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Proselyte is the English form of the Greek word (pronounced) pros-ay-loo-tos, which meant a an arriver from a foreign country. During the Old Testament period it meant a stranger who came to live among the Israelites, who was accepted according to God's instructions. In the New Testament, proselyte was used to denote a convert to Judaism, and then later, by the Jews who recognized Jesus of Nazareth (see Nazarene) as the Messiah, as converts to Christianity. It should be kept in mind that nearly all of the first Christians were Jews, as was Jesus Christ himself, so those who hate Jews are treading on very dangerous ground (see Hate Jews?). Christianity was not a new, or breakaway religion, but rather a blossoming of what was planted long ago. The "harvest" is still to come.

Proselytes of Israel, Of Jews, Of Christians

witness During the time of the Old Testament, there were many foreign residents accepted within the Promised Land, a profound foreshadow of Gentiles being accepted for salvation:

"Then Solomon took a census of all the aliens who were in the land of Israel, after the census of them which David his father had taken; and there were found a hundred and fifty-three thousand six hundred." (2 Chronicles 2:17 RSV)

Unfortunately, proselytes were, and are, often tragically misled, as Jesus Christ made clear about the Pharisees of His time - which applies just as much to the Christian-professing "Pharisees" of our time:

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Matthew 23:15 KJV) (see I Did It My Way...)

Among the first deacons (see Deacon and Deaconess) of the church was a proselyte to the Jews:

"Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty ... And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them." (Acts 6:3,5-6 RSV)

Proselytes were among the Christians at the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [see Speaking In Tongues], as the Spirit gave them utterance."

"Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven [see Heavens Below, Heavens Above]. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." (Acts 2:4-11 RSV)

In some versions of the Bible, proselyte is translated as "devout convert," e.g.

"And when the meeting of the Synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath [see The Fourth Commandment] almost the whole city gathered together to hear the word of God." (Acts 13:43-44 RSV)

Fact Finder: Are Christians "strangers" in the present world?
See Pilgrims

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