Gentile (from Latin gentilis, by the French gentil, feminine:
gentille, meaning of or belonging to a clan or a tribe) is an ethnonym
that commonly means non-Jew. Other groups that claim Israelite
heritage sometimes use the term to describe outsiders.
The term is used by English translators for the Hebrew גוי (goy)
and נכרי (nokhri) in the
Hebrew Bible and the Greek word
ἔθνη (éthnē) in the New Testament. The term "gentiles" is
derived from Latin, used for contextual translation, and not an
original Hebrew or Greek word from the Bible. The original words goy
and ethnos refer to "peoples" or "nations" and are applied to both
Israelites and non-
Israelites in the Bible. However, in most
biblical uses, it denotes nations that are politically distinct from
Israel. Since most of the nations at the time of the Bible were
"heathens", goy or gentile became synonymous with heathen, although
their literal translations are distinct. The term gentile thus became
identical to the later term Ummot ha-olam (nations of the world).
Latin and later English translators selectively used the term
"gentiles" when the context for the base term "peoples" or "nations"
referred to non-Israelite peoples or nations in English translations
of the Bible. In Mormon contexts the word can be used to refer to
people who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Torah exhibits a passionate intolerance of those
that practice idolatry, because of the alleged immoralities that are
connected to such practice. It alleges that these nations' barbarism
would "contaminate" the Hebrews.
Paul Copan argues that the Old
Testament accounts employ the conventional extreme rhetorical
exaggerations pertaining to the descriptions of war and conquest
common in the region at the time, which readers would have been
2 Hebrew Bible
3 In rabbinical writings
3.1 Tannaic attitude
3.3 Later sages
3.4 In modern times
4 In Kabbalah
5 Christian Bibles
6.1 LDS Church usage
9 See also
11 External links
See also: Gens
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"Gentile" derives from Latin gentilis, which itself derives from the
Latin gens, meaning clan or tribe. Along with forms of the cognate
Greek word genos, gens is also the root for other English words, such
as gene, genealogy, general, generation, genesis, genetics, genome,
gentleman, gentry, and genus.
Gens derives from the
Proto-Indo-European *ǵénh₁tis. The original meaning of "clan"
or "family" was extended in post-Augustan Latin to acquire the wider
meaning of belonging to a distinct nation or ethnicity. Later still,
the word came to refer to other nations, 'not a Roman citizen'.
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In Saint Jerome's Latin version of the Bible, the Vulgate, gentilis
was used in this wider sense, along with gentes, to translate Greek
and Hebrew words with similar meanings when the text referred to the
The most important of such Hebrew words was goyim (singular, goy), a
term with the broad meaning of "peoples" or "nations" which was
sometimes used to refer to Israelites, but most commonly as a generic
label for peoples.
Strong's Concordance defines goy as "nation,
people, usually of non-Israelite people, or of descendants of Abraham,
or of Israel, or of a swarm of locusts or other animals (fig.) Goyim =
'nations'." Strongs #1471
In the pre-exilic times the relationship between
gentiles was mostly hostile and the non-
Israelites such as
Babylonians, Egyptians, and Assyrians were always seen as an enemy.
After the exile, the Jewish-gentile relationship became less hostile.
The books of Ruth and Jonah reject the racialization of the Israelite
religion by Ezra.
In rabbinical writings
See also: Tannaim
Rabbinical writings often show more hostility towards gentiles due to
frequent persecution of the
Jews by these nations. Some rabbis show
more compassion towards the gentiles, while others are less tolerant.
Eliezer ben Hyrcanus
Eliezer ben Hyrcanus writes that the mind of every gentile is always
intent upon idolatry. He believed that gentiles only perform animal
sacrifice to make a name for themselves. He further believed that
gentiles have no share in the world to come.
Other rabbis show a more positive attitude towards the gentiles.
Joshua ben Hananiah believed that there are righteous men amongst the
gentiles who will enter the world to come. He believed that except for
the descendents of the Amaleks, the rest of the gentiles will adopt
monotheism and righteous amongst them will escape Gehenna. There is
also a story about a dialogue between
Joshua ben Hananiah and the
Hadrian in which he tries to demonstrate that God deals
with Israel with greater punishment for similar crimes.
Eleazar of Modi'im wrote that Israelis, when guilty of the same sin as
gentiles, will not enter hell whereas the gentiles will. Eleazar
ben Azariah believed that the rulings performed by a gentile court are
not valid for Jews.
Rabbi Akiba believed that Israel's monotheism is
far superior to the ever-changing beliefs of the gentiles. Jose the
Galilean criticizes Israel for inconsistency compared to the
faithfulness of the gentiles to their ancestral beliefs. He believed
the good deeds of the gentiles will be rewarded as well.
