Following the death and resurrection of Yeshua there were no Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics. No Gentile religious establishment had not yet made "dogmas" to replace the faith of the Bible. That would come later. There were not as yet any denominational ecclesiastical authorities to replace the faith of the Jerusalem Church with those of their own making. This would come later and my dear friend you are mired in it and don't know!

For your information discussion in this area usually works with a three-fold distinction - the proselyte, the resident alien and the God-fearer (sometimes misleadingly called the 'half-proselyte') [G.F. Moore, Judaism, 1.326-7, 339]. This Gentile scholar knows the truth and his two set of books are in invaluable resource to anyone's library and such facts as I share with you can be found in them if you will only look. Understand as we proceed that either the Apostles of Yeshua under the influence of the Holy Spirit either went out and "did it wrong" or else they "did it right" and it is we non-Jewish believers who today, in deviating from their instructions in the matter, "does it wrong" without knowing! It is our hope and prayer at Bet Emet once you see the whole of the facts in this issue will repent and "do it right".


In the beginning the Israelite religion had always inculcated a positive attitude towards the non-Jewish stranger (ger) who lived within the borders of Israel (Exod. 20.10; 22.21; 23.9, 12; Deut. 1.16; 5.14; etc.). However, that was to change as shared above and by the first century C.E. these commands concerning the ger had been referred almost completely to the proselyte: already in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) the regular translation of "ger" in rabbinic Judaism always means a Gentile won over to Judaism. A positive approach to proselytization is likewise indicated by such stories as those of Ruth finding shelter under Yahweh's wings (Ruth 2.12) and Achior in Judith 14.10, by Isaiah 56.1-8 addressed to 'the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord' and Matthew 23.15, by the accounts in Josephus of the forcible conversion of the Idumeans by Hyrcanus and of the Itureans by Aristobulus (Antiquities, 13.9.1 §§257-8; 13.11.3 §§31819), and by various other accounts and references in both Jewish and non-Jewish sources (e.g. Josephus, Life, 23 §§112-13; Antiquities, 18.3.5 §82; Horace, Satires, 1.4.142-3 -'we, like the Jews, will compel you to make one of our throng'). If you wish to read into these subjects let me suggest K. Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity, Part I: The Acts of the Apostles (Vol. V; London: Macmillian 1933) 82-84 and B.J. Bamberger, Proselytism in the Talmudic Period (1939; New York: Ktav, 1968) 15-16, 267 ff.

As a "proselyte" the Gentile had undertaken to observe the law, including circumcision, and was more or less a full Israelite (see e.g. Exod. 12.49; Philo, Special Laws, 1.51-2; b. Yebamot 47b, Josephus, Antiquities, 20.2.4§39). Despite the stigma of being a proselyte (m. Qiddusin 4.1), and the suspicion harboured by some rabbis that he was always liable to fall back into his old ways (m. Niddah 7.3; b. Baba Mesia 59b), the proselyte (following his mikveh, circumcision, and sacrifice) once his initiation was complete came within the same limits of table-fellowship that applied to the native born Jew (G.F. Moore, Judaism ,1.341). Of particular interest to us, however, is the fact that there seems to have been some debate among the rabbis at our period over the degree of uncleanness attaching to the Gentile proselyte at his conversion and over the length of time it took before his uncleanness could be washed away by ritual purification (m. Pesahim 8.8; m. Edayyot 5.2). Most now agree that proselyte baptism (mikveh or "being born again") had already become an accepted practice by the middle of the first century C.E. Strange as it may seen to the "born again" Christian "born again" is a Jewish concept that related to the "non-Jew" at his mikveh/baptism whereby he became a convert to Judaism and not to a competing religion such as Christianity. Ironically "born-again" Christians are complete opposite to what the term meant in the first century and have no idea whatsoever what the term meant in the discussion between Yeshua and Nicodemus. The term means becoming a proselyte to Judaism and accepting the 613 Laws and the terrible irony of the whole mess is that Christians call themselves "born-again" and reject the very Laws that when obeyed provided security of acceptance into the Covenant. So sad.


