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Ha-Garim or Ha-Gerim or Ha-Geirim meaning The Gers or The Pilgrims or The Migrants is the Miqra's word for Noahites called Muslamai in the Targum of Rabbi Onkelos. This is the epithet given to Keturah which was changed in an attempt to distinguish the two by the Karaites around 1000 years ago when they inserted the Nikudot into the Masoretic text. Hagarim are also sometimes referred to as Keturahites or even Ishmaelites though no physical descent from either is implied.

Hagarim who are not "baptised" only do offerings as Augustus Caesar did for example.

Maimonides calls them חוכמי אומות העולם meaning wise ones of the nations.

Chochmei Umos HaOlam is the hebrew term used by Maimonides in the Laws of Kings 8:11. It is generally translated as "Mages" or "Wise of the Nations". It indicates a non-Jew who has taken upon himself the observance of Noahide Law, but observes it for their own rational reasons. Maimonides seems to imply that Chochmei Umos HaOlam do not have a portion in the world to come, although he doesn't actual say that. The implication therefore is that they will be judged according to their merits. This is contrasted with the Chasidei Umos HaOlam who observes the seven laws because they were revealed through Moshe Rabbenu as explained by Jewish tradition..

The Arabic scriptures refer to them as משלם.

Compare with Tzadikei Umos HaOlam and Chasidei Umos HaOlam.

In Judaism these are the "Noahites" or "Noachites" also knoen as "Noahides". According to Halakhic Judaism, as expressed in the Talmud, the Noahide Laws apply to all humanity through mankind's descent from one paternal ancestor who in Hebrew tradition is called Noah (the head of the only family to survive during The Flood). In Judaism, בני נח B'nei Noah (Hebrew, "Descendants of Noah", "Children of Noah") refers to all of mankind.

In Jewish tradition, the terms Ben Noach - Son of Noah or Bat Noach - Daughter of Noah is used to refer to a generic human being. There are seven noahide laws that are applicable for all humanity, regardless of culture or ethnicity. Technically the term Ben Noach or Bat Noach does not necessarily mean that an individually keeps the noahide laws, however in most modern usage this is implied. Orthography: People familiar with the Hebrew letter 'ח' - Khet usually spell the word NOACHIDE, otherwise it is spelled often NOAHIDE for the convenience of English speakers.

Classical Definition

Judaism holds that gentiles (goyim "non-Jews [literally 'Nations']") are not obligated to adhere to all the laws of the Torah (indeed, they are forbidden to fulfill some laws, such as the keeping of the Sabbath in the exact same manner as Israel [citation needed] ). Rabbinic Judaism and its modern-day descendants discourage proselytization. The Noahide Laws are regarded as the way through which non-Jews can have a direct and meaningful relationship with God or at least comply with the minimal requisites of civilization and of divine law.

A non-Jew who keeps the Noahide Law in all its details is said to attain the same spiritual and moral level as Israel's own Kohen Gadol (high priest) (Talmud, Bava Kamma 38a). Maimonides states in his work Mishneh Torah (The laws of kings and their rulership 8:11) that a Ger Toshav who is precise in the observance of these Seven Noahide commandments is considered to be a Righteous Gentile and has earned a place in the world to come. This follows a similar statement in the Talmud (tractate Sanhedrin 105b). However, according to Maimonides, a gentile is considered righteous only if a person follows the Noahide laws specifically because he or she considers them to be of divine origin (through the Torah) and not if they are merely considered to be intellectually compelling or good rules for living.[1]

Noahide law differs radically from the Roman law for gentiles (Jus Gentium), if only because the latter was an enforceable judicial policy. Rabbinic Judaism has never adjudicated any cases under Noahide law (per Novak, 1983:28ff.), although scholars disagree about whether the Noahide law is a functional part of Halakha (cf. Bleich).

Three categories of Noahides


There are three main categories of gentiles [see R. Yom Tov ben Avraham Alshevili, Chiddushei HaRitva, Makkot 9a n.].

The first category is the gentile who fulfills his obligations as an ethical monotheist. This person is generally called a Ben Noach (or Noachide) meaning a proud descendant of the biblical Noah. In the Jewish tradition Noah and his sons were commanded to fulfill seven commandments which amount to ethical monotheism [see Aaron Lichtenstein, The Seven Laws of Noah] Those gentiles who observe these commandments are considered righteous gentiles. They are, however, not Jews and are not considered part of Jewish society. They are righteous people and recognized for their accomplishments. However, they remain part of the human brotherhood but not part of Jewish society.

There are those who go beyond this step and approach a Jewish court and, in exchange for entering Jewish society, they vow to observe their commandments and be ethical monotheists. Such a person is called a Ger Toshav.

By pledging that he will fulfill his obligation to be an ethical monotheist he enters Jewish society. He is not a convert and does not become Jewish. In fact, he can worship any monotheistic religion he chooses. He is, however, a righteous gentile and is gladly received into the Jewish community. He is welcome to live in Jewish neighborhoods (should he so choose), is supported by Jewish charities (if he so needs), and is considered part of the fabric of Jewish society in many ways [see Talmud Pesachim 21b; Talmud Avodah Zarah 65b; Nachmanides, Additions to Book of Commandments, 16; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Zechi'ah Umattanah 3:11, Hilchot Melachim 10:12; Ra'avad of Posquieres, Comments to Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Biah 14:8].

