seneca saepe noster: …’).

(2) Religion .-‘The world,’ says Dill, ‘was in the throes of a religious revolution, and eagerly in quest of some fresh vision of the Divine’; and he has traced in his great work the rise and progress of that ‘moral and spiritual movement which was setting steadily, and with growing momentum, towards purer conceptions of God, of man’s relations to Him, and of the Life to come’ ( op. cit. , pp. 82, 585). The old Roman religion, which from the Second Punic War had been falling into decay, was revived by Augustus as the formal religion of the State, but could not retard the progress of this movement. People sought satisfaction for their religious cravings and emotions in the rites and mysteries of Eastern lands, which had little in common with old Roman religions sentiment; especially in the worship of Mithra, which, as recent investigation has shown, contained a moral element that made it a real help to a truer and purer life, till in the light of the higher and more effectual help to sanctification held out in Christ it too faded away and was forgotten.

(3) The Empire and social life .-The most signal illustration of the historical preparation of the Gentile world for Christ is seen in the vast extent and wonderful cohesion of the Roman Empire. Its political unity, though not of such a nature, as to lead in any marked degree to the recognition of human brotherhood, yet materially helped the diffusion of the message of the Cross and the Resurrection which made men conscious of a new fellowship with each other. Communication between the Imperial city and her officials at a distance was easy and rapid: sandy wastes, trackless mountains, and broad rivers presenting no barriers which she had not been able to overcome. The subject peoples enjoyed under the Romans peace, prosperity, and freedom; and ‘just and upright governors were the rule and not the exception’ (Dill, p. 3). The good treatment which St. Paul received from Roman officials has often been commented upon; less frequently has it been noted that his missionary journeys were never impeded by military movements or interrupted by an outbreak of hostilities in any part of the Empire.

As to the state of society in Rome and the provinces, attention has been so concentrated upon its darker side, that what there was in it of ‘virtue and praise’ ( Philippians 4:8) has been unduly lost sight of. The lines of Arnold’s well-known poem ( Obermann Once More ), in which he depicts the ennui, hardness, and impiety of the old Roman world (cf. Seneca, de Brev. Vit . xvi. ‘tarde are horas queruntur … transilire dies volunt’), are oftener quoted than those in which he also does justice to the sense of void and unslaked thirst which led it to the gospel whereby hope lived again. The intense indignation at corruption and baseness that barbs the pen of a Juvenal or a Tacitus bears witness that in a considerable part of society a high standard of virtue still existed. Roman inscriptions, though they hold out no hope of a life beyond, testify to the affectionate regard in which family life was held. Household slavery had its compensations: masters often treated their slaves as humble friends, and felt that they had a moral duty towards them apart from the legal conventions of Rome (for instances, see Dill, p. 181f.). Many manumitted slaves rose to honourable positions in the service of the State ( ib. p. 100). Still another kind of preparation for Christianity is found in the institution of the sodalitia or collegia , which were ‘nurseries … of the gentle charities and brotherliness’ which ‘the young Church’ was able to teach with greater effect and with more Divine sanctions ( ib. p. 271). Enough has been said to indicate the moral resources that lay still undeveloped in Roman society, waiting to be changed into the spiritual wealth of the Kingdom of God ( Isaiah 60:5;  Isaiah 60:11 Revised Version).

5. The Gentile mission .-The call of Jesus, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest’ ( John 4:35; cf.  Matthew 9:37-38), was not addressed to the disciples with reference to the coming to Him of the men of Sychar only. It had a wider bearing. At the great harvest festival of Pentecost, which followed the forty days during which He had manifested Himself to them as the Risen Lord, the Twelve made their first day’s ingathering of about 3,000 souls; and it was clearly foreshown to them by word and sign that those that were far off were to be made nigh ( Acts 2:3;  Acts 2:5;  Acts 2:11;  Acts 2:17;  Acts 2:39). We should have expected that the apostles, after having been so amply endowed and encouraged for the work of ‘making’ disciples of all the nations,’ would have proceeded to adopt measures for entering upon that work. Their delay in undertaking the Gentile mission has been accounted for on the ground that the giving witness at Jerusalem of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and the piloting of the newly launched vessel of the Church, engrossed their attention. But when we study carefully the history of how the Gentile mission was started, we perceive that the Twelve, bold and resolute as the Spirit of Jesus had made them in the face of Jewish opposition, were far from being well qualified for immediately undertaking it. Their question at the Ascension ( Acts 1:6) showed that they did not share the wide outlook of Jesus; their mental horizon was still limited by their national feelings. They had, as the event proved, to count but loss much that at present appeared gain to them, before they could go out into the world and build a Church in which there should be no middle wall of partition. The terms on which Gentiles were to be received had not been explicitly laid down by Jesus in His parting commission: that He had given the apostles other important directions besides those which are recorded is an idea that we cannot entertain. He had made them fully acquainted with the nature of the work to be done, and had promised them the guidance of His Spirit. But the guidance of the Holy Spirit was not intended to supersede the use of their own understanding, or the knowledge that they were to gather from the teaching of events, as to the practical form which this new departure should take.

