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Meaning of the Term.

A word of Latin origin (from "gens" "gentilis"), designating a people not Jewish, commonly applied to non-Jews. The term is said (but falsely so) to imply inferiority and to express contempt. If used at all by Jews of modern times— many of them avoiding it altogether, preferring to speak of "non-Jews"— this construction of its implications must certainly be abandoned as contrary to truth. The word "Gentile" corresponds to the late Hebrew "goi," a synonym for "nokri," signifying "stranger," "non-Jew." In the Hebrew of the Bible "goi" and its plural "goyyim" originally meant "nation," and were applied both to Israelites and to non-Israelites (Genesis 12:2 , 17:20 Exodus 13:3 , 32:10 Deuteronomy 4:7 8:9,14 Numbers 14:12 Isaiah 1:4 , 60:22 Jeremiah 7:28 ). "Goi" and "goyyim," however, are employed in many passages to designate nations that are politically distinct from Israel (Deuteronomy 15:6 28:12,36 Joshua 23:4 ). From this use is derived the meaning "stranger" (Deuteronomy 29:24 comp. 2Chronicles 6:32 ="' amme ha-' areẓ "). As the non-Israelite and the nokri were "heathens," "goi" came to denote a "heathen," like the later "' akkum," which, in strict construction, is not applicable to Christians or Mohammedans (see below). In its most comprehensive sense "goi" corresponds to the other late term, "ummot ha-' olam" (the peoples of the world).

Toward idolatry and the immoralities therewith connected, the Biblical writings display passionate intolerance. As the aboriginal population of Canaan was the stumbling-block for Israel, constantly exposed to the danger of being contaminated by Canaanitish idolatrous practises, the seven "goyyim," i.e. , nations (Deuteronomy 7:1 , 12:2 ), were to be treated with but little mercy and, more especially, marriages with them were not to be tolerated (Deuteronomy 7:3 comp. Exodus 34:16 ). Notwithstanding this prohibition, mention is made of marriages with non-Hebrews of other stock than the seven nations enumerated (Ruth 1:4 2Samuel 3:3 1 Kings 7:14 , 14:21 1Chronicles 2:34 ), and even of marriages in direct contravention of the prohibitive law (Judges 3:6 2Samuel 11:3 1 Kings 11:1 et seq. , 16:31). This proves that the animosity against non-Hebrews, or "goyyim," assumed to have been dominant in Biblical times among the Hebrews, was by no means intense. The caution against adopting the "ḥ uḳ ḳ ot ha-goyyim" (Leviticus 18:2 ), and the aversion to the customs of "the nations," rest on the recognition of the morally pernicious character of the rites indulged in by the Canaanitish heathens.

The "Stranger."
The "stranger," whether merely a visitor ("ger") or a resident ("ger toshab"), was placed under the protection of the Law, though possibly a distinction was made between the transient and the permanent stranger from the former, for instance, interest could be taken and a debt was collectable even in the Year of Release. But God was said to love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:18 Psalm 146:9 ). The native-born was required to love him (Leviticus 19:33-34 ). Recourse to the courts was open to him (Exodus 22:21 , 23:9 Deuteronomy 24:17 , 27:19 ). "One law and one statute" was to apply to native and stranger alike (Leviticus 24:22 Numbers 9:14 15:16,29 Exodus 12:49 ). But of the stranger it was expected that he would forego the worship of idols (Leviticus 20:2 Ezekiel 14:7 ) and the practise of sorcery, incest, or other abominations (Leviticus 18:26 ), and that he would refrain from eating blood (Leviticus 17:10 ), from working on Sabbath (Exodus 20:10 , 23:12 ), from eating leavened bread on Pesaḥ (Exodus 12:19 ), and from violating Yom ha-Kippurim (Leviticus 16:29 ). For other provisions concerning the stranger, or non-Jew ("goi"), see Leviticus 17:8 24:16,22 Numbers 15:14 , 35:15 Deuteronomy 14:21 16:11,14 ).

Restrictions in the matter of the reception of strangers (see Proselyte and Proselytism ) were made in the case of (1) Edomites and Egyptians, who were entitled to acceptance only in the fourth generation, i.e. , the third from the original immigrant and (2) Ammonites and Moabites. These latter two were put on a level with persons of illegitimate birth, and were therefore excluded from "the congregation of the Lord forever" (Deuteronomy 23 et seq. compare the American anti-Chinese legislation).

The strangers, i.e. , the goyyim, enjoyed all the benefits of the poor-laws (see Deuteronomy 14:28 , 26:11 comp. Job 1:7 ) and the Prophets frequently enjoin kindness toward the non-Israelite (Jeremiah 7:6 , 22:3 Ezekiel 22:7 Zechariah 7:10 Malachi 3:5 comp. Psalm 94:6 ).

Non-Israelites figure in the Bible as exemplars of fidelity (see Eliezer ), devotion (Ruth ), and piety (Job ) and Deutero-Isaiah's welcome and promise to the "sons of the stranger" (Isaiah 56:3-6 comp. Ezekiel 47:22 ) likewise betoken the very opposite of the spirit of haughty exclusiveness and contempt for the non-Israelite said to be characteristic of the Jew and of Judaism.

Under Ezra and Nehemiah, it is true, rigorous measures were proposed to insure the purity of the holy seed of Abraham (Nehemiah 9:2 13:3,23 Ezra 9:2 et seq. , 10:3) but the necessities of the situation justified the narrower policy in this case.