The most famous of the anti-gentile teachers is Simeon bar Yochai. He
is often quoted by antisemites in his sayings: "The best of gentiles
kill it, the best of snakes cut its head, the most pious of women is
prone to sorcery." His beliefs might reflect the extreme
persecution of the
Jews by the Romans during his time and the fact
that he spent a great portion of his life escaping from the Romans.
Judah ben Ilai
Judah ben Ilai suggests that the recital "Blessed be thou ... Who has
not made me a gentile" should be performed daily.
Hananiah ben Akabia believed that shedding the blood of the gentiles,
although not punishable in human courts, will be punished in heavenly
Jacob, the grandson of Elisha ben Abuyah, wrote that he saw a gentile
binding his father and throwing him to his dog as food.
Simeon ben Eleazar does not favor social interaction between
Hananiah bar Hama wrote about the extreme immoralities perpetrated by
gentiles. He believed that in messianic time only the heathen will be
subject to death. Hezekiah ben Hiyya believed that treating gentiles
with hospitality results in the exile of the children. Johanan bar
Nappaha wrote of the mistreatment of the
Jews by gentiles. He believed
that the evil of the serpent was neutralized in Jews, whereas the
gentiles still have that in their blood. While he also wrote that the
wise amongst the gentiles should be treated as a wise man, he further
wrote that a gentile who reads
Torah deserves death. He has also said,
"Whoever abandons idolatry is called Jew."
Abbahu complains of gentile
mistreatment of Israel. He endorsed the law according to which a
gentile should not be compensated if his ox was damaged by an
Israelite. Assi suggested that gentiles should not be taught about the
laws of the Torah. Abba b. Kahana refers to the book of Ruth and
preaches against the racial arrogance of Israel.
Rav Ashi believed that a Jew who sells a gentile property adjacent to
a Jewish property should be excommunicated. A reason to discriminate
against the gentiles was the vile and vicious character of them
Deuteronomy 32:21). The Talmud, referring to this passage, recalls
the gentiles of
Mauretania who walked naked in the
streets. The violation of Jewish women by gentile men was so frequent
that the rabbis declared that a woman raped by a gentile should not be
divorced from her husband, as
Torah says: "The
Torah outlawed the
issue of a gentile as that of a beast." A gentile midwife was not
to be employed for fear of the poisoning of the baby. The gentiles
should be dealt with caution in cases of using them as witness in a
criminal or civil suit. The gentile does not honor his promises like
that of a Jew. The laws of the
Torah were not to be revealed to the
gentiles, for the knowledge of these laws might give gentiles an
advantage in dealing with Jews.
Resh Lakish wrote that "A gentile who
observes Sabbath deserves death".
In modern times
Under rabbinical law, a modern-day gentile is required only to observe
the Seven Laws of Noah, while
Jews are bound by Mosaic law. In periods
of decreased animosity between
Jews and Gentiles, some of the
rabbinical laws against fellowship and fraternization were relaxed;
Maimonides himself was a physician to the Sultan.
However, even though most Rabbinical schools do not teach the same
hostility as Middle Age rabbinical teachings some Orthodox rabbinical
schools hold extreme conservative views. For example, scholars from
Mercaz HaRav Kook
Mercaz HaRav Kook yeshiva are schooled in the doctrine
Jews and Gentiles have different kinds of souls. One of the
yeshiva's scholars, R' David Bar-Chayim, published an paper in 1989
explaining the doctrine, entitled "Yisrael Nikraim Adam"(
Called 'Men'). In his conclusion, Bar-Chayim writes:
There is no escaping the facts: the
Torah of Israel makes a clear
distinction between a Jew, who is defined as "Man," and a Gentile.
This distinction is expressed in a long list of Halachic laws, be they
monetary laws, the laws of the Temple, capital laws or others. Even
one who is not an erudite
Torah scholar is obligated to recognize this
simple fact; it cannot be erased or obscured ... One who carefully
studies the sources cited previously will realize the abysmal
difference between the concepts "Jew" and "Gentile" -- and
consequently, he will understand why Halacha differentiates between
Bar-Chayim further quotes
Abraham Isaac Kook
Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935), founder of
the yeshiva and the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British
The difference between the Jewish soul, in all its independence, inner
desires, longings, character and standing, and the soul of all the
Gentiles, on all of their levels, is greater and deeper than the
difference between the soul of a man and the soul of an animal, for
the difference in the latter case is one of quantity, while the
difference in the first case is one of essential quality.
