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To call any uncircumcised men Jewish proselytes, as our learned author does here, though such men are never called proselytes in the New Testament: nor, as I think, in the Old: is unwarrantable, and unbecoming men, who profess to be inquirers after truth. '
An uncircumcised proselyte appears to me to be as truly an impropriety, and contradiction, as an uncircumcised Jew. For a proselyte is a Jew by religion, though not by birth. I am arguing with my late learned friend whose Dissertations are before me. to be understood to argue with all others, who have adopted the same sentiment.
But I ought
It is not to be expected, that I should repeat here what I said formerly. But, if I could contribute any thing farther toward clearing up this point, I should willingly add a few more observations.
I then said. I did not believe, that the notion of two sorts of Jewish proselytes can be ⚫ found in any Christian writer, before the fourteenth century, or later.'
I shall now add. I cannot at present say certainly, which is the most ancient commentator, in whom I have met with it: whether Cardinal Cajetan, or Alphonsus Tostatus, or another. For I cannot now refer to the place. I either made no written extract, or have lost it. But I well remember to have read in some commentator about their times, this observation. Some say, there were two sorts of Jewish proselytes; but it is a mistake. There was but one. That is proof, that the notion of two sorts of proselytes was then embraced by some.
But though I cannot now say, where I met with that observation; I have by me divers extracts made from Alphonsus Tostatus, who flourished in the fifteenth century, and died in the year 1454. From which extracts it appears, that himself acknowledged but one sort of Jewish proselytes, and that by "strangers within their gates, and sojourners, sojourners," he understood men circumcised, who had embraced the Jewish religion.
Upon Exodus ch. xii. he says, 'A native is he, who was born in the Hebrew religion, having a Hebrew father. A sojourner is one, who comes from Gentilism into the Jewish religion.'
Upon Exodus xx. explaining the fourth commandment, he says, That by "strangers within thy gates" are meant converts from Gentilism to Judaism. They also must observe the sabbath. They dwell within thy gates, that is, within the gates of thy cities.'
Upon Matt. xxiii. 15. he says. Proselyte denotes a man converted to Judaism. The Jewish people consisted of two parts. Some were Jews by ancient descent, and were called ⚫ children of Israel: others were converted from among the nations to Judaism. And these were called by three names, sojourners, strangers, and proselytes. Those two divisions are very common in the books of Moses: "the children of Israel, and the strangers that sojourn among you:" particularly in the seventeenth chapter of Leviticus: that is, such as were Jews by birth, or such as were converted to Judaism. So also Ezek. xiv. 1. Every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart." It is evident, that by the stranger is meant a proselyte, who had been converted to God. Otherwise he could not be separated from him.'
I have transcribed but a small part of his notes upon Matt. xxiii. 15. which are large, and well deserve to be read by such as have opportunity. So far as I am able to judge, he always
a Dr. Ward is not alone in this way of speaking. Dr. Hammond's paraphrase of Acts x. 2. in Le Clerc's Latin version is thus: Hic Cornelius erat Judaïcæ religionis proselytus licet circumcisus non esset. I do not see, how any men of judgment and candour can approve of this. For a paraphrast ought not to add to the original. See by all means Dr. Doddridge's note ↳ upon that text.
See Vol. III. ch. xviii.
e The same.
a See Du Pin, and Morery.
• Indigena dicitur, qui in Hebræorum ritu natus est, quia patrem Hebræum habebat. Colonus dicitur, qui ad colendum verum Deum transit, ad ritum Judaïcum veniens de Gentilitate. In Ex. cap. xii. Qu. lviii. T. II. p. 160. E. Colon. Agrip. 1613.
Advena, qui est intra portas tuas.] Id est, etiam observabunt diem Sabbati advenæ de Gentilitate conversi ad Ju
daïsmum. Et isti sunt intra portas tuas, id est, intra portas civitatum tuarum. In Ex. xx. Qu. xiv.
