Servant Leaders–A Mark of Christian Culture

Jesus’ view of servant leaders

This is to be expected in any group which is serious about following King Jesus. He Himself dealt with this very issue and gave very clear teaching on the subject. Listen:

Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 42-45 NASB

It is clear in this passage that Jesus expects his followers to be different from the “Gentiles,” in their attitudes and practice of leadership. But wait a second–Gentile means “non-Jew.” If His followers are not supposed to be like the leaders of the non-Jews, should they be like the leaders of the Jews of His day? Certainly not! We saw in an earlier post how Jesus declared that the “ruling power” of God was going to be taken from those rulers, and their nation, and be given to “a nation producing its fruit.”

Once we remember that the Greek word ethnos, here rendered “Gentile” does not mean non-Jew, but “nation” in the singular, and “other nations” in the plural; the passage makes perfect sense. The wisdom of translating ethnos as Gentile is questionable when we look at passages such as this one. It becomes ludicrous when we realize that every time the ambassador John uses this word in his Gospel or letters–it refers to Israel! Of course scripture translators realize that it makes no sense in those cases to translate ethnos as Gentile, so in those cases they do translate it as nation.

I have not found any reason translators do not treat ethnos in a consistent manner. Whatever the reason it is not an isolated phenomenon.  When we examine the 20 parallel passages of Mark 10:42 displayed on we find that 14 translate ethnos as Gentile, one as people, one as unbelievers, and only four as nations.

What’s up with ethnos?

What I find particularly interesting is that if we look up John 11:50 on Biblehub we find that all 20 translations render ethnos as nation. Even though “people” works grammatically and semantically here, not one translation uses that word in this passage.  That tells me that when ethnos is rendered as “people” by translators it is not simply because the word fits in the context. It is because they have some objection to using nation.

I am not suggesting that the objection is even conscious, but clearly something strange is going on when most translators decline to use the accepted gloss for the word in a passage. Especially when that passage makes perfect sense when that gloss is used, and makes no sense with the word that is used in its place.

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