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Faith of A Mustard Seed

by Barbara Woods-Washington
Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

 “And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”  (Acts 14:24-27).  Again, a look at the 7th occurrence of ‘pistis/faith’ in the Acts of The Apostles.

Time must be given by the church historian to the concept ‘gentiles’, particularly in light of the notoriety assigned to Paul as ‘The Apostle to The Gentiles’.  One significance of this text of Acts lies in what appears to be the first record of this mission— ‘to the gentiles’; “…they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”  Returning, then to ‘ethnos’, and the translation question— nation or gentiles?

Can’t approach it any other way than head on.  ‘Gentiles’ when used in Judaism is not ‘goyim – nations’ but rather ‘nokhri – a foreigner or stranger’.  Where a Jew in Judaism is  defined by ‘one born of a Jewish mother’ or ‘one converted to Judaism’, ALL OTHERS are ‘nokhri – gentile’.  A long history of teachings surround the concept ‘nokhri’ to include various categories of ‘gentiles’ where Christians and Muslims are ‘ger toshav’.  This discussion is not complete without entering the Seven ‘Naochide Laws’ under which the Christian doctrine of ‘The Trinity’ is called into question.

While Young identifies 93 uses of ‘gentiles’ in English translation of the New Testament, all 93 occurrences have in it’s Greek text ‘ethnos’— always defined by ‘nation’.  Where is this ‘gentiles’ translation with it’s Latin origin and all of it’s separatism, it’s semitism, it’s imperialism coming from?

I’m led, first to the language of origin— Latin.  While the Greeks in their ‘Golden Age’ united the old world through language and culture to give history a period of ‘Hellenism’, the Romans show their might in battle and move history into the ‘Greco-Roman’ period where Latin is one of the languages spoken in and around Rome.  Very little is said or thought of this Italian language until the Holy Roman Catholic Church becomes the ‘Empires own’— complete with ‘papal orders’ that Latin would become the official language of the Church.

Several scholars have attempted to clarify the misnomer surrounding the use of ‘gentiles’ in translation for ‘ethnos’; for lost in translation is ‘nations’.

I love to tell the story of Dr. Howard Thurman’s ‘test’ he gave at the start of our Educational Trust Seminar.  Ten seminarians gathered, he read the entire book of Mark from the Moffatt Translation.  Then told us to close our eyes and to associate the word that he would say by writing down the first thing that came to our minds.  He said ‘Jesus’.  After hearing our responses, he sat up and said, “Young people, don’t put so much on Jesus.  Jesus is his own man.  It could be that God is calling you to be a Christ.”

Likewise, I believe that the Church has put way to much on Paul.   An ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’?  I think not.  I know not.  Through Paul, “God opened the door of faith to the nations!”

by email: myfathersmansionpress@gmail.com

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