This is best illustrated by the case of Peter. The first thing that seems to have shaken his Jewish prejudices was the sight of what the grace of God effected among the Samaritans through the gospel ( Acts 8:14 f.); the next, the miraculous conversion of Saul the persecutor ( Acts 9:27-28). We may conjecture that to have time for meditation upon what the latter event meant for the Church was one purpose of Peter’s residence at Joppa; and there, while he gazed from the house-top over the waters of the Mediterranean, he received his singular vision, and heard the Voice that interpreted it, ‘What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.’ But, having baptized Cornelius and other Gentiles, he did not proceed a step further in the direction pointed out by the Voice which he had heard; the discouraging reception which his admitting a Gentile met with at Jerusalem may partly explain this. Philip the evangelist’s baptism of a Gentile had preceded Peter’s; we cannot help wondering whether some connecting link existed between Peter’s visit to Cornelius of Caesarea and Philip’s residence there ( Acts 8:38-40;  Acts 21:8).

As far as we can make out, it was not till eight years after Peter’s vision that some unknown Cypriote and Cyrenian Jews of the Dispersion took the momentous step of ‘preaching the Lord Jesus’ to the Gentiles at Antioch ( Acts 11:20, where Ἕλληνας is the true reading). The Gentile mission is thus for ever bound up with the very name of ‘Christians’; for ‘the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch’ ( Acts 11:26). We hear the decisive hour of this mission strike in  Acts 13:1-4 : these four verses are among the most important that St. Luke ever wrote.

The work in ‘the third city of the Empire’ had been greatly blessed. The question was, Could it be extended? Ought the Christians of Antioch to make a serious effort to propagate the gospel in the lands beyond Syria, in Asia Minor and the islands? Barnabas and Saul were well aware that the Lord designed them for a wider mission than that in which they were now engaged; had the time for it arrived? They referred the matter to the congregation, hoping that an expression of the Divine will would be given through one of their gifted prophets. This hope was fulfilled. The Holy Ghost said: ‘Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ The way was then clear; uncertainty was at an end. Another meeting of the congregation was held, probably on the next Lord’s day, at which, with fasting and prayer, and by ‘the laying on of hands’-the already ‘familiar and expressive sign of benediction’-the two apostles were solemnly set apart for the mission; and, having been ‘let go,’ or ‘bidden God speed,’ by the whole congregation (ἀπέλυσαν; Ramsay, St. Paul , p. 67), they immediately set forth on their new enterprise. ‘So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, went down to Seleucia, and from thence they sailed to Cyprus’ (Barnabas’s island, to which he would naturally feel that missionary work was first of all due). The Creator-Spirit, who with His Divine breath called the Church into being at Pentecost, thus proclaimed Himself to be the Author of missions and the Patron of missionaries, signifying that their work of showing the things of Christ to all the nations upon earth was His work, and making their preaching of them effectual unto salvation in every part of the Empire. After this, St. Luke’s principal object is to describe the triumphant progress of the gospel from Antioch to Rome.

It does not fall within the scope of this article to trace the history of the attempt made by a large section of the adherents of Judaistic Christianity to obstruct and even to wreck the Gentile mission. Before St. Paul’s missionary labours were ended, it was evident, that this attempt had completely failed. The energetic remonstrance which he had addressed to St. Peter at Antioch on his withdrawing himself from table-fellowship with the Gentiles, and of which we may infer from  1 Corinthians 3:22 that St. Peter had acknowledged the justice, probably had an important effect in settling the question of Gentile rights. Fourteen or fifteen years later, St. Paul had the happiness of testifying to what his eyes had seen of ‘the mystery of God’ now revealed, ‘that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel’ ( Ephesians 3:6). While Gentile Christianity increased, Judaistic Christianity decreased, and, after losing its local centre at Jerusalem, it became ‘the shadow of a shade.’ In the striking words of Guthe ( Encyclopaedia Biblica 2277), ‘When Christianity and Judaism gradually separated, it was as if a mighty river had changed its bed: a feeble current still crept along the old channel, but the main, the perennial stream flowed elsewhere.’ (For the countries in which the Gentile mission had gained a footing before the close of the Apostolic Age, see Gwatkin, Early Church Hist . i. 113.)