Judaism Not Hostile to Gentiles.
In pre-exilic times the intercourse between Israelites and non-Israelites (non-Canaanites) was not very active or extensive, and non-Israelites (Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians) always appeared as enemies. But the Exile brought Israel into closer contact with non-Israel. If the conclusions of the critical schools are accepted, according to which the opening chapters of Genesis date from this period, the fact that Israel posits at the beginning of history the unity of all humanity should give pause to the ascription to Judaism of hostility toward the Gentile majority of humanity. The books of Ruth and Jonah are also documentary proof that the Hebrew racialism of Ezra met with strenuous opposition. Greeks, Syrians, and Romans, the peoples with whom post-exilic Israel had incisive relations, were not animated by a spirit apt to engender in the Jew a responsive sentiment of regard. Nor were their morals ("ḥ uḳ ḳ ot ha-goyyim") such as to allay the apprehension of faithful Jews as to the probable results of contact. The Maccabean revolution, the struggle against Hellenism, the rise against Rome under both Titus and Hadrian, are the historical background to the opinions expressed concerning non-Jews and the enactments adopted against them. Yet withal, both relatively — by comparison with the attitude of the Greek world toward the non-Greek (barbarian), or with the Roman treatment of the non-Romans (the "pagani") — and absolutely, the sentiments of the Jew toward the non-Jew were superior to the general moral and mental atmosphere. The Essenes certainly represent the cosmopolitan and broadly humanitarian tendencies of Judaism and as for the Pharisees , their contempt for the Gentile was not deeper than their contempt for the Jewish ' Am ha-Areẓ (the unlearned, suspected always of laxity in religious duty). The golden rule is Pharisaic doctrine (comp. Ab. R. N., Recension B, xxvi., xxix., xxx., xxxiii.).

In judging the halakic enactments one must keep in mind not merely the situation of the Jews— engaged in a bitter struggle for self-preservation and exposed to all sorts of treachery and suffering from persecution— but also the distinction between law and equity. The law can not and does not recognize the right of demented persons, minors, or aliens to hold property. Even modern statutes are based on this principle e.g. , in the state of Illinois, U. S. A., an alien can not inherit real estate. But what the law denies, equity confers. The Talmudic phrase "mi-pene darke shalom" ("on account of the ways of peace" see below) is the equivalent of the modern "in equity."

Tannaitic Views of Gentiles.
How the views of the Tannaim concerning Gentiles were influenced largely by their own personal temper and the conditions of their age, is apparent from an analysis of the discussion on the meaning of Proverbs 14:34 , of which two versions are found: one in Pesiḳ . 12b the other in a baraita in B. B. 10b. According to the former, Eliezer, Joshua, and Eleazar b. ' Arak, under their master Johanan ben Zakkai and Gamaliel, a certain Abin b. Judah, and Neḥ unya ben ha-Ḳ ana are the participants. In the latter version, Eliezer, Joshua, Gamaliel, Eleazar of Modi' im, and Neḥ unya ben ha-Ḳ ana are mentioned. It is probable that two distinct discussions, one under Johanan ben Zakkai and the other under Gamaliel, were combined, and the names and opinions confounded (see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." 1:38, note). This, however, is immaterial, in view of the fact that each of the men quoted gives a different interpretation the truly humane one by Neḥ unya (in the Pesiḳ ta, by Eleazar ben ' Arak) alone meeting with the approval of the master. According to R. Eliezer, the maxim "Love, benevolence ["ḥ esed"] exalteth a nation" refers to Israel while whatever charity the Gentiles practise is really sinful, the motive being self-glorification. Joshua is of the same opinion, alleging that whatever charitable action the Gentiles do is done to extend their kingdom. Gamaliel also expresses himself to the same effect, adding that the Gentiles, by their impure motive, incur the penalty of Gehenna. Eleazar of Modi' im sides with him, saying that "the Gentiles practise benevolence merely to taunt Israel." But Neḥ unya ben ha-Ḳ ana (in the Pesiḳ ta, Eleazar ben ' Arak) interprets the maxim as follows: "Righteousness exalteth a nation for benevolence both for Israel and for the Gentiles is a sin-offering." The master, approving this construction, explains that, in his view, the passage teaches that as the sin-offering works atonement for Israel, so does benevolence for the Gentiles.

The following anthology of haggadic observations on non-Israelites, or Gentiles is arranged chronologically, as it is essential that the time-element be kept in view and that the opinions of one tanna be not taken as those of the Talmud.

Gamaliel II.

Of Gamaliel II. is recorded a conversation with two pseudo-proselyte generals, who, being sent to investigate Jewish practises, take exception only to the provision permitting to a Jew the use of property stolen from a non-Jew (Sifre, Deuteronomy 344 B. K. 38a— the law which, in regard to the damage done by a goring ox, does not put Jew and Gentile on an equal footing). In Yer. B. Ḳ . 4b they censure also the prohibition of Jewish women from attending non-Jewish women as midwives and nurses. Gamaliel is reported to have repealed the obnoxious law on the use of stolen property, (see Grä tz in "Monatsschrift," 1881, p. 493).

Eliezer b. Hyrcanus is less tolerant. According to him, the mind of every non-Jew is always intent upon idolatry (Giṭ . 45b). The cattle of a heathen is unfit for sacrifices (' Ab. Zarah 23b). Explaining Proverbs 14:34 , he maintains that the non-Jews only practise charity in order to make for themselves a name (B. B. 10b Pesiḳ . 12b Gamaliel is credited with the same opinion in B. B. 10b). The persecutions which, at the instigation of Judæ o-Christians, Eliezer had suffered at the hands of the Romans may explain his attitude, as well as his opinion that the Gentiles have no share in the life to come (Tosef., Sanh. 13:2 Sanh. 105a). He nevertheless cites the example of a non-Jew, Dama b. Netina, as illustrative of the command to honor father and mother (Ḳ id. 31a ' Ab. Zarah 23b comp. Yer. Peah 15c Ḳ id. 61b Pesiḳ . R. xxiii.).

