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Catholic Dictionary




People who were not Jews. In Old Testament accounts, relations between Jews and others were normal (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). There was even a certain amount of intermarriage. As time went on, however, Jewish teaching increasingly frowned on this (Ezra 9:11-12). Probably as a result of persecution, bitter hostility grew between Jews and Gentiles. When Jesus was teaching his disciples, he first directed them to work only among their own people: "Do not turn your steps to pagan territory . . . go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matthew 10:5). But gradually he extended their apostolate to all who accepted his teaching (John 1:12-13). This wider mission continued so notably in Paul's journeys that he became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.