& Dicendum est, quod proselytus denotat hominem conversum ad Judaïsmum. Judæi autem distinguebantur in duo, quia quidam ex origine primâ erant Judæi; et isti vocabantur filii Israël. Alii erant conversi de Gentibus ad Judaïsmum; et isti vocabantur tribus nominibus, sc. advenæ, peregrini, et proselyti. Et ista duo nomina sunt multum usitata in libris Moysis; sc. homo de filiis Israëlis et de advenis, qui peregrinantur inter vos. Lev. xvii. id est, sive sit de Judæis ex genere, sive de illis qui conversi fuerunt ad Judaïsmum. Ezech. xiv. Homo de domo Israël, et de proselytis, quicumque advena fuerit in Israël, si alienatus fuerit a me, et posuerit idola sua in corde suo. Ex quo apparet, quod erat jam conversus ad Deum, qui proselytus est, quia alias non potuit a Deo alienari, &c. In Matt. cap. xxiii. Qu. 87. p. 325.
speaks agreeably to the true tenour of the Mosaic law, and is altogether unbiassed by modern Rabbinical interpretations.
I cannot say, whether Erasmus was acquainted with the notion of two sorts of proselytes, or not. He speaks very judiciously in his comment upon Matt. xxiii. 15. Where he says: Proselyte is a Greek word, equivalent to stranger. For so the Hebrews called those, whom they • received from other nations into communion with them.'
Philip Melancthon also was a learned man. He was born in 1497, and died in 1560. I think, we may be positive, that he knew nothing of any proselytes, but such as were circumcised, and thereby obliged to observe all the ritual ordinances of the law of Moses. His comment upon Matt. xxiii. 15. is very observable. And I shall transcribe it.
Here you may learn, that God had a church at all times, even among the Gentiles. And in the times of the kingdom of Israel and Judah there were three states of men, who were 'members of the church.
The first state were the seed of Abraham. Those were to be circumcised, and to keep the 'ceremonies according to the law of Moses.
The second state was that of the proselytes, that is, strangers, who were not of the seed of Abraham, but yet were willing to be a part of that people, and were willing to be circumcised. These, because they were willing to be circumcised, were bound to observe all the other cere⚫ monies. Of this number was Urias.
The third state are such as in the Acts are called religious men, that is, Heathens, as Naaman the Syrian, Nabuchodonosor, Cyrus, Cornelius, and many others, who learned the promises concerning the coming of the Messiah, and the doctrine concerning the true God, and concerning good works, agreeably to the decalogue. These were not circumcised, nor 'did they observe the Mosaic ceremonies.'
So writes Melancthon, and, as I think, according to the sense of all Christian writers of the first twelve centuries, and later.
I shall not proceed any lower in the inquiry, when that opinion, which now prevails so much, had its first rise among Christians.
But I shall proceed in my argument.
The word, proselyte, occurs four times in the books of the New Testament. Matt. xxiii, 15. Acts ii. 10. ch. vi. 5. and ch. xiii. 43. I suppose it to be universally allowed by learned men, that in the first three texts by proselyte is intended a man circumcised after the manner of Moses. Nor do I know, that there is any doubt about the fourth and last text. And the place was so understood by ancient Christian writers. And among the moderns Grotius is very clear, that hereby are intended proselytes, or as he calls them, after the now prevailing custom, and to prevent mistake, proselytes of righteousness.
However, as this text is somewhat particular, I shall consider it distinctly. "Now when the congregation 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 God. των σεβομε vwv zgocyλutwv. I know, that by σECOμEvo, in this place, Dr. Ward did not understand a religious
bant cæremonias Mosaïcas. Melancthon. in Matt. T. III. p. 545. Witteb. 1563.