Although it understood the biblical ger to refer to the proselyte, rabbinic Judaism also recognized a different category of Gentile, the "ger tosab", the resident alien. He too lived within the borders of Israel, but unlike the "full" proselyte who accepted the "whole of the Law" he accepted only some of the commandments of the Torah.

Just how much he had to accept before being recognized as a ger tosab was a subject of dispute among the rabbis. According to R. Meir (c. 150) a sufficient requirement was that the Gentile in question undertook in the presence of three haberim (holy ones) to renounce idolatry (G.F. Moore, Judaism, 1.325). In the first century before theology was worked out by the Gentiles that made Yeshua God this was not a problem for the non-Jew was taught that there is only ONE God. Today this is problematic considering the vast majority of Christians today are Trinitarians and believe Yeshua is God. The belief that Yeshua is God would disqualify them from this category. Others defined a" ger tosab" as a ger who eats of animals not ritually slaughtered, that is, he took upon himself to observe all the precepts mentioned in the Torah apart from the prohibition of (eating the flesh of) animals not ritually slaughtered' (b. Aboda Zara 64b). This will be one of the problems encountered at Antioch for the "meat" came from the market place where it had been sanctified to idols and not killed in a kosher manner thus not being ritually slaughtered. But remember that the Noahide (as the Ger Tosab) did not have to observe this commandments but "needed" to if table fellowship with non-Jews was to be observed. This exemption of the "ger tosab" from the prohibition against animals not ritually slaughtered was determined by Deuteronomy 14.21 -'You shall not eat of anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien (ger) who is within your towns, that he may eat it . . .'- a law which could properly be held to exempt the ger tosab from at least some of the restrictions governing the eating of meat, and which thus provided sanction for slackening one of the limits of acceptable table-fellowship. But the halakah which gained greatest support and decided the matter was that a "ger tosab" was any Gentile who takes upon himself the seven Noachic laws -that is, he holds himself subject to the established courts of justice, and refrains from blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, bloodshed, robbery, and eating flesh cut from living animals (b. Aboda Zara 64b; cf. b. Sanhedrin 56a). I suggest reading Moore, Judaism, 1.339 to learn more about this requirement. It is this Covenant, the Covenant of Noah which was given to the non-Jew to be "acceptable with God".

Understand that this Noachic Covenant was NOT being promoted to the non-Jew in the first century C.E. by R. Shammai and others because it did not require circumcision of the male. It was the act of circumcision that was hoped by the bigoted rabbis to hold the Gentile at arms length and prevent his assimilation into the Israel of God. Acts 15 is pivotal here as the Messianic Jews and Apostles of Yeshua would repent and return to the Laws of Noah for the non-Jew thus increasing the changes of inclusion of non-Jews into the Israel of God. Circumcision would no longer be enforced upon the non-Jews for fellowship or inclusion into the Israel of God. Paul would win this round however other obligations within the Laws of Noah would be kept and this is where Paul would depart from the Jerusalem Church in heart and spirit.

Clearly, then, there was some debate among the rabbis in the period before the consensus view was established regarding the definition of a "ger tosab", a debate in effect as to the terms on which social intercourse with Gentiles living locally might be acceptable. This strongly suggests that there were already during the first century period diverse views among the rabbis regarding the limits of table-fellowship as they applied to the resident alien. Here we should note also that, despite such rabbinic characterizations of Gentile uncleanness as were cited above (m. Makkot 2.3; m. Oholot 18.7), the Mishnah contains at least two rulings which presuppose situations at the meal table where a Gentile (not a ger) was present (m. Berakot 7.1; m. Aboda Zara 5.5), and the Babylonian Talmud contains discussion of the conditions on which Jews might accept invitations to and participate in Gentile banquets (b. Aboda Zara 8a-b). We can only conclude that, in all probability, in the Palestine of our period there was also a diversity among devout Jews in their practice of table-fellowship so far as Gentiles were involved - a diversity similar in extent to or indeed continuous with the spectrum of permissible table-fellowship as determined by the various grades of purity among Jews themselves.


