From Lat. gens, “nation”
A non-Jew. According to several traditions, Israelites were enjoined to maintain strict separation from Gentiles in matters of religion, marriage, and politics (Exod 23:28-33; Deut 7:1-5; Josh 23:4-13). The Isaianic tradition, however, spoke of Israel as “a light to the nations” (Isa 42:6; Isa 60:3). In the latter days, the nations would flow to Jerusalem to learn Torah (Isa 2:2-4) or to participate in the coming reign of God (Isa 45:22-24, Isa 51:4-5). On the other hand, in an effort to establish a separation between Jew and Gentile, Ezra and Nehemiah commanded Jews in Jerusalem to divorce their non-Jewish wives (Ezra 9-10; Neh 10:30; Neh 13:23-31). Ruth and Jonah seem to be books written to protest this action in the name of a more universal understanding of God’s care for his human creation. The development of Christianity, which began as a Jewish movement, was profoundly affected by the success of the gentile mission undertaken by the apostle Paul and others. The Jerusalem conference ca. 49 CE determined that gentile converts to Christianity did not have to become Jewish proselytes (Gal 2:1-10; Acts 15:1-35). Paul fought efforts to discriminate between Jew and Gentile in the Christian community (Rom 3:29-30; Gal 2:11-21; Gal 3:26-29).