Consider Ephesians 2:11. In the NIV it in reads “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision”…” Did you catch that… “you who are Gentiles.”
The Holman Christian Standard Bible comes closer with “So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh…” This at least preserves the Greek sense that whatever you were (both say Gentiles) you no longer are.The problem of course is that the Ephesians had not converted to Judaism and should still be Gentiles, if we understand the word correctly.
No longer “of the nations.”
That is the problem! We are not understanding the word ethnos correctly. Once again we see in the Darby and Young’s Literal Translations, something that makes sense but sounds strange in our ears. Here is Young’s: “Wherefore, remember, that ye were once the nations in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands.” That is quite a difference from both the NIV and HCSB. It is probably also different from any Bible teaching you have heard before.
The Bottom Line
We will continue with this theme in the next post but for now we should summarize the points established up until this point.
- Scripture teaches that New Testament Christians were “formerly ethnos.”
- In 1 Cor. 12:2 ethnos is often translated as pagan or Gentile.
- Pagan, today is taken to mean unbeliever, which makes sense to us.
- Gentile means non-Jew which does not make sense in this context.
- Scholars are in agreement that ethnos means nation or race.
Could it be true, as it is beginning to appear, 1 Cor. 12:2 should be understood to refer to those who were “formerly of the nations?” Does “pagan” in the Bible really refer to a member of one of the world’s nations? If so, by holding on to the nationality of our first birth, after the occurrence of our second, we are indeed guilty of being pagan Christians!
How are we to understand this. Does the New Testament really teach that followers of Jesus lose their first born nationality when they submit to His lordship? What do you think?
Please pray about what our king wants you to gain from this. Ask a question and/or check back for the next installment.