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The Biblical term "Proselyte", derives from the Koine Greek προσήλυτος/proselytos, as used in the Septuagint for "stranger", i.e. a "newcomer to Israel"[1]; a "sojourner in the land"[2], and in the New Testament[3] for a convert to Judaism from Paganism. It is a translation of the Biblical Hebrew word גר/ger[4].

Contents

Two kinds of proselyte in Judaism

There are two kinds of proselyte:

  1. Ger tzedek (righteous proselytes, proselytes of righteousness, religious proselyte, devout proselyte)
  2. Ger toshav (resident proselyte, proselytes of the gate, limited proselyte, half-proselyte)

A righteous proselyte[5] was a Gentile who had converted to Judaism, was bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Jewish economy, and was considered a full member of the Jewish people. They were to be circumcised and immersed in a mikvah should they wish to eat of the Passover sacrifice. A gate proselyte[6] was a "resident alien" who lived in the Land of Israel and followed some of the customs. They were not required to be circumcised nor to comply with the whole of the Torah. They were bound only to conform to the so-called seven precepts of Noah, the Noahide Laws: do not worship idols, do not blaspheme God's name, do not murder, do not commit immoral sexual acts, do not steal, do not tear the limb from a living animal, and do not fail to establish courts of justice. Besides these laws, however, they were also required to abstain from work on the Sabbath, and to refrain from the use of leavened bread during the time of the Passover.

Proselytes in early Christianity

The "religious proselytes" spoken of in Early Christian writings were righteous proselytes, as distinguished from gate proselytes. There is some debate however as to whether proselytes known as Godfearers (Phobeomenoi)[7] and/or Worshippers (Sebomenoi)[8] - who were baptized but not circumcised - fit into the righteous or gate category. A dispute over this subject is recorded in the Council of Jerusalem, see also Circumcision in the Bible.

History of the proselyte in Israel

Proselytes have had a place in Judaism from early times.[9] The Law of Moses made specific regulations regarding the admission into Israel's community of such as were not born Israelites.[10] The Kenites, the Gibeonites, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites were thus admitted to levels of Israelite privileges. Thus also we hear of individual proselytes who rose to positions of prominence in the Kingdom of Israel, as of Doeg the Edomite, Uriah the Hittite, Araunah the Jebusite, Zelek the Ammonite, Ithmah and Ebedmelech the Ethiopians. According to the Books of Chronicles, in the time of Solomon there were 153,600 proselytes in the land of Israel[11] and the prophets speak of the time as coming when the proselytes shall share in all the privileges of Israel.[12] Accordingly, in New Testament times, we read of proselytes in the synagogues.[13]

The name proselyte occurs in the New Testament only in Matthew and Acts.[14] The name by which they are commonly designated is that of "devout men", or men "fearing God", or "worshipping God", or "Godfearers".

On the historical meaning of the Greek word, in chapter 2 of Acts of Pilate (roughly dated from 150 to 400), Annas and Caiaphas define "proselyte" for Pilate:

"And Pilate, summoning the Jews, says to them: You know that my wife is a worshipper of God, and prefers to adhere to the Jewish religion along with you. ... Annas and Caiaphas say to Pilate: All the multitude of us cry out that he [Jesus] was born of fornication, and are not believed; these [who disagree] are proselytes, and his disciples. And Pilate, calling Annas and Caiaphas, says to them: What are proselytes? They say to him: They are by birth children of the Greeks, and have now become Jews" - Roberts Translation [1]

In the citation we can also see that Pilate's wife is a gate proselyte. Though drawn to the Jewish religion, she could never become a Jewess as long as she was married to a gentile uninterested in adhering to Judaism.

Rules for proselytes in the Torah

The Torah lists several rules that proselytes (גר/ger,Strong's H1616) must follow. These precepts and their interpretation in the Talmud form the basis for any rules regarding converts to Judaism.