A third group of more acceptable Gentiles were those usually called 'God-fearers' or 'pious Gentiles'- those who showed themselves sympathetic towards Judaism - though whether 'God-fearers' was a technical term for such may be doubted. However they should be designated, there were certainly many Gentiles (we are talking here particularly of the Diaspora) who were attracted to Judaism and who signified their interest by attaching themselves to Jewish practices in differing degrees. How diverse such attachments were is a question more easily posed than answered. We know from Acts that such Gentiles attended the synagogue or Jewish meetings for worship (Acts 13.16, 26, 50; 16.14; 17.4, 17). Cornelius most nearly approaches in a technical sense as described as 'a devout man who feared God, gave alms liberally to die people, and prayed constantly to God' (10.2). We should also recall that pious Gentiles were welcome to worship in the temple (John 12.20; Acts 8.27; also Josephus, Jewish War, 4.4.4 §275), within, of course, well-defined limits (namely, the court of the Gentiles). Let me say something now that few will understand, there was a "pattern" of worship in the Temple which both Jew and non-Jew participated it. It might surprise you that this "pattern of worship" survived well into the 4th century for the non-Jew until obliterated by Constantine and the Roman Church-State.

Answer for yourself: If God intended this pattern of worship be observed by Jew and non-Jew up to the fourth century, could it have been God intended it be followed eternally in spite of Constantine's actions? The answer is yes especially in the light of the existence today of over 2000 different Christian denominations which are filled with hundreds of conflicting doctrines, dogmas, and differing "Jesuses".

The central question for us, however, is the extent to which such God-fearing Gentiles were expected to keep the law (including the oral traditions) concerning tithing and ritual purity. Josephus' claims in Against Apion, confirm the attractiveness of Judaism for many Gentiles: many Greeks 'have agreed to adopt our laws' (2.10 §123); our laws 'have to an ever increasing extent excited the emulation of the world at large' (2.38 §280; cf. 2.28 §§209-10). Philo speaks in similar and similarly vague terms in Life of Moses 2.17-20. But Josephus becomes more helpfully explicit a little further on in Against Apion -"The masses have long since shown a keen desire to adopt our religious observances; and there is not one city, Greek or barbarian, not a single nation, to which our custom of abstaining from work on the sabbath day has not spread, and where the fasts and the lighting of lamps and many of our prohibitions in the matter of food are not observed"(Against Apion, 2.38 §282).

Equally interesting is the succession of notices which demonstrate how attractive the Jewish way of life was for many Gentiles In Rome itself and how alarmed the authorities were in consequence. Plutarch (in a passage which relates to the middle of the first century BC) speaks of a freedman named Caecilius 'who was accused of Jewish practices'(Life of Cicero, 7.6). Seneca mentions autobiographically that in his youth he began to abstain from animal food, but that he abandoned the practice because 'some foreign rites were at that time being inaugurated, and abstinence from certain kinds of animal food was set down as proof of interest in the strange cult' (Letters, 108.22).

He refers most probably to the persecution of Jewish and Egyptian rites under Tiberius in AD 19 (Tacitus, Annals, 2.85).77 Perhaps significant here too is the report of Dio Cassius already cited, that in 41 Claudius forbade the Jews in Rome to hold meetings because they had increased so greatly in number (60.6.6). Better known is the persecution by Domitian of 'those who followed the Jewish way of life without formally professing Judaism' (Suetonius, Domitian, 12.2); Dio Cassius, also writing of the late first century AD, speaks of 'many who were drifting into Jewish ways' being condemned for atheism (67.14.1-3). And Juvenal confirms the attractiveness which Judaism obviously exercised for many at this period when he attacks contemporaries who 'ream and practice and revere the Jewish law' and who get themselves circumcised, under the influence of a Sabbath-reverencing, pork-abstaining father (Satires, 14.96-106). As evidence of Judaism's continuing influence at the other end of the second century AD we may simply note Tertullian's report that many Gentiles in his day observed Jewish feasts and ceremonies and Jewish practice in prayers (Ad Nariones, 1.13). It would not be unjust to deduce from all this that many God-fearers attracted by the Jewish law quite naturally would have observed the law in the way native born Jews did - that is, in the way that the developed customs and developing tradition dictated.

