Proselytes in Second Temple Judaism
Although Jews were a distinct minority within the Roman Empire, they nonetheless managed to attract a significant number of sympathizers and converts to their community. Gentiles could have varying levels of adherence to Judaism:
The period between the construction of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 515 B.C.E. and its destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E. witnessed major historical upheavals and significant religious changes that would affect all subequent Western religions. The origins of the authority of scripture, of the centrality of law and morality in religion.
* Benefactors, like the centurion in Lk 7:1 -10, supported the Jewish community and presumably were sympathetic to Jewish beliefs.
* “God-fearers” were affiliated with the synagogue and showed keen interest in Judaism (see, e.g., Acts 10:2; 13:16; 17:4;there is also an important mention of God-fearers in an inscription from approximately 210 A.D. in Aphrodisias in modern Turkey).
* Full proselytes converted to Judaism and embraced all of its requirements.
Josephus mentioned a certain Izates of the royal family of Adiabene, who embraced Judaism and arranged to have himself circumcised in order to accept fully the Jewish way of life (Antiquities,20.23-4).
Aphrodisias was a small ancient Greek city in Caria. Its site is located near the modern village of Geyre, Turkey.
The number of Gentile converts to Judaism was not insignificant, but it is doubtful that there was a concentrated Jewish missionary movement among the Gentile comparable to that in early Christianity.
The majority of those who joined the Jewish community likely did so as an outcome of personal or business relationships with Jews (most notably marriage), or from a personal quest for truth.
The Jews did all they could to dispute anything good said about Jesus, but His church continued to grow.
This is a true quote, this is what he honestly believed.
It appears that today many new churches are being created, but they are not of Jesus Christ, they or of mankind, the work of the devil.
Tomorrow we’ll look at…
The Persecution of the Church
1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Izates II or Izates bar Monobaz was a proselyte to Judaism who became King of the Parthian client kingdom of Adiabene. He was the son of Queen Helena of Adiabene and Monobaz I.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
“Philip” – one of the seven in the Jerusalem church who now becomes an evangelist, proclaiming the Christ (Messiah). Philip is an example of one of those who were scattered.
“The city of Samaria” – a reference to the old capital Samaria, renamed Sebaste or Neapolis (modern Nablus).
6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
“Simon” – in early Christian literature the “sorcerer” (Simon Magus) is described as the archheretic of the church and the “father” of Gnostic teaching.
7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
8 And there was great joy in that city.
9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
Adiabene was an ancient kingdom in Assyria, with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Arbil, Iraq). Its rulers converted to Judaism from Ashurism in the 1st century. Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount. According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monbaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem.
11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Helena of Adiabene was queen of Adiabene and wife of Monobaz I. With her husband she was the mother of Izates II and Monobaz II. She died about 56 CE. Her name and the fact that she was her husband’s sister indicate a Hellenistic origin.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
“Ethiopia” – Ethiopia corresponded in this period to Nubia, from the upper Nile region at the first cataract (Aswan).
Persecution of Christians can be traced historically from the time of Jesus in the first century to the present time. Early Christians were persecuted for their faith at the hands of both Jews from whose religion Christianity arose and the Roman Empire which controlled much of the land across which early Christianity was distributed. Early in the fourth century, the religion was legalized by the Edict of Milan, and it eventually became the State church of the Roman Empire.
“Candace” – the traditional title of the queen mother, responsible for performing the secular duties of the reigning king – who was thought to be too sacred for such activities.
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Some say Alexander the Great never went to Ethiopia, other say that he did and he messed with the wrong woman.
Queen Candace fought him with her own War-Elephants.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
“Azotus” – old Ashdod, one of the five Philistine cities. it was about 19 miles from Gaza and 60 miles from Cesarea.
“Cesarea” – rebuilt by Herod, and with an excellent harbor it served as the headquarters of the Roman procurators. the account leaves Philip in Cesarea at this time; his next appearance is 20 years later, and he is still located in the same place.
…the geographic expansion of the church under persecution.