Joshua b. Hananiah, contrary to Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, contends that there are righteous men among the Gentiles, and that these will enter the world to come (Tosef., Sanh. 13:2), though as a rule Gentiles cling to vain things and are rejected (Proverbs 28:19 Gen. R. 82: excludes the descendants of Amalek from the Messianic kingdom (Sifre, Deuteronomy 310 Mek., Yitro, 57a) while all other Gentiles will adopt monotheism (' Ab. Zarah 24a comp. Pesiḳ . 28b). He is of the decided opinion that Gentiles (heathen) may lead a righteous life and thus escape Gehenna (see Zunz, "G. V." p. 269, note d Bacher, "Ag. Tan." 1:159). It is also reported of Joshua b. Hananiah that in a dialogue with the emperor Hadrian— who insisted that, as God's name was not mentioned in those parts of the Decalogue addressed to all men, the Gentiles were preferred, Israel being threatened with greater punishments-he controverted that monarch's conclusions by means of an illustration not very complimentary to the Gentiles (Pesiḳ . R. xxi.).

Eleazar of Modi' im, in reference to Micah 4:5 , explains that Israel, though guilty of the same sins as the Gentiles, will not enter hell, while the Gentiles will (Cant. R. 2:1 ). In another of his homilies, however, he speaks of the joy with which the Gentiles blessed Israel for having accepted the Decalogue (Zeb. 116a). On the whole, he is very bitter in his condemnations of the heathen. "They profit by their deeds of love and benevolence to slander Israel" (referring to Jeremiah 40:3 B. B. 10a).

Eleazar ben Azariah maintains, on the basis of Exodus 21:1 , that a judgment rendered by a non-Jewish (Roman) court is not valid for a Jew (Mek., Mishpaṭ im). There is also recorded a high tribute which he paid to a heathen servant, Ṭ abi, who was so worthy that Eleazar declares he felt that he himself ought to be the servant (Mldr. Mishle to Proverbs 9:2 ).

Ishmael ben Elisha used to reply to the heathen's benedictions and imprecations: "The word befitting you has long since been uttered." Asked for an explanation, he referred to Genesis 27:29 (Hebr.): "Those that curse thee shall be cursed those that bless thee shall be blessed" (Gen. R. 66: order to protect Jews he would decide in their favor, using the non-Jewish or the Jewish code as suited the occasion (Sifre, Deuteronomy 16 in B. Ḳ . 113a this is given as a prescription of his for others to follow, against which Akiba, recognizing that this would be a profanation of God's name, protests "mi-pene ḳ iddush ha-Shem").


Akiba, like Hillel, declared the command to love one's neighbor as oneself (Leviticus 19:18 ) to be the fundamental proposition of religion (Sifra, Ḳ edoshim, ed. Weiss, p. 89a Yer. Ned. 41c Gen. R. xxiv. comp. Ab. 3:14 Ab. R. N. xxxix.). Robbery of which a Gentile is the victim is robbery (B. B. 113a). For his opinion of the non-Jewish peoples, the "Dialogue Between Israel and the Gentiles" is characteristic (Mek., Beshallaḥ , ed. Weiss, p. 44b Sifre, Deuteronomy 343 Cant. R. 1:3 , 5:9 , 6:1 ). In another dialogue, Israel's monotheism is shown to be far superior to the ever-changing belief of the Gentiles (Mek., Yitro, x.). His contempt for the folly of idolatry as practised by the Romans is apparent in his conversation with Rufus, in which he compares the gods to dogs (Tan. Terumah, ed. Stettin, p. 139 comp. Grä tz, "Gesch." 4:447).

Among Akiba's disciples Tarphon is noted for his antipathy to the Judæ o-Christians, whose books he would burn without regard for the name of God occurring therein, preferring the temple of idolaters to them (Shab. 116a).

Jose the Galilean rebukes Israel for its inconstancy, which he contrasts with the fidelity shown by the Gentiles to their ancestral beliefs (Sifre, Deuteronomy 87 ). The good done by Gentiles is rewarded (see Genesis 23:5 Sifra, Aḥ are Mot, 85b).

Judah ben Baba holds that by the customs of the heathen forbidden in Leviticus 18:3 were meant the cosmetic arts (Sifra, 86a: see commentary of Abraham ben David ad loc. comp. Tosef., Soṭ ah, 15:9 Shab. 62b).

