In verse 23 we see the ambassadors using the exact same construction again in their letter to their new brethren who had been removed from the other nations to become part of the new nation God was creating.
In Acts 15:19, our historian uses a different preposition in conjunction with the genitive of nations: apo ton ethnon (ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνῶν). This combination is possibly even more potent that the use of ex. Apo does not simply mean taken out of, it means separated from, taken away from. It implies spatial or conceptional distance. As if to say they were no longer in the same ballpark. Is this significance being conveyed in the translation you use?
Luke’s history provides the backdrop and prerequisite understanding for the rest of the New Testament. Once this understanding is established one may continue to show the state of separation by simply using the genitive form of nations, and only using apo or ex when clarification is needed.
So it is that we find verses that we have looked at before which seem to make no sense in English. Verses like 1 Corinthians 12:2 and Ephesians 2:11 which make clear that followers of our king are no longer members of the other nations. Verses like Ephesians 4:17 and 1 Peter 2:12 which call the king’s followers to hold to different standard than the nations they used to be a part of. The nations of the world exist as one great kingdom of darkness subject to their dark lord. We have been transferred out of that kingdom into the kingdom of light.
Am I rightly dividing the word, or simply a heretic dividing the Church?
To see the danger implicit it the lax treatment of the genitive form of ethnos, consider Romans 16:4: “…who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the gentiles.” Here the NIV certainly makes it look like I am a fool, or heretic for calling the Gentile Church a myth. But when we look at the Greek we find that Paul used the simple genitive form of nation. The NIV, and many other translations make this look like Paul was referring to churches made up non-Jews. This is in spite of the fact that Greek had no word meaning non-Jew. Had the translators rendered this “churches of the nations,” it would have been acceptable Greek, but not acceptable theology. Translating it as “churches out of the nations” is true to both the Greek and the New Testament message.
In closing I would like to give one more example of the subtlety involved in the correct handling of the genitive case. You will remember when I was experimenting with the word ekklesia, I tried it out on Galatians 1:1-2
Paul, an ambassador (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through King Jesus and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the assemblies of citizens from Galatia– Galatians 1:1-2