THE TWO HOUSES IN THE NEW COVENANT
In his writings to the various congregations, Paul often makes a comparison between two people-groups, "Jews and Gentiles' (according the King James Version). The word “Gentile" comes from a Latin word which conveys the idea of a group other than Jews and by implication, 'unbelievers' or heathens.
The word from which this word Gentile is translated mostly (but not always), in the Greek text, is ETHNOS which means no more or less than a different ethnic group. So in many cases where it is used, it is designating ethnic groups other than Jews. However, there are quite a few passages where Paul makes this comparison where the word 'ethnos' is not used in the Greek text at all. The translators have supplied the word 'Gentiles' in these instances to give what they presumed was the intended meaning. But, it is not what was intended!
Due to the breaking away of the believers from their Hebraic Roots, the understanding and meaning of many things was lost, and when the original translators, such as Origen began to translate from the original writings in Aramaic and Hebrew into the commonly used language of the time (which was Greek) the correct meaning of many words and concepts was lost and no longer understood.
The Greek text itself bears many loan words from Aramaic/Hebrew which are foreign to the Greek language of that era and the grammatical expressions were foreign to normal Greek sentence structure, because the translators were trying to convey Hebrew concepts. They also had to form Hebraic concepts in Greek where there was no words in that language to express the necessary ideas.
Then again, much of the same problem occurred when the Greek text was translated to Latin and finally to English. Much has been lost in translation and in misinterpretation of the original scriptures. In the earliest copies of the Greek text which we have from the 4-5th century, the words in these passages which we are considering, was "Jews and Greeks", or "Jews and Scythians", and in a couple of instances, "Jews and Gentiles".
Also there are many variations between the manuscripts available to us, and not all of them agree. The Aramaic Peshitta text avoided this problem as it was retained in its original Aramaic form until translation into English in recent times. This Aramaic text defines more clearly Paul's intent here in these verses to be a comparison of two specific people groups, Jews and Arameans, and not of that with Jews against unbelievers or heathens.
Contrary to the Greek texts, all Peshitta text manuscripts are in agreement throughout the texts, except for very minor differences which go to prove the accuracy of the copies we have that have been made from the original manuscripts.
The verses referred to are Rom.2:9; 1 Cor.12;13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:9-11
IDENTIFYING THE NATIONS
Now before looking at the actual passages, the question is, "Why does Paul choose Arameans in contrast to Jews?
What is the point of this?
The term Arameans would imply a people-group or nationality.
ARAM, the son of Shem, the son of Noah had moved down from the place where the Ark landed to the lower foothills of Turkey. In Genesis 10:22-23 and 1 Chron.1:17, the genealology of Aram is listed from Shem and he is known to have dwelt in the hill country of present-day Syria to the north and east, and covered the area called Damascus and Haran. This is the area where Abraham and his family settled and named after them when they left Ur of the Chaldees, calling the locality in the area of Aram, Haran. Jewish history records that Abraham had spent time with Noah, Shem and Eber prior to his call to leave Ur of the Chaldees (Gen.12). It is to this area that they go and settle after leaving Ur, in the overall territory of Aram, calling their locality Haran.
Abraham and his family had abandoned their nationality in Ur of the Chaldees and settling in the area of Aram, this became their home and therefore the place of their origin from which they went down to Ca'anan. In Deuteronomy 26:5, Ya'acov is called an "Aramean" (some versions may record it as "Syrian" - the more modern term for the same area). It appears that Shem also was living there at that time as Abraham was met by him on his return from rescuing Lot. (Gen.14:19-20)
It was back to Haran, the area of Aram, that Abraham sent his servant to procure a wife for his son Isaac and where also Jacob was told to go to take a wife of that same genealogical stock. Abraham, Yitsaac (Isaac) and Ya'acov (Jacob) were Aramean in origin. That made the first three founding generations of the nation of Israel, all Aramean. The term "Aramean" also denoted those who, like Aram, Shem's son who took possession of the area originally, were worshipers of the one true God and God-fearing in their lifestyle and observance of His laws and precepts.
ABRAHAM THE FATHER OF ISRAEL
Prior to Abraham's circumcision, he remained, an Aramean. After his circumcision, that terminology was invalid as he then became the "father" and progenitor of a new ethnic group, that of the promised nation which would come from his loins, the Israelite nation.
Abraham became that spiritual head and father of the Israelite nation when he received the promised inheritance in Genesis 17, through the covenant of circumcision. Circumcision in the flesh was to be the sign which all his descendants were to carry as an an outward sign (sealed in their own blood), of the sacrificial commitment of their lives to Yahweh. It was a blood covenant that sealed them into the bond of sonship to YHWH God as His Firstborn nation. To become uncircumcised was to break the bond of the covenant. Therefore when the dispersed
Israelites ceased to circumcise their sons, their covenant relationship with Him was severed and all evidence of their Israelite heritage was removed.
