Return to main index

E5. Conversion & Receiving Jewish Proselytes & Converts    [Make a Comment]

We are nto to encourage Jewish conversion, but are to receive as Jewish Proselytes or Converts, those who have received conversion under reputable Jewish auspices.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Key Scriptures

Deuteronomy 23:6-9(5-8) (Maimonides RN54, RN55; Chinuch C563, C564)
But ADONAI your God would not listen to Bil'am; rather, ADONAI your God turned the curse into a blessing for you; because ADONAI your God loved you. So you are never to seek their peace or well being, as long as you live. But you are not to detest an Edomi, because he is your brother; and you are not to detest an Egyptian, because you lived as a foreigner in his land. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of ADONAI.

Ezekiel 47:21-23
This is the territory you are to divide among the tribes of Isra'el. You are to divide it by lot as an inheritance both to you and to the foreigners living among you who give birth to children living among you; for you they are to be no different from the native-born among the people of Isra'el - they are to have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Isra'el. You are to give the foreigner an inheritance in the territory of the tribe with whom he is living, says Adonai ELOHIM.'

Ruth 1:16-17
But Rut said, "Don't press me to leave you and stop following you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die; and there I will be buried. May ADONAI bring terrible curses on me, and worse ones as well, if anything but death separates you and me."

Esther 8:17 ( In every province and city where the king's order and decree arrived, the Jews had gladness and joy, a feast and a holiday. Many from the peoples of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews had overcome them.)

Esther 9:27 ( ... the Jews resolved and took upon themselves, their descendants and all who might join them that without fail they would observe these two days in accordance with what was written in [this letter] and at the appointed time, every year;)

1 Corinthians 7:17-20 ( Only let each person live the life the Lord has assigned him and live it in the condition he was in when God called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the congregations. Was someone already circumcised when he was called? Then he should not try to remove the marks of his circumcision. Was someone uncircumcised when he was called? He shouldn't undergo b'rit-milah. Being circumcised means nothing, and being uncircumcised means nothing; what does mean something is keeping God's commandments. Each person should remain in the condition he was in when he was called.)

Galatians 5:1-6 ( What the Messiah has freed us for is freedom! Therefore, stand firm, and don't let yourselves be tied up again to a yoke of slavery. Mark my words - I, Sha'ul, tell you that if you undergo b'rit-milah the Messiah will be of no advantage to you at all! Again, I warn you: any man who undergoes b'rit-milah is obligated to observe the entire Torah! You who are trying to be declared righteous by God through legalism have severed yourselves from the Messiah! You have fallen away from God's grace! For it is by the power of the Spirit, who works in us because we trust and are faithful, that we confidently expect our hope of attaining righteousness to be fulfilled. When we are united with the Messiah Yeshua, neither being circumcised nor being uncircumcised matters; what matters is trusting faithfulness expressing itself through love.)

Galatians 5:11-13 ( And as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching that circumcision is necessary, why am I still being persecuted? If that were the case, my preaching about the execution-stake would cause no offense whatever. I wish the people who are bothering you would go the whole way and castrate themselves! For, brothers, you were called to be free. Only do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way. Instead, serve one another in love.)

Supportive Scriptures

Genesis 17:9-14
God said to Avraham, "As for you, you are to keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation. Here is my covenant, which you are to keep, between me and you, along with your descendants after you: every male among you is to be circumcised. You are to be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; this will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. Generation after generation, every male among you who is eight days old is to be circumcised, including slaves born within your household and those bought from a foreigner not descended from you. The slave born in your house and the person bought with your money must be circumcised; thus my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who will not let himself be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin - that person will be cut off from his people, because he has broken my covenant."

Genesis 17:23-27
Avraham took Yishma'el his son, all the slaves born in his house and all who had been bought with his money, every male among the people in Avraham's household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin that very day, just as God had said to him. Avraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, and Yishma'el his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Avraham and Yishma'el his son were circumcised on the same day; and all the men in his household, both slaves born in his house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

Exodus 12:48-49
If a foreigner staying with you wants to observe ADONAI's Pesach, all his males must be circumcised. Then he may take part and observe it; he will be like a citizen of the land. But no uncircumcised person is to eat it. The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you.