The note of Lucas Brugensis upon Matt. xxiii. 15. is so neat, and pertinent, that I shall put it down here. • Proselytum.'] Græca vox est, Latine sonans advenam,' quem Hebræi efferunt Ger, quâ significant eum, quem ex alienâ natione in suæ legis consortium adduxerint: qui a Gentilitate ad Judaismum adductus est, non natione Judæus, sed adoptione factus, ac in Legis Mosaicæ fœdera acceptus; quasi dicas adventitium ad religionem, quod opponitur Judæo nato. Luc. Brug.
d Secuti sunt multi Judæorum, et colentium advenarum.'] -Significat eos, qui naturâ gentiles erant, sed religione Judæi, quos Græci proselytos vocant. Bed. in loc. Vid. et Ecum. in loc. p. 115, 116.
Colentium advenarum.'] Non Græcorum, sed eorum, qui legi Mosis se subdiderant, advenæ justitiæ. Grot, in Act. xiii. 43.
distinction or denomination, but a personal character. Ecumenius speaks to the like purpose. He says, These persons were so called because they were sincere and fervent in their religion.' It is used in the same sense by Josephus, when he says, that Alexandra, widow of Alexander Jannæus, was a religious woman, or religious toward God.
Afterwards Ecumenius seems to give another interpretation, saying; Or otherwise he calls the proselytes worshippers properly. He addresseth himself to them before, saying, "Men of Israel, and ye that fear God." [Comp. ver. 16. and 26.] calling the proselytes "men 'that feared God." Thus he gives to the former the honour of their birth, calling them "men ' of Israel." And though he could not say that of the other, he makes them equal for their religion.' The place is somewhat obscure. But I think, he intends to say, that St Luke, by calling those men worshippers, makes them equal to the Israelites, in point of religion, because the word worshipper does properly denote one who is proselyted to the Jewish religion: whereas fearing God might be ascribed to other men, who were not so united to the Jewish people.
There is one place in Josephus, where this word is used, which appears to be very remarkable. It is in his account of the plundering the temple at Jerusalem, by Crassus, in the year before Christ 54. Nor ought it to be thought strange, says Josephus, that there should be such riches in our temple, when all the Jews and worshippers of God from every part of the world, from Europe and Asia, had been sending presents thither for several ages.'
By worshippers in this place, I think, must be meant proselytes. And worshippers here is a sort of technical word, like that of proselytes, denoting men that had joined themselves to the Jewish people, and were, by religion, though not by birth, Jews. I do not deny that some men who were not proselytes, but downright heathens and idolaters, did sometimes of their own accord, and freely, send presents to the Jewish temple. But here Josephus says, that all worshippers, as well as Jews, sent presents to the temple. We are thereby led to understand proselytes, who were as much obliged to pay respect to the temple as Jews by descent.
This word is found several times in the Acts, and, as seems to me, in its proper sense. I shall consider all those texts.
Acts xiii. 50. “But the Jews stirred up the devout [rather the worshipping] and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution againt Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts."
These might be called, not improperly, proselytes: though never initiated by any particular rite. Later Jews may say, that women were initiated by baptism. But there is no ground for it in the law of Moses. I think that women were first so honoured and distinguished under the gospel dispensation. Therefore St. Paul says, that "There is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus," Gal. iii. 28. And we are assured, that when the people of Samaria "believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women." Acts viii. 12. And Lydia and her household were baptized, Acts xvi. 15.
I pay no regard to what the later Jewish Rabbins say of the method of initiating proselytes, by circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice: who have made void not only the moral, (with which our Lord often chargeth them, as Matt. xv. 1-9. Mark vii. 1-13. and other places,) but also the ritual part of the law of God. Indeed, they had corrupted the Mosaic ritual, by numberless additions, before the coming of our Saviour. As appears from the text of St. Mark just referred to. Nor have they ceased to do the like since.
I think, as before said, that women were first baptized under the evangelical dispensation. I am also of opinion, that our blessed Lord's forerunner first made use of baptism as an initiating
Σεβόμενες ενταυθα τε και προΐων τες περί το οικείον σεζας θερμός και διαπύρες και ζηλωτας των αλλων μάλλον καλεί. Œcum. in Act Ap. p. 115.
