Conversion and Midrash: On Proselytes and Sympathisers with Judaism in Leviticus Rabbah

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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The homiletical commentary Leviticus Rabbah is proof of the interest that proselytism aroused among the Sages. Indeed, this Midrash includes several citations regarding converts to Judaism in general, as a collective with similar characteristics, as well as others about specific figures who became proselytes or at the least sympathisers. This paper analyses the texts relating to this matter in order to answer the following questions: what is the impression of proselytes as a well-known group that is transmitted by the Rabbis in a work dating back to fifth-century C.E. Palestine, taking into account that Christianity had already become the religion of the Empire? Were they accepted as a part of the true Israel? What type of individuals converted to Judaism according to the Sages? Were they notable figures or anonymous people? Were they biblical or contemporary characters? This study will contribute some answers in order to understand how the Rabbis tackled this phenomenon at a time when even specific decrees existed against this practice and when the Church was taking a decisive role against it.

Journal for the Study of Judaism

In the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period



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