Jew-Gentile Distinction In The “One New Man” Of Ephesians 2:15 -- By: David B. Woods

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 18:1 (Sep 2014)
Article: Jew-Gentile Distinction In The “One New Man” Of Ephesians 2:15
Author: David B. Woods

Jew-Gentile Distinction In The “One New Man” Of Ephesians 2:15

David B. Woods 1


Two contradictory views of the ‘one new man’ metaphor in Ephesians 2:15 are presented, one arguing that it denies any distinction between Jewish and Gentile Jesus-believers, and the other insisting that it confirms the theory of intra-ecclesial Jew-Gentile distinction. This paper explores the meaning of the ‘one new man’ with special attention to the question of making distinction between Jews and Gentiles within the ekklēsia. The study focuses in turn on each of the three keywords in the metaphor, reviewing their meaning and use in the canon and providing some theological commentary alongside. Supply of the phrase, ‘in place of,’ in some translations is evaluated. Internal evidence in the form of personal pronouns is examined to determine whether it sustains or contradicts distinction theory.

The study concludes unequivocally that the ‘one new man’ in Ephesians 2:15 is a composite unity of Jews and Gentiles who retain their ethnic identities even after spiritual regeneration in Christ. The classification of individuals as believers or unbelievers in Jesus does not erase the biblical distinction

between Israel and the nations, even within the ekklēsia. The mixed usage of personal pronouns in Ephesians confirms this finding. To assert that the ‘one new man’ is created ‘in place of’ Jews and Gentiles is therefore misleading. Major theological implications include the validation of Jewish tradition and practice among Jewish Jesus-believers, and their recognition as the living connection between the nations and Israel. The peace Christ made by creating Jew and Gentile in himself into ‘one new man’ is currently most evident in Messianic Jewish synagogues where members of each party worship together and have table fellowship in unity, whilst retaining their own distinctive faith traditions.

1. Introduction

1.1. The Text And Historical Interpretations

In Ephesians 2:14-16, Paul wrote:2

For he himself is our peace, who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of the partition, the enmity, in his flesh, invalidating the law of commandments in ordinances, in order that he might create the two in himself into one new man, thus making peace, and might reconcile both in one body to God through th...

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