Attention!
15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Smith's Bible Dictionary

Proselyte

Additional Links

Proselyte. (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, See Dispersion of The Jews, 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 Palestine itself, even Roman centurions learned to love the conquered nation, and built synagogues for them, Luke 7:5, fasted and prayed, and gave alms after the pattern of the strictest Jews, Acts 10:2; Acts 10:30, and became preachers of the new faith to the soldiers under them. Acts 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 Palestine 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 foot to an unhealthy superstition. It was no wonder that he became, "twofold more the child of hell," Matthew 23:15, than the Pharisees themselves. We find, in the Talmud, a distinction between proselytes of the gate, and proselytes of righteousness.

The term, "proselytes of the gate", was derived from the frequently occurring description in the law of the stranger that is within, Exodus 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.

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 of corban.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'Proselyte'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/sbd/p/proselyte.html. 1901.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
Prev Entry
Prophet