Men of gentile birth who had been incorporated into the Jewish church. The ceremony of admission included circumcision, baptism, and a sacrifice. They were expected to observe the whole Mosaic law. Proselytes of this kind were probably few in number, though the Jews showed great zeal in their efforts to gain them (Matt. 23:15). In addition to these there were attached to most Jewish synagogues a number of “God-fearing” or “devout” Gentiles, who attended the services but only observed part of the ceremonial law and who were regarded as outside the Jewish church. There are many references to men of this kind in the New Testament (Acts 10:2, 22; 13:16, 26, 43, 50; 16:14; 17:4, 17; 18:7).
The entry of a “Godfearer” or “devout” man into the Christian church caused considerable commotion among the rigid Jews in the church, since the “Godfearers” had not been circumcised as had the proselytes. Thus the joining of Cornelius was a momentous event (Acts 10–11), whereas the status of a proselyte such a Nicolas (identified in Acts 6:5) is barely mentioned.