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Julian Period, 4753. Vulgar Era, about 40.
AMONG THE ANCIENT JEWS-CHAP. X.
a Gentile, who had been miraculously instructed to send Joppa and for St. Peter.
journing stranger.-Answer. These passages appear to prove
2. He is of opinion, that no strangers but those who thus
3. Dr. Lardner supposes that Eph. ii. 13. contains an allusion to the custom of receiving strangers as perfect proselytes in the Jewish commonwealth.-Ans. This may be, but the general opinion that there were two kinds of proselytes, is not thereby overthrown.
4. The word proselyte, Dr. Lardner observes, is of Greek origin, equivalent to "stranger," long since become a technical word, denoting a convert to the Jewish religion, or a Jew by religion.-Ans. It exactly corresponds to the Hebrew word , which means stranger and convert.
5. They are called, in the fourth commandment, the stranger within thy gates.-Ans. This passage is quoted by Prideaux, (see above, reference (a), to prove the opposite opinion.
6. The Jews, agreeably to the law of Moses, reckoned there were only three sorts of men in the world: Israelites, called also home-born, or natives; strangers within their gates; and aliens or otherwise, there were but two sorts of men, circumcised or uncircumcised, Jews and Gentiles, or Heathens-Ans. The proselytes of righteousness were always considered as naturalized Jews, and enjoyed all the privileges as suchor it may be otherwise answered, that the strangers within the gate might refer to the two kinds of proselytes.
Dr. Lardner next asserts, that the word proselyte was always understood in the sense which he gives to it by ancient Christian writers. In support of his argument he adduces the authority of Bede, Theodoret, Euthymius, and Christian Druthmar, who all define a proselyte as one who being of Gentile original, had embraced circumcision and Judaism: and that the notion of two sorts of proselytes cannot be found in any Christian writer before the fourteenth century, or later.Ans. We have the internal evidence of Scripture in our favour. The best Jewish writer, Maimonides, mentions them, as well as other Jewish records.
8. Cornelius is not called a proselyte in the New Testament. -Ans. But he is described by those characteristics attributed to proselytes of the gate.
9. The apostle refused to preach the Gospel to Cornelius, because he was uncircumcised, (Acts xi. 3.)—Ans. The prose lyte of the gate, like every other uncircumcised Gentile, was regarded as polluted and unclean. Lightfoot, who calls the proselytes of the gate sojourning strangers, observes, from the Jerus. Jebamoth, fol. 8. col. 4. that a sojourning stranger was as a Gentile to all purposes.
10. The apostles were commissioned to preach the Gospel in "Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth." In these, and all other places, one and the same character comprehends all Gentiles.Ans. There seems to be a striking difference between the
Vulgar Æra, about 40.
ACTS X. 1-17.
THERE was a certain man in Cesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band.
commission of St. Peter, who was more particularly the apostle
11. Dr. Lardner gives this remark of Sueur, speaking of St.
Ans. Granted: but this by no means opposes a gradual conversion, but seems rather to corroborate it. Providence, in all his dealings with man, has ever observed a progressive system; the divine dispensations have been always gradually unfolded. Although the apostles were commanded to evangelize all nations, it appears they did not comprehend the full extent of their mission: a vision was necessary to convince St. Peter that it was lawful for him to converse or to preach the Gospel to an uncircumcised Gentile.
This vision established the divine intention, that the Gentiles should all be admitted into the Christian Church; and after the prejudices and scruples of this zealous apostle had, by the intervention of Almighty power, been overcome, and a devout Gentile had been received into the Christian Church, St. Paul, by a similar intervention, by a trance in the temple, obtained his commission to teach and to preach to the distant and idolatrous Gentiles. The vision of the sheet demonstrated the conversion of the heathen world, and it must have acted as an encouragement to St. Paul, who was made the chief instrument of its accomplishment.
Dr. Lardner, in another volume, adduces similar arguments against this hypothesis, which do not however appear more satisfactory.
Dr. Lardner then proceeds to argue against the opinion of Lord Barrington and Dr. Benson, that the conversion of the idolatrous Gentiles was unknown to the Church at Jerusalem. As I have not espoused this part of the theory of these two eminent theologians, it is not necessary to enter further into the question. Dr. Lardner, however, has omitted to mention (what to me appears the principal objection,) that it would have been impossible to have concealed the circumstance of the conversion of the Gentiles, as the Jews went up yearly from the provinces to Jerusalem, and some of them must have known,
Julian Period, 4753. Vulgar Era, about 40.
RECEIVED INTO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH-CHAP. X.
2 A devout man, and one that feared God, with all his Joppa and
and would without doubt have communicated, the exertions of
Josephus (d) tells us that all the worshippers of God, from
But when we consider the very extensive manner in which the word oεbouévot (e) is used in the New Testament, it is not reasonable to confine it to this very limited sense; in addition to which there is an evident distinction made in different parts of the Acts, between the Jews (the proselytes of righteousness being always considered as such,) and the devout persons by whatever name they were distinguished.-See Acts xvii. 4. 17. xiii. 43. 50.
Doddridge principally objects to the theory of two sorts of proselytes on the same grounds as Dr. Lardner, whose arguments he strenuously supports in opposition to those of Barrington and Benson.
