Word Nerd Wednesday – Proselyte

I’m excited to share with you fellow blogger, Jamie Lath. I really think you are going to enjoy her down to earth approach to this uncommon word.


Proselyte: (Greek, prosēluton – pros-ay’-loo-ton) a person converted, especially from one religion to another.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Matthew 23:15, NASB

Um, ouch! Pretty harsh words Jesus is throwing towards the scribes and Pharisees. I don’t want the same thing said of me, so it’s important to know exactly what is going on.

Basically, the scribes and Pharisees were busy making proselytes, or converts, to Judaism. According to Strong’s, there were two classes of proselytes:

1) “proselytes of righteousness” who kept the whole law, including circumcision, and

2) “proselytes of the gate” who kept the “seven precepts of Noah” but were not required anything else.

These distinctions were created by the rabbi, as were the seven precepts of Noah. Man made rules.

Now, of course, proselytizing is not bad. Sharing the truth about God is wonderful.

Proselytizing is not bad. Sharing the truth about God is wonderful. #WORDNerdWednesday Click To Tweet

The problem was the scribes and Pharisees were teaching more than the truth about God. They were teaching all the extra things that they had made up. As noted by commentator Dr. Tom Constable, “[these leaders] gave the oral traditional interpretations and teachings of the rabbis at least the same authority as the Old Testament, if not more authority.”

Jesus was not mad that Gentiles were becoming Jews. Jesus was mad they were becoming Pharisees. These proselytes did not have zeal for God. They had zeal for rituals and teachings that were empty interpretations.

I’d like to think this has nothing to do with me, but I know I have cultural interpretations that do not align with the Bible, too. We all do.

If we lived hundreds of years ago, we might be using the Bible to prove that the Earth was the center of the universe and the sun revolved around us. Or, move up in time, and we would be using the Bible to prove that mixed race marriages were against God’s law. My own marriage would be outside of God’s design.

I’m not saying we need to throw out all our theological underpinnings, but we do need to hold them a little more loosely. We need to understand that we may be as influenced by our culture and teachers as the Pharisees were.

As we share who God is, we must consider if what we are sharing is God’s truth or our version of the truth. Ask yourself: once someone has become a proselyte, are you letting the Spirit guide as they learn what it means to be a Christian or are you saddling them with rules and laws that will kill their spirit before it can grow?

Unlike the Pharisees, we need to be making proselytes to the teachings of God, not our own.

Make proselytes to the teachings of God, not our own. #WORDNerdWednesday Click To Tweet


Jamie Lath writes at GraceWalking about waking up to to being a lukewarm, apathetic Christian who thought she was doing okay but was dead inside. She focuses on practicing, not just professing, her faith through her every day life. You can stay connected with Jamie on Instagram and Facebook.






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7 thoughts on “Word Nerd Wednesday – Proselyte

  1. Interesting, as always. 🙂 I think I might have possibly thought those were the same word, in the past. Thanks for clarifying. 🙂 Thankful for the gift of Jesus–no need for discerning the holiness of specific rituals, but only to believe in the perfect Lamb who settled it all. Thanks for sharing your heart with #ChasingCommunity, Liz and Jamie. ((hug))

  2. Wow, I’m just blown away by the gospel-orientation of this teaching. So often we do saddle new converts with the do’s and the don’t’s when they’re just very busy with the task of learning how to “be.”

    1. Hmmm… such a good point, Michele. That’s why I love these Word Nerd Wednesday posts. They always help me see the words with a fresh new perspective!

  3. Interesting to learn about the origins and issues with this word. We have such a natural bent in our flesh to make rules, laws, and formulas for every aspect of life. Not much has changed, though we no longer use this word much.

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