Diakrinō And Jew-Gentile Distinction In Acts 11:12 -- By: David B. Woods
Conspectus 18:1 (September 2014) p. 79
Diakrinō And Jew-Gentile Distinction In Acts 11:12
A textual analysis of the word diakrinō in Acts 11:12 was undertaken to establish whether the verse contradicts the theory that Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus remain distinct in a theologically significant manner, as some English translations imply. The study finds no clear evidence in the text to sustain the translation that there is ‘no distinction’ between the two. Diakrinō in Acts 11:12 is very unlikely to denote distinction in the sense of differentiation, and even less likely to indicate wavering or doubting on account of the distinction which observant Jews like Peter made between fellow Jews and Gentiles. Instead, diakrinō in this text is most likely intended to denote contestation or dispute: Peter was told to obey without dispute, not without making distinction between Gentiles and Jews.
In the book of Acts, Luke made use of the word diakrinō in the negative to express that there is ‘no distinction’ between Jewish and Gentile believers. This denial of distinction occurs in Acts 15:9 and, depending on the English Bible used, sometimes also in 11:12. It is not surprising,
Conspectus 18:1 (September 2014) p. 80
therefore, that these texts have been used to support the teaching that the former distinction between Jews and Gentiles, found throughout the Old Testament, is erased among those who believe in Christ. That is, there is no essential difference between a Jewish believer and a Gentile believer; their ethnicity and prior faith traditions are inconsequential. (The same conclusion may be reached by one or a combination of other New Testament texts which appear to refute intra-ecclesial Jew-Gentile distinction: Ephesians 2:15; Romans 3:22; 10:12; Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11, each in its context.) Cultural differences may persist, but these are not of any theological importance. Given the background of biblical evidence that Israel is to retain a particular role in God’s purposes (e.g. Jer 31:35-37; 33:25-26; Rom 11), and the evangelical2 assumption that the cano...
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