The Gentiles spoken of in Early Christian writings were likely righteous Greek Proselytes:
Acts 13:42-48 “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath (43) Now when the Synagoge was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of Elohim.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of Elohim. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, “It was necessary that the word of Elohim should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles“.
For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.”
As you can see in verse 43, the Gentiles who asked Paul to preach to them the words he spoke in the Synagoge, were Jews and religious proselytes as is stated in verse 43. Most of the proselytes of the New Testament time were Greeks.
WHO WERE PROSELYTES?
The biblical term “proselyte” comes from the Koine Greek term “proselytos”, used in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) for “stranger”, a “newcomer to Israel”. Also appears in the Greek New Testament for a first century convert to Judaism. It is a translation of the Biblical Hebrew phrase “ger toshav”.
Examples of this are:
-The man from Ethiopia and Philip in Acts 8:27-28
-Nicolas the proselyte of Antioch in Acts 6:5
-Ananias who helped Paul in Acts 9:10 and 22:12: “a devout man”
-The soldier Cornelius in Acts 10:2: “A devout man”
-A woman of Canaan who meet Yeshua in Matthew 15:22
HOW MANY KINDS OF PROSELYTES WERE THERE?
There are two kinds of proselytes:
1. “Ger tzedek” (righteous religious proselytes): a Gentile converted to Judaism, bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Jewish Faith including circumcition; and
2. “Ger toshav” (proselytes of the gate) someone who lives in Israel and follow some of the customs. many of them follwo only the Seven Precepts of Noah: do not worship idols, do not blaspheme Elohim’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 establish courts of justice.
The Law of Moses gave explicite laws regarding admission into Israel Jewish Community, of people outside Jewish descent: (Exodus 20:10; 23:12; 12:19; 12:48; Deuteronomy 5:14; 16:11-14).
WHO WERE PROSELYTES IN THE TIME OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New testament times the proselytes, mostly Greek converts to judaism (Ger tzedek), they were called: “devout men”. In Salomon’s time according to 2 Chronicles 2:17: “And Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel, after the numbering wherewith David his father had numbered them; and they were found an hundred and fifty thousand and three thousand and six hundred ( 153,600 proselytes). Imagine, how many of them were living in Yeshua’s time?
That is way we read of so many proselytes in the synagoges in Acts of the Apostles:
Acts 2:5 (KJV) “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven“.
Acts 2:10 (KJV) “Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes“.
Acts 8:2 (KJV) “And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him“.
“And some of them were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas, and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few”.
Acts 18:4 (KJV) “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks“.
Acts 18:7 (ASV) “And he departed thence, and went into the house of a certain man named Titus Justus, one that worshipped Elohim, whose house joined hard to the synagogue“.
Acts 19:10 (KJV) “And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Yeshua, both Jews and Greeks“.
Acts 19:17 (KJV) “And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Yeshua was magnified”.
Acts 20:21 (KJV) “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward Elohim, and faith toward our Lord Yeshua Ha Mashiaj“.
WHAT DID HAPPEN TO THE EARLY PROSELYTES?
The disciples of Yeshua were composed principally from groups who were strictly Jewish, such as the Ebionites and the church leaders in Jerusalem like James, the brother of Yeshua, collectively called Jewish Christians. According to Eusebius of Caesarea in “History of the Church 3.5.3” Petra was a refuge for Jerusalem Jewish Christians in the 1st century AD who fleed the Jewish Roman wars lead by Simeon of Jerusalem, the second Bishop of Jerusalem, after the death of James:
“But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella“
After the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132, Jerusalem ceased to be the center of the Christian Hebrew church. Later In the 2nd century, Christianity established itself a predominantly Gentile (Ger toshav) religion, forgetting its Hebrew Roots.
Yeshua said something very important in Matthew 15:24:
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
If He was sent by Elohim only to the lost sheep of Israel, that will explain why Paul only preached to proselytes and “devout men”.
Please see these verses:
Acts 13:16 “Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear Elohim, give audience“.
Acts 13:26 “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth Elohim, to you is the word of this salvation sent“.
In fact, Paul only preached to Jews and Gentiles (Proselytes, mostly Greeks). Hear James, brother of Yeshua:
Acts 21:17-26 “And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews (and Proselytes) there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles (Proselytes) to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
As touching the Gentiles which believe (Proselytes of the gate), we have written and concluded (in the Council of Jerusalem AD 50) that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them“.
Paul did what James told him, because he knew that it was the right thing to do before the eyes of Elohim. Do you agree?
Rabbi Yosef Ben Marques © 2015