Both the Ben Noach and the Ger Toshav are righteous gentiles. However, the Ben Noach has not entered Jewish society and perhaps does not wish to. Therefore, he is treated like a stranger. He is respected as a righteous human being, one who is fulfilling his divine purpose in the world. However, he is not part of the Jewish community.

It is of these two categories of gentiles that the Talmudic literature states: Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 8:2

(Psalms 146:8) “G-d loves the righteous.” G-d said: ‘I love those who love Me and so it says (1 Samuel 2:30) “For I honor those who honor Me.” They love Me so I love them in return.’ Why does G-d love the righteous? Because righteousness is not an inheritance or a family trait.

You find that priests are from a priestly family and Levites are from a levitical family as it says (Psalms 135:19-20) “O house of Aaron bless G-d! O house of Levi bless G-d!” If someone wants to become a priest [from the family of Aaron] or a Levite he cannot because his father was not a priest or a Levite. However, if someone wants to become righteous even if he is a gentile he can because it is not a family trait as it says (ibid.) “O those who fear G-d bless G-d!”

It does not say the house of those who fear G-d but those who fear G-d. It is not a family trait. Rather, on their own they chose to fear and love G-d. Therefore, G-d loves them. Midrash Sifra, Acharei Mot 9:13 (Leviticus 18:5) “Which man shall carry out and by which he shall live.”

Rabbi Yirmiyah would say: We see from here that even a gentile who fulfills his laws is like a [Jewish] high priest. He would also say: (2 Samuel 7:19) “And that would be fitting for priests, Levites, and Israelites” is not what it says rather “and that would be fitting for great men – O Lord G-d.” He would also say: (Isaiah 26:2) MainVariation: “Open the gates so the priests, Levites, and Israelites may enter” is not what it says rather “Open the gates so the righteous nation, keeper of the faith, may enter.”

(Psalms 118:20) “This is the gate of G-d; priests, Levites, and Israelites” is not what it says rather “This is the gate of G-d; the righteous shall enter through it.” He would also say: (Psalms 33:1) “Sing joyfully, O priests, Levites, and Israelites” is not what it says rather “Sing joyfully, O righteous, because of G-d.”

He would also say: (Psalms 125:4) “Do good, G-d, to the priests, Levites, and Israelites” is not what it says rather “Do good, G-d, to good people.” We see from here that even a gentile who follows his commandments is [as righteous as the Jewish] high priest.

The third category is of the gentile who is not an ethical monotheist. He is violating the covenant G-d made with Noah and his descendants and will be punished for those sins. It is with these people that Judaism has a very ambivalent attitude.

On the one hand, they are acting contrary to G-d’s purpose in the world. For this reason, Judaism tries to distance Jews from them. On the other hand, they are people created in G-d’s image and must be respected as such. The compromise is that their positive traits, examples of which we will shortly see, are recognized and respected. However, their negative traits are never fully forgotten and full societal integration with such people is discouraged. Talmud Semachot 1:8

Rabbi Yehudah said: [The euology of a gentile is] Alas! The good, alas! The faithful who eats the fruit of his own labor. [The sages] said to him: What then did you leave for the worthy? He replied: If he [the gentile] was worthy why should he not be lamented in this manner. Professor Saul Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, p. 77

The virtues enumerated in this eulogy are purely secular; there is no trace of religion in them. The man was good, faithful and enjoyed the fruits of his labor. The Gentiles spoken of is a heathen; he is neither a semi-proselyte nor a Christian; no mention is made of his fear of G-d… The Rabbis understood the heathen society and credited it with the virtues it was not devoid of. Talmud Avot 4:3 [Ben Azzai] would say: Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no man who does not have his hour and nothing that does not have its place. Talmud Avot 3:10

Those gentiles who have the status of Ger Toshav, who have requested acceptance into Jewish society and have pledged obedience to their commandments, are treated almost like Jews. Those who have the status of Ben Noach because they have not requested acceptance are respected but are not treated like brethren. They receive letter-of-the-law treatment because to treat them beyond that would be to detract from our brothers

What has a Ger Toshav gained if a Ben Noach is treated the same? What extra connection is there between fellow Jews and within the entire Jewish/Ger Toshav society if everyone is treated extra specially? Consider the case of a family. My brother needs to borrow money and knows that if he asks me I’ll give him the special interest-free family package. This type of family treatment solidifies us as a unit and increases love between us. I don’t hate everyone else because I treat my brother specially but I have an agreement that my family receives special treatment Now, what if a stranger off the street knocks on my door and I give him also my special interest-free family loan? It loses its specialness and there is no difference between my bond with my brother and my bond with some guy off the street. Should I treat every human being equally or should I treat everyone properly and reserve extra-special treatment for my family?

The same applies within the Jewish/Ger Toshav society. All members, both Jewish and gentile, are joined together as a community united in its single goal of worshipping the one G-d. While we treat all human beings with the respect due to someone created in the divine image, those within the Jewish/Ger Toshav society get slightly better treatment. They are handled above and beyond the letter of common human interaction.

There are those who point out these differences in treatment and wish to demonstrate that Judaism is anti-gentile. Quite the opposite. Judaism is one of the few religions that recognizes that even those outside its faith can be saved and allows them into its community. Righteous gentiles have a place in the world to come and can choose to join Jewish society if they wish. If they decline this invitation then they are given the full respect that these righteous people deserve.

