Monday, January 20, 2014

"Judaizers:" Where did that term come from?

The problem was that "the Galatian converts," Stott writes, "who had received [from the Apostle Paul] this gospel of grace , were now turning away to another gospel, a gospel of works.  The false teachers were evidently 'Judaizers', whose 'gospel' is summarized in Acts 15:1: 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' "  Stott, The Message of Galatians (IVP 1968) at p. 22.

I wanted to track down the verb "Judaize" and focus on it as part of the lesson.  So I looked in my Strong's to see where Judaize appears in the KJV.  Nowhere.  So then, to my NIV concordance.  Not there either.  Then on to where I did a search for that word through the various English translations available at that helpful site.  I could not turn up a scripture reference where the word is used.  The word is not new to me.  I have known and understood that word for over 50 years, it is commonly used to describe the source of the problem that the reader encounters in Galatians and elsewhere in the NT, but  the word itself did not seem to be in the Bible.  Where did it come from.

I have The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971).  The editors approach to a given word is to identify the earliest written English source of its use, to provide a context-giving sentence fragment from that source that includes the word, then to follow with the next oldest source and fragment, and to the next, and so on.  (For a great read on the development of the OED see Winchester's  The Professor and the Madman.) 

Here is the OED's definition of Judaize and the earliest source and fragment for that definition:

To play the Jew; to follow Jewish customs or religious rites; to follow Jewish practice.  1582 N.T. (Rhem.) Gal. ii: 14. How doest thou compel the Gentiles to Iudaize?

A Judaizer, then, is someone who would force a Gentile to follow Jewish practice.  In the context of Galatians, the Judaizers were Jewish Christians who would compel Gentile Christians to follow Jewish customs.  Well, I knew that.  But what of that source, "Rhem."?

I recognized that word Rhem.  It refers to the Rheims-Douay Bible (1582-1610).  We Protestants are all about our English language Bibles, and fail to acknowledge that making the Bible accessible in English was part of the Counter-Reformation as well.  Bruce Metzger, in his The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions, writes that English Catholics, fleeing persecution by Queen Elizabeth, found refuge in Flanders.  In 1568, they established a seminary in Douay, where scholars "undertook, for the first time in the history of the Roman Church, to replace the available Anglican and Genevan Bibles - unacceptable from their point of view - with an English version of their own.  This project . . . was completed at Rheims in France to which city the college had transferred itself in 1578  .  .  .  "  (Metzger at pp. 67-68) Rhem., then, refers to the Rheims-Douay NT of 1592.

Metzger writes that the translation was made "not from the original languages but from the Latin Vulgate [and] was painstaking and reached a high standard of consistency, but was often too literal to be used in public worship.  There was a strong tendency to retain technical words  .  .   ."  Ah, like Judaize.

I think it ironic that Stott, an Anglican priest, adopts "Judaizers" as a term of art for the people troubling the Galatian Christians.  That word comes from the first Roman Catholic, English version of the Bible.  It was translated by scholars fleeing persecution because they were Roman Catholic, persecution by Queen Elizabeth, the head of the Anglican Church.   How many Protestants, who might look at Galatians narrowly as a sort of rebuke of the Roman Church, use that word, ignorant of its source?

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