-σεCoμEVY TEPI TO Jalov. De B. J. 1. 1. v. 2. And see
c_ η σεβόμενος ιδίως προσηλυτος καλει. Και δημηγού ρων εμπροσθεν, και λεγων, ́Ανδρες Ισραηλίται, και οι εν ύμιν φοβεμένοι τον Θεον, φδυμένος τον Θεόν τες προσελυτες εκαλει, τ8ς μεν από τ8 γεν8ς σεμνυνων, και Ισραηλίτας εξονομάζων, τις δε, ότι μη τύτο είχεν ειπειν, απο θρησκειας ισάζων. Ib. p. 116.
d πάντων των κατα την οικεμένην Ιεδαίων, και σεξομα
ενων τον Θεόν. Ant. 1. 14. vii. 2.
eΟἱ δε Ιεδαίοι παρώτρυναν τας σεδομενας γυναίκας, και τας ευσχήμονας, και τες πρώτες της πόλεως.
f The Rabbinical accounts of initiating proselytes may be seen in Reland. Antiq. Hebr. P. II. cap. 7. p. 246. and Moses Maimon. Tract. de Proselytis. cap. 1. p. 113, 114, ex. ed. H. Prid. Oxon. 1679.
ordinance and therefore he was called the Baptist. O BaTTins Matt. iii. 1. and in many other places. Nor am I singular in this opinion.
Josephus, who makes so long a story about circumcising Izates, does not say, that Helena, his mother, was initiated by an external rite: though she likewiee embraced the Jewish religion. The worshipping women, above-mentioned, whom Grotius calls proselytes, were unquestionably reckoned to be of the Jewish religion. Josephus, speaking of affairs in the year of Christ sixty-six, says, The men of Damascus formed a design to make away with all the Jews of that
place. But they concealed their design from their wives, who, excepting a few only, were all devoted to the Jewish religion.'
Acts xvi. 13, 14. At Philippi in Macedonia. "And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made [or, where an oratory was appointed to be,] and we sat down, and spake unto the women, which resorted thither. And a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us." σεβόμενη του Θεσ.
Acts xvii. 1-4. "And they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them. And three sabbath days [successively] reasoned with them out of the scriptures. And some of them," that is, of the Jews, who were so by birth, or Israelites, "believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas: and of the devout [worshipping] Greeks, a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." Tov Te σeboμεvwV EXÀNYWV TOÂU πλήθος.
These worshipping Greeks must have been proselytes: for they frequented the synagogue, and were admitted there without scruple. They were among the ordinary stated attendants on the worship there.
It is true, when at Antioch, in Pisidia, it is said, Acts xiii. 42, 44. "And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought, that these words might be preached unto them the next sabbath. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city to hear the
word of God."
But this was an extraordinary case. And under" almost the whole city" must be comprehended many heathens and idolaters of the place. And from this very context it appears, that none besides Jews and proselytes frequented the synagogue. For it is here said, "When the Jews were gone out the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them." Therefore they were not present at St. Paul's first discourse. It was owing to some general rumour only, that their curiosity had been raised.
St. Luke, in the place just cited from Acts xvii. at the beginning, does not mention St. Paul's preaching at Thessalonica to any besides Jews and worshipping Greeks. Nevertheless the apostle, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, ch. i. 9. writes to them as "having turned to God from idols, to serve the living God." St. Paul therefore, whilst at Thessalonica, either between the sabbaths above-mentioned or afterwards, must have preached to and converted a considerable number of Gentiles. And there seems good reason to think, that the apostle and his fellow-labourers stayed longer at Thessalonica than three weeks. For whilst he was there, the Philippians "sent once and again to his necessity," Philip. iv. 16. He also reminds the Thessalonians, that whilst he was with them, he and his companions "laboured night and day, that they might not be chargeable to any of them."
Acts xvii. 17. At Athens. "Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met him.' Διελέγετο μεν &ν εν τῇ συναγωγή τοις Ιεδαίοις, και τοις σεβόμενοις. It should have been rendered, with the Jews, and the worshippers, agreeably to the Latin Vulgate, here, and elsewhere, et colentibus, not religiosis, as in Beza.