Modern Usage

In recent years, Noahide has come to refer to non-Jews who strive to live in accord with the seven Noahide Laws; the terms "observant Noahide" or "Torah-centered Noahides" would be more precise but are infrequently used. The rainbow, referring to the Noahide or First Covenant (Genesis 9), is the symbol of many organized Noahide groups. A non-Jewish person of any ethnicity or religion is referred to as a bat "daughter" or ben "son" of Noah, but most organizations that call themselves בני נח are composed of gentiles who are keeping the Noahide Laws.

According to the Tanach, B’nei Noah literally the children of Noah[3] are descendants of Noah the only survivor of the flood that destroyed all of humanity. Noah’s children Shem, Ham, and Japheth along with their wives and Noah’s wife Naamah also survived the flood aboard the ark. Once the survivors were able to leave the ark for dry ground they began to start new families and rebuild the earth. The story of Noah culminates in the promise of God to Noah that he would never again destroy the world through a flood. The sign of this promise was the rainbow[4]

The Laws of Adam

Along with the promise of new life God reestablished the six laws originally given to Adam[5] in the garden (prohibition against idolatry,[6] blasphemy, theft, murder, illicit sex and the command to establish courts of justice) and added a new law, the prohibition of eating the limb of a living animal.

Universal Obligation

Because these laws were given to the new first family of humanity all human beings are obligated to fulfill them. These laws are discussed throughout the Talmud most notably in Sanhedrin 56a. The Medieval sage Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (the Rambam) collected all of the decisions in the Talmud and halachic decisions in his time and laid them out clearly so that everyone would know their obligations. The Rambam called this great work the Mishnah Torah.

Not only were the Jewish Laws recorded with their explanations in the Mishnah Torah, but the Noachide Laws were also collected with their explanation in the Rambam’s great work in Sefer Shoftim in the last book Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot.

The Great Renewal

Over the last two thousand years since the expulsion of the Jewish people from the land of Israel adherents to the Noachide laws have been sparse if non-existent. Due to the heavy persecution of the Jews, people those not born into the protection of a Jewish community, often chose to convert rather than simply observe the Noachide Laws.

With the regathering of the Jewish people to their land it has been possible for people to once again observe the Noachide Laws. Today a modern movement of adherents of the Noachide law exists; calling themselves B'nei Noah or Noahides in honor of Noah their ancestor who received these laws from God.

Although relatively a new movement B’nei Noah has already made serious strides in developing their emerging community. Although a new movement Noachides recognize the impact of the Noahide Laws on America. Not only has this impact been recognized by Noahides but even former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush officially recognized the roots of American government in the Noahide Laws.[7]Recently a High Council of B’nei Noah was formed by the nascent Sanhedrin to aid in the development of the laws and the community.

Proselyte, from the Koine Greek προσήλυτος/proselytos, is a term employed generally, though not exclusively, in the Septuagint as a rendering for the Hebrew word ger, designating a convert from one religion to another. The original meaning of the Hebrew is involved in some doubt. Modern interpreters hold it to have connoted, at first, a stranger (or a "client," in the technical sense of the word) residing in Palestine, who had put himself under the protection of the people (or of one of them) among whom he had taken up his abode. In later, post-exilic usage it denotes a convert to the Jewish religion. In the Septuagint and the New Testament the Greek equivalent has almost invariably the latter signification [8], though in the Septuagint the word implies also residence in Palestine on the part of one who had previously resided elsewhere, an implication entirely lost both in the Talmudical ger and in the New Testament προσέλύτος. Philo applies the latter term in the wider sense of "one having come to a new and G-d-pleasing life"[9], but uses another word to express the idea of "convert"—ήπηλυτος. Josephus, though referring to converts to Judaism, does not use the term, interpreting the Biblical passages in which ger occurs as applying to the poor or the foreigner.

Biblical References

Whatever may have been the original implication of the Hebrew word, it is certain that Biblical authors refer to proselytes, though describing them in paraphrases. Ex. xii. 48 provides for the proselyte's partaking of the paschal lamb, referring to him as a ger that is "circumcised." Isa. xiv. 1 mentions converts as "strangers" who shall "cleave to the house of Jacob" (but comp. next verse). Deut. xxiii. 8 (Hebr.) speaks of "one who enters into the assembly of Jacob," and (Deutero-) Isa. lvi. 3-6 enlarges on the attitude of those that joined themselves to Yhwh, "to minister to Him and love His name, to be His servant, keeping the Sabbath from profaning it, and laying hold on His covenant." "Nokri" (ξένος ="stranger") is another equivalent for "proselyte," meaning one who, like Ruth, seeks refuge under the wings of Hashem [10]. Probably in almost all these passages "converts" are assumed to be residents of Palestine. They are thus "gerim," but circumcised. In the Priestly Code "ger" would seem to have this meaning throughout. In Esther viii. 17 alone the expression "mityahadim" (= "became Jews") occurs.

