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Judaizers

Judaizers

Those who adopted Jewish religious practices or sought to influence others to do so. TheGreek verb ioudaizo [Ioudai?zw] ("to judaize") appears only once in theSeptuagint ( Esther8:17 ) and once in the New Testament ( Gal 2:14 ). In theSeptuagint this verb is used in relation to the Gentiles in Persia who adopted Jewishpractices in order to avoid the consequences of Esther's decree ( Esther 8:13 ), whichpermitted Jews to avenge the wrongs committed against them. The Septuagint not only uses ioudaizo[Ioudai?zw]to translate the Hebrew mityahadim ("to become a Jew"), but adds thatthese Gentiles were circumcised.

In Galatians 2:14 it means to "live like Jews" (RSV, neb, NASB, Phillips),"follow Jewish customs" (NIV), or "live by the Jewish law"(Barclay). The context for this reference is the episode in Antioch when Paul condemnsPeter's withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Peter's actions areviewed by Paul as a serious compromise of the gospel of salvation by grace through faithalone, lending support to the position that sought to impose Jewish ceremonial law on theGentiles. Thus, Paul interprets Peter's withdrawal in terms of its effect in compellingGentile Christians to live like Jews.

The term "Judaizer" has come to be used in theological parlance to describethe opponents of Paul and Barnabas at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and those who soughtto preach "another gospel" in the churches of Galatia ( Galatians 2:4 Galatians 2:12 ; 6:12 ; cf. Php 3:2 ). In thissense, "Judaizers" refers to Jewish Christians who sought to induce Gentiles toobserve Jewish religious customs: to "judaize." It appears that theseindividuals agreed with much of the apostolic kerygma but sought to regulate the admissionof Gentiles into the covenant people of God through circumcision and the keeping of theceremonial law. Insisting that "Unless you are circumcised … you cannot besaved" ( Acts15:1 ), these "believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees" ( Acts 15:5 ) posed aserious threat to the gospel of grace and the uNIVersality of the Christian mission.

Paul's Galatian epistle portrays the Judaizers as having come from the Jerusalem churchto his churches in Galatia, stressing the need for Gentiles to be circumcised and keep thelaw, both for full acceptance by God (legalism) and as the basis for Christian living (nomism[novmisma]).They understood keeping the law not only as the means by which the blessings of theAbrahamic covenant could be appropriated, but also as the regulative guide for Christianlife within that covenant relationship. Although the Judaizers appear to be concerned withbringing the Galatian Christians to perfection through the observance of the law, Paulcharges them with being motivated by a desire to avoid persecution ( Gal 6:12-13 ).Amidst the rising pressures of Jewish nationalism in Palestine during the mid-firstcentury, and increased Zealot animosity against any Jew who had Gentile sympathies, itwould appear that these Jewish Christians embarked on a judaizing mission among Paul'sconverts in order to prevent Zealot persecution of the Palestinian church.

R. David Rightmire

See also Galatians,Theology of; James,Theology of; Paulthe Apostle; Pharisees

Bibliography. F. F. Bruce, Galatians; J. Dunn, Unity and Diversity inthe New Testament; R. Fung, Galatians; W. Gutbrod, TDNT, 3:383; R.Jewett, New Testament Studies; R. Longenecker, Galatians.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Judaizers'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.