An 1,800-year-old grave marker from “Jacob the Proselyte” was recently discovered in the prestigious cemetery at Beit Shearim. The inscription, written in red ink, reads, “Jacob (Iokobos) the convert [proselyte] swears upon himself that any who open this grave will be cursed.” This is followed by a thick red line and a second inscription, written by another, which reads, “Aged 60.” Scholars believe Jacob composed his own grave marker prior to death, with the secondary “Aged 60” inscription being added after he died. Over 300 inscriptions in four languages have been discovered at the Beit Shearim necropolis; this is the first that unequivocally states that a convert is buried there. In the New Testament era and subsequent centuries there appear to have been two groups of converts to Judaism: proselytes—gentiles who became full converts by adopting all of the commandments—and God-fearers, who followed some Jewish rites but were likely not circumcised. Both proselytes (Mt 23:15) and God-fearers (Acts 13:16) are mentioned in the New Testament.
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