References

See also

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PROSELYTE (Gr. 7rpoQiXvros), strictly one that has arrived (= Lat. advena), a stranger or sojourner, a term now practically restricted to converts from one religion to another. It was originally so used of converts to Judaism, but any one who sets out to convert others to his own opinions is said to " proselytize." The word is commonly used in the Alexandrian Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) for the Hebrew word (ger) which is derived from a root (gur) denoting to sojourn. The English versions often render the word by stranger; " but though distinguished from the home-born 'ezrah (=one rising from the soil), the person denominated ger became the equal of the native Israelite, and, when the meaning of ger passed from a mainly civil to a religious connotation, enjoyed many rights. Like the Arabic jar (which is philologically cognate to ger), the ger attached himself as a client to an individual or as a protected settler to the community. He shared in the Sabbath rest (Exod. xx. 10), and was liable to the same duties and privileges as Israel (see references in Oxford Gesenius, p. 158). The Hebrew word later came to mean what we now understand by proselyte, a term which appears in the sense of convert to Judaism in the New Testament (Matt. xxiii. 15; Acts ii. I o) .

The Rabbinic law recognized two classes: (a) the full proselyte, the stranger of righteousness (ger sedeq), who was admitted after circumcision, baptism and the offering of a sacrifice (after the destruction of the Temple the first two ceremonies were alone possible); and (b) the limited proselyte, the resident alien (ger toshab) or proselyte of the gate (ger ha-sha'ar), who, without accepting Judaism, renounced idolatry and accepted Jewish jurisdiction, thereby acquiring limited citizenship in Palestine. Some authorities think that the " God-fearers " of some of the Psalms and of the New Testament were these limited proselytes. The Hebrew and Greek terms, however, lost the connotation of a change of residence, and both ger and " proselyte " came to apply to a convert without regard to his nationality.

At various periods there were proselytes to Judaism. The .Maccabaeans used compulsion in some cases, but Judaism in the Diaspora was a missionary religion in the less militant sense. Heathens felt in the religion of Israel an escape from their growing scepticism, and a solution to the problem of life. Josephus testifies that there was much proselytism in Rome (Against Apion, ii. 39), and several Latin writersconfirm this (Cicero, Pro Flacco, § 28; Juvenal xiv. 96; cf. Reinach, Textes d'auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au Judalsme (1895). The well-known reference in Matt. xxv. 15 supports the view that proselytes were actively sought by the Pharisees, and the famous Didache was probably in the first instance a manual for instructing proselytes in the principles of Judaism. There were, however, varying opinions as to the value to the Jewish body of these accessions. Some rabbis interpreted Israel's dispersion as divinely designed for the very purpose of proselytizing (Pesahim 87b.). In the Diaspora admission of converts may have been made easy, circumcision being sometimes omitted, but the conditions became gradually more severe, until they reached their present form. It is thought that the Hadrianic persecution led to this change. The Jews seem to have suffered during the war from the treachery of half-hearted friends. Again, many who had become converts to Judaism afterwards joined the new Christian communities. Moreover, in the middle ages, it was not lawful for the Jews to admit proselytes. Various church councils prohibited it, and the Code of 'Alfonso X. (1261) made conversion to the synagogue a capital crime. (In 1222 a Christian deacon was executed at Oxford for his apostasy to Judaism: Matthew Paris, ed. Luard, iii. 71.) Again, the pragmatic theory of Judaism, enunciated in Talmudic times, and raised almost to the dignity of a dogma by Maimonides (On Repentance, iii. 5, &c.), was that Judaism was not necessary for salvation, for " the pious of all nations have a share in the world to come " (Tosephta, Sanh. xiii. 2). If to these causes be added a certain exclusiveness, which refused to meet a would-be convert more than half-way, we find no difficulty in accounting for the reluctance which the medieval and modern synagogue has felt on the subject. Yet willing proselytes to Judaism are still freely received, provided that their bona fides are proven. In some reformed congregations in America proselytes are admitted without circumcision, and a similar policy is proposed (not yet adopted) by the Jewish Religious Union in London, though the male children of proselytes are to be required to undergo the rite. In 1896 the central conference of American Rabbis formulated as a proselyte Confession of faith these five principles: (1) God the Only One; (2) Man His Image; (3) Immortality of the Soul; (4) Retribution; and (5) Israel's Mission. Most cases of conversion to Judaism at the present time are for purposes of marriage, and female proselytes are more numerous than male. Female proselytes are admitted after the total immersion in a ritual bath, though in some Reformed congregations this rite is omitted. Proselytes are still not allowed, in Orthodox circles, to become the wives of reputed descendants of the priestly families, but otherwise marriage with proselytes is altogether equal to marriage between born Jews.

