Are you a part of the Gentile church, or the Jewish church? Does such a question even make sense in a New Testament context. Whole systems of theology are based on these seemingly legitimate questions. Yet my reading of the Greek New Testament convinces me that the “Gentile church” in a myth based on a misreading of the text, compounded by the use of Gentile–a word which the does not even have a Greek equivalent.
I closed my last post with controversial statement that if we want to continue translating the Greek word ethnos as “Gentile” we are forced to conclude that according to scripture, today”s Jews, who have not accepted Jesus as king, are Gentiles. Of course this makes no sense in English because in our language Gentile means “non-Jew.”This is yet another example of the kind of confusion that is generated when a word in one language is transliterated into another language and given a meaning different from its original. Gentilis is a perfectly good Latin word meaning nation or tribe. As such it conveys perfectly the meaning of the Hebrew goy and the Greek ethnos, and was used to translate those words into the Latin Vulgate. Sadly the English word Gentile does not come close to conveying the meaning of either gentilis, goy, or ethnos.
The fact is, neither the Old nor New Testaments have any word meaning “non-Jew.” As we saw in the last post, the ancient distinction between Israel and the other nations was based on the fact that they were the unique ekklesia of God—those who were to model and exercise the “royal power of God.” Their unique standing among the nations was based solely and entirely on their unique national relationship with YHWH.
Is Jesus a polygamist?
According to scripture God has announced His betrothal to a new ekklesia, taken out of all nations (including Israel). Anyone wishing to join this new ekklesia must take the same stance as Ruth who renounced her former citizenship and declared: “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth 1:16
While this seems strange to our ears; this is exactly what is entailed in believing that Jesus is the christos. 1 John 5:1 tells us that this is the prerequisite for the new birth.
If we are to avoid wrong thinking we must recognize that God has only one ekklesia, only one nation. This biblical perspective is the clear background for the for both the Old and New Testaments. We have but one King—Jesus, and He has but one nation, one body, and one bride. Jesus is not polygamous.
(Before continuing I should point out that I am not advocating supersessionism, the idea that the new assembly of citizens has replaced Israel in God’s eyes and that all the prophesies about Israel now apply to the Church. Whether or not that idea holds is a matter for systematic theology, which is way beyond me. I am operating strictly at the level of translation and hermeneutics—what does scripture say and mean. At this point I am content to leave the development of systems to others. That said, I am suspicious of any system that avoids certain passages or twists them out of their clear contextual meaning. In other words, I know of no systematic theology that does not arouse my suspicion.)