How in the (Jewish) world did Biblical “גֵרִים” (Sojourners) become “προσήλυτοι” (proselytes)?

In Biblical rhetoric, especially in the Torah, the Hebrew term “gerim” (Sojourners) was given to foreigners or aliens who reside in a land not their own (i.e., Israelites in Egypt; Gentiles in Israel). In a classic article, W. C. Allen (1894) argued that the LXX differentiates between two distinct concepts: πάροικο (sojourners) and προσήλυτος (converts). Yet, M. Thiessen (2013) demonstrated Allen’s faulty methodology, proving that these terms in the Greek translation are synonymous and have nothing to do with proselytization. Israeli Bible scholars are convinced that never was the term “גֵּר” (Ger) used in the Tanakh to describe a convert to the Jewish faith (N. Fisher, 2020). In fact, “conversion” was only introduced to the Jewish world around Second Century BC, with the advent of the Pharisees (A. Pikar, 2012; Levin, in Stern [Ed.], 1984). Two Jewish sects endured the Second Temple destruction: Messianic and Pharisaic. Both had no need for Temple, Priests or Sacrifices; both created local-universal communities centered on a Logos; both elevated the idea of discipleship, appealing to Jews and Gentiles alike (D. Rokah, 1995). Hence, this article examines how the power struggle amongst two Jewish groups, resulted in an utterly distinct interpretation of “conversion”. Turning new converts into proselytes, amidst the different perception of “conversion” (ἐπιστροφὴν) and “converts” (προσήλυτοι) – especially in light of Acts 15 and Mathew 23 – illuminates the ever-growing distinction between what has become two opposing-sister religions: “Judaism” and “Christianity” (I. J. Yuval, 1996; R. Nir. 2009; R. Nir & Y. Teppler, 2012).

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