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In Acts, from the appointment of Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles (John.9.15), the Gentiles become increasingly prominent. Even the letters addressed particularly to Jewish Christians (Rom.9.1-Rom.9.33-Rom.11.1-Rom.11.36; Hebrews; James; 1 Peter) are relevant to Gentiles also. The division of all mankind into two classes, Jew and Gentile, emphasizes the importance of the Jews as the people through whom God made salvation available to all people.

Bibliography: T. R. Glover, The Conflict of Religions in the Roman Empire, 1912; G. Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion, 1925; G. H. C. MacGregor and A. C. Purdy, Jew and Greek, 1959; K. N. Clark, The Gentile Bias and Other Essays, 1980; M. L. Loane, Grace and the Gentiles, 1981.——ER

The way in which the blessings of the Covenant between God and Israel would permeate the lives of other nations was outlined in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. This passage continued the spiritual traditions of the promise of God to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3), where those nations that had been living under a curse would receive blessing through the influence of the newly chosen people. The reflexive form of the verb “bless” (Gen 12:3; KJV, ASV, “be blessed,” RSV, “bless themselves”) makes it clear that the nations will not blend their separate identities in a common form of humanity, but that each will receive the blessing suited to its character and destiny. This motif was well understood in the ancient Near E, and is exemplified in such OT narratives as the blessings bestowed upon the sons of Jacob (Gen 49:1-27), or the benediction of Moses upon the Israelites (Deut 33:2-29). The benefits mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 were conditional upon the adherence of the Hebrews to the ideals of the Sinai covenant; but given this situation, Israel could expect to be promoted to a place of prominence among the nations. Once the latter saw that the Israelites exemplified divine holiness, they would become subservient, and in the period of the universal peace that would follow, all the benefits of prosperity would be poured out upon mankind. No political or social imbalance of the kind that would allow one nation to prosper at the expense of another would be permitted (cf. Mic 4:1-4), and in this general sense the nations would be pursuing their own way of life under the auspices of a covenant relationship.

The Mosaic tradition of a nation chosen out of all the peoples and fitted for the role of ministering priests for the whole of mankind found responsive echoes in the monarchy (cf. 1 Kings 8:41-43), the preexilic period (Isa 19:24, 25; Jer 4:2) and the postexilic era (Zech 8:13; 9:9, 10). This high ideal was virtually nullified by the trends of Hebrew history from the time of Joshua onward, which show that covenant holiness was seldom at the forefront of Heb. thinking. So pervasive were Gentile customs that the Hebrews ultimately succumbed to their allurements, and with the disavowal of the covenant relationship came threats of punishment for Israel. Between 722 and 525 b.c., the Heb. people shared the curse of the nations by being scattered in captivity among them. From then on, the only hope of realizing the ancient ideal of the Torah lay in the survival of a faithful minority of Israelites who would return to their homeland and try to revive the historic spiritual mission of Israel to the world.


H. H. Rowley, The Missionary Message of the Old Testament (1944); J. Jeremias, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations (1958).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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.

H. Porter