R. Meï r.

The warning against the practises of the heathen in Leviticus 18:3 is interpreted by R. Meï r (Sifra, 85b) to refer to the superstitions "of the Amorites" (enumerated in Shab. 67a comp. Mishnah vi., last section). He would not permit Jews to visit the theaters (arenas) of the Gentiles, because blood is spilled and idols are worshiped there (Tosef., ' Ab. Zarah, 2:5 ' Ab. Zarah 18b Yer. Sanh. 40a Ab. R. N. xxi.). Intolerant of idolatry (' Ab. Zarah 1:5,8 2:2,4 3:1 Blumenthal, "Rabbi Meï r," pp. 82 et seq. ), it was Meï r who insisted that in Leviticus 18:5 the word "man," not "priest," "Levite," or "Israelite," occurs, and thus claimed that a non-Jew versed in the Torah equals in rank the high priest (B. Ḳ . 38a Sanh. 59a Sifra, 86b, where 2Samuel 7:19 ["ha-adam"] Isaiah 26:2 , "goi ẓ addiḳ " Psalm 33:1 , "ẓ addiḳ im," and 125:4, "le-ṭ obim," are similarly applied to Gentile and Jew alike). He was on a footing of intimacy with the Gentile philosopher Euonymos of Gadara (Grä tz, l.c. 4:469). In an anecdote, significant as indicating the freedom of intercourse between Jew and Gentile, Meï r illustrates the cynic materialism of a rich heathen who, angry at the lack of a trifle at his banquet, which offered "whatever was created in six days," broke a rich plate pleading that, as the world to come was for Israel, he had to look to this world for his pleasures (Pesiḳ . 59b Num. R. 21: has a conversation with a "hegemon," who expresses his contempt of Israel, calling the Israelites slaves whereupon Meï r shows that Israel is a wayward son, always finding, if ready to repent, the father's house open (Jellinek, "B. H." 1:21). This anecdote, also, is significant as showing the sentiments of the Gentiles toward the Jews.

Simon ben Yoḥ ai is preeminently the anti-Gentile teacher. In a collection of three sayings of his, beginning with the keyword (Yer. Ḳ id. 66c Massek. Soferim 15:10 Mek., Beshal-laḥ , 27a Tan., Wayera, ed. Buber, 20), is found the expression, often quoted by anti-Semites, "Ṭ ob shebe-goyyim harog" (="The best among the Gentiles deserves to be killed"). This utterance has been felt by Jews to be due to an exaggerated antipathy on the part of a fanatic whose life experiences may furnish an explanation for his animosity hence in the various versions the reading has been altered, "The best among the Egyptians" being generally substituted. In the connection in which it stands, the import of this observation is similar to that of the two others: "The most pious woman is addicted to sorcery" "The best of snakes ought to have its head crushed" (comp. the saying, "Scratch a Russian and you will find a Tartar").

On the basis of Habakkuk 3:6 , Simon b. Yoḥ ai argued that, of all the nations, Israel alone was worthy to receive the Law (Lev. R. 13: Gentiles, according to him, would not observe the seven laws given to the Noachidæ (Tosef., Soṭ ah, 8:7 Soṭ ah 35b), though the Law was written on the altar ( Deuteronomy 26:8 ) in the seventy languages. Hence, while Israel is like the patient ass, the Gentiles resemble the easy-going, selfish dog (Lev. R. xiii. Sifre, Deut., Wezot ha-Berakah, 343). Yet Simon speaks of the friendly reception given to Gentiles (Sifre, Deuteronomy 1 ). The idols were called "elilim" to indicate that "wo [] is them that worship them" (Jellinek, l.c. 5:78). Simon b. Yoḥ ai insists upon the destruction of idols, but in a different manner from that proposed by others (' Ab. Zarah 3:3 ' Ab. Zarah 43b). He extends to Gentiles the prohibition against sorcery in Deuteronomy 18:10 et seq. (Tosef., ' Ab. Zarah, 8:6 Sanh. 55b).

Judah ben ' Illai recommends the daily recital of the benediction. "Blessed be Thou . . . who hast not made me a goi" (Tosef., Ber. 7:18: Men. 43b, sometimes ascribed to Meï r see Weiss, "Dor," 2:137). Judah is confident that the heathen (Gentiles) will ultimately come to shame (Isaiah 66:5 B. M. 33b). The Gentiles took copies of the Torah, and yet did not accept it (Soṭ ah 35b).

Eliezer, the son of Jose the Galilean, calls the Gentiles poor "goyyim dawim," because they would not accept the Torah (Mek., Yitro. 62a), referring to Habakkuk 3:6 and Psalm 147:20 .

Joshua ben Ḳ arḥ a is reported to have answered the accusation— still repeated in modern anti-Semitic literature— that Israel refuses to celebrate the festivals of the Gentiles— by showing that nature's bounties bring joy to all men alike (Gen. R. xiii.).

Simon ben Gamaliel II. is the author of the saying that strict justice shall be done the Gentile, who shall elect whether he shall be tried according to the Jewish or the Gentile code (Sifre, Deuteronomy 16 ).

Josiah holds that every idolatrous heathen is an enemy of Israel (Mek., Mishpaṭ im, 99a).

Jonathan insists that eclipses are of bad augury for Gentiles only, according to Jeremiah 10:2 (Mek., Bo, 19b).

According to Hananiah b. Akabia the word (Exodus 21:14 ) may perhaps exclude the Gentile but the shedding of the blood of non-Israelites, while not cognizable by human courts, will be punished by the heavenly tribunal (Mek., Mishpaṭ im, 80b).

Why Gentile circuses and theaters continued while the Temple was in ruins, was a perplexing problem for many a plous Jew. Nehorai learns from Elijah that this is the cause of earthquakes (Yer. Ber. 13c Midr. Teh. to Psalm 18:8 ).

Jacob, the grandson of Elisha ben Abuya, reports having seen a heathen bind his father and throw him to his dog as food (Sifre, Deuteronomy 81 ).

Simon ben Eleazar does not favor the social amenities (e.g. , invitations to wedding-feasts) between Gentiles and Jews (Tosef., ' Ab. Zarah, 4:6 Ab. R. N. xxvi. ' Ab. Zarah 8a), referring to Exodus 34:16 .

