Jews vs. Gentiles

Ephesians 2:11-22

Since God chose Abraham to be the father of His people, Israel has separated itself from other people.  In the Bible, all other people who are not Jews are called Gentiles because they are not descendants of Abraham, with whom God made His covenant. Paul reminds the Ephesians that at one time, they were foreigners to God’s covenant.

However when Jesus came, he changed the relationship between Jew and Gentile. No longer were Gentiles separated from Jews, and no longer were the Jews the only chosen people. God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, has created peace for all people and broken down the wall of division that had separated Jew from Gentile for ages.  In the new community, there is no Jew or Gentile because Jesus has reconciled both to God. Now we, as Gentiles, are no longer strangers to God. We must remember though that we can often become like the Jews, thinking that we are the chosen ones who need to separate ourselves from those people who are strangers to us. How can we, like Jesus, have a generous grace for all people? How can we show others that in this new family of God, there is no slave or free, male or female, Gentile or Jew? Let us always remember that Jesus has torn down the wall that once separated people, so we must also strive to break down our own barriers against people.

Ntate Neo

Other thoughts:

While I have not done an exhaustive study of the Pentateuch before, I did some extra reading and skimming of the content these past few days, and I did not see as much encouragement to separate from the Gentiles as I would have thought. Paul makes it sound as though God did not make a possible way for the Gentiles to join his chosen people when he introduced the old covenant, but I do not see that in the Pentateuch. In fact, the laws that I see about the foreigner or stranger are more about welcoming him or her into the community and providing for them. In fact one of the verses in Leviticus says that the Israelites should treat a foreigner as one of their own people.

Interesting also that in light of the law, God commanded the Israelites in the book of Joshua to wipe out most, if not all, of the Gentile communities in the Promised Land, including men, women, and children. This does not seem like welcoming the foreigner into the midst of the community. I continue to wonder why God decided that all of the people in those communities needed to be annihilated.

I wonder if the common thought surrounding the time of Jesus, in light of all of the previous persecution under different empirical rulers, was that the Israelites needed to be even more vigilant in separating from the Gentiles around them. While Paul was growing up then, he would have learned that God had chosen the Israelites and the Israelites only as His chosen people. There was no room for the Gentile “dogs” to be a part of the community, so welcoming them would be very difficult.

Then when the new Christian converts began preaching that God was also trying to redeem all Jews AND Gentiles, the religious people in power needed to put a stop to such foolishness, so people like Paul started murdering as many converts as possible. Paul’s learnings, in spite of what God spoke to Peter in a dream about the Gentiles, still guided his thinking about non-Jewish people. In his thinking, there was no chance for the Gentile to join in the covenant before Jesus, but I do not think that this rule would be obvious from the OT law.

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~ by randallkoehler on March 1, 2012.

One Response to “Jews vs. Gentiles”

  1. In my Old Testament class, we talked about God wanting the Israelites to destroy all the Gentiles in the Promised Land. My professor’s explanation for that was that the people who lived there were so into their pagan ways that if they stayed there with the Israelites, they would turn the Israelites toward their gods. The Israelites don’t end up killing all the natives and do end up worshipping Baal and Asherah on many occasions. My professor suggested that maybe God had tried to get through to the people of that land for a long time prior to the Israelites coming, but they were too stuck in their ways to listen. Maybe God was just looking out for what was best for His people. I don’t know if this is an explanation you like or even cared to hear, but you said that you wondered, so I thought I would share with you what I have learned/an explanation I was given. By the way, loved the pictures you added in the other post! Thanks for sharing!

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