According to Philo, a proselyte is one who abandons polytheism and adopts the worship of the One G-d[11]. Josephus describes the convert as one who adopts the Jewish customs, following the laws of the Jews and worshiping G-d as they do—one who has become a Jew [12]. By many scholars the opinion is held that the phrase "yir'e Adonai" denotes either proselytes in general or a certain class ("ger toshav"; see below). This interpretation is that of the Midrash [13]. While this construction is borne out by some passages [14], in others the reference is clearly to native Israelites [15]. For the value of the term in the New Testament (in the Acts) see Bertholet[16], and O. Holtzmann.[17] According to Schürer[18], the phrase "those who fear the Most High G-d" designates associations of Greeks in the first post-Christian centuries, who had taken their name and their monotheistic faith from the Jews, but still retained many of the elements of Greek life and religion .[19]

Historic Conditions

The attitude of ancient Israel to proselytes and proselytism is indicated in the history of the term "ger" as sketched above, which, again, reflects the progressive changes incidental to the development of Israel from a nation into a religious congregation under the priestly law. (For the position of strangers see Gentile.) Ezra's policy, founded on the belief that the new common wealth should be of the holy seed, naturally led to the exclusion of those of foreign origin. Still, the non-Israelite could gain admittance through circumcision.[20].

Pre-exilic Israel had but little reason to seek proselytes or concern itself with their status and reception. The "strangers" in its midst were not many [21]. As "clients," they were under the protection of the community. Such laws as refer to them in pre-exilic legislation, especially if compared with the legislativeprovisions of other nations, may justly be said to be humane. [22] That the aboriginal population was looked upon with suspicion was due to their constituting a constant peril to the monotheistic religion. Hence the cruel provisions for their extermination, which, however, were not carried into effect.

During the Exile Israel came in contact with non-Israelites in a new and more intimate degree, and Deutero-Isaiah reflects the consequent change in Israel's attitude (see passages quoted above). Even after the restoration Ezra's position was not without its opponents. The books of Jonah and Ruth testify to the views held by the anti-Ezra pleaders for a non-racial and all-embracing Israel. Not only did Greek Judaism tolerate the reception of proselytes, but it even seems to have been active in its desire for the spread of Jewish monotheism.[23] Philo's references to proselytes make this sure.[24]

According to Josephus there prevailed in his day among the inhabitants of both Greek and barbarian cities [25] a great zeal for the Jewish religion. This statement refers to Emperor Domitian's last years, two decades after Jerusalem's fall. It shows that throughout the Roman empire Judaism had made inroads upon the pagan religions. Latin writers furnish evidence corroborating this. It is true that Tacitus [26] is anxious to convey the impression that only the most despicable elements of the population were found among these converts to Judaism; but this is amply refuted by other Roman historians.[27]

Roman Proselytes

Among converts of note are mentioned the royal family of Adiabene—Queen Helena and her sons Izates and Monobazus[28], Flavius Clemens [29], Fulvia, the wife of Saturninus, a senator.[30] Women seem to have predominated among them.[31]

In Palestine, too, proselytes must have been both numerically and socially of importance. Otherwise the Tannaim would have had no justification for discussing their status and the conditions of their reception. Common prejudice imputes to Phariseeism an aversion to proselytes, but perhaps this idea calls for modification. That aversion, if it existed, may have been due to the part taken in Jewish history by Herod, a descendant of the Idumeans whom John Hyrcanus had compelled to embrace Judaism—a fate shared later by the Itureans.[32] The "proselyte anecdotes" in which Hillel and Shammai have a central part[33] certainly suggest that the antipathy to proselytes was not shared by all, while R. Simeon's dictum that the hand of welcome should be extended to the proselyte[34], that he might be brought under the wings of the Shekinah, indicates a disposition quite the reverse.[35] There is good ground also for the contention of Grätz (l.c. p. 33) that immediately after the destruction of the Second Temple Judaism made many conquests, especially among Romans of the upper classes. Among the proselytes of this time a certain Judah, an Ammonite, is mentioned. Contrary to the Biblical law prohibiting marriage between Jews and Ammonites, he is allowed to marry a Jewess, the decision being brought about largely by Joshua's influence.[36]

Other cases in which Biblical marriage-prohibitions were set aside were those of Menyamin, an Egyptian[37].

At this epoch, too, the necessity for determining the status of the "half-converts" grew imperative. By "half-converts" is meant a class of men and women of non-Jewish birth who, forsaking their ancestral pagan and polytheistic religions, embraced monotheism and adopted the fundamental principles of Jewish morality, without, however, submitting to circumcision or observing other ceremonial laws. They have been identified with the "yir'e Adonai" (the ρηβόμενοι τὸυ Θεόυ). Their number was very large during the centuries immediately preceding and following the fall of Jerusalem; Ps. xv. has been interpreted as referring to them.


In order to find a precedent the Rabbis went so far as to assume that proselytes of this order were recognized in Biblical law, applying to them the term "toshav" ("sojourner," "aborigine," referring to the Canaanites; see Maimonides' explanation in "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 7; see Grätz, l.c. p. 15), in connection with "ger" [38]. Another name for one of this class was "proselyte of the gate".[39] In order to be recognized as one of these the neophyte had publicly to assume, before three "ḥaberim," or men of authority, the solemn obligation not to worship idols, an obligation which involved the recognition of the seven Noachian injunctions as binding.[40] The application to half-converts of all the laws obligatory upon the sons of Jacob, including those that refer to the taking of interest, or to retaining their hire overnight, or to drinking wine made by non-Jews, seems to have led to discussion and dissension among the rabbinical authorities.