Isaiah 56:3-7
A foreigner joining ADONAI should not say, "ADONAI will separate me from his people"; likewise the eunuch should not say, "I am only a dried-up tree." For here is what ADONAI says: "As for the eunuchs who keep my Shabbats, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant: in my house, within my walls, I will give them power and a name greater than sons and daughters; I will give him an everlasting name that will not be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to ADONAI to serve him, to love the name of ADONAI, and to be his workers, all who keep Shabbat and do not profane it, and hold fast to my covenant, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

Acts 15:13-29
Ya'akov broke the silence to reply. "Brothers," he said, "hear what I have to say. Shim'on has told in detail what God did when he first began to show his concern for taking from among the Goyim a people to bear his name. And the words of the Prophets are in complete harmony with this for it is written, '"After this, I will return; and I will rebuild the fallen tent of David. I will rebuild its ruins, I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, that is, all the Goyim who have been called by my name," says ADONAI, who is doing these things.' All this has been known for ages. Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim who are turning to God. Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood. For from the earliest times, Moshe has had in every city those who proclaim him, with his words being read in the synagogues every Shabbat." Then the emissaries and the elders, together with the whole Messianic community, decided to select men from among themselves to send to Antioch with Sha'ul and Bar-Nabba. They sent Y'hudah, called Bar-Sabba, and Sila, both leading men among the brothers, with the following letter: From: The emissaries and the elders, your brothers To: The brothers from among the Gentiles throughout Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings! We have heard that some people went out from among us without our authorization, and that they have upset you with their talk, unsettling your minds. So we have decided unanimously to select men and send them to you with our dear friends Bar-Nabba and Sha'ul, who have dedicated their lives to upholding the name of our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. So we have sent Y'hudah and Sila, and they will confirm in person what we are writing. For it seemed good to the Ruach HaKodesh and to us not to lay any heavier burden on you than the following requirements: to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will be doing the right thing. Shalom!


The following incorporates excerpts from Tikkun International's1 halachic2 paper "The Status of Gentiles in Messianic Judaism:"3

The word "conversion" has a particularly onerous meaning in the history of Judaism because of its association with persecutions of the Jewish people, and attempts to force Jews to "convert" to Christianity by abandoning their Jewish identity and assimilating into the Christian Church. That notwithstanding, the American Jewish community also uses the term to describe the process of receiving Gentiles into the Jewish people by making them Jewish "converts" (proselytes) and, as generally understood, fully Jews. The modern Church and Synagogue have, generally speaking, come to use the term "conversion" as a process by which the "converted" person becomes one of their own flock, rather than as a process whereby one's heart is "converted" from unbelief to one of repentance and faith. This is evident when some Christian denominations do not recognize the baptisms of other Christian denominations, and when groups or denominations within Judaism decline to recognize conversions conducted by other (usually less observant) sectors of the Jewish community.

The word "proselyte", derived from (proselytos), is used in the Septuagint (LXX) to refer to Gentile "strangers" or "sojourners" in the land of Israel. Gentiles that worshipped the God of Abraham appear very early in the Bible and, by the time of Moses, two categories of "strangers" were recognized. They were those that were subordinate to the Israelites, and those that took on full citizenry that included membership in tribes, and even inheritance of land (see Exodus 12:48-49 and Ezekiel 47:21-23). The practice of receiving Gentiles into Israel continued throughout the centuries and today, the terms "Jewish proselyte" and "Jewish convert" are synonymous, and refer to former Gentiles who have irreversibly taken on covenantal Jewish identity that is subsequently conveyed to their children (through inheritance) dor l'dor. From the time of their "conversions", these proselytes or converts are considered, by the Jewish community, to be Jews in every way.

It was inevitable that the matter of "conversion" would make its way into Messianic Judaism. It has always been an issue among us because of desire for unity in mixed marriages, because there are Gentiles within our congregations who perceive that they are called to become Jewish for various reasons (some good and some not so good), and because some Messianic Jewish congregations limit certain aspects of synagogue life to Jews. In tension with it, the biblical legitimacy of conversion has been questioned, principally because of the admonitions of the Apostle Paul to Gentiles in 1 Corinthians 7:17-20 and Galatians 5:1-6, 11-13 that they should not be circumcised, and because of the instruction to Gentiles in Acts 15 that they are exempt from the requirement of full Torah observance for salvation.