Similar anti-gentile remarks have been expressed by the late chief
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in which he stated in a sermon in 2010
that "The sole purpose of Gentiles is to serve Jews". He said that
Gentiles served a divine purpose: "Why are Gentiles needed? They will
work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and
eat. That is why Gentiles were created.
These remarks by Yosef were sharply criticized by many Jewish
organizations such as
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and American Jewish
Some Kabbalistic writings suggest a distinction between the souls of
the gentiles and the souls of the Jews. These writings describe three
levels, elements, or qualities of soul:
Nefesh (נפש): the lower part, or "animal part", of the soul. It is
linked to instincts and bodily cravings. This part of the soul is
provided at birth.
Ruach (רוח): the middle soul, the "spirit". It contains the moral
virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
Neshamah (נשמה): the higher soul, or "super-soul". This separates
man from all other life-forms. It is related to the intellect and
allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. It allows one to
have some awareness of the existence and presence of God.
According to those writings, a Jewish soul is composed of all three,
Gentile soul contains only Nefesh.
In the King James Version, "Gentile" is only one of several words used
to translate goy or goyim. It is translated as "nation" 374 times,
"heathen" 143 times, "Gentiles" 30 times, and "people" 11 times. Some
of these verses, such as Genesis 12:2 ("I will make of thee a great
nation") and Genesis 25:23 ("Two nations are in thy womb") refer to
Israelites or descendants of Abraham. Other verses, such as Isaiah 2:4
Deuteronomy 11:23 are generic references to any nation. Typically,
the KJV restricts the translation to "Gentile" when the text is
specifically referring to non-Jewish people. For example, the only use
of the word in Genesis is in chapter 10, verse 5, referring to the
peopling of the world by descendants of Japheth, "By these were the
isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his
tongue, after their families, in their nations."
In the New Testament, the Greek word ethnos is used for peoples or
nations in general, and is typically translated by the word "people",
as in John 11:50. ("Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one
man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.")
The translation "Gentiles" is used in some instances, as in Matthew
10:5–6 to indicate non-Israelite peoples:
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into
the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the
Samaritans enter ye
not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Altogether, the word is used 123 times in the
King James Version
King James Version of
the Bible, and 168 times in the New Revised Standard Version.
Further information: Biblical law in Christianity, Paul the Apostle
and Judaism, Pauline Christianity, Christianity and Paganism, Jewish
Christians, and Circumcision controversy in early Christianity
The Greek ethnos where translated as "gentile" in the context of early
Christianity implied non-Israelite. Jesus himself in Gospel of Matthew
forbade his disciples from preaching onto the gentiles in Matthew
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into
the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the
Samaritans enter ye
not:But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Later on with the ministry of
Saint Paul the apostle the gospel began
to be spread among the non-Jewish subjects of the Roman empire. A
question existed among the disciples whether receiving the Holy Spirit
through proselytization would be restricted to
Israelites or whether
it would include the gentiles as in Acts 10:34–47:
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many
as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out
the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues,
and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that
these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as
well as we?
Within a few centuries, some Christians used the word "Gentiles" to
mean non-Christians. The alternative pagani was felt to be less
LDS Church usage
Main article: Mormonism and Judaism
In the terminology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(LDS Church), the word "gentile" takes on different meanings in
different contexts which may confuse some and alienate others. Members
of the LDS Church regard themselves as regathered Israelites, so
sometimes use the word "gentile" to refer to all non-members.
According to John L. Needham of Utah State University, "Mormons in the
American West applied 'gentile', as an adjective as much as a slur, to
nearly everyone and everything that did not adhere to their faith or
desert kingdom." Because they had suffered persecution, the word
gentile was "a call to circle the wagons socially and politically
around the fold." In such usage,
Jews may be colloquially referred
to as "gentiles" because they are not members of the LDS Church.
However, the traditional meaning is also to be found in the
introduction to the Book of Mormon, in the statement written to both
"Jew" (literal descendants of the House of Israel) and "Gentile"
(those not descended from the
House of Israel
House of Israel or those of the tribe of
Ephraim scattered among the "Gentiles" throughout the earth). Needham
writes that Mormons have "outgrown the term." The LDS website
states this about the meaning of Gentile. "As used in the scriptures,
Gentiles has several meanings. Sometimes it designates people of
non-Israelite lineage, sometimes people of non-Jewish lineage, and
sometimes nations that are without the gospel, even though there may
be some Israelite blood among the people. This latter usage is
especially characteristic of the word as used in the Book of Mormon
and Doctrine and Covenants.