The more rigorous seem to have been inclined to insist upon such converts observing the entire Law, with the exception of the reservations and modifications explicitly made in their behalf. The more lenient were ready to accord them full equality with Jews as soon as they had solemnly forsworn idolatry. The "via media" was taken by those that regarded public adherence to the seven Noachian precepts as the indispensable prerequisite.[41] The outward sign of this adherence to Judaism was the observance of the Sabbath.[42]

Influence of Christianity

The recognition of these quasi-proselytes rendered it obligatory upon the Jews to treat them as brothers.[43] But by the third century the steady growth of Christianity had caused these qualified conversions to Judaism to be regarded with increasing disfavor. According to Simeon b. Eleazar, this form of adoption into Judaism was valid only when the institution of the jubilee also was observed, that is, according to the common understanding of his dictum, during the national existence of Israel.[44] A similar observation of Maimonides[45] is construed in the same sense. It seems more probable that Maimonides and Simeon ben Eleazar wished to convey the idea that, for their day, the institution of the ger toshav was without practical warrant in the Torah. R. Johanan declares that if after a probation of twelve months the ger toshav did not submit to the rite of circumcision, he was to be regarded as a heathen[46]; the same period of probation is fixed by Ḥanina bar Ḥama in Yer. Yeb. 8d).

In contradistinction to the ger toshav, the full proselyte was designated as "ger ha-ẓedeḳ," "ger ha-berit".[47] The common, technical term for "making a convert" in rabbinical literature is "ḳabbel" (to accept), or "ḳareb taḥat kanfe ha-Shekinah" (to bring one near, or under the wings of, the Shekinah). This phrase plainly presupposes an active propaganda for winning converts.[48] In fact, that proselytes are welcome in Israel and are beloved of G-d is the theme of many a rabbinical homily.[49]

Views Concerning Proselytes

Eleazar b. Pedat sees in Israel's dispersion the divine purpose of winning proselytes.[50] Jethro is the classical witness to the argument of other proselytes that the "door was not shut in the face of the heathen".[51] He is introduced as writing a letter to Moses [52] advising him to make the entry into Judaism easy for proselytes. Ruth and Rahab are quoted as illustrating the same lesson .[53] Emperor Antoninus also is mentioned as a proselyte[54] whose conversion illustrates the desirability of making converts. The circumstance that Nero[55], and, in fact, most of the Biblical persecutors of Israel, are represented as having finally embraced Judaism[56], the further fact that almost every great Biblical hero is regarded as an active propagandist, and that great teachers like Shemaiah and Abtalion, Akiba and Meïr, were proselytes, or were regarded as proselytes or as descendants of proselytes[57], go far to suggest that proselytes were not always looked upon with suspicion. According to Joshua ben Hananiah, "food" and "raiment" in Deut. x. 18 refer to the learning and the cloak of honor which are in store for the proselyte .[58] Job xxxi. 32 was explained as inculcating the practise of holding off applicants with the left hand while drawing them near with the right.[59] Modern researches have shown positively that Judaism sent forth apostles. Jethro was a type of these propagandists.[60]

Sincerity of motive in the proselyte wits insisted upon. Care was taken to exclude those who were prompted to embrace Judaism by the desire to contract an advantageous marriage, by the hope of wealth or honor, by fear or superstitious dreams.[61] The midrashic amplification of the conversation between Naomi and Ruth[62] reveals the kind of conduct the Rabbis dreaded in proselytes and what admonitions, with the penalties for disregarding them, they thought wise to impress upon the candidates. Attendance at theaters and circuses, living in houses without mezuzot, and unchastity were among the former. The same spirit of caution is apparent in a midrashic illustration to the story of Adam and Eve, in which the proselyte wife is warned by her husband against eating bread with unclean hands, partaking of untithed fruit, or violating the Sabbath or her marriage vow.[63] From Ruth's experience the rule was derived that proselytes must be refused reception three times, but not oftener.[64]

Mode of Reception

The details of the act of reception seem not to have been settled definitely before the second Christian century. From the law that proselyte and native Israelite should be treated alike[65] the inference was drawn that circumcision, the bath of purification, and sacrifice were prerequisites for conversion.[66] The sacrifice was to be an "'olat behemah"[67]; but to lessen the hardship an offering of fowls was accepted as sufficient. Neglect to bring this offering entailed certain restrictions, but did not invalidate the conversion if the other conditions werecomplied with. After the destruction of the Temple, when all sacrifices were suspended, it was ordained that proselytes should set aside a small coin in lieu of the offering, so that in case the Temple were rebuilt they might at once purchase the offering. Later, when the prospect of the rebuilding of the Temple grew very remote ("mi-pene ha-taḳḳalah"), even this requirement was dropped.[68]

Nor was it, at one time, the unanimous opinion of the authorities that circumcision was absolutely indispensable. R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus carried on a controversy on this subject with R. Joshua, the latter pleading for the possibility of omitting the rite, the former insisting on its performance.[69] The point seems to have remained unsettled for the time.[70] For Rabbi Joshua the "ṭevilah" (bath of purification) was sufficient, while his antagonist required both circumcision and bath.