According to Judah ha-Nasi, the word "goyyim" designates the nations that subjected Israel, while "ummim" denotes those that did not. Both must praise the God of Israel (Midr. Teh. to Psalm 117:1 ).

Phinehas ben Jair prohibits the appropriation of an object lost by a non-Jew, as this is tantamount to desecrating God's name (B. K. 113b).

Simon ben Jose likens Israel to a stone, and the Gentiles to a potsherd (Isaiah 30:14 ), applying the proverb: "If the stone falls on the pot, wo to the pot if the pot falls on the stone, wo to the pot." This he offered as a consolation to persecuted Israel (Esther R. 3:6).

Antigonus complains of the cruelty of the non-Jews toward Israel (Mek., Beshallaḥ , 27a but see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." 2:331, note 2).

With regard to the attitude of the Palestinian amoraim toward Gentiles the following facts may be stated:

Views of the Amoraim.

That antipathy was due to idolatry itself and not to the fact that idolaters were of non-Jewish stock, appears from Ḥ anina bar Ḥ ama's discussion with Jonathan b. Eleazar of the question whether one should take a road passing by a temple of idols or one passing through a disreputable district, in which the decision was given in favor of the latter (' Ab. Zarah 17a, b). It was also this amora who ascribed moral sanctity to the marriages of non-Jews (Noachidæ Yer. Sanh. 58c), though he himself witnessed gross immoralities perpetrated by non-Jews (' Ab. Zarah 22b). Yet he is credited with the opinion that during the Messianic time only the heathen will be subject to death (Gen. R. xxvi.).

Hezekiah b. Ḥ iyya deduces from 2 Kings 20:18 that he who shows hospitality to a heathen brings the penalty of exile upon his own children (Sanh. 104a).

Some of the parables of Joshua b. Levi illustrate strikingly the reciprocal feelings entertained in his day between Jews and Gentiles. The latter accused the former of being descended from illegitimate compulsory connection between their female ancestors and the Egyptians (Pesiḳ . 82b) the Jews, in turn, likened the Romans to dogs (referring to Isaiah 56:11 Midr. Teh. to Psalm 4:8 comp. Matthew 15:26 Mark 7:27 Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." 1. 146-147). That Joshua had objections only to the Jews following the evil practises of the Gentiles, is evidenced by his comments on Ezekiel 5:7 , 11:12 (Sanh. 39b), in which he points out that Israel deserved censure for rejecting the good customs as well as for adopting the evil ones of the nations ("Ye have not done according to the approved among them ["ke-metuḳ ḳ anim she-bahem"], but we have done according to the corrupt ones ["ke-meḳ ulḳ alim she-bahem"]"). His liberality is also attested in his legendary visits to paradise and hell for the purpose of ascertaining whether non-Jews were to be found in the former (Jellinek, l.c. 2:48-51).


Johanan bar Nappaḥ a complains of the insults and injuries offered by Gentiles to his people (referring to Lamentations 3:21 Pes. 139b Cant. R. 2:14 Ex. R. 21: lays stress on the fact that God offered the Law to all nations, who refused to accept it (' Ab. Zarah 2b) therefore while the virus of lust that the serpent injected into Eve was neutralized in Israel, the "nations of the world" still have it in their blood (Shab. 145b Yeb. 103b ' Ab. Zarah 22b). "The wise among the heathen is called and must be honored as a wise man" (Meg. 16a), is one of Johanan's sayings, though he is also the author of another which holds that, as the Torah was given as a heritage to Israel, a non-Israelite deserves death if he studies it (Sanh. 59a). Notwithstanding all this, he maintains that Gentiles outside of Palestine are not to be regarded as idolaters, but as observers of their ancestral customs (Ḥ ul. 13b). Significant of the attitude of the Gentiles toward the Jews in his day is his observation that when a Gentile touches the pot placed on the common hearth by a Jew, the latter does not deem it rendered unclean but that as soon as a Jew touches the pot of the Gentile, the latter shouts "Unclean!" (Esther R. 2:3). Under certain circumstances, Johanan permitted the eating of food prepared by Gentiles (Yeb. 46a). His also is the maxim, "Whosoever abandons idolatry is called ' Jew"' (Meg. 13a).

Resh Laḳ ish prohibited the use of water which had been revered by heathens but he had to recall his decision (' Ab. Zarah 58b comp. Yer. Sheb. 38b, c, concerning a public bath in which was a statue of Aphrodite).

Eleazar ben Pedat observes that the suggestion of intermarriage always comes from the Gentile side: "Never does an Israelite put his finger into the mouth of a non-Israelite, unless the latter has first put his into the mouth of the Israelite" (Gen. R. 80: to Eleazar, the Jew and not the heathen is bound to sanctify God's name (Yer. Sheb. 35a). Murders committed by Gentiles are recorded by God on His own cloak in order that He may have authentic proof of their atrocities (Midr. Teh. to Psalm 9:13 ).


Abbahu calls attention to the fact that the Gentiles as well as Israel were offered the Torah (Pesiḳ . 200a Tan., Berakah, 3). He complains also of the insults to which Jews are exposed in the theaters of the Gentiles (Proem 17 to Lam. R.) by Gentile actors and attendants. He indorsed the law (B. Ḳ . 4:3) according to which a Gentile whose ox had been gored by the ox of a Jew was not entitled to damages (B. Ḳ . 32a).

Assi is the author of the injunction not to instruct the Gentile in the Torah (Ḥ ag. 13a).

Isaac Nappaḥ a is the author of some parables in which Israel is exalted to offset the slanders of the Gentiles and the latter, in turn, are spoken of in terms of contumely (Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." 2:291).

