I found the following quote referencing Gemara from a book on converts in Judaism:

The Gemara (Megillah 13•) states that we find the appellation “Yehudi” in Nach only three times: once for Mordechai (Ester 2:5); once for Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Daniel 3:12); and once for Basya the daughter of Pharaoh (Divrei Hayamim I 4:18). This title is given only to those Who rejected idolatry, for those who reject idolatry are called “Yehudi.”

The daughter of Pharaoh renounced her idolatrous background, and embraced Klal Yisrael, by converting.

So does one who reject idolatry become a Yahudi according to the Jews?


4 Answers 4


No. For example, Abraham was not a Jew.


While it is true that one of the necessary components to a proper conversion is a rejection of idols, the talmudic quote presented is not saying that this is the sole method of becoming a Jew. The text on Megilla 13 is arguing about the particular tribal lineage of Mordechai -- he called a Yehudi though he is traced to Benjamin's tribe. So the text attempts to explain the use of the term to label someone outside of his tribe, and explains that in cases where someone is labelled a Yehudi but may not have been of the tribe, it is specifically because that person went through a process of rejecting idolatry. This cannot, then, be expanded to anyone whom the text does not also explicitly call a Yehudi.

  • //This title is given only to those Who rejected idolatry, for those who reject idolatry are called “Yehudi.” // It is very clear from the quotes that anyone who rejected Idolatry was called "Yehudi" at that time.
    – knowit
    Mar 12, 2013 at 5:05
  • No, it is clear that this talmudic argument referred only to people who were textually called Yehudi when there was no seeming reason to do so, so it explains the cause of the naming in these cases as the rejection of idolatry and justifies that labelling through the underlying rule that the text calls someone a yehudi by virtue of his rejecting idolatry. You cannot then generalize to anyone you want because this is explaining a behavior of the text, not the reader.
    – rosends
    Mar 12, 2013 at 14:00

No. The example of the daughter of Phara'oh is a confusing one. I'm not at all an expert in Divrei HaYamim, but it is not nearly as clear as one would expect it to be as a chronicle of the Biblical narrative. However, I'm not sure that is the correct interpretation of the verse. If I'm not mistaken, the Yehudiyah in the verse is not the daughter of Phara'oh, although I am having trouble understanding the plain verse itself as well as the commentary on it. Neither is particularly clear. I would also suggest that even if one wants to use the verse to support the idea that she was somehow called a "Jewess" by the verse, it is because of her good character and possible conversion, not merely because she rejected idolatry.

Having said that, remember also that until the Revelation at Sinai, there was not necessarily a clear path to "conversion", and she may have aligned herself with Bnei Yisrael in Egypt and/or "converted" with everyone at Mount Sinai later.

See here and here for more about the daughter of Phara'oh and her conversion.

  • 1. The Yehudiyah mentioned in that verse is indeed Bisya, as per Megillah 13a. 2. It’s Divrei HaYamim. There’s not necessarily a “plain meaning of the verse.”
    – DonielF
    Feb 15, 2019 at 21:58

As per the source cited by the OP, בתיה underwent conversion to become a Jew; rejecting idolatry was merely a prerequisite for conversion. The gemara appears to be saying that Tanach commends individual Jews by referring to them with the praiseworthy title of "Y'hudim" (i.e. "Jews") only when they conspicuously took an individual stand to reject idol worship. Such an act is a demonstration of Jewish character.

While this title is a form of acclaim for these individuals, it does not affect their status as Jews. On a national basis, Jews are referred as "Y'hudim" in Tanach regardless of their religious accomplishments (e.g. see the usage of the term throughout the Book of Esther).

The Seven Laws of Noach require non-Jews to refrain from idolatry. A non-Jew who heroically resisted coercion to worship idols would certainly be praiseworthy, but the title "Jew" would still not be applicable. In fact, he would probably look at you askance if you exclaimed "what a Jew!"

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