The Evolving Meanings of “Gentile”

Dec. 11 2015

Although it has become less common, the word “Gentile” was once a standard way to refer to non-Jews. A long time ago, however, it was a Christian term for pagans. Marilyn Cooper explains:

Gentile came into the English language by way of the 4th-century Vulgate, the Roman Catholic Church’s authorized Latin translation of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. In the Vulgate, St. Jerome translated the biblical word goy . . . and the Greek word ethne into the Latin term gentilis, which means “nation” or “people.” . . . [I]n the 17th-century King James Bible, . . . gentilis was anglicized into Gentile, as in I Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offence, neither to the Israelites, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.”

For the next two centuries, gentile mainly referred to those who were not of an Abrahamic monotheistic religion—that is, someone who was not a Jew, a Muslim, or a Christian. . . . This began to change after the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent century of religious wars in Europe caused the Christian Church in the West to splinter into innumerable denominations. With widespread disagreement about who should be called a Christian, a neutral umbrella term was needed. Gentile filled the void.

From this period until the early 20th century, Gentile was most often used by Christians, usually in the context of missionizing activities or when writing about Old Testament texts.

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More about: Bible, Jewish-Christian relations, Language, Translation

 

Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security