Levi enumerates six commandments (prohibitions of polytheism and of blasphemy the institution of courts of justice prohibitions of shedding of blood, of incest, and of robbery) which are binding upon all men (Gen. R. xvi. Midr. Teh. to Psalm 1:10 the "Torat Adonai" is said to consist of these universal laws so that to be the "happy" man of whom the psalm speaks one need not necessarily be a Jew). Levi is, however, very severe in his reflections on the morality of the Gentiles (Cant. R. to 6:8 see Bacher, l.c. p. 329, note 7). Levi claims that the injunction not to take revenge ( Leviticus 19:18 ) does not apply to Gentiles (Eccl. R. 8:4 ).

Abba b. Kahana protests, in an explanation of Ruth 4:16 , against racial arrogance on the part of Israel (Ruth R. viii.).

Jonah and Jose permitted the baking of bread for the Roman soldiers on Sabbath-day (Yer. Sheb. 35a Yer. Sanh. 21b comp. Yer. Beẓ ah 60c). Yet they would not permit the use of a scroll partially burned in a conflagration caused by these same soldiers.

Judan applies the proverb, "A fat animal becomes lean but a lean one has to give up the ghost," to Israel's maltreatment on the part of the Gentiles (Lam. R. 3:20 ).

Phinehas b. Ḥ ama calls attention to the fact that Israel on Sukkot offered seventy heifers for all the nations, and prayed for them, applying the verse (Psalm 109:4 ). "On account of my love they attack me" (Pes. 193b). Other stories of his bring out the fact that in his day the Jews were not liked by their Gentile neighbors (Yer. Peah 16d Lam. R. 1:11 comp. Josephus, "B. J." 3:2, § 2).

Abin testifies that Israel was called by others "stubborn" and "stiff-necked" (Ex. R. xlii.: ).

Tanḥ uma enjoins that if one is greeted by a Gentile with the salutation of peace or a blessing, one should answer "Amen!" ( Yer. Ber. 12c Yer. Suk. 54a Yer. Meg. 72a), though he likens the nations to wolves and Israel to a lamb (Pesiḳ . R. ix. [ed. Friedmann, p.32a]).

Views of Babylonian Amoraim.
The Babylonian Amoraim advert but rarely to the relations of the Israelites to the Gentiles and, while on the whole their haggadic interpretations are less numerous than those of the Palestinian schools, the paucity of their comments on Gentiles is noteworthy as illustrative of the fact that the typical Gentile against whom rabbinical animosity was directed was the depraved Roman. According to Rab, the Saturnalia and the Calends originated with Adam, and were based on purely human sentiments (' Ab. Zarah 8a Yer. ' Ab. Zarah 39c), a view certainly betokening tolerance for pagan customs. Similarly does Rab recognize the chastity of non-Jewish women, as is shown by his story of the Gentile woman who when sick was willing to serve any idol in order to be cured, but who upon coming to the temple of Baal-peor preferred to remain sick rather than to take part in the worship of that god (Sanh. 64a). It is the immorality of idolatry that more especially strikes him (Sanh. 63b). The moral purpose of the Torah for all men ( Lev. R. xiii.) is one of his themes. His ethical maxims are addressed as a rule to man and not to the Jew (Sanh. 107a).

Cruelty to one's fellow men marks one a non-Abrahamite (Beẓ ah 32b). Hospitality like Abraham' s— i.e. , to all men— Rab commends highly (Shab. 127a Shebu. 35b B. M. 86b). For him the Persian empire represented the typical antipode of piety and justice. Hence his saying (in opposition to Samuel), "Guilty of death is he that learns anything from a Magian [Persian]" (Shab. 116b) and the following: "Rather under the Romans than under the Persians" (ib. 11a).

Mar ' Uḳ ba, on the other hand, regards Rome as one of the two daughters of Hell (Proverbs 30:15 ), the other being Apostasy or Heresy (' Ab. Zarah 17a).

Samuel, for whom the only distinction of the Messianic age is the absence of the subjugation of Israel by Gentile powers, makes no difference between Israel and the nations as far as God's judgment is concerned (Yer. R. H. 57a).

Judah's benediction of the trees in springtide is characteristic of his broad spirit, since he praises God for thus delighting the "sons of man," not the Israelite alone (Ber. 43b R. H. 11a).

Naḥ man bar Jacob, finally, forbids every kind of irony and taunt except such as are directed against the idolatry of the non-Jews prevailing in his day (Meg. 28b Sanh. 63b).

Bibliography : Bacher, Ag. Pal. Amor. idem, Ag. Bab. Amor. idem, Ag. Tan. E. C. E. G. H.

— In Relation to Jews:

In rabbinic literature, owing to the censor's overvigilance and ignorance, the term "Gentile" is often erroneously identified with "Kuti" (= "Samaritan"), "Egyptian," "Amalek," etc., and in rare instances is misplaced for "Noẓ ri" = "Christian." Thus the censor's zeal to protect "the faith" had the effect of characterizing the Christian as a heathen, which was far from the authors' intention (see "Paḥ ad Yiẓ ḥ aḳ ," , p. 7a). As a rule the Talmud, especially the Mishnah, speaks of the Gentiles who dwelt in Palestine under the Jewish government, either as idolaters or as domiciled aliens ("ger toshab"), bound to observe the seven moral commandments given to Noah's descendants: namely, against (1) idolatry, (2) incest, (3) homicide, (4) robbery, (5) eating limbs of live animals, (6) castration, and (7) the mixing of breeds (Sanh. 56b) and having their own judges in every district and town like the Israelites (ib. ), the Gentiles outside of Palestine were not considered strict idolaters, but blind followers in the path of their ancestors (Ḥ ul. 13b).

