The Antiochian Jews

[the Antiochian Jews] were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves (Josephus, BJ 7.45)
This quotation, which follows Josephus’ mention of a synagogue in Antioch, relates that Gentiles who were not full converts frequently attended the “religious ceremonies” of the Jews in that city.

But no one need wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, for all the Jews throughout the habitable world, and fearers of God, even those from Asia and Europe, had been contributing to it for a very long time (Josephus, Ant. 14.110).
Josephus here states that God-fearers from around the world contributed to the wealth of the Jerusalem temple. Such contributions were commonly made within the diaspora synagogues.

The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers (Acts 13:44-48).
The same thing occurred in Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers (Acts 14:1).
On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a synagogue; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth (Acts 16:13-14a).
After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women (Acts 17:1-4).
That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing (Acts 17:10-12).
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there (Acts 17:16-17).
Every sabbath [Paul] would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue (Acts 18:4-7).
In this series of passages, the author of Acts presents Greek God-fearers as being common fixtures within the diaspora synagogues


After having read the information by Binder (LINK) and Feldman, read the story of Izates in Josephus Antiquities 20:4 (pages 21-27, you can advance by clicking the arrow) provided through this LINK. Discuss the following. Have you ever heard of a God-Fearer in the first century A.D.? How would you describe their status in relationship to the Jewish people? Do you think they have any importance in our understanding the strategy of the first-century church in its preaching the Gospel to Gentiles?

Sample Solution