The bitterness engendered by the Hadrianic persecution undoubtedly prompted the Rabbis to make conversion as difficult as possible. It is more than a mere supposition that both at that period and earlier Jews suffered considerably from the cowardice and treachery of proselytes, who often acted as spies or, to escape the "fiscus Judaicus"[71], denounced the Jews to the Romans. An instance of this kind is reported in connection with Simeon ben Yoḥai's sufferings.[72] This circumstance explains the reasons that led to the introduction into the daily liturgy of a prayer against the "denunciators and slanderers" [73] Yet the true proselytes were all the more highly esteemed; a benediction in their behalf was added to the eighteen of the Shemoneh 'Esreh, and later was incorporated with that for the elders and pious.[74]

Influence of the Hadrianic Persecution

After the Hadrianic rebellion the following procedure came into use. A complete "court," or "board," of rabbinical authorities was alone made competent to sanction the reception. The candidate was first solemnly admonished to consider the worldly disadvantages and the religious burdens involved in the intended step. He, or she, was asked, "What induces thee to join us? Dost thou not know that, in these days, the Israelites are in trouble, oppressed, despised, and subjected to endless sufferings?" If he replied, "I know it, and I am unworthy to share their glorious lot," he was reminded most impressively that while a heathen he was liable to no penalties for eating fat or desecrating the Sabbath, or for similar trespasses, but as soon as he became a Jew, he must suffer excision for the former, and death by stoning for the latter. On the other hand, the rewards in store for the faithful were also explained to him. If the applicant remained firm, he was circumcised in the presence of three rabbis, and then led to be baptized; but even while in the bath he was instructed by learned teachers in the graver and the lighter obligations which he was undertaking. After this he was considered a Jew.[75] The presence of three men was required also at the bath of women converts, though due precautions were taken not to affront their modesty. This procedure is obligatory at the present time, according to the rabbinical codes.[76] The ceremony should be performed by a properly constituted board of three learned men, and in the daytime; but if only two were present and the ceremony took place at night, it would not therefore be invalid. The ceremony of conversion could not take place on the Sabbath or on a holy day .[77] Proper evidence of conversion was required before the claimant was recognized as a proselyte, though to a certain extent piety of conduct was a presumption in his favor. If the convert reverted to his former ways of living, he was regarded as a rebellious Israelite, not as a heathen; his marriage with a Jewess, for instance, was not invalidated by his lapses. The conversion of a pregnant woman included also the child. Minors could be converted with their parents, or even alone, by the bet din, but they were permitted to recant when of age.

Unfavorable View

The proselyte is regarded as a new-born child; hence his former family connections are considered as ended, and he might legally marry his own mother or sister; but lest he come to the conclusion that his new status is less holy than his former, such unions are prohibited.[78] This conception of the proselyte's new birth [79] and of his new status with reference to his old family is the subject of many a halakie discussion[80] and has led to certain regulations concerning marriages contracted either before or after conversion.[81] That many of the earlier rabbis were opposed to proselytes is plain from observations imputed to them. R. Eliezer is credited with the opinion that the nature of proselytes is corrupt, and that hence they are apt to become backsliders).[82] Jose ben Judah insists that any candidate should be rejected unless he binds himself to observe not only every tittle of the Torah but all the precepts of the scribes, even to the least of them.[83]

Sad experience or personal fanaticism underlies the oft-cited statement—in reality a play upon Isa. xiv. 1—that proselytes are as burdensome to Israel as leprosy[84]; or the dictum that proselytes will not be received during the days of the Messiah.[85] While evil upon evil is predicted for the "meḳabbele gerim"[86], the proselytes themselves, notwithstanding their new birth, are said to be exposed to intense suffering, which is variously explained as due to their ignorance of the Law[87], or to the presence of an impure motive in their conversion (e.g., fear instead of love), or to previous misconduct[88]. Nevertheless, once received, theywere to be treated as the peers of the Jew by birth.

According to R. Simeon b. Laḳish, proselytes are more precious at Sinai than Israel was, for the latter would not have taken the "kingdom" upon himself had not miracles accompanied revelation, while the former assume the "kingdom" without having seen even one miracle. Hence an injury to a proselyte is tantamount to an injury to G-d.[89] The proselyte might marry without restriction.[90] The descendants of Ammon, Moab, Egypt, and Edom formed an exception: the males of Ammon and Moab were excluded forever, though no restriction existed against marriage with their women. Descendants of Egyptians and Edomites of either sex were proscribed in the first and second generations; the third enjoyed full connubial rights. But these restrictions were assumed to have been rendered inoperative by Sennacherib's conquest, and therefore as having no authority in later times.[91]

Besides the proselytes already mentioned, all belonging to the Roman period, there are records of others later. Among these were the kings of the Jewish Himyarite empire; Arab tribes (before the 6th cent.); Dhu Nuwas; Ḥarith ibn 'Amr; the Kenites; Waraḳah ibn-Naufal; the Chazars. Many also must have come from the ranks of the Christians; this would be the natural inference from the prohibition of conversion to Judaism issued by the Councils of Orleans, repeating previous prohibitions by Emperor Constantine. The code of Alfonso X. made conversion to Judaism a capital crime.[92]