These were proselytes: for they frequented the synagogue equally with the Jews and Paul applied himself equally to them. This, as we learned from the passage of Josephus before quoted,
a Antiq. 1. 20. cap. ii.
Tas σecoueras yuvaixas, mulieres religiosas." Proselytas. Nam erant et proselyti in eâ urbe, ut audivimus supra, ver. 43. Grot. in loc.
c 'Απασας πλην ολίγων ὑπηγμενας τη Ιυδαϊκή θρησκεια. De B. J. 1. 2. xx. 2. And see vol. 1. p. 66.
d See Dr. Benson's History of the first planting the Christian Religion, B. 3. ch. v. sect. 5. p. 99.
e Disputabat igitur in synagogâ cum Judæis, et colentibus, et in foro, per omnes dies, ad eos qui aderant. Vers. Lat.
was the proper distinction and denomination of those who by proselytism joined themselves to the people of Israel. They were not of the stock of Israel: but they worshipped with them, in synagogues and at the temple. They paid tribute to the temple, as other Jews did. They might offer sacrifices there, and they kept the passover. In other words, they were in full communion with the people of Israel in religious ordinances. They partook with them in all their religious privileges, and joined with them in all their solemnities. They were therefore very properly called worshippers.
Acts xviii. 1-7. "After these things Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in spirit, and testified to the Jews, that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed; he shook his raiment, and said unto them: Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. Henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
"Who worshipped God," recoμeve TOV GEOV. Justus was a proselyte. He was one of those Greeks whom Paul persuaded, together with the Jews, in the synagogue. And Justus was convinced by what Paul said, and became a Christian. That Paul, whilst in the synagogue, preached to Jews only, that is to men circumcised, Jews by birth or by religion, is apparent from the history, ver. 4, 5. "And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in spirit," and testified to the Jews "that Jesus was the Christ:"That is, upon the coming of 'those two his fellow-labourers, he was encouraged: and also animated with the greatest ardour: and once more, and finally, "testified to the Jews," that Jesus was the expected and promised • Messiah.' "But when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed; he shook his raiment, and said unto them: Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. Henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles."
Let this suffice for explaining the word récoμevos, worshipper.
I now intend to take notice of some other Greek words, which in our translation are rendered devout.
Acts x. 1, 2. "There was a certain man in Cesarea, called Cornelius a devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house." εures. It should be rendered pious.
Ver. 7." And when the angel, which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier, of them that waited upon him continually." τρατιώτην ευσέβ
Here again is the same Greek word, which should be translated pious. It denotes not any religious distinction or denomination: but is a personal character. Cornelius is never called a proselyte, nor refouevos, a worshipper. And that he and his family and all the company at his house, were Gentiles, and uncircumcised, is manifest, as from other places, so particularly from ch. xi. 1–3.
I shall observe likewise upon another Greek word rendered by us devout, in some places. Luke ii. 25. And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon.. And the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel." Kα o avôрTOS OUTOS dincios, nai εvλabys. I should be disposed to render it thus: And he was a righteous and understanding man.' Simeon was righteous, or religious, and also knowing and discreet.
Acts ii. 5. "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven." avdges Euλabes. The same word again, and to be understood in the like manner: denoting, that there were then at Jerusalem Jews from all parts, who were the most eminent men of the nation, and most distinguished for their zeal, their understanding, and their outward circumstances and condition.
Ch. viii. 2." And devout men carried Stephen to his burial." Euvenoμicav SE TOU STε Devov avèges Evhabes. I should like to translate the word in this place discreet.' "And discreet men carried forth Stephen, and made great lamentation for him." Such men were the best fitted for the kind office here spoken of. Wisdom, or discretion, and circumspection, appear to be included in the. verb, as used in Acts xxiii. 10. and Heb. xi. 7. And observe likewise the noun substantive in Heb. v. 7.