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The Stranger Within Your Gates Converts and Conversion in Rabbinic Literature cover
  • ISBN: 9780226675862
  • ISBN10: 0226675866

The Stranger Within Your Gates Converts and Conversion in Rabbinic Literature

by Gary G. Porton

  • List Price: $52.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 12/01/1994
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If the People 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 for a person to declare particular 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, 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, treating each rabbinic collection on its own terms. The intellectual dilemma that converts posed to classical Jews played itself out in discussions of marriage, religious practice, inheritance of property, and much else: on the one hand, converts must be no different from native-born Israelites if the god of the Hebrew Bible is a universal deity; on the other hand, converts must be distinguishable from native-born members of the community if a divine covenant was made with Abraham's descendants. Reviewing the rabbinic literature text by text, Porton exposes the rabbis' frequently ambivalent and ambiguous views. In the context of rabbinic studies, 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. Porton's study is also unique in its focus on the opinions of the community into which the converts enter, rather than on the testimony of the convertsthemselves. By approaching data with new methods of analysis, Porton heightens our understanding of conversion and the nature of the People Israel in rabbinic literature.
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