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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Nation

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In Mark 7:26, Galatians 1:14 m the Revised Version rightly changes ‘nation’ to ‘race’ (γένει); cf. Acts 4:36; Acts 18:2; Acts 18:24, ‘a Cyprian by race,’ ‘an Alexandrian,’ ‘a Pontican.’ In the NT ἔθνος generally designates a non-Jewish nation; but it is also used of the Jewish nation when spoken of officially (Luke 7:5; Luke 23:2, John 11:48 f., John 18:35, Acts 10:22; Acts 24:2; Acts 24:10; Acts 24:17; Acts 26:4; Acts 28:19), and even of the Christian society (Matthew 21:43, Romans 10:19). In 1 Peter 2:9 Christians are called both ‘an elect γένος’ and ‘a holy ἔθνος.’

Jesus spoke to the Jewish nation as a collective personality, a community bearing a common responsibility. As ‘they that were his own’ they ‘received him not’ (John 1:11), and the national crime of His crucifixion was the precursor of their downfall, although it did not result in their being ‘cast off’ (Romans 11:1). His passionate love for His own nation was evidenced by the fatigues, the privations, the ‘contradictions’ that He endured, by the tears of wce that gushed from His eyes (Luke 19:41; cf. Romans 9:3). He seldom referred to other nations till near the close of His earthly course; yet He spoke of the Ninevites as having acted in their corporate capacity when they repented (Matthew 12:41; cf. Jonah 3:7). He recognized the right of the common law of the Empire of which He was a subject (Matthew 22:21). ‘All the nations,’ He said, should finally appear before Him as their Judge, and He would reward the works of love done by those whom He set on His right hand as having been done to Himself (Matthew 25:31 f.). When He appeared to His disciples on the mountain in Galilee, He said, ‘All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth: Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations’; and it is significant that He did not say ‘of all men’ but ‘of all the nations’-thus pointing out that the object to be aimed at was national religion, the national confession of His authority (cf. Martensen, Ethics, ‘General,’ p. 443f.). Further, if in Acts 2:9-11 the words Ἰουδαίαν, Κρῆτες καὶ Ἄραβες be omitted as being probably ancient glosses on the text, we are left, as Harnack says (Acts, p. 65f.), with a list of twelve nations, whom St. Luke may have specified as ‘heralding the great theme of his book’-how Jesus was brought to all the nations of the known world, the new Israel (cf. Acts 19:7).

The great missionary successes of the Apostolic Age prepared the way for the reception of the Christian faith on a grand national scale. St. Paul, before his death, ‘had planted more churches than Plato had gained disciples’ (Bossuet, Panégyrique de Saint Paul, 1659)-ἐπὶ τὸ τέρμα τῆς δύσεως ἐλθών, as Clement says (ad Cor. i. 5). Besides the Dispersion (q.v. [Note: .v. quod vide, which see.] ), there were other two co-operating factors that assisted the progress of the gospel-the political unity of the Empire, and the influence of the Stoic creed. In the ancient heathen world, national life had been particular and exclusive: the nations were isolated from and ignorant of each other. But when they all looked to Rome as mistress and mother, they were on their way to the belief in the spiritual unity of mankind proclaimed by Christianity (cf. Flint, History of the Philosophy of History, pp. 26, 61). The influence of the Stoic doctrine of ‘world-citizenship’ is well attested by the fragment from Cicero (de Rep. iii. 22) quoted by J. Adam, Vitality of Platonism: ‘Hymn of Cleanthes,’ p. 146:

‘And there will not be one law at Rome and another at Athens, one law to-day and another law to-morrow; but the same law everlasting and unchangeable will bind all nations at all times; and there will be one common Master and Ruler of all, even God, the framer, the arbitrator, and the proposer of this law.’

This noble utterance justifies the remark of S. Dill (Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, London, 1904, p. 328): ‘The Stoic school has the glory of anticipating the diviner dream, yet far from realised, of a human brotherhood under the light from the Cross.’ This ‘diviner dream’ will be realized when all nations, now united by bonds far surpassing those of blood-relationship, or common speech, customs, or history-the bonds of a common love and obedience to Christ-shall form together one august Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15).

Literature.-J. Adam, The Vitality of Platonism and other Essays, Edinburgh, 1911, pp. 113 n. [Note: . note.] , 142, 146-147; R. Flint, History of the Philosophy of History, do., 1893, pp. 26, 48, 61, 63, 449; T. von Haering, The Ethics of the Christian Life, London, 1909, p. 403f.; A. Harnack, Acts of the Apostles (NT Studies, iii.), Eng. translation , do., 1909, pp. 49, 64, 65f.; H. Martensen, Christian Ethics, ‘General,’ Edinburgh, 1873, pp. 214, 442f., ‘Social,’ do., 1882, p. 88f.; G. Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church, Eng. translation , do., 1883, pp. 40-42.

James Donald.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Nation'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/n/nation.html. 1906-1918.

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