Some translations of the Quran, such as the famous Pickthall
translation, employed the word "gentile" in some instances of the
translation of the Arabic word "Al-ummīyīn
(الْأُمِّيِّينَ)". For example, in the following verse:
Among the People of the Scripture there is he who, if thou trust him
with a weight of treasure, will return it to thee. And among them
there is he who, if thou trust him with a piece of gold, will not
return it to thee unless thou keep standing over him. That is because
they say: We have no duty to the Gentiles. They speak a lie concerning
Allah knowingly. -
"Gentile" also appears in compounds such as "antigentilism",
Jews to non-Jews.
Who is a Jew?
^ Gentile." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 6 June
^ a b c John L. Needham, "The Mormon-
Gentile Dichotomy in PMLA", PMLA,
Vol. 114, No. 5 (October 1999), pp. 1109–1110
^ a b c d e f g h "GENTILE - JewishEncyclopedia.com".
^ Copan, Paul (Fall 2010). "How Could God Command Killing the
Canaanites?". Enrichment Journal: 138–143. access-date=
requires url= (help)
^ "Kind"; in: M. Philippa e.a., Etymologisch Woordenboek van het
^ Searched  for goy.
^ Learned Ignorance: Intellectual Humility Among Jews, Christians and
Muslims By James L. Heft, Reuven Firestone, Omid Safi, Oxford
University Press, USA, 2011, p. 163.
^ "Yisrael Nikraim Adam", Tzfiyah, v. 3, 1989, pp. 45-73.
^ "Daat Emet: Gentiles in Halacha". www.daatemet.org.il. Retrieved
2015-12-25. citing Orot Yisrael chapter 5, article 10 (page 156)
^ "5 of Ovadia Yosef's most controversial quotations".
^ Mozgovaya, Natasha; Service, Haaretz (20 October 2010). "ADL Slams
Shas Spiritual Leader for Saying non-
Jews 'Were Born to Serve Jews'"
– via Haaretz.
^ a b Qabbalistic Magic: Talismans, Psalms, Amulets, and the Practice
of High Ritual. Salomo Baal-Shem, Inner Traditions / Bear & Co,
2013, Chapter 5.
^ "Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 10:5 - King James Version". Bible
^ "Bible Gateway passage: Matthew 10 - King James Version". Bible
^ Did a search for "Gentile" in KJV. Used BibleGateway.com Archived
2007-07-26 at WebCite. It returned 123 results of the word "Gentile".
Retrieved 11 Feb 2007.
^ Kohlenberger, John. The NRSV Concordance Unabridged. Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan, 1991.
^ Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome (Oxford University Press 2010
ISBN 978-0-19978091-4), p. 16
^ "Utah Jewish History". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 24 November
^ "Gentiles". www.lds.org.
^ "The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'ân,: 3. Al-Imran: The Family Of
^ Marcus, Jacob Rader. "Judeophobia and Antigentilism" in States
Jewry, 1776–1985: Volume III The Germanic Period, Part 2,
pp. 359–360. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1993.
ISBN 978-0-8143-2188-1. "Yet very few
Jews were antigentilic.
Despite his occasional hostility Wise was particularly close to
liberal Christian religious groups. But where Judaism, the religion
was concerned, neither Wise nor any other Jewish leader made any
concessions to Christianity, not in substance."
Look up gentile in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Jewish Encyclopedia: Gentile
Catholic Encyclopedia: Gentiles
Black American princess
(North & South)
Pocho (non-Spanish speaking Hispanics)
Indian (Native American/First Nations)
Redskin (Native American/First Nations)
Squaw (Native American women)
Yank / Yankee
Banana (westernized East Asians)
American-born Chinese (ABC)
Jook-sing (overseas/westernized Chinese)
Sangokujin (also Koreans)
Sangokujin (also Chinese)
American-Born Confused Desi (ABCD)
Chinki (Northeast Indians)
Keling (Maritime Southeast Asian-origin Indians)
Limey (English people)
Taffy (Welsh people)
Teuchter (Scottish Highlanders)
Cheese-eating surrender monkeys
Knacker (Irish Travellers)
Pikey (Irish Travellers)
Shoneen (Anglophile Irish)
Taig (Irish Catholics)
Terrone (South Italians)
Bulgarophiles (Macedonians and Serbs)
Serbomans (Macedonians and Bulgarians)
Yestonians (Russified Estonians)
Falasha (Ethiopian Jews)
Jewish-American princess (JAP)
Khazar (Ashkenazi Jews)
Yekke (German Jews)
Zhyd / Zhydovka
Kanaka (Pacific Islander)
Fresh off the boat/F.O.B. (immigrant)
Reffo/Balt (Non-Anglo immigrant to Australia)
Shegetz (non-Jewish boy or man) (pl. Shkutzim)