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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.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.