The Meaning of the word "Gentile"
Bible Prophecies and
the European Peoples!
In God's Plan
It is a widely popular view today that the word, 'Gentile,' in our English Bible translations can only refer to non-Israelites, yet the facts prove conclusively otherwise. The following information from leading Bible reference works proves that this word refers instead to 'nations,' representing sometimes the dispersed house of Israel, sometimes non-Israelites, and sometimes both, as in 'all nations'. The word, "Gentile," is an English language substitution for the original New Testament Greek words, 'ethne,' (singular) or 'ethnos,' (plural) and the Old Testament Hebrew words, 'goy' (singular) and 'goyim' (plural).
In teaching that Gentiles can only be non-Israelites, it is held by some that Christ in Matthew 10:6 ("Go not into the way of the Gentiles") was commanding against witnessing to non-Israelites! But in so doing, this makes the Bible contradict itself, for in Matthew 24:14, Christ said the exact opposite: "This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world as a witness unto all nations… [ethnos/Gentiles]." Which is it? Are the "ethnos," or "Gentiles" to hear the Gospel or are they not?
The answer is provided by Messianic Jewish Bible scholar, David H. Stern, in the "Jewish New Testament Commentary," which points out that the word, Gentile has two meanings. (page 531) It was used in a "neutral" sense of any particular nation or nations (which ones to be determined by context), or a "pejorative overtone" as "pagan, heathen." Therefore, it can sometimes refer to "non-Israelites," but not exclusively. Sometimes the singular form, ethne, meant the Jewish nation, and the plural form, ethnos, was used to refer to non-Jewish nations, but again not exclusively. The Jewish nation of Christ's day included large numbers of Israelites, so if the Greek, ethne, and Hebrew, goy, ever refer to the Israelite tribe of Judah, one cannot say that it means non-Israelites!
Kittel's 'Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament," says, "There are 64 passages in the New Testament where we have ethnos or ethne without any special sense or characteristics …About 60 refer to a people or peoples in the general sense, and of these the following have in view the Jewish [Hebrew] people: Luke 7:5, 23:2; John 11:48, 50, 51, 52; 18:35; Acts 10:22; 24:2, 10, 17; 26:4; 28:19; I Peter 2:9…That the expression ethne refers to all nations may be seen from the addition of 'panta' [Greek word for 'all'] in Matthew 24:9, 14; 25:32; 28:19; Mark 11:17; 13:10; Luke 21:24, 24:47; Romans 15:11; Galatians 3:8." (vol 2, p. 369) Again, there is no basis for the supposition that the ethnos, or Gentiles, refers only to non-Israelite peoples. To take one example given by Dr. Kittel, IPeter 2:9 speaks to Israelites saying, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation (ethnos), a peculiar people (laos); that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." Peter addresses this letter to Israelites of the "diaspora" (Greek word used in I Peter 1:1), "the chosen strangers of the dispersion" (I Peter 1:1, Fenton Translation) This is a prophecy of the House of Israel becoming Christian in the New Testament era, and they are referred to as both ethnos and laos, words usually translated into English as, "Gentiles."
Yet another example of "ethnos" or "gentiles" referring to Israelites is found in Romans 11:25, where the Apostle Paul spoke of "the fullness of the gentiles." The "Speaker's Commentary" states, "Ephraim[a prophetic name of the House of Israel] was to be cut off 'from being a people' (Isa. 7:8). It should lose the name, and be scattered across the world; not, however, to perish, but, in accordance with that mysterious oracle, Gen. 48:16-19, to 'multiply like fish in the midst of the earth.' And to 'become the fullness of the nations.'" (vol. 5, p. 106) A note in Calvin's Commentary to Genesis 48 says, "The Hebrew word for fish is from the above root, because of their prolific property; and consequently the use of such a term naturally suggests the notion of an extraordinary increase." Through this prophesied great increase, Israel grew into a fullness of nations.
The learned Dr. Henry Aldersmith stated, "Both Dr. Delitzsch's translation of the New Testament into Hebrew, and Ginzburg-Salkinson's Hebrew New Testament, have absolutely the same Hebrew words in Rom. 11:25, that we find in Gen. 48:19 in the Hebrew Old Testament, and in these two verses only in the whole Bible. …When the 'fullness of the Gentiles' had to be rendered into Hebrew, the most eminent scholars naturally employed the phrase used in the promised birthright blessing given to Ephraim-Israel in Gen. 49!" (Fullness of the Nations, p. 72-73) In other words, the "Gentiles" who were promised to become a "fullness of nations" in the latter days were Ephraim, the ten lost tribes of Israel!