All Yahweh's promises to Abraham prior to Genesis 15, required his spiritual growth and separation unto Yahweh from all else in his life. The first covenant he received then was for the land and his descendants (Gen.15:13-21). The promised inheritance of the land remained for a future time, when, four generations later, the nation itself would possess it, but in the intervening time, Abraham, Yitzak and Ya'acov remained as strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land in which they were merely sojourners, so in regard to nationality, they were Aramaens.
ABRAHAM THE FATHER OF FAITH
So, the intent is that Paul is differentiating between "Jews" and "Aramaens" as two people groups and not between Jews and the unsaved nations of the world. The Jews represented the House of Yehudah (Judah, Benjamin and some of Levi) which was the only group which had an identity at the time of Paul's writing. Therefore those that were referred to as Aramaens must refer to the descendants of Abraham who did not have Jewish identity - that were not of the tribes of Yehudah, Benjamin and Levi. In other words, individuals who were descendants of the other unidentified 10 tribes.
In Romans 2:9 Paul says, that there will be "tribulation and anguish upon every man who does evil and who does not obey the truth, to the Jew first and also to the Aramean" (Peshitta text) . This is consistent with all scripture. Yahweh said that He would judge both Houses for their iniquity - in proportion to their sin. The House of Yehudah (known as "Jews" were at that time back in the land after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. The House of Israel had been taken into captivity because of their idolatry and Yahweh had judged and divorced them. He had called the nation to repent and return to Him but she had rebelled and he had given her a bill of divorce (Jer.3, 1, 6, 8).
RESTORATION OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
Yahweh speaks about how He will take away the spiritual blessings and endowments which he had given her and cause her to know that he had made her what she was and that she was destitute without Him (Hosea 2:2-13). He said that He would take her into the wilderness and there he would extend grace to her and eventually take her on a spiritual exodus back into relationship with Himself (Hosea 2:14-20).
"And He prophetically says, "I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely: for My anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew to Israel; he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn and grow as the vine: their fragrance shall be as the wine of Lebanon." Hosea 14:4-7
Yahweh had put them away - divorced them but the purposed to restore them by His grace and mercy and extend His love unconditional toward them. As the dew upon the mown grass He would refresh Ephraim and cause her beauty to come forth and for her to grow again as an Olive tree which signified that she would again put down her roots and grow up into Him spiritually and she would once again be a spiritual House in her own right. Yahweh prophesied that he would cause the Olive tree of Ephraim (10 tribes) to put down roots again put down her roots and grow into a flourishing tree again that would be fruitful in every way.
Yahweh had put them away by a bill of divorce but He purposed to restore them. Their exile spanned 800 years (20 generations) from the time of their dispersion until the coming of Paul to preach the gospel to them. They had not only walked in idolatry but also left off their circumcision through the oppression of the successive kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece, and finally that of Rome.
The area to which Paul mostly went was in this central area where all of these successive kingdoms had control. It was here that Paul's letters to Ephesus, Colossae and Galatia were addressed. This was the area also where the Israelites who were known as Scythians had established their territory after the fall of Assyria.
Some of the Greek texts use the identification of Scythians in some of these verses (who were Israelites), but mostly they use the term "Greeks". Although Greek was the spoken language by the educated in these areas, these people were not Greeks.
Paul also went to Greece where there were descendant of Israelites and to Rome. But to all of these groups, Paul uses the same terminology and addresses them all as Arameans, so he is referring to their original ethnic stock and their spiritual status. So in this identification, Paul is referring to them as the lost ten tribes. Used in this way, the term Aramean covers that of an uncircumcised worshippers of God, like Abraham was before his circumcision.
They were not coming back under the covenant of circumcision which Yehudah in their faithfulness had maintained. They were being grafted back in as uncircumcised Arameans, into the original status of Abraham, to allow them to grow and become established in their own spiritual identity, and finally as their own House again, rather than in under Yehudah's identity.
All who had been converted up to that time, had become part of Yehudah, as that was the only identity of the nation, the only House left standing in Yahweh's name, so any convert became a Jew. In the return of the ten tribes through Paul's preaching of the gospel, Yahweh purposed that they were to return in their own identity as a separate "House", although at that stage it was still unformed, rather than coming under the spiritual identity of Yehudah. It was the wisdom of God that they were grafted back into the rootstock of the Olive tree, which was through Abraham
"O Israel, make teshuvah (repentance) to YHWH your elohim; for you have fallen by your iniquity. Take with you words of torah, and make teshuvah to YHWH and say to Him, Take away all our iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the bulls (sacrifices) the fruit of our lips." Hosea 14:1
He calls her to repentance and obedience to His Word and to make sacrifices unto Him - the fruit of their lips giving praise to His name -Hebrews 11:13; and to return again to Zion, to come back into the kingdom of God.
The prodigal son needed to come to his senses and come back to Father's House.
In returning she would be restored and fulfil her priestly calling of offering sacrifices that would be acceptable on His altar, the fruit of their lips giving praise to His Name for His goodness and mercy upon them!
They would return to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads!