More Thoughts On Former Gentiles

Just some quick thoughts on this Friday as we enter God’s sabbath…

We talked about Paul’s naming of gentiles who come to God through Messiah as “former gentiles”.

Doing some more study on that verse, something jumped out to me:

Wherefore, remember, that you once were the nations [gentiles] in the flesh, called Uncircumcision by that called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands,

that you were at that time apart from Christ, having been alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope, and without God, in the world;

and now, in Christ Jesus, you being once far off became near in the blood of the Christ.

Heh. Paul is saying that before Messiah, you were apart from Israel and the covenants.

Now you’re not. You’re no longer an alien to the commonwealth of Israel, nor a foreigner to the covenants made with Israel. Am I reading this right?

We’ll cover the rest of Paul’s thesis, including the last half of Ephesians 2, next week.

Shabbat shalom, fine blog readers.


  1. Interesting post(s). I look forward to what you (and others) have to say next. Shabbat shalom!

  2. Hi Judah. Todd again with a Catholic perspective. I meant to post earlier but didn't. The early church fathers often divided people into 3 categories: Jews, Christians, and Gentiles. In Greek the third word is literally translated "nations" I believe. And could also be translated as heathen or pagan. But as you probably know, the oldest Jewish term of the non-jewish people is probably "the nations". Basically, from their Jewish-Christian teachers the gentile christians learned that they had become something that sense they were "former gentiles". And of course in a mysterious sense they were joined to Israel and in another sense the "new israel". We all know that unfortunately, not heeding Paul's warning in Romans 11, the gentile church and the church fathers then largely went off the tracks on this issue and ended up distorting it into an hostile anti-judaism, crude super-secessionism, and sometimes just plain old Jew-hating. But I only point out that the early Church did think of themselves as now set apart from the nations or literally from the gentiles. Some of the early apologies are called "Against the Nations/[Gentiles]". For example Tertullian. The label persisted into the middle ages...Thomas Acquinas wrote the "Summa Contra Gentiles".... Hopefully this is helpful. Not meant to be anything else.

  3. Hi again Todd. Thanks for hanging around. Even though we don't often agree, I'm glad to have you here.

    You raise an interesting point about the early believers being apart for or against the nations/gentiles. Even before the "early church fathers" post-Paul, I think you see that sentiment and belief in the writings of the apostles.

  4. Judah...

    I do not interpret that passage in the way you did, nor I believe that Paul meant for it to be interpreted this way at all - to say that Gentiles are no longer such. Let's take a look:

    "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh – who are called ‘uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘circumcision’ that is performed on the body by human hands – that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12 NET)."

    All it says above, the Gentiles in the flesh were once (formerly) alienated from the covenants of Israel. The formerly part speaks about their lost CONDITION, not their past or current ethnic identity. It doesn't say that they are no longer Gentiles. Certain English translation insert punctuations (there are non in Greek) so as to make it appear that as if the Gentiles are no longer Gentiles.

    What's more, just after he supposedly calls his audience "former Gentiles", Paul continues in Ephesians 3:1:

    "For this reason I, Paul, am the prisoner of the Messiah Jesus for the sake of YOU GENTILES."

    I don't think it could be more clear.

    In many other places in thew New Testament elsewhere, Paul continues to call Gentiles "Gentiles", he never calls them "former Gentiles" - and he even calls himself the Apostle to the Gentiles!



  5. Gene,

    Once again you have missed the entire point of what Sha'ul was saying in Ephesians chapter 2 by insisting on seeing everything through your Jew/gentile filter. So be it.

    But I have to say that I'm a little disappointed that you confused the ministry of Sha'ul with the results of that ministry. So let me see if I can help you sort this out.

    Sha'ul was given a commission by Yeshua to bring the good news of salvation by faith to all the nations other than Israel. That would be the "gentiles". Part one.

    When a "gentile" became a believer and was converted, born by the Spirit of YHVH, washed in the water and the blood, they became a citizen of the nation of Israel and were then qualified to partake in the promises given to Israel through covenant. Part two.

    A person can't be an unbelieving pagan (gentile) and a child of YHVH at the same time.

    A person can't be a citizen of Israel and a citizen of another nation at the same time. You are either an Israelite or you are not. There isn't any such thing as dual spiritual citizenship. You are one or the other. See chapter 3 in Ephesians for more details.

    As far as the genetics of the whole thing goes, read my other post on this same subject. Although I know you will disagree, you should at least have the information.

    You would also do well to try and study some of the socio/political realities at the time that Sha'ul was writing his letters. He did not preach two separate gospels for two separate people groups. Calling one group "Jews" and another group "gentiles" did not indicate either his preference or belief that those two would not be made into one through Messiah. And if they become one people of one nation, then the previous distinctions would disappear. Hence the use of the word "former".


    I hope your family is doing well.



  6. "Once again you have missed the entire point of what Sha'ul was saying in Ephesians chapter 2 by insisting on seeing everything through your Jew/gentile filter. So be it."

