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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].

Two kinds of proselyte in JudaismEdit

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 ChristianityEdit

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 IsraelEdit

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 TorahEdit

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.

ReferencesEdit

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

tr:Nuh’un Evrensel Yasaları yi:זיבן מצוות בני נח

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