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Contesting ConversionGenealogy, Circumcision, and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Christianity$
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Matthew Thiessen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199793563

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199793563.001.0001

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(p.3) Introduction
Contesting Conversion

Matthew Thiessen

Oxford University Press

The introduction focuses on the role circumcision played in constructing Jewish identity in antiquity. It demonstrates that ancient Jews disputed not only the function of circumcision but also how one determined a person’s Jewishness. Who was a Jew? How could one become a Jew? Could a non-Jewish person become a Jew? Ancient Jews disputed each of these questions, demonstrating how variegated Judaism was in this period. Consequently, it is not surprising that early Christians also disagreed about whether Gentile believers in Jesus could benefit from undergoing circumcision and attempting to become Jews. It argues that modern scholarship on ancient Judaism and early Christianity has wrongly described early Jewish perceptions of circumcision.

Keywords:   conversion, circumcision, Jewishness, identity construction, Judaism

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