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The Complexity of Conversion

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Today, conversion is a contested religious, political, and personal phenomenon, and that was also the case in the ancient world. Using several primary sources (Jewish and Christian) and case studies, this volume discusses what this change could have meant for various individuals or groups of people in the ancient world and argues that conversion can best be understood through an intersectional perspective, an approach that includes gender, class, ethnicity, and age, as well as political and economic elements in its analysis of conversion.

The volume also acknowledges that a discussion of conversion benefits from taking into account conversion’s history of reception. Case studies from the reception history as well as contemporary examples of contested conversions (for example, from Christianity to Islam or vice versa) are also brought to the table.

In sum, the book addresses the complexity of conversion, using a range of cases, texts and theories, and initiates a dialogue between ancient sources and present concepts or practices. Close readings of ancient texts play a central role in the project. Yet, the book also considers how sacred texts and their receptions have influenced the way we generally think about conversation as religious change.

Published: Mar 1, 2020


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction Marianne Kartzow, Valérie Nicolet
Conversion Trajectories in Jewish and Christian Texts
1. Conversion in/to the Wilderness: The Case of the Egyptian Slave Girl Hagar in Early Christian and Jewish Texts Marianne Kartzow
2. Reading a Complex Identity in Conversion: Interpretations of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Ac 8: 26-40) Minna Heimola
3. 'Leap, Ye, Lame for Joy': The dynamics of Disability in Conversion Anna Solevag
4. Creating a New Sex: Women Bodies in Conversion Valérie Nicolet
5. The Complexity of Aseneth's Transformation in Joseph and Aseneth Kirsten Hartvigsen
6. 'I Turned from the Temple to the Mountain, a Desert Place': Conversion and the Apocryphon of John Kristine Rosland
7. Narrating Religious Conversion in Late Antiquity: The Case of the Life of Porphyry of Gaza (BHG 1570) Anna Lampadaridi
Modern Connections
8. Conversion, Dialogue and Complexity: When Institutionalized Muslim-Christian Dialogue in Norway Encounters the Challenge of Religious Conversion Anne-Hege Grung
9. Shedding his Skin: An Intersectional Analysis of the Claim that Male Circumcision Limits Religious Freedom Karin Neutel
Response Christopher Meredith


Offers something new and worthwhile to scholarship on conversion in antiquity.
Matthew Thiessen, McMaster University

Makes a significant contribution not only to the discussion of ancient conversion experiences but also to the discursive framework in which we as modern scholars try to understand those experiences.
Zeba A. Crook, Carleton University