Female Proselytes

Certain restrictions regulating the status of women proselytes are found in the Mishnah. Girls born before the conversion of their mothers were not regarded as entitled to the benefit of the provisions concerning a slanderous report as to virginity set forth in Deut. xxii. 13-21[93]; and if found untrue to their marriage vows, their punishment was strangulation, not lapidation. Only such female proselytes as at conversion had not attained the age of three years and one day, and even they not in all cases, were treated, in the law regulating matrimony, as was the native Jewish woman.[94] Proselytes were not allowed to become the wives of priests; daughters of proselytes, only in case one of the parents was a Jew by birth.[95] R. Jose objects to the requirement that one parent must be of Jewish birth.[96] On the other hand, proselytes could contract marriages with men who, according to Deut. xxii. 3, were barred from marrying Jewish women.[97] While a proselyte woman was deemed liable to the ordeal of jealousy described in Num. v. 11.[98], the provisions of the Law regarding the collection of damages in the case of injury to pregnant women were construed as not applicable to her.[99]

In these passages the strict interpretation of the Pentateuchal texts, as restricted to Israel, prevails, and in a similar spirit, in the order of Precedence as laid down in Hor. iii. 8, only the manumitted slave is assigned inferior rank to the proselyte, the bastard and the "natin" taking precedence over him. On the other hand, it should not be overlooked that it was deemed sinful to remind a proselyte of his ancestors or to speak in disrespectful terms of them and their life.[100]


  • Hastings, Dict. Bible
  • Hamburger, R. B. T.
  • Grätz, Gesch.
  • Kalisch, Bible Studies, vol. ii. (the Book of Jonah), London, 1878.J. E. G. H.

