Two recent articles on the Gospel Coalition website ask whether missionaries should target unreached people groups. Darren Carlson and Elliot Clark argue that the strategy rests on a faulty assumption: that the ethnē in Matthew 24:14; 28:19 are not “ethnolinguistic” groups as understood by modern anthropologists but the nations referenced in the promise to Abraham that all the families or tribes of the earth would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3). Matthew Newkirk agrees that the table of nations in Genesis 10 is in view but holds that the list includes “both tribal and linguistic dimensions, evident by the use of the Hebrew term mishpachot (“clans/families”) as well as by the repeated mention that these various subgroups of Noah’s offspring were divided according to language”. The story of the Tower of Babel, which sits between the table of the nations and the calling of Abraham, further underlines the element of ethnolinguistic differentiation.
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