It is Tikkun's opinion (and the opinion of the authors herein), that the conversion of Gentiles to becoming Jewish proselytes should be discouraged in most cases, but that there are exceptions (illustrated by Ruth 1:16-17 and Esther 8:17b) where it should be allowed. Related to this, it has been noticed there are two categories of Gentiles that populate Messianic Jewish congregations today, analogous to two categories that existed within Israel during the time of Moses. Back then there were those that were genuinely and permanently joined to the nation and the God of Israel (similar to the Gentiles that accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt), and there were those that lived in proximity to the camp of Israel and did business with the Israelites, but remained unaffiliated with the community. Today it is different of course, due to the New Covenant. Today, all Gentiles who receive Yeshua as Lord and Messiah are supernaturally grafted into the "Romans 11 olive tree," and become equal citizens along with all Jewish believers in Yeshua, in what is termed the "commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:12, NKJ). The Gentiles that are part of this "Commonwealth" of faith comprise the larger circle of Gentile believers. They are joined to the Jewish people by genuine affiliation, but there is an inner circle as well.

Most Gentile citizens of the Commonwealth, while recognizing their grafted-in relationship with the Jewish people, do not consider themselves to be (nor do they want to be) part of the Jewish community per se; these are the believers that we call "Christians". There are, however, some Gentile citizens of the commonwealth who are called by God to have a special and permanent connection to the Jewish community - to live among Jews (Messianic Jews preferably), to maintain a Torah-observant New Covenant lifestyle, to marry Messianic Jewish believers or Gentiles similarly called, to raise their children in Messianic Jewish life, and to participate in Messianic Jewish covenantal responsibilities along with their Jewish comrades. Tikkun designates Gentiles who are so called to be known as K'rovei Yisrael (singular K'rov Yisrael), - "those who are closely related to Israel."4 We use this term to recognize Gentiles who are a genuine part of the Jewish community, but who have not converted to become Jews.

Because a Jew and Gentile who marry produce Jewish children, for the sake of Jewish continuity we discourage Messianic Jews from marrying those who would raise their family outside of the Messianic Jewish community even if both are believers in Yeshua. Mixed marriages of Messianic Jews and K'rovei Yisrael are non-problematic, however, because they both have lifelong callings to the Jewish people, and are therefore certain to bring their children up to understand and embrace their Jewish identities and Jewish covenant obligations. As for two K'rovei Yisrael who marry: They will no doubt influence their children to be K'rovei Yisrael as well, but they cannot guarantee it because K'rov Yisrael Gentiles cannot convey their identities generationally as do Jews. Children of K'rov Yisrael parents have a choice, and may believe that they are not called primarily to live among Jewish people or to take on a Messianic Jewish communal way of life.

While we recognize the biblical legitimacy of Jewish conversion, we do not encourage K'rov Yisrael Gentiles to convert because Gentile identity (K'rov Yisrael identity included) is as important in serving God as is Jewish identity. That notwithstanding, we consider conversion an acceptable option for those K'rovei Yisrael Messianic Gentiles who are either married to Jews, betrothed or engaged to Jews, legally adopted by Jews, or who have a Jewish parent or grandparent and wish to acquire, re-acquire, or affirm, Jewish identity.

We discourage conversions under non-Messianic Jewish (i.e. rabbinical) auspices, but are of the opinion that we should receive persons as Jews who are converted by any appropriate and reputable Jewish authority. The procedure of conversion consists essentially of two parts: (1) making a covenant declaration or oath before witnesses (similar to Ruth's declaration to Naomi), and (2) acceptance of the covenant declaration by one or more bona fide representatives of the Jewish community (Ruth was received, and her marriage to Boaz was endorsed by the elders of their Jewish community). For men, conversion also requires brit milah (covenant circumcision), and we recommend tevilah (ritual immersion) in keeping with the custom of our people.

1. Tikkun International (a.k.a. "Tikkun") is a Messianic Jewish apostolic network and covenant community of fivefold ministry leaders and congregations.

2. Tikkun's understanding of New Covenant Halacha is apostolic guidance and, as such, is not binding in the same way as it is understood in historical Judaism. This is principally because New Covenant believers rely on the Ruach HaKodesh to direct them individually.

3. "The Status of Gentiles in Messianic Judaism:" Tikkun International, June 12, 2009.

4. See A Place in the Tent; Intermarriage and Conservative Judaism, Oakland: EKS, 2004.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides and HaChinuch constructed mitzvot commanding that we exclude the descendants of Esau or of Egyptians from our Jewish communities after they become proselytes, nor refuse to intermarry with them beyond the second generation. While these two nations are singled out as favored, classical Jewish interpretation of Deuteronomy 23:6(5)-9(8) seems to support conversion.

Persons Converting: JMi JFi KMn KFn GMp GFp
Persons Receiving Converts: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm

Return to main index