Many Christians have come to use the term "Judaizers" to describe Paul's oponants in the book of Galatians, who by their interpretation were wrongly teaching Gentiles to keep the Jewish Law.
Sadly many in the Messianic Jewish movement have brought this term into the movement with them as part of their "baggage" left over from Christianity.
I have talked to many in the movement who used this term and when I asked them they were CERTAIN the word "Judaizers" came right out of the Bible. When I have challenged them to find this word in the Bible they eventually
come back and admit that this word is not there and are shocked because they were so sure that it was. This illustrates how completely this word and the thought behind it have been infused into people. In fact just
recently I heard a speaker at a Messianic event use this word to attack those who would teach things Jewish to Ephraimites.
The truth is that the term "Judaizer" as it is used by Christians today is a HIGHLY anti-semitic term which I personally find offensive. The way in which this term is used today implies that that which is Jewish is bad.
To Christianize is ok, to gentilize is fine, but to Judaize is bad. Why should "Judaizing" be bad? Why should it be thought of as evil to teach Judaism?
The truth is that these persons are not even using the terms "Judaize" and "Judaizer" according to their proper meaning.
The term "Judaize"(ioudaizo) comes from Gal. 2:14 (which we will examine later). Let us examine the ancient usage of the words "Judaize" and "Judaizer".
The earliest usage of the word "Judaize" is to be found in the Greek LXX translation of the Book of Ester. In Ester 8:17 we are told that in the wake of the Jewish victory and the institution of Purim, many of the people in Persia "became Jews" (yahad) (Strong's Hebrew# 3054) The Greek translator of the Greek LXX version of Ester 8:17 renders this with the statement that they "were circumcised and Judaized (ioudaizo) (strong's Greek# 2450)".
Josephus writes of the Roman Commander Metilius who was commander of the
Roman garrison in Jerusalem. Josephus writes that he "saved his life by
entreaties and promises to Judaize (ioudaizo) and even to be circumcised"
(Jewish War, 2.17.10).
Elsewhere Josephus tells us that when the Syrians thought they had brought the Jews to ruin, they "had the judaizers (ioudaizontas) in suspicion also".
In all of these contexts it appears that "to Judaize" means to convert to Judaism and a "Judaizer" is a person who has "Judaized" (i.e. has converted to Judaism).
Now lets look at Gal. 2:14 from the Greek:
"I [Paul] said to Kefa before them all, 'If you, though a Jew, live like a
Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to Judaize
Where the Greek has "Judaize" the Aramaic of Galatians has "live as the Jews".
It appears here also that to "Judaize" is to convert to Judaism. Here it is not Kefa that Judaizes but those he teaches. It is important to note that Paul is not accusing Kefa of causing Gentiles to Judaize, but of wrongly acting like an Aramaean rather than a Jew should because he was only associating with Jews and giving Gentiles the cold shoulder. He was judging people racially. Paul was not accusing Kefa of teaching Judaism of of racial prejudice.
Next we see the term "Judaize" used by Ignatious of Antioch (c. 98 C.E.). Ignatious was the founder of the Anti-nomian Christian religion. His clearest statement of his split of what he termed "Christianity" from
Judaism is to be found in his letter to the Magnesians:
Be not deceived with strange doctrines;
nor with old fables which are unprofitable.
For if we still continue to live according to the Jewish Law,
we do confess ourselves not to have received grace…
let us learn to live according to the rules of Christianity,
for whosoever is called by any other name
besides this, he is not of God….
It is absurd to name Jesus Christ, and to Judaize (ioudaizo).
For the Christian religion did not embrace the Jewish.
But the Jewish the Christian…
(Mag. 3:1, 8, 11)
"Judaizers" are not persons who teach Judaism, they are persons who have chosen to convert to Judaism. To "Judaize" is not to teach Judaism, but to convert to Judaism. Ignatious, the founder of the new anti-nomian
Christian religion, was the first to characterize it as wrong to "Judaize".
The words "Judaize" and "Judaizer" as they are used by most Christians (and sadly even Messianic Jews) today to characterize the teaching of Judaism as evil are highly offensive and should not be used in that manner.
In closing, Judaism is the one true faith that was once and for all time given. Therefore I hope that any of you who are not already Judaizers will eventually make the choice to Judaize.
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