Literature.-J. Adam, The Rel. Teachers of Greece , Edinburgh, 1908, pp. 2, 298, 373, The Vitality of Platonism , Cambridge, 1911, pp. 179, 186, 228; W. H. Bennett, Encyclopaedia Biblica 1679ff.; A. Bonus, Dict. of Christ and the Gospels i. 641f.; F. C Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission , Edinburgh, 1906, p. 188; S. Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius , London, 1904; S. R. Driver, Joel and Amos , Cambridge, 1897, p. 223; Expository Times xx. [1908-09] 304; A. E. Garvie, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) v. 323; Thayer Grimm’s Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, tr. Thayer, s.vv. ἔθνος, λαός; H. Guthe, Encyclopaedia Biblica 2277; H. M. Gwatkin, Early Church History to a.d. 313, London, 1909, i. 1-114; A. Harnack, Expansion of Christianity , Eng. translation, do. 1904-05, i. 1-85, The Acts of the Apostles , do. 1909, pp. xxx, 51. Date of the Acts , do. 1911, pp. 124. 126; W. J. Henderson, Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 193; E. G. Hirsch, Jewish Encyclopedia v. 615ff.; F. J. A. Hort, Judaistic Christianity , Cambridge and London, 1894, p. 35; J. Kelman, Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 296ff.; R. H. Kennett, The ‘Servant of the Lord ,’ London, 1911, pp. 11-28, 55; E. König, ‘The Consummation of the OT in Jesus Christ,’ Expositor  ; 8th ser., iv. [1912] 1, 97; A. C. McGiffert, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics i. 626ff.: J. Orr, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 850ff.; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller , London, 1895, p. 67, and ‘The Thought of Paul,’ Expositor , 8th ser., ii. [1911] 289ff.; J. Reid, Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 194; H. Schultz, OT Theology , Eng. translation, Edinburgh, 1892, ii. 13, 373; J. A. Selbie, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ii. 149; H. Sidgwick, History of Ethics , London, 1886, pp. 96, 98; J. Skinner, Isaiah , Cambridge, 1896-98, ii. 230; W. R. Smith, Encyclopaedia Biblica iii. 3063; H. B. Swete, The Holy Spirit in the NT , London, 1909, pp. 78, 104; T. Zahn, Introd. to NT , Eng. translation, Edinburgh, 1909, i. 373.

James Donald.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

goyim ethnoi   Jeremiah 49:15 Psalm 135:15 1 Thessalonians 4:5 1 Corinthians 5:1 1 Corinthians 10:20 ethnoi goy ethnos pam goy   Exodus 33:13 Deuteronomy 4:6

The doctrine of election in which Israel became a holy nation ( Exodus 19:16;  Leviticus 19:2 ) among the nations by the covenant at Sinai draws attention to the fact that no other nation has such a God or such laws. The writer of Deuteronomy forbad communion with the nations ( Deuteronomy 7:3 ,Deuteronomy 7:3, 7:6 ,Deuteronomy 7:6, 7:16 ). The Old Testament noted the filthy ways ( Ezra 6:21 ) and worship abominations ( 2 Kings 16:3 ) of the nations.

Affliction by other nations increased tension between Israel and the nations which gave rise to invoking curses on the nations in the Psalms ( Psalm 9:1;  Psalm 59:1;  Psalm 137:1 ). The ultimate punishment of Israel for disobedience was being scattered among the nations.

According to the prophets, the nations were under God's control and were unconsciously being used ( Isaiah 10:5-7 ); but in turn would be punished ( Isaiah 10:12-16 ). Joel depicted the judgment of the nations who had abused Israel in the valley of Jehoshaphat ( Joel 3:12-16 ).