Dr. Aldersmith also says, "It is most important to understand… that 'Gentiles' is not a translation at all, but a misuse of a Latin word which simply means 'persons belonging to the same family.' The Greek word, ethne, commonly translated 'Gentiles,' is more strictly rendered 'nations' as we find it done in the margin of the authorized Bible in Matthew 4:15, the place where it first occurs." (Ibid. p. 67) It should be obvious that the neutral rendering, "nations," could apply to any nation, including Israelite; and as we have seen, a number of specific prophecies clearly apply to the lost and dispersed House of Israel.
We read of gentilised Israel in the blessings to the patriarchs. In Genesis 35:11, the Greek Septuagint Translation of 300 B.C. says, "And God said to him [Jacob], I am thy God; increase and multiply; for nations (ethne) and gatherings of nations (ethnon) shall be of thee…" To render ethne/ethnon as 'non-Israelites' would make God speak the following nonsense to Jacob: "'non-Israelites' and gatherings of 'non-Israelites' shall be of thee." We read a similar prophecy in Genesis 17:6 to Abraham, "And I will increase thee very exceedingly, and I will make nations (ethne) of thee…" It is again clear that the ethne or Gentiles of this prophecy were Israelites!
The claim by some today that the House of Israel was not divorced, and did not become 'lo-ammi', 'not my people,' or gentilised, is strange in light of the clear teaching to that effect in Hosea chapter 1, verses 7 through 9, "…for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel…Call his name, Not My People (Hebrew, "Lo-Ammi"): for ye are not my people [laos]…" The Septuagint translation quoted here uses the Greek word, "Laos," for these "people" of the House of Israel. Kittel's 'Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,' says, "Ethnos and Laos are used interchangeably." (vol. 2, p. 369; see above comments on I Peter 2:9, where both terms refer to Israel) Therefore, the House of Israel was to become ethnos or laos, that is, "gentilised."
This ten-tribe House of Israel must not be confused with the two-tribe House of Judah, which returned to Palestine after a 70 year Babylonian captivity, and from which the Israelites of Christ's day were descended. In contrast, Bible history and prophecy provide evidence that the Biblical House of Israel, the ten northern Israel tribes taken into Assyrian dispersion and lost to history, in ancient times became gentilised. That is, they forgot their identity as God's people and reappeared under other new names. It is no coincidence that millions of Israelites suddenly "disappeared" in northern Assyria just south of the Caucasus Mountains, at the same time in history as millions of "Caucasians" suddenly streamed northward out of that same mountain region.
The 'Pulpit Commentary' on Hosea chapter 1 quotes the noted early Christian theologian, Jerome, as saying, "Out of Israel is taken typically by Hosea a wife [Gomer]…" Likewise, Thomas Scott's Bible Commentary says, "Gomer was an Israelite." Therefore, the Bible "Gomer" is prophetically the House of Israel. Scholars have also positively identified Gomer with the early "Caucasian" tribes who entered Europe through the Caucasus in the 5th to 7th centuries, B.C., the identical time when the House of Israel was lost in the Assyrian diaspora. These then, are Gentiles, called the Ethnos, Goyim, or Lo-Ammi of the Scriptures.
In Acts 28:28 we read, ”Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles [ethne], and that they will hear it." (KJV) A literal rendering says, "This salvation of God has been sent to the Goyim and they will listen!" (Jewish New Testament Translation) Who were these Gentiles/ethne/goyim who would fulfill this prophecy in the early Christian centuries by hearing the gospel and becoming Christendom? As the reader should know by now, they were the House of Israel!
We previously quoted God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 35:11, a part of the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant. Here God says that Israel will become "nations and gatherings of nations." The Greek word translated "gatherings" is "sunagogai," from which we get the word, "Synagogue." A Synagogue is a place where Hebrews gather, and Israel was to become a cluster or gathering of Hebrew nations. (The King James Version says, "company of nations," which expresses the same thought.) Where has this unconditional prophecy been fulfilled? The descendants of the lost and dispersed House of Israel spread northwestward to become the many nations of Europe, as shown in our tract, "The Real Diaspora." These descendants of Abraham were prophesied to become Christians (Isa.9:6-8; Jer.3:14-15; 31:33; 1Pet.2:9-10) and to carry the knowledge of salvation to the ends of the earth! (Isa. 49:6) Send for our list of other prophecies given to Israel, which have been fulfilled by these same people. The House of Israel has indeed multiplied in the earth and become a multitude of Christian nations, fulfilling their role in God's Plan by evangelizing the world. Praise God for fulfilled promises!
In conclusion, there is no basis for the supposition that the "Gentiles" of the Scriptures can only be non-Israelites. In fact, there are numerous examples where it is applied to Israelites, including the ten-tribe House of Israel, who became gentilised when they were divorced, scattered, and lost their identity as God's people. (Hosea 1)