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Thinking about Belonging in Early Rabbinic Literature: Proselytes, Apostates, and “Children of Israel,” or: Does It Make Sense to Speak of Early Rabbinic Orthodoxy?*

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Abstract This paper offers a modest contribution to the discussion of the rabbinic construction of Jewish identity in Tannaitic times, by showing that in the few occasions in which early rabbinic texts relate to the question of belonging in the Jewish community they do not consider belief as a relevant category for the discussion. This, I suggest, indicates that for Palestinian rabbis of the first, second, and early third century, Jewish identity was not a matter of belief and doctrine. Rather, it was either a matter of birth and descent, or a matter of loyalty to the covenant.

Affiliations: 1: Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Shalom Hartman Institute Jerusalem


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