Still more interesting for us, not least because the incident described took place within a few years of the Antioch incident, is the well-known story of the conversion of Izates, king of Adiabene, recounted by Josephus (Antiquities, 20.2.4 §§38-48). Izates was initially told that he need not be circumcised - 'he could worship God, even without circumcision, if he had fully decided to emulate the hereditary customs of the Jews' (Antiquities, 20.2.4 §41). Since the sticking point was circumcision, we may take it that Izates was prepared to go the whole way apart from that, and 'zeal for hereditary customs' suggests that his devotion would have embraced much at least of the oral law as well as the written Torah (cf. 20.2.3,4 §§34, 38). This may well be confirmed by the fact that when Eleazar came upon the scene from Galilee, described by Josephus as a Jew 'who had a reputation for being extremely strict concerning the hereditary customs', the only further step he required of Izates was circumcision (Antiquities, 20.2.4 §§43-5).

Most interesting of all, however, is Josephus' description of the Jewish politeuma in Antioch in the period prior to the Jewish revolt: 'they grew in numbers . . . and were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of the Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves' (Jewish War, 7.3.3 §45). Whatever degree of devotion to the Torah, written and unwritten, on the part of the God-fearing Greeks is implied by this statement, it must denote a considerable measure of acceptance by the Antiochene Jews of these Greeks, and so also a considerable measure of social intercourse between circumcised Jew and uncircumcised Gentile.

We may conclude from all this that there was a broad range of attachments to Judaism and Jewish ways wherever Diaspora settlements had made any impact on the surrounding community -from occasional visits to the synagogue, to total commitment apart from circumcision, with such matters as the sabbath and dietary laws being observed in varying degrees in between. There would be a broad range of social intercourse between faithful Jew and God-fearing Gentile, with strict Jews avoiding table-fellowship as far as possible, and those less scrupulous in matters of tithing and purity willingly extending and accepting invitations to meals where such Gentiles would be present.

We can also see that the attitude and practice of openness to the Gentile would not have been static. It would depend upon the influence of particular rabbis and of particular rulings in matters of dispute. This is where the authority of the Jerusalem Church and the followers of Yeshua comes into the mix. We may compare, for example, the famous pericope contrasting the response of Shammai and that of Hillel to the Gentile who asked both to teach him the whole Torah while he stood on one foot (b. Sabbat 31a). It would depend on the mood of the surrounding populace and local authorities at the time -particularly in Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, where the Jews were strong in numbers and undue influence on their part could be construed as a threat to the state. And at the period which concerns us it would depend not least on the Jews' sense of the mounting threat to their religion and nation which we sketched out earlier (§2.2) and which must have expressed itself in an increasingly hostile attitude to the Gentiles. This last is illustrated by the sequence of events described in Acts 21, which depicts Jerusalem Jews in the late 50s giving ready credence to the rumor that Paul had taken a Gentile into the temple (Acts 21.27-36). Another instance is the report of Josephus that at the beginning of the revolt in 66 Eleazar 'persuaded those who officiated in the temple services to accept no gift or sacrifice from a foreigner' (Jewish War 2.17.2 §409). Here too we may mention again the episode of Izates' conversion, which among other things shows that the attitude of the Palestinian Jew was stricter than that of the Diaspora Jew on the question of how far a Gentile had to go to be acceptable (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.2.4 §§38-48), and which thus provides an interesting parallel to the Antioch incident.

Before moving on, it is worth noting once more, if it is not already clear, that the issues in all this would have been issues for the earliest Christians too, particularly as the circle of Yeshua's discipleship began to embrace more and more Gentiles. The extent to which the spectrum of attitude and practice mirrored that within the rest of Judaism is indicated by Paul's advice to the believers in Corinth (including Jews) at one end (1 Cor. 8-10), and at the other by the reaction of the Judean brothers to Peter's eating with a Gentile, even though he was a pious God-fearer and presumably already observed the dietary laws (Acts 11.2-3). At the latter end of the same spectrum we should note also the untypical saying of Yeshua preserved for us not surprisingly only by Matthew - 'if he (the brother at fault) refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector' (Matt. 18.17). The question for us, of course, is where the Antioch incident, not to mention Acts 15.20, 29, fits into this spectrum. It is to this question that we can now at last turn.