See Schiirer, Geschichte des jadischen Volkes, ed. 3, iii. 102-135, Bertholet, Die Stellung der Israeliten and der Juden zu den Fremden, 1 79-349; articles in Ency. Bib., Hastings's Dict. Bib. and the Jewish Ency. For the Jewish law of the admission of proselytes, see Shullhan Aruch, Yore Deah, § 268. (I. A.)


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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Used in the LXX. for "stranger" (1Chr 22:2), i.e., a comer to Palestine; a sojourner in the land (Ex 12:48; Ex 20:10; Ex 22:21), and in the New Testament for a convert to Judaism. There were such converts from early times (Isa 56:3; Neh 10:28; Est 8:17). The law of Moses made specific regulations regarding the admission into the Jewish church of such as were not born Israelites (Ex 20:10; Ex 23:12; Ex 12:19, Ex 12:48; Deut 5:14; Deut 16:11ff, etc.). The Kenites, the Gibeonites, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites were thus admitted to the privileges of Israelites. Thus also we hear of individual proselytes who rose to positions of prominence in Israel, as of Doeg the Edomite, Uriah the Hittite, Araunah the Jebusite, Zelek the Ammonite, Ithmah and Ebedmelech the Ethiopians.

In the time of Solomon there were one hundred and fifty-three thousand six hundred strangers in the land of Israel (1Chr 22:2; 2Chr 2:17ff). And the prophets speak of the time as coming when the strangers shall share in all the privileges of Israel (Ezek 47:22; Isa 2:2; Isa 11:10; Isa 56:3ff; Mic 4:1).

Accordingly, in New Testament times, we read of proselytes in the synagogues, (Acts 10:2ff; Acts 13:42ff; Acts 17:4; Acts 18:7; Lk 7:5). The "religious proselytes" here spoken of were proselytes of righteousness, as distinguished from proselytes of the gate.

The distinction between "proselytes of the gate" (Ex 20:10) and "proselytes of righteousness" originated only with the rabbis. According to them, the "proselytes of the gate" (half proselytes) were not required to be circumcised nor to comply with the Mosaic ceremonial law. They were bound only to conform to the so-called seven precepts of Noah, viz., to abstain from idolatry, blasphemy, bloodshed, uncleaness, the eating of blood, theft, and to yield obedience to the authorities. Besides these laws, however, they were required to abstain from work on the Sabbath, and to refrain from the use of leavened bread during the time of the Passover.

The "proselytes of righteousness", religious or devout proselytes (Acts 13:43), were bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Jewish economy, and were members of the synagogue in full communion.

The name "proselyte" occurs in the New Testament only in Mt 23:15; Acts 2:10; Acts 6:5; Acts 13:43. The name by which they are commonly designated is that of "devout men," or men "fearing God" or "worshipping God."

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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This article needs to be merged with PROSELYTE (Jewish Encyclopedia).
This article needs to be merged with Proselyte (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Simple English

Proselyte, from Greek προσήλυτος/proselytos, is used in the Septuagint for "stranger", i.e. a newcomer to Israel;[1] a sojourner in the land,[2] and in the New Testament (Strong's G4339) for a convert to Judaism from Paganism. It is a translation of the Hebrew word גר/ger (Strong's H1616).

Contents

Two kinds of proselyte in Judaism

There are two kinds of proselyte:

  1. Ger tzedek (righteous proselytes, proselytes of righteousness, religious proselyte, devout proselyte)
  2. Ger toshav (gate proselyte, proselytes of the gate, limited proselyte, half-proselyte)

A righteous proselyte[3] was a Gentile who had converted to Judaism, was bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Jewish economy, and was considered a full member of the Jewish people.

A gate proselyte[4] was a "resident alien" who live in the Land of Israel and followed some of the customs.

Proselytes in early Christianity

The "religious proselytes" spoken of in Early Christian writings were righteous proselytes, as distinguished from gate proselytes.

References

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