In his note on Acts xi. 20. he would refer the word 'EXλnvas to the idolatrous as well as to the believing or devout Gentiles.
Dr. Hales (f) has professed himself to be convinced by the arguments of Dr. Lardner and Doddridge. Among the many eminent authorities who agree in the opinion which I have adopted, that there were two sorts of proselytes, may be ranked Selden (g), Witsius (h), and Spencer, who defends this side of the question at great length, in his De legibus Hebræorum. Michaelis (h) justly observes, whoever also acknowledged the revealed religion of the Jews to be divine, was not according to it under the least obligation to be circumcised. This is a point which is very often misunderstood, from circumcision being always represented as a sacrament equivalent to baptism, and from its being inferred without any authority from the Bible, and merely from that arbitrary notion, that since the time of Abraham, circumcision became universally necessary to eternal happiness.
Moses has nowhere given any command, nor even so much as an exhortation, inculcating the duty of circumcision upon any person not a descendant or slave of Abraham, or of his descendants, unless he wished to partake of the passover: and in the more ancient ordinance relative to it, mention is made only of Abraham's posterity and servants. (Gen. xvii.) In none of the historical books of the Old Testament do we any where find the smallest trace of a circumcision necessary to the salvation of foreigners, who acknowledged the true God, or requisite even to the confession of their faith; no, not so much as in the detailed story of Naaman, (2 Kings v.) in which indeed every circumstance rather indicates, that the circumcision of that illustrious personage can never be supposed. In later times, indeed, long after the Babylonish captivity, there arose among the Jews a set of irrational zealots, with whom the apostle Paul has a great deal to do in his epistles, and who insisted on the circumcision even of heathens, as necessary to salvation. But they were opposed not only by the apostle, but also even
Julian Pe- house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed Joppa and to God alway.
riod, 4753. Vulgar Era, about 40.
before his time, and without any view to Christianity, by other
Vitringa (k) acknowledges the distinction.
The learned Drusius (1), Calmet (m), Lightfoot (n), with the best English commentators (o), Danzius (p), in a very learned treatise, as well as Schoetgen (g), who has drank so deeply of the fountain of Talmudical knowledge, agree with Lord Barrington, and have collected many testimonies to prove the same point.
In the Critici Sacri, vol. x. p. 155. sect. 14. are two dissertations by John Frischmuthius, on the Seven Precepts of Noah, who endeavours to prove that there were two sorts of proselytes. He quotes the words of Maimonides, upon which alone, as Dr. Lardner supposes, the whole question originated (r). We learn from these treatises that Deut. xiv. 21. was interpreted of the proselytes of the gate, by R. Mose Bar. Nachman, p. 156. sect. xx. while others of the ancients considered it referring to the proselytes of justice. Kimchi says it denoted both, or either and this seems the most probable opinion. The question, indeed, seems never to have been doubted till Lardner proposed his objections to Lord Barrington's hypothesis, which, as we have now seen, is corroborated by the best and most learned authorities.
It is certain that in the time of the apostles there were a large class of persons who were neither Jews nor idolatrous Gentiles, and who, if they were not called proselytes of the gate, and received among the Jews in that capacity; were at least worshippers of the one true God-observed the hours of prayergave alms, and built synagogues, because they desired to please God-they must have been known, esteemed, and beloved by the Jews for their actions, although they refused to associate with them, because they were uncircumcised and Gentiles. After the Gospel had been made known to the Jews and Samaritans, to whom could the blessings of the new dispensation with more evident propriety have been revealed than to those devout Gentiles who worshipped the God of Israel, and devoted themselves and their wealth to his service.
God has ever imparted his spiritual knowledge to men, in proportion to their purity and holiness of life-"He that doeth my will, shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." The fulness of time for the admission of the Gentiles into the Church, as revealed long before by the prophets, had now arrived. The wall of partition was now broken down, and the devout Gentiles, as a pledge or an earnest of the approaching conversion of the whole heathen world, were admitted even into the holy place, the sanctuary of their God.
The beautiful prayer of Solomon, on the dedication of the second temple, is another strong evidence in support of the hypothesis of different sorts of proselytes. Dean Graves (s) remarks, "We find the principle here stated, publicly and solemnly recognized:Moreover, concerning a stranger that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake; for they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm, when he shall come and pray towards this place; hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name to fear
Julian Period, 4753. Vulgar Æra, about 40.
RECEIVED INTO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH-CHAP. X.
3 He saw in a vision, evidently about the ninth hour Joppa and
thee, as do thy people Isracl; and that they may know that this
From 2 Chron. ii. 17. it appears Solomon found in Israel
The institution of the Mosaic law which admitted the Gentile proselytes into a part of the temple called from this circumstance the court of the Gentiles, may be adduced as another conclusive argument to prove the truth of this proposition. They were admitted to shew that they had not been forsaken by their merciful Creator, but that all those who would forsake idolatry, should be taken into covenant with him as well as the Jews.
The constant predictions of their prophets of the eventual reception of the Gentiles, ought to have removed the strong prejudices and objections of the Jews on this subject.
(a) Prideaux Connection, vol. iii. p. 436. (b) Preface to the Miscell. Sac. p. xiv. &c. (c) Lardner's Works, Hamilton's 4to. edition, p.