The seven nations in the Holy Land were to be exterminated for fear they might teach the Israelite conquerors idolatry and immoral practises (Deuteronomy 7:1-6 , 18:9-14 , 20:16-18 ) but in spite of the strenuous efforts of Joshua and other leaders the Israelites could not drive them out of the Promised Land (Joshua 13:1-6 ). Having in view the curbing of assimilation and the protection of the Jewish state and society, the legislators, men of the Great Assembly, adopted stringent measures against these Gentiles. These laws were collected and incorporated in the Mishnah, and were interpreted in the Gemara of the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. The restrictive regulations may be classified as having been enacted for the following reasons: (1) to exalt monotheism, and Israel as a nation (2) to combat and outlaw barbarism (3) to overcome the unreliability of the Gentile and (4) to counteract Gentile laws not in harmony with the humanitarian laws of the Jews.

Rabbinical Modification of Laws.

  1. The Pharisees, interpreting the spirit of the Law, and acting under the elastic rule that "there is a time to serve the Lord by relaxing his law" (Psalm 119:126 , Hebr. Yoma 69a), permitted the desecration of the Sabbath in besieging a Gentile city "until it be subdued" (Deuteronomy 20:20 ), in accordance with Shammai's interpretation (Shab. 19a). This definition was not new, as already the Maccabeans had taken advantage of it in fighting the enemy unceasingly, putting aside the observance of the Sabbath for the sake of God and of their national existence (I Macc. 2:43,44). Probably for the same reason (to facilitate war with the Gentile enemy), the Rabbis modified the laws of purification so as not to apply when one comes in contact with a corpse or human bones, or when one enters an enclosure containing a dead body. With regard to the text "This is the law when a man dieth in a tent" (Numbers 19:14 ), they held that only Israelites are men , quoting the prophet, "Ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men" (Ezekiel 34:31 ) Gentiles they classed not as men but as barbarians (B. M. 108b). The Talmudic maxim is, "Whoever has no purification laws can not contaminate" (Naz. 61b). Another reason assigned is that it would have been utterly impossible otherwise to communicate with Gentiles, especially in the post-exilic times (Rabinovitz, "Mebo ha-Talmud," p. 5, Wilna, 1894). Patriotism and a desire to regain a settlement in the Holy Land induced the Rabbis, in order not to delay the consummation of a transfer of property in Palestine from a Gentile to a Jew, to permit the deed to be written on the Sabbath, an act otherwise prohibited (B. Ḳ . 80b).

  2. The barbarian Gentiles who could not be prevailed upon to observe law and order were not to be benefited by the Jewish civil laws, framed to regulate a stable and orderly society, and based on reciprocity. The passage in Moses' farewell address: "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them he shined forth from Mount Paran" (Deuteronomy 33:2 ), indicates that the Almighty offered the Torah to the Gentile nations also, but, since they refused to accept it. He withdrew His "shining" legal protection from them, and transferred their property rights to Israel, who observed His Law. A passage of Habakkuk is quoted as confirming this claim: "God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. . . . He stood, and measured the earth he beheld, and drove asunder [ = "let loose," "outlawed"] the nations" (Habakkuk 3:3-6 ) the Talmud adds that He had observed how the Gentile nations steadfastly refused to obey the seven moral Noachian precepts, and hence had decided to outlaw them (B. Ḳ . 38a).

Laws of Hammurabi.
It follows that the Gentiles were excepted from the general civil laws of Moses. For example, the Law provides that if a man's ox gores and kills a neighbor's ox, the carcass and the surviving ox shall be sold, and the proceeds divided between the respective owners (half-damages). If, however, the goring ox has been known to be dangerous and its owner has not kept watch over it, he shall pay full damages for the dead ox and take the carcass (Exodus 21:35-36 , Hebr.). Here the Gentile is excepted, as he is not a "neighbor" in the sense of reciprocating and being responsible for damages caused by his negligence nor does he keep watch over his cattle. Even the best Gentile laws were too crude to admit of reciprocity. The laws of Hammurabi provide: "If the ox has pushed a man, and by pushing has made known his vice, and the owner has not blunted his horn, has not shut up his ox, and that ox has gored a man of gentle birth and caused him to die, the owner shall pay half a mina of silver" (Johns, "Oldest Code of Laws," § 251, Edinburgh, 1903). This price of a half-mina of silver was also the fixed fine for cutting down a tree (ib. § 59). It appears that only a nominal sum was paid when a man not of gentle birth was killed, and even less when a neighbor's ox was gored. The Mishnah, bearing such facts in mind, therefore declares that if a Gentile sue an Israelite, the verdict is for the defendant if the Israelite is the plaintiff, he obtains full damages (B. Ḳ . 4:3). It should be noted that in these tort cases public or sacred property ( ) was also an exception, for the reason that both are wanting in individual responsibility and in proper care. The principle was that the public could not be fined since it could not collect in turn. The Gemara's reliance on the technical term "neighbor" () in the text as its justification for excluding both the Gentile and the public, is merely tentative.

The Talmud relates in this connection that the Roman government once commissioned two officers to question the Rabbis and obtain information regarding the Jewish laws. After a careful study, they said: "We have scrutinized your laws and found them just, save the clause relating to a Gentile's ox, which we can not comprehend. If, as you say, you are justified by the term ' neighbor,' the Gentile should be quit when defendant as well as when plaintiff." The Rabbis, however, feared to disclose the true reason for outlawing the Gentiles as barbarians, and rested on the textual technicality in the Mosaic law, in accordance with which they had authority to act in all cases coming within their jurisdiction (B. Ḳ . 38a).

