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Middle Wall of Partition

PARTITION, MIDDLE WALL OF. In Eph.2.14 (kjv) Paul asserts that Christ has broken down the “middle wall of partition” (niv “dividing wall of hostility”) that divided Jews and Gentiles, and has made of the two one new people. Paul probably has in mind a literal wall as a tangible symbol of the division between Jews and Gentiles—the wall in the temple area in Jerusalem separating the court of the Gentiles from the courts into which only Jews might enter. On this wall was a notice in Greek and Latin, warning Gentiles to keep out on pain of death. In a.d. 1871 archaeologists who were excavating the site of the temple found a pillar with this inscription, “No man of another nation is to enter within the fence and enclosure around the temple, and whoever is caught will have himself to blame that his death ensues.” Paul himself almost lost his life in the temple enclosure when at the end of his third missionary journey his Jewish enemies accused him of bringing Trophimus the Ephesian past this barrier in the temple (Acts.21.29).

PARTITION, MIDDLE WALL OF (τὸ μεσότοιχον του̂ φραγμου̂). The phrase occurs only in Ephesians 2:14 KJV. The RSV renders it DIVIDING WALL OF HOSTILITY.

In the context, Paul addresses Christians of both the Jewish and Gentile background. Between these Christians there had been a dividing wall, not literally but socially, thus segregating them. The division was seen in the church in many places (cf., Gal 2:11ff.; Acts 15:5ff.).

Every usage of the term φραγμός, G5850, in the NT is in the sense of a fence or enclosure. Jesus used the term to describe a wall around a vineyard (Matt 21:33; Mark 12:1). Within the enclosure of God’s people, Jews and Gentiles, Paul spoke of a middle wall that divided God’s people. In Christ this middle wall was broken down; i.e., there was now no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile in Christ’s kingdom.

In the Temple area, there was literally a wall that segregated Gentiles from Jews. No Gentile was allowed to cross that dividing line. However illustrative of the point Paul was making, this was not the wall (literally) about which Paul spoke. The dividing wall of which he spoke was far more formidable, being a wall of blind prejudice.