Solomon's prayer of dedication made clear that the door was never closed to the foreigner who wished to serve the Lord ( 1 Kings 8:41-43 ), and prophetic words and some Psalms depict the nations gathering to worship the God of Jacob ( Psalm 86:9;  Psalm 102:15-17;  Isaiah 2:2-4;  Zephaniah 3:9-10 ).

The Lord is the sole God of all peoples ( Isaiah 45:22-24 ). Israel's mission was to bring justice ( Isaiah 42:1 ) and light to the nations ( Isaiah 49:6 ).

Jesus' ministry is interpreted in the Gospels in terms of Old Testament expectations for the Gentiles. He was a light to the Gentiles ( Matthew 4:16-17;  Luke 2:32 ). Though Jesus directed His work to Jews ( Matthew 15:24 ) and at first limited His disciples to them ( Matthew 10:5 ), He threatened that the kingdom would be taken from the Jews and given to a nation bringing its fruits ( Matthew 21:43 ). Though Jesus was crucified by Gentiles ( Matthew 20:19 ), equal blame is placed on both Gentiles and Jews ( Acts 4:27 ).

Following the resurrection of Jesus, the commission included “all nations” ( Matthew 28:19 ). The judgment scene in Jesus' parable envisioned “all nations” gathered before the glorious throne ( Matthew 25:31-32 ). The promises included all those afar off ( Acts 2:39 ). At the house of Cornelius, the Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles ( Acts 10:45;  Acts 11:1 ,Acts 11:1, 11:18;  Acts 15:7 ). The apostolic gathering in Jerusalem, by the apostolic letter, freed Gentiles from obedience to the law ( Acts 15:19; compare  Acts 21:19 ,Acts 21:19, 21:21 ,Acts 21:21, 21:25 ).

In the apostolic preaching the promise to Abraham ( Genesis 12:3;  Genesis 18:18 ) found fulfillment ( Galatians 3:8 ). Though in times past the Gentiles had been without God ( Ephesians 2:12-22 ), God in Christ broke through all boundries. Paul, sent to preach among the Gentiles ( Acts 9:15;  Acts 22:21;  Acts 26:17;  Galatians 1:16;  Galatians 2:9 ) was in perils ( 2 Corinthians 11:26 ). When rejected in the synagogues, he turned to the Gentiles ( Acts 13:46;  Acts 18:6;  Acts 28:28 ), understanding his work in the light of Old Testament predictions ( Acts 13:47-48;  Romans 15:9-12 ). As the apostle to the Gentiles ( Galatians 2:8-9 ), claiming that in Christ racial distinctions were obliterated ( Galatians 3:28 ), Paul proclaimed an equal opportunity of salvation ( Romans 1:16;  Romans 9:24;  Colossians 3:11; compare  Acts 26:20 ,Acts 26:20, 26:23 ). Gentiles were the wild branches in the allegory grafted into the olive tree ( Romans 11:16-25 ).

The New Testament records the repetitions in prayer by the Gentiles ( Matthew 6:7 ), their occupation with material concerns ( Matthew 6:32 ), their raging against the Lord ( Acts 4:25 ), and their domineering rulers ( Matthew 20:25 ). The recalcitrant Christian brother is to be considered as the heathen ( Matthew 18:17 ).

Unbelieving Gentile standards fell short of Christian ones ( Romans 1:18-32;  Galatians 2:14;  1 Peter 4:3 ). The cross was folly to them ( 1 Corinthians 1:23 ); they were sexually immoral ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ), and sacrificed to demons ( 1 Corinthians 10:20 ). Nevertheless, those who believe are justified by faith ( Galatians 3:8 ). By the cross the hostility is ended ( Ephesians 2:11-17 ). Abraham has become the spiritual father of all nations ( Romans 4:17 ).

Paul experienced great resentment among the Jews because of the opportunity he was offering the Gentiles ( Romans 2:15-16 ). Nevertheless, in New Testament thought, the church made up of Jew and Gentile was the holy nation, God's own people ( 1 Peter 2:9 ).

The apocalypse with its shifting views, depicts a redeemed multitude of all nations ( Revelation 5:9;  Revelation 7:9 ), and the One who overcomes has power over the nations ( Revelation 2:26 ), Babylon ( Revelation 14:8;  Revelation 18:2 ,Revelation 18:2, 18:23 ), the beast ( Revelation 13:4 ), and the harlot ( Revelation 17:15 ) are the deceivers of the nations. The devil is bound to deceive them no more ( Revelation 20:3 ). All nations come to worship ( Revelation 15:4 ) One born to rule with a rod of iron ( Revelation 12:5 ). In the closing scenes of the book the nations walk in the light of the lamp of the Lamb; the glory of the nations is brought into the city ( Revelation 21:23-24 ,Revelation 21:23-24, 21:26 ); the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations ( Revelation 22:2 ).

