How Does the Bible Define “Judaizer”?

Who Is the Real Judaizer?

Mainstream Christians often label those believers in the gospel and who adhere to the Torah Judaizers. Is this a correct label and is the biblical historical origin of this term?

The term Judaizing or Judaizer as the mainstream Christian understands it today isn’t found in the New Testament per se. However, church historians and Bible teachers have applied this term retrospectively to those in the primitive Christian church as well as to modern saints who advocated adherence to the Torah. This is ironic since Paul advocated Torah obedience to the believers in Rome (who were both Jewish and Gentile). So while Paul teaches Torah observance on the one hand, many believe that Paul was teaching liberty from the Torah (in book of Galatians, for example) on the other hand. This has led to much confusion about what Paul really believed. Was he conflicted in his beliefs being both for and against the Torah? Or maybe he gradually changed his opinion from pro-Torah to anti-Torah. This latter proposition seems unlikely since Bible scholars tell us that Romans and Galatians were written nearly at the same time. So the term Judaizer as used by modern Bible scholars seems to be a canard ­— a fabricated concept, or a concept built on a false premise.

The term Judiazer is found only in two verses in the entire Bible. The first place is in Esther 8:17 where the Greek Old Testament (LXX) uses the Hebrew verb yachad meaning “to become a Jew,” or “to profess oneself to be Jewish.” It was used in reference to those Persians who suddenly “converted” to Judaism to escape Jewish persecution. The final reference is found in Galatians 2:14 were Paul was accusing Peter, not of being Torah-obedient, but rather of adhering to non-biblical Jewish traditions, which forbad Jews and Gentiles from eating together. In reality, adherence to these extrabiblical Jewish traditions was Judaizing — a fact that seems to be missed by the majority of Christian scholars from the second century to this day! This isn’t a new thing, for Yeshua accused the learned Jewish religious leaders of his day of the same thing: “making the word of Elohim of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down” (Mark 7:15). Earlier he said, “You reject the commandment of Elohim, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9).

In reality, what Paul was fighting against was not the Torah, which he advocates, defends and claims to follow himself in a number of places in his writings, but he rejects the idea that one can be saved by their works including circumcision. After all, this issue was the focus of the debate of the first Jerusalem council in Acts 15. In combatting the false notion that circumcision, for example, must be a prerequisite to salvation, Paul opposes this idea in grand and logical step-by-step fashion in the book of Romans, and again in the book of Galatians in a knock-out-the-opponent-quickly manner. So if we’re to apply the term Judaizer to anyone, it must be applied to those advocating a works-based salvation formula, not to those who teach that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Yeshua with the spiritual fruits of conversion being love toward Elohim and one’s fellow man as defined by the Torah — something this author strongly advocates. Sadly, this fundamental truth of who a Judaizer really seems to have been missed by the majority of early church fathers and modern mainstream church theologians who have continued to repeat the anti-Semitic viewpoints handed down to them from the second century church fathers, and who fear rejection from their peers and supporters if they go against millennia of church tradition.


Under the Law Vs. Under the Law Toward Messiah

1 Corinthians 9:20–22, Under the law. David Stern in his commentary asserts that this term means “under a legalistic perversion of the Torah”; i.e., that Torah here doesn’t mean Torah, but rather a skewed view of Torah as proffered by the Judaizers (i.e., those of the sect of the Pharisees or those who were under their influence who asserted that one needed to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses in order to be saved, see Acts 15:1, 5).

Under a legalistic or skewed view of the Torah.

Under a legalistic or skewed view of the Torah.

In this passage, those who are “under the law” aren’t the Jews, since Paul already mentions them at the beginning of verse 20, but Gentiles who are living under a false notion that one can be saved by keeping the Torah.

Paul then goes on to describe the next group of Gentiles — “those who are without the Torah” (verse 21).

The third group of Gentiles to which Paul makes reference is “to the weak” (verse 22), who are those who are new to the faith and tend toward a more punctilious or legalistic obedience to the Torah.

In summary, Paul is saying that he’s sensitive to the spiritual paradigm of those to whom he is preaching the gospel, has learned to relate to all people from all backgrounds and, as such, has become all things to all men in an effort to save some.

Paul, at the same time, asserts that he is not “unTorahed” himself, but rather is “under or in subjection to the true Torah (as opposed to a legalistic perversion of the Torah) through his relationship with Yeshua (verse 21). This statement of Paul lines up perfectly with other statements he makes with regard to his pro-Torah beliefs and lifestyle (e.g., Rom 3:31; 7:12,14; Acts 21:24; 4:14; 25:8; 28:17; 1 Cor 7:19).