    Efrayim... do you have to be so dramatic? We are speaking about whether Shaul/Paul was referring to the Gentiles as no longer Gentiles. I showed you in Ephesians 3:1 that he continues to call his audience (the people he writes to - supposedly believers) as Gentiles. He continues to do so in many of his other writings Why is that so hard to admit?

    "A person can't be an unbelieving pagan (gentile) and a child of YHVH at the same time."

    Gentile doesn't equal "pagan". That's an insult to all my Gentile brothers and sisters. The word Gentile, in Hebrew, simply refers to another nation and to non-Jews. Shaul was not an Apostles of the Pagans.

    A person can't be a citizen of Israel and a citizen of another nation at the same time. "

    The scriptures never refer to Gentiles as citizens of Israel the Nation - rather, they are now part of "commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:12). What is commonwealth - it's a "a community of sovereign states", with Israel being the head of that community (e.g. U.K. in relation to Canada, Australia, etc) .

    "You would also do well to try and study some of the socio/political realities at the time that Sha'ul was writing his letters. He did not preach two separate gospels for two separate people groups."

    I agree, we only have ONE gospel. Not sure what it has to do with Israel's identity (although I sure YOU know).

    "And if they become one people of one nation, then the previous distinctions would disappear. "

    Of course, there are still nations when Messiah rules for a thousand years (who else will have to go down to Jerusalem every year?). And in the Revelations, we read that there are still nations in the Eternal Kingdom (Revelation 21:24):

    "And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it."

    Can you explain the above away?

    The scripture just doesn't support your ONE NATION theory. It's a nice, warm and fuzzy theory, but it's just not very biblical.

    Shalom to you and your family!

  7. Gene,

    Probably in your case I could leave out some of the dramatics, but like you, I am trying to make my point.

    Once again I have to say that it would make sense that Sha'ul would continue to address audiences in the "other" nations as "gentiles" seeing as there would be mix of believers and unbelievers listening to his teachings. He certainly would not call them "Jews", as that had a very specific genetic meaning at that time in history. So did the word "Israelite". As prophecy is being fulfilled the proper meanings and applications of those words are coming into focus. Note how the letters written by the other apostles are addressed.

    Yochanan does not even mention gentiles. Do you think his letters were written to Jews only? If we only go by the words on the page we would have to conclude that he did not intend his letters for gentiles and today, as then, gentiles shouldn't read them. Not a logical position to take. Similar to taking the position that since Sha'ul mentions gentiles that he intended for them to remain in that condition regardless of the spiritual realities present in Messiah.

    In other words, you wouldn't call yourself a "Jewish Catholic" or a "Catholic Jew". You know better. There may have been a time when you would not know the difference, but now you do. And you have adjusted your speech accordingly.

    At the time of Sha'ul's ministry a person was either born "Jewish" or they were born "gentile". And converting to Judaism to hopefully one day be considered Jewish had nothing to do with what was happening in Sha'ul's reality.

    No, I did not say that "gentile" always equals "pagan". But please be honest and admit that that was the common usage of the word then, and among some folks, still is today. Jews would not even go into the house of a "gentile", regardless of their lack of paganism. They were thought to be unclean. It took a vision just to get Kefa to consider going to the house of a "gentile" who was reported to be righteous by the Jewish community.

    Yes, I know what the word originally meant. Avraham was the "father of many gentiles". Efrayim was to be the "fullness of the nations".

    Sha'ul was the apostle to the gentiles who were thought to be pagan in their beliefs and lifestyle. He also preached to the Jews who needed salvation because he knew that they were just as lost as the "gentiles". I see no disrespect towards either group in what I said. I simply pointed out the obvious to make a point.

    When Britain ruled other nations, were those other nations autonomous in both government and law? Of course not. Israel is a pure theocracy. Other law than what YHVH gave does not apply. Do you see what I'm saying? The people in those other nations were British subjects. No, they wouldn't be called "British". They weren't born in Britain. But if Britain formed a new nation and gave it a name and caused people to live there, those people would be called by whatever that name happened to be. Does that make sense? YHVH has a name for the people who belong to Him. Call yourself and others what you will, but I prefer the name He gives His people.

    Yeshua is a King who rules a kingdom. What kingdom would that be? Scripture says that He is King of Israel. And who rules with Him? His own people, or just anybody? And if it His people, are they called Israel, or does that name disappear at some point in time and His people are called something else?

    Looking a little more carefully at Revelation I see that the "kings" and those they rule are the ones living after the new heaven and the new earth are established. That is why they are called "saved". I don't see a name for them or anybody else when those things are happening.

    They are alive forevermore and go in and out of the temple with its twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes over the gates. All the tribes together have always been called Israel. I don't see another name being used in scripture.

    What would you call them? Jews and gentiles? Angels? Children of Israel?

    You may call yourself a Floridian if you live in Florida. But that distinction is not even considered when viewed from another nation. To them you would be an American. And most likely, whatever they thought of America they would also think of you, right or wrong. It is your identity to those "outside" of your world.

    Yes, I do know what the gospel has to do with Israel's identity.

    Pick one of the above and we can explore it more carefully as I feel that I am skipping over some important facts that should be brought out in this discussion.