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proselyte Summary and Overview

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proselyte in Easton's Bible Dictionary

is used in the LXX. for "stranger" (1 Chr. 22:2), i.e., a comer to Israel; a sojourner in the land (Ex. 12:48; 20:10; 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; Esther 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; 23:12; 12:19, 48; Deut. 5:14; 16:11, 14, 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 (1 Chr. 22:2; 2 Chr. 2:17, 18). 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; 11:10; 56:3-6; Micah 4:1). Accordingly, in New Testament times, we read of proselytes in the synagogues, (Acts 10:2, 7; 13:42, 43, 50; 17:4; 18:7; Luke 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 Matt. 23:15; Acts 2:10; 6:5; 13:43. The name by which they are commonly designated is that of "devout men," or men "fearing God" or "worshipping God."

proselyte in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(a stranger, a new comer), the name given by the Jews to foreigners who adopted the Jewish religion. The dispersion of the Jews in foreign countries, which has been spoken of elsewhere [DISPERSION, THE], enabled them to make many converts to their faith. The converts who were thus attracted joined, with varying strictness, in the worship of the Jews. In Israel itself, even Roman centurions learned to love the conquered nation built synagogues for them, #Lu 7:5| fasted and prayed, and gave alms after the pattern of the strictest Jews, #Ac 10:2,30| and became preachers of the new faith to the soldiers under them. #Ac 10:7| Such men, drawn by what was best in Judaism were naturally among the readiest receivers of the new truth which rose out of it, and became, in many cases, the nucleus of a Gentile Church. Proselytism had, however, its darker side. The Jews of Israel were eager to spread their faith by the same weapons as those with which they had defended it. The Idumaeans had the alternative offered them by John Hyrcanus of death, exile or circumcision. The Idumeans were converted in the same way by Aristobulus. Where force was not in their power, they obtained their ends by the most unscrupulous fraud. Those who were most active in proselytizing were precisely those from whose teaching all that was most true and living had departed. The vices of the Jew were engrafted on the vices of the heathen. A repulsive casuistry released the convert from obligations which he had before recognized, while in other things he was bound hand and fool to an unhealthy superstition. It was no wonder that he became "twofold more the child of hell," #Mt 23:15| than the Pharisees themselves. We find in the Talmud a distinction between proselytes of the gate and proselytes of righteousness, 1. The term proselytes of the gate was derived from the frequently occurring description in the law the stranger that is within #Ex 20:10| etc. Converts of thy gates this class were not bound by circumcision and the other special laws of the Mosaic code. It is doubtful however whether the distinction made in the Talmud ever really existed. 2. The proselytes of righteousness, known also as proselytes of the covenant, were perfect Israelites. We learn from the Talmud that, in addition to circumcision, baptism was also required to complete their admission to the faith. The proselyte was placed in a tank or pool up to his neck in water. His teachers, who now acted as his sponsors, repeated the great commandments of the law. The baptism was followed as long as the temple stood, by the offering or corban.

proselyte in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

PROS'ELYTE , Matt 23:15, a name given by the Jews to such as were converted from heathenism to the Jewish faith. According to the Mosaic Law, foreigners who resided in Palestine were entitled to kind treatment, Deut 10:18-19, and the protection of the cities of refuge, Num 35:15, on the condition that they kept the Sabbath, Ex 20:10, and abstained from blasphemy and idolatry. Lev 20:2; 2 Chr 24:16. They might even partake in the celebration of the day of atonement, Lev 26:29, the feast of weeks, Deut 16:11, and that of tabernacles; but the Passover they could not eat without having been circumcised, Ex 12:48; Num 9:14- that is, without having adopted the Jewish ritual together with the Jewish faith, and become Jews. Later on, especially after the Captivity, when Jews were living in all countries, it could not fail that the heathens, especially the women, should feel attracted by this higher type of religion, and the Jews themselves were very eager to make converts. In Damascus almost all the women were converted to the Jewish faith. There were two classes of proselytes. 1. Full proselytes, called "proselytes of righteousness," who were circumcised and in full communion with the synagogue. They were usually more fanatical than the native Jews. Comp. Matt 23:15. 2. Half proselytes, called " proselytes of the gate*' (from Ex 20:10, "Thy stranger that is within thy gate"), who embraced the monotheism and Messianic hopes of the Jews without submitting to circumcision and conforming to the Jewish ritual. The latter class are called in the N.T. religious, devout. God-fearing persons. Acts 13:43, 1 Chr 6:50; Rev 16:14; Acts 17:4,Acts 17:17; Luke 18:7. They were among the first converts, and formed generally the nucleus of Paul's congregations. To these half proselytes belonged Cornelius, Lydia, Timothy, Titus. PROVERBS are sayings embodying some rule of conduct or some observation from life in a striking and catching form. In modern times collections of such proverbs have been made in almost every country, and these collections have attracted much attention, because they generally give very striking pictures of the character of a nation, its wisdom and its follies, its passions and its humors.