The Gentiles were all peoples who were not Jews. A Jew should not marry a Gentile, because the Gentiles did not worship God or obey the Law of Moses. A Gentile could convert to Judaism. The Bible has several examples of God-fearing Gentiles.
Could Gentiles live with Jews?
Yes, Gentiles could live with Jews, doing business and living among them. The Law of Moses did not allow ill-treatment of foreigners ( Leviticus 19: 33-34 ). But a Gentile did not have the same status as a Jew: he could not marry a Jew or enter the temple. If a Gentile converted to Judaism and was circumcised, he would be more integrated into the community and his great-grandchildren would be considered Jews in their own right ( Deuteronomy 23: 7-8 ).
Because of dietary rules, Jews did not eat at the Gentile home, which ate “unclean” foods. Since the Gentiles did not keep Jewish laws of purity, the Jews considered them unclean and despised them. Mixing a lot with Gentiles was seen as a sign of contamination with “the world” and turning away from God.
The Bible has good and bad examples of Gentiles. Solomon’s foreign wives led him to idolatry and many pagan peoples tried to destroy the nation of Israel ( 1 Kings 11: 4-5 ). On the other hand, some Gentiles were an example of faith, like Ruth, who chose to follow God rather than return to his people.
See Ruth’s story here .
Is there still a distinction between Jew and Gentile?
No, when Jesus came, He abolished all distinctions between people. Salvation is for everyone. The early Christians had some difficulty understanding this at first. Jewish Christians thought that salvation was not for Gentiles. Then they thought that Gentile Christians must obey Jewish laws in order to be saved. Gentile Christians did not know how to distinguish what they should or should not fulfill.
See also: who were the zealots in the Bible?
The apostles reinforced Jesus’ teaching: salvation is for all without distinction ( Romans 3: 29-30 ). Jewish purification rituals no longer needed to be done, because Jesus purified us perfectly. There was no longer a Jew and a Gentile. The focus shifted from not contaminating the world to contaminating the world with Jesus.