Jack P. Lewis

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

A — 1: Ἔθνος (Strong'S #1484 — Noun Neuter — ethnos — eth'-nos )

whence Eng., "heathen," denotes, firstly, "a multitude or company;" then, "a multitude of people of the same nature or genus, a nation, people;" it is used in the singular, of the Jews, e.g.,  Luke 7:5;  23:2;  John 11:48,50-52; in the plural, of nations (Heb., goiim) other than Israel, e.g.,  Matthew 4:15;  Romans 3:29;  11:11;  15:10;  Galatians 2:8; occasionally it is used of gentile converts in distinction from Jews, e.g.,  Romans 11:13;  16:4;  Galatians 2:12,14;  Ephesians 3:1 .

A — 2: Ἕλλην (Strong'S #1672 — Noun Masculine — hellen — hel'-lane )

originally denoted the early descendants of Thessalian Hellas; then, Greeks as opposed to barbarians,  Romans 1:14 . It became applied to such Gentiles as spoke the Greek language, e.g.,  Galatians 2:3;  3:28 . Since that was the common medium of intercourse in the Roman Empire, Greek and Gentile became more or less interchangeable terms. For this term the RV always adheres to the word "Greeks," e.g.,  John 7:35;  Romans 2:9,10;  3:9;  1—Corinthians 10:32 , where the local church is distinguished from Jews and Gentiles;  1—Corinthians 12:13 .

B — 1: Ἐθνικός (Strong'S #1482 — Noun Masculine — ethnikos — eth-nee-kos' )

is used as noun, and translated "Gentiles" in the RV of  Matthew 5:47;  6:7; "the Gentile" in  Matthew 18:17 (AV, "an heathen man"); "the Gentiles" in   3—John 1:7 , AV and RV.

C — 1: Ἐθνικῶς (Strong'S #1483 — Adverb — ethnikos — eth-nee-koce' )

"in Gentile fashion, in the manner of Gentiles," is used in  Galatians 2:14 , "as do the Gentiles," RV.

People.  1—Corinthians 5:1 10:20 12:2 1—Thessalonians 4:5 1—Peter 2:12

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

Hebrew Gowy , "the nations" (or "pagan," derived from the Greek Ethnee ), as opposed to Israel ( Nehemiah 5:8). In  Genesis 10:5, "isles of the Gentiles," the term is used geographically in no invidious sense. In  Genesis 14:1, Tidal "king of nations" was probably chief of several nomadic wandering tribes of western Asia. In  Joshua 12:23 we read, "the king of the nations (the gentile foreigners) of Gilgal," the modern Moslem village Jiljule, six Roman miles N. of Antipatris. Goim is especially used of Galilee, bordering on and, even in Israelite times, much peopled with the Gilgal ( Judges 4:2;  Isaiah 9:1.) (See Galilee .) "Greeks" in New Testament is used for Gentiles ( Acts 14:1;  Acts 17:4;  Romans 1:16;  Romans 10:12;  Romans 2:9-10;  1 Corinthians 10:32 margin).

With all the superiority of the gentile great world kingdoms, in military prowess, commerce, luxury, and the fine arts, Israel stood on an immense moral elevation above them, in the one point, nearness to God, and possession of His revealed will and word ( Exodus 19:5-6;  Psalms 147:19-20;  Psalms 148:14;  Romans 3:1-2). But this superiority was in order that Israel, as priests unto God, might be mediator of blessings unto all nations ( Isaiah 61:6). The covenant from the first with Abraham contemplated that "in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed" ( Genesis 22:18). The Jews in national pride failed to see this, and despised the Gentiles Rejecting Messiah, they were "broken oft" from the olive, that the Gentiles might be" grafted in" ( Romans 11:11-35).

"The times of the Gentiles" began with Judah's depression and captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God delegated the world empire ( Jeremiah 27:6-7), from whence Jeremiah's counsel to the Jews to submit to hint was true patriotism, not cowardice. Jerusalem has more or less been ever since "trodden down of the Gentiles," and shall be so "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" ( Luke 21:24). Then shall the times of Israel begin with a glory eclipsing her past glory. "All Israel shall be saved." "The receiving of them shall be life from the dead" to the whole world ( Micah 5:7;  Isaiah 2:2-4;  Revelation 11:2-15). The theocracy shall be restored with unparalleled splendor at the coming of Him "whose right it is" ( Ezekiel 21:27). The times of the gentile monarchies answer to Israel's seven times punishment ( Leviticus 26:18;  Leviticus 26:21-24).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

A name commonly used in scripture to denote any and every nation except Israel. At times, when Israel as a people is referred to, the same words are used for them. Thus

1. goi , γοι, ἔθνος, is translated 'nation,' and refers to the Jewish nation.  Deuteronomy 26:5;  Luke 7:5;  John 11:48 . In the plural the same words refer to the nations generally in distinction from Israel, and are translated 'nations,' 'Gentiles,' and 'heathen.'  Deuteronomy 18:9;  Deuteronomy 32:43;  Isaiah 60:3;  Isaiah 62:2;  Joel 2:19;  Acts 11:1,18; Acts:13:19;  Acts 28:28; etc.

2. Ἕλλην (in plural) is translated 'Gentiles' in  John 7:35;  Romans 2:9,10;  Romans 3:9;  1 Corinthians 10:32;  1 Corinthians 12:13 , in contrast to the Jews; but would be better translated 'Greeks,' as it is in most places.

God had raised a wall between the Jews and the Gentiles, which in Christ's death was broken down for believers, "to make in himself of twain one new man."  Ephesians 2:14 . "There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . . for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."  Galatians 3:28 . This does not touch unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, who are kept separate in God's present and future dealings.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [6]

Court Of The Josephus says there was, in the court of the temple, a wall, or balustrade, breast-high, with pillars at particular distances, and inscriptions on them in Greek and Latin, importing that strangers were forbidden from entering farther; here their offerings were received, and sacrifices were offered for them, they standing at the barrier; but they were not allowed to approach to the altar. Pompey, nevertheless, went even into the sanctuary, but behaved with strict decorum; and the next day he commanded the temple to be purified, and the customary sacrifices to be offered. A little before the last rebellion of the Jews, some mutineers would have persuaded the priests to accept no victim not presented by a Jew; and obliged them to reject those which were offered by command of the emperor, for the Roman people. The wisest in vain remonstrated with them on the danger this would bring on their country; urged that their ancestors had never rejected the presents of Gentiles; and that the temple was mostly adorned with the offerings of such people; at the same time, the most learned priests, who had spent their whole lives in the study of the law, testified that their forefathers had always received the sacrifices of strangers.

From the above particulars, we learn the meaning of what the Apostle Paul calls "the middle wall of partition," between Jews and Gentiles, broken down by the Gospel.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

A name given by the Hebrews to all those that had not received the Law of Moses. Foreigners who embraced Judaism, they called proselytes. Since the promulgation of the gospel, the true religion has been extended to all nations; God, who had promised by his prophets to call the Gentiles to the faith, with a superabundance of grace, having fulfilled his promise; so that the Christian church is composed principally of Gentile converts, the Jews being too proud of their privileges to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Redeemer. In the writings of Paul, the Gentiles are generally called Greeks,  Romans 1:14,16   1 Corinthians 1:22,24   Galatians 3:28 . So also in those of Luke, in the  Acts 6:1   11:20   18:4 . Paul is commonly called the apostle of the Gentiles,  Galatians 2:8   1 Timothy 2:7 , because he preached Christ principally to them; whereas Peter, etc., preached generally to the Jews, and are called apostles of the circumcision,  Galatians 2:8 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

In the New Testament the Greek word Hellenes, meaning literally Greek (as in  Acts 16:1,3;  18:17;  Romans 1:14 ), generally denotes any non-Jewish nation.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [9]

GENTILES . See Nations. For ‘Court of the Gentiles,’ see Temple.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [10]

See The Nations

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

jen´tı̄lz ( גּוי , gōy , plural גּוים , gōyim  ; ἔθνος , éthnos , "people," "nation"): Goy (or Goi ) is rendered "Gentiles" in the King James Version in some 30 passages, but much more frequently "heathen," and oftener still, "nation," which latter is the usual rendering in the Revised Version (British and American), but it is commonly used for a non-Israelitish people, and thus corresponds to the meaning of Gentiles." It occurs, however, in passages referring to the Israelites, as in   Genesis 12:2;  Deuteronomy 32:28;  Joshua 3:17;  Joshua 4:1;  Joshua 10:13;  2 Samuel 7:23;  Isaiah 1:4;  Zephaniah 2:9 , but the word (עם , ‛ām ) is the term commonly used for the people of God. In the New Testament ethnos is the word corresponding to gōy in the Old Testament and is rendered "Gentiles" by both Vss , while (λαός , laós ) is the word which corresponds to ‛ām ̌ . The King James Version also renders Ἕλληνες , Héllēnes , "Gentiles" in six passages ( John 7:35;  Romans 2:9 ,  Romans 2:10;  Romans 3:9;  1 Corinthians 10:32;  1 Corinthians 12:13 ), but the Revised Version (British and American) renders "Greeks."

The Gentiles were far less sharply differentiated from the Israelites in Old Testament than in New Testament times. Under Old Testament regulations they were simply non-Israelites, not from the stock of Abraham, but they were not hated or despised for that reason, and were to be treated almost on a plane of equality, except certain tribes in Canaan with regard to whom there were special regulations of non-intercourse. The Gentile stranger enjoyed the hospitality of the Israelite who was commanded to love him ( Deuteronomy 10:19 ), to sympathize with him, "For ye know the heart of the stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt" ( Exodus 23:9 the King James Version). The Kenites were treated almost as brethren, especially the children of Rechab (  Judges 1:16;  Judges 5:24; Jer 35). Uriah the Hittite was a trusted warrior of David (2 Sam 11); Ittai the Gittite was captain of David's guard ( 2 Samuel 18:2 ); Araunah the Jebusite was a respected resident of Jerusalem. The Gentiles had the right of asylum in the cities of refuge, the same as the Israelites ( Numbers 35:15 ). They might even possess Israelite slaves ( Leviticus 25:47 ), and a Gentile servant must not be defrauded of his wage ( Deuteronomy 24:15 ). They could inherit in Israel even as late as the exile ( Ezekiel 47:22 ,  Ezekiel 47:23 ). They were allowed to offer sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem, as is distinctly affirmed by Josephus ( BJ , II, xvii, 2-4; Ant , XI, viii, 5; Xiii , viii, 2; Xvi , ii, 1; Xviii , v, 3; CAp , II, 5), and it is implied in the Levitical law ( Leviticus 22:25 ). Prayers and sacrifices were to be offered for Gentile rulers ( Jeremiah 29:7; Baruch 1:10, 11;  Ezra 6:10; 1 Macc 7:33; Josephus, BJ , II, x, 4). Gifts might be received from them (2 Macc 5:16; Josephus, Ant , Xiii , iii, 4; Xvi , vi, 4; BJ , V, xiii, 6; CAp , II, 5). But as we approach the Christian era the attitude of the Jews toward the Gentiles changes, until we find, in New Testament times, the most extreme aversion, scorn and hatred. They were regarded as unclean, with whom it was unlawful to have any friendly intercourse. They were the enemies of God and His people, to whom the knowledge of God was denied unless they became proselytes, and even then they could not, as in ancient times, be admitted to full fellowship. Jews were forbidden to counsel them, and if they asked about Divine things they were to be cursed. All children born of mixed marriages were bastards. That is what caused the Jews to be so hated by Greeks and Romans, as we have abundant evidence in the writings of Cicero, Seneca and Tacitus. Something of this is reflected in the New Testament ( John 18:28;  Acts 10:28;  Acts 11:3 ).

If we inquire what the reason of this change was we shall find it in the conditions of the exiled Jews, who suffered the bitterest treatment at the hands of their Gentile captors and who, after their return and establishment in Judea, were in constant conflict with neighboring tribes and especially with the Greek rulers of Syria. The fierce persecution of Antiochus IV, who attempted to blot out their religion and Hellenize the Jews, and the desperate struggle for independence, created in them a burning patriotism and zeal for their faith which culminated in the rigid exclusiveness we see in later times.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Gentiles, a word which means literally, 'the nations.' It was applied by the Hebrews to all individuals or communities not under the law—that is, all the nations of the world excepting the Jews. But in later times some small states, and many individuals, embraced the law: and they were distinguished from the Gentiles, as well as from the Jews, by the name of Proselytes. In some places our authorized version has the word 'Gentiles' where the original should properly be rendered 'Greeks.'