See Also



Interfaith & Intrafaith



  1. Mishneh Torah Shofitm, Wars and Kings 8:14
  2. Three categories of Noahides
  3. Just as the term "Children of Israel" not only represents a people (in the case of the Children of Noah the entire World) it also means that those identified with this term hold to a common ideology. The term "B'nei Noah", therefore, represents not only physical descendants of Noah but also "spiritual" descendants.
  4. Among the Jewish people and B'nei Noah this rainbow is a sign of the Noachide covenant. Man's part of this covenant is to obey the seven universal laws given to Noah by God. For more information on the Noahide Covenant see: ["A Brief Introduction to the Noahide Covenant"]
  5. See Hilchot Melachim
  6. The prohibition against idolatry is more complex than it may first appear. For a fuller examination of the complexities regarding idolatry see[Idolatry] and [Idol Chatter]
  7. [Public Law 102-14, H.J. Res 104]
  8. but see Geiger, "Urschrift," pp. 353 et seq.
  9. Duo de Monarchia, i. 7
  10. Ruth ii. 11-12; comp. Isa. ii. 2-4, xliv. 5; Jer. iii. 17, iv. 2, xii. 16; Zeph. iii. 9; I Kings viii. 41-43; Ruth i. 16
  11. "De Pœnitentia," § 2; "De Caritate," § 12
  12. "Ant." xx. 2, §§ 1, 4; comp. xviii. 3, § 5; for another description see the Apocalypse of Baruch, xli. 3, 4; xlii. 5
  13. Lev. R. iii.; Shoḥer Ṭob to Ps. xxii. 22
  14. Ps. cxv. 11-13, cxviii. 4, cxxxv. 20
  15. Ps. xv. 4, xxii. 23-25, xxv. 12-14, et al.
  16. "Die Stellung der Israeliten und der Juden zu den Fremden" pp. 328-334
  17. "Neutestamentliche Zeitgesch." (p. 185)
  18. "Die Juden im Bosporanischen Reiche," in "Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie," 1897
  19. see Jacob Bernays, "Die Gottesfürchtigen bei Juvenal," in his "Gesammelte Schriften," ii. 71-80
  20. see Ex. xii
  21. II Chron. ii. 16 not widthstanding
  22. see Deuteronomy; Gentile
  23. comp. Schürer, l.c.
  24. comp. Renan, "Le Judaïsme en Fait de Religion et de Race"
  25. "Contra Ap." ii., § 39
  26. "Hist." iv. 5
  27. Dio Cassius 67, 14, 68), Cicero ("Pro Flacco," § 28), Horace ("Satires," i. 9, 69; iv. 142), and Juvenal (xiv. 96)
  28. "Ant." xx., ch. 2-4
  29. Dio Cassius, l.c.
  30. Philo, "Contra Flaccum," ed. Mangey, ii., § 517; "Ant." xiii. 9, § 1; 11, § 3
  31. Josephus, "B. J." ii. 20, § 2; "Ant." xviii. 3, § 5; Suk. 23; Yer. Suk. ii. 4; 'Ab. Zarah 10; comp. Grätz, "Die Jüdischen Proselyten im Römerreiche," Breslau, 1884; Huidekoper, "Judaism in Rome"
  32. "Ant." xiii. 9, § 1; xv. 7, § 9; comp. xiii. 9, § 3
  33. Shab. 31a
  34. Lev. R. ii. 8
  35. In this connection the censure of the Pharisees in Matt. xxv. 15 is significant. Grätz (l.c. p. 30), it is true, argues that the verse refers to an actual incident, the voyage of R. Gamaliel, R. Eliezer b. Azariah, R. Joshua, and R. Akiba to Rome, where they converted Flavius Clemens, a nephew of Emperor Domitian. But the more acceptable interpretation is that given by Jellinek ("B. H." v., p. xlvi.), according to which the passionate outburst recorded in the Gospel of Matthew condemns the Pharisaic practise of winning over every year at least one proselyte each (comp. Gen. R. xxviii.).
  36. Yad. iv. 4; Tosef., Yad. ii. 7; comp. Ber. 28a
  37. on the authority of R. Akiba; Tosef., Ḳid. v. 5; Yer. Yeb. 9b; Sifre, Ki Tissa, 253; Yeb. 76b, 78a; Soṭah 9a), Onḳelos, or Akylas (Aquila), from Pontus (Tosef., Dem. vi. 13; Yer. Dem. 26d), Veturia Paulla, called Sarah after her conversion (see Schürer, "Die Gemeindeverfassung der Juden in Rom," p. 35, No. 11, Leipsic, 1879
  38. see Ex. xxv. 47, where the better reading would be "we-toshav"
  39. "ger ha-sha'ar," that is, one under Jewish civil jurisdiction; comp. Deut. v. 14, xiv. 21, referring to the stranger who had legal claims upon the generosity and protection of his Jewish neighbors
  40. 'Ab. Zarah 64b; "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 7
  41. Gerim iii.; 'Ab. Zarah 64b; Yer. Yeb. 8d; Grätz, l.c. pp. 19-20
  42. Grätz, l.c. pp. 20 et seq.; but comp. Ker. 8b
  43. see 'Ab. Zarah 65a; Pes. 21a
  44. 'Ar. 29a
  45. "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 7-8; ib. 'Akkum, x. 6
  46. 'Ab. Zarah 65a
  47. a sincere and righteous proselyte, one who has submitted to circumcision; see Mek., Mishpaṭim, 18; Gerim iii.
  48. comp. Cant. R. v. 16, where G-d is referred to as making propagandic efforts
  49. Ruth R. iii.; Tan., Wayiḳra [ed. Buber, 3]; see also Mek., Mishpaṭim, 18; Tosef., Demai, ii. 10; Bek. 32a
  50. Pes. 87b
  51. Pesiḳ. R. 35
  52. Mek., Yitro, 'Amaleḳ, 1
  53. Shoḥer Ṭob to Ps. v. 11
  54. Yer. Meg. 72b, 74a
  55. Giṭ. 56a
  56. Sanh. 96b
  57. see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 5-6
  58. Gen. R. lxx.
  59. Yer. Sanh. 29b
  60. see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 210; Harnack, "Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums," pp. 237-240, Leipsic, 1902; Grätz, "Gesch." 3d ed., vol. iv., note 21; S. Krauss, "Die Jüdischen Apostel," in "J. Q. R." xvii. 370
  61. R. Nehemiah, in Yeb. 24b; comp. 76a
  62. Ruth R. i. 16; Yeb. 47b
  63. Ab. R. N. i.
  64. Ruth R. ii.
  65. Num. xv. 14 et seq.
  66. comp. "Yad," Issure Biah, xiii. 4
  67. a burnt offering of cattle; ib. xiii. 5; Ker. ii. 1; 8b, 9a
  68. comp. Ker. 8a; R. H. 31b; Gerim ii.; Tosef., Sheḳalim, iii. 22
  69. Yeb. 46a
  70. see Grätz, "Die Jüdischen Proselyten," p. 13
  71. see Grätz, l.c. pp. 7 et seq.
  72. Shab. 33b
  73. "mesorot," "minim"; see Joël, "Blicke in die Religionsgesch." i. 33.
  74. Tosef., Ber. iii.; Yer. Ber. 8a; Ta'an. 85c; comp. Grätz, l.c. p. 11
  75. Yeb. 47a, b
  76. see Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 268; "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv.
  77. ib.
  78. see Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 269; "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 13
  79. Yeb. 62a; Yer. Yeb. 4a
  80. Yeb. xi. 2; Yer. Yeb. l.c.; et al.
  81. "Yad," l.c. xiv. 13 et seq.; with reference to the first-fruit offering see Yer. Bik. 64a; Tosef., Bik. i. 2
  82. Mek., Mishpaṭim, 18; B. Ḳ. 59b; Gerim iv.
  83. Tosef., Dem. ii. 5; Sifra 91a, to Lev. xix. 34
  84. Yeb. 47b, 109b; Ḳid. 70b; 'Ab. Zarah 3b; Ket. 11a; Niddah 13b
  85. "Yad," Issure Biah, xiii.-xiv.; ib. 'Abadim, ix.; Yoreh De'ah, 268
  86. propagandists; Yeb. 109b
  87. Yeb. 48b
  88. Yeb. 68b
  89. Tan., Lek Leka, beginning; Ḥag. 5a
  90. "Yad," Issure Biah, xii. 17
  91. "Yad," l.c. xii. 17-24
  92. Graetz, "Hist." ii. 562; iii. 37, 595
  93. see Ket. iv. 3
  94. ib. i. 2, 4; iii. 1, 2
  95. Yeb. vi. 5; Ḳid. iv. 7; see Cohen
  96. Ḳid. l.c.
  97. Yeb. viii. 2
  98. 'Eduy. v. 6
  99. B. Ḳ. v. 4, but consult Gemara; "R. E. J." xiii. 318
  100. B. M. iv. 10