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The Stranger within Your Gates

Converts and Conversion in Rabbinic Literature

If the People of Israel understood themselves to share a common ancestry as well as a common religion, how could a convert to their faith who did not share their ethnicity fit into the ancient Israelite community? While it is comparatively simple to declare religious beliefs, it is much more difficult to enter a group whose membership is defined in ethnic terms. In showing how the rabbis struggled continually with the dual nature of the Israelite community and the dilemma posed by converts, Gary G. Porton explains aspects of their debates which previous scholars have either ignored or minimized.

The Stranger within Your Gates analyzes virtually every reference to converts in the full corpus of rabbinic literature. The intellectual dilemma that converts posed for classical Judaism played itself out in discussions of marriage, religious practice, inheritance of property, and much else. Reviewing the rabbinic literature text by text, Porton exposes the rabbis’ frequently ambivalent and ambiguous views.

The Stranger within Your Gates is the only examination of conversion in rabbinic literature to draw upon the full scope of contemporary anthropological and sociological studies of conversion. It is also unique in its focus on the opinions of the community into which the convert enters, rather than on the testimony of the convert. By approaching data with new methods, Porton heightens our understanding of conversion and the nature of the People of Israel in rabbinic literature.

424 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1994

Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism

Religion: Judaism

Table of Contents

1: Problem and Method
2: Converts and Conversion in Mishnah
3: Converts and Conversion in Tosefta
4: Converts and Conversion in the Early Midrashic Texts
5: Converts and Conversion in the Palestinian Talmud
6: Converts and Conversion in the Babylonian Talmud
7: The Conversion Ritual
8: Marriages between Converts and Israelites
9: Converts as Newborn Children
10: Converts and the Israelite Way of Life
11: The Stranger within Your Gates
Index of Biblical Citations
Index of Rabbinic Literature Citations
Index of Rabbis
Index of Scholars
Index of Topics

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