The Mosaic law provides for the restoration of a lost article to its owner if a "brother" and "neighbor" (Deuteronomy 22:1-3 ), but not if a Gentile (B. Ḳ . 113b), not only because the latter would not reciprocate, but also because such restoration would be a hazardous undertaking. The laws of Hammurabi made certain acts connected with "articles lost and found" a ground of capital punishment. "If the owner of the lost property has not brought witnesses identifying his lost property if he has lied, or has stirred up strife, he shall be put to death" (Johns, l.c. § 11). The loser, the finder, or an intermediate person was put to death in certain stages of the search for the missing article ( ib. § § 9-13). The Persian law commanded the surrender of all finds to the king (B. Ḳ . 28b). As an illustration of the Gentile law and of Jewish magnanimity, the following is related in the Talmud: "Queen Helen lost her jewelry, and R. Samuel, who had just arrived in Rome, found it. A proclamation was posted throughout the city offering a certain sum of money as a reward for the restoration of the jewels within thirty days. If restored after thirty days, the finder was to lose his head. Samuel waited and restored the jewels after thirty days. Said the queen: ' Hast thou not heard of the proclamation?' ' Yes,' answered Samuel, ' but I would show that I fear not thee. I fear only the Merciful.' Then she blessed the God of the Jews" (Yer. B. M. 2:5).

Similarly, the mandate concerning the oppression of or withholding wages from a hireling brother or neighbor, or a domiciled alien (Deuteronomy 24:14-15 ) who observes the Noachian laws, is not applicable in the case of a Gentile. That is to say, a Gentile may be employed at reduced wages, which need not be paid promptly on the same day, but may be paid in accordance with the usual custom of the place. The question arose whether a Jew might share in the spoils gained by a Gentile through robbery. One Talmudic authority reasoned that the Gentile exerted himself to obtain the ill-gotten property much less than in earning his wages, to which the Mosaic law is not applicable hence property seized by a Gentile, if otherwise unclaimed, is public property and may be used by any person. Another authority decided that a Jew might not profit by it (B. M. 111b).

Ashi's Decisions.
R. Ashi decided that a Jew who sells a Gentile landed property bordering on the land of another Jew shall be excommunicated, not only on the ground that the Gentile laws do not provide for "neighbors' boundary privileges" (), but also because the Jewish neighbor may claim "thou hast caused a lion to lie on my border." The ban shall not be raised unless the seller stipulates to keep the Jew free from all possible damage arising from any act of the Gentile (B. Ḳ . 114a). The same Ashi noticed in a vineyard a broken vine-branch bearing a bunch of grapes, and instructed his attendant, if he found that it belonged to a Gentile, to fetch it if to a Jew, to leave it. The Gentile owner overheard the order, and asked: "Is it right to take from a Gentile?" Ashi replied: "Yes, because a Gentile would demand money, but a Jew would not" (ib. 113b). This was an adroit and sarcastic answer. In truth, Ashi coincided with the opinion of the authority stated above namely, that, as the presumption is that the Gentile obtained possession by seizure, the property is considered public property, like unclaimed land in the desert (B. B. 54b). The consensus of opinion, however, was against this authority. R. Simeon the Pious quotes to show that legal possession was required even in dealing with the Seven Nations: "And thou shalt consume [ = "eat the spoils"] all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee" ( Deuteronomy 7:6 , Hebr.), meaning that Israel could claim the land only as conquerors, not otherwise (B. Ḳ . 113b).

In one instance a Gentile had the benefit of the technical term "neighbor," and it was declared that his property was private. The Law provides that an Israelite employed in his neighbor's vineyard or grain-field is allowed to pick there as much as he can eat while working (Deuteronomy 23:25-26 ). But since the employer in this case was a Gentile (i.e. , not a "neighbor"), the Israelite was forbidden to eat anything without permission (B. M. 87b). As regards the property of this Gentile perhaps his title to it was not disputed, and it was therefore considered just as sacred as that of a Jew.

Discriminations against Gentiles, while strictly in accordance with the just law of reciprocity and retaliation, having for their object to civilize the heathen and compel them to adopt the civil laws of Noah, were nevertheless seldom practised. The principal drawback was the fear of "profaning the Holy Name" (). Consequently it was necessary to overlook legal quibbles which might appear unjust in the eyes of the world, and which would reflect on the good name and integrity of the Jewish nation and its religion. Another point to be considered was the preservation, "for the sake of peace" ("mi-pene darke shalom"), of the friendly relations between Jew and Gentile, and the avoidance of enmity ( ' Ab. Zarah 26a B. Ḳ . 113b).

Not only was the principle of retaliation directed against the heathen Gentile, but it also operated against the lawless Jewish herdsmen of sheep and other small cattle, who trespassed on private property in Palestine contrary to the ordinance forbidding them to raise their herds inland (Tosef., B. Ḳ . viii. [ed. Zuckermandel, p. 362] comp. Sanh. 57a). All retaliation or measures of reprisal are based on the Jewish legal maxim of eminent domain, "The judicial authority can annul the right to the possession of property and declare such property ownerless" (, B. B. 9a).

Discrimination Against Gentiles.

    3. Another reason for discrimination was the vile and vicious character of the Gentiles: "I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation " (Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Bibliography Information
    Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Gentile'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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