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Conversion to judaism in the Second Temple period: A functionalist approach

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Chapter Summary

This chapter embeds a history of conversion in an account of some issues in the social and political history of Jewish Palestine in the Second Temple period. Shaye Cohen has argued that religious conversion was introduced around the time of Maccabean Revolt or shortly thereafter. It suggests that the introduction of the ritual is just one episode in a long history, and one which marks a change primarily in pardon the marxizing language ideological superstructure, brought to bear on a systemic tension present in ancient Jewish society for centuries before and after Maccabean Revolt. The chapter argues that conversion functioned to resolve the tension between the need for interethnic elite alliances, a need created by political and economic fragmentation of the eastern Mediterranean world generated by geography and fostered by Assyrian, Persian, and Hellenistic empires, and the increasingly socially important demand made by Jewish religious norms that the Jews keep separate from their neighbors.

Keywords: Jewish Palestine; Judaism; Maccabean Revolt; religious conversion; Second Temple period; Shaye Cohen



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