Friday, 26 February 2016
Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity's Sacred Obligation,
Ed. Mary C. Boys, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002
Chapter 13, "Covenant and Conversion" (pp. 151-162), page 158-159
After touching upon the Great Commission in Matthew's Gospel ...
Go, therefore, and make disciples of panta ta ethnē ...
... to which he will return, Dr Philip Cunningham observes that
The mission to the Gentiles was a major debate in the early churches. If Gentiles were permitted to join what were exclusively Jewish church communities, what norms of Jewish life should these newcomers observe? The fact that such topics were fiercely disputed in the New Testament churches strongly suggests that Jesus left no authoritative word on the subject.
He then visits Mark 7, Acts 15 and Matthew 5:19 to show the difference of opinion on food issues. He sadly makes the usual mistake with Mark 7, which somewhat spoils his argument since he uses that as one end of the spectrum opposite Matthew 5 with Acts 15 in the middle. He then returns to the Great Commission:
Given Matthew's Jewish orientation, it seems clear that this Greek phrase is best translated as "all the Gentiles." The typical rendering as "all the nations" fails to convey to modern readers that for first-century Jews, including Jews in Christ, "the nations" were the goyim, the Gentiles, the non-Jews.
This is an important distinction to notice. The Bible does not recognise the many shades of gradation that the modern world sees between all the nations and its sovereign states. To coin a phrase, as far as the Bible is concerned, there are two kinds of people in the world: Jews and non-Jews, the latter simply known as "the nations."