Here are the details of this most interesting conference. The array of topics selected, the international gathering of scholars, and the focus on the topic of Jewish ‘conversion’ to Christianity, mean that the papers, when published in book form, will be an important resource for anyone interested in the history of Jewish believers in Jesus.
26th -29th May 2014
An International Conference by The Center for the Study of Conversion & Inter-Religious Encounters in Cooperation with Israeli Centers of Research Excellence, Israeli Science Foundation and Council for Higher Education
26th -29th May 2014, Oren Conference Hall (Ulam Knassim Aleph), Building 26,
Marcus Family Campus, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva
The first aim of the conference is to explore the broad range of available literary sources in which relevant information about converts can be found and discuss the methodology for extracting such information and analyzing it. Scholars of all disciplines, interests, geographic and chronological focuses are invited to propose papers which will shed light on the extant data and propose methodological strategies for its accumulation and analysis.
Sessions might include, but are not limited to, such topics as:
Law and conversion: courts records, regulations, and legal opinions
Religious and Secular Governance: decrees, official records,
Narrative and conversion: historiography, hagiography, biography, poetry
Intellectual and cultural brokerage: convert-authored scientific and educational treatises, poetry, and fiction
Theology: debates, exegesis, polemics, and apologetics
Archeology: tombs, dedications, houses of worship
Psychological, linguistic and semiotic analysis of conversion texts
We especially welcome papers that address related texts from the Medieval and Early Modern periods, but also welcome proposals dealing with Antiquity and the Modern Era which bear relevance to the theme of the conference.
The second aim of the conference is to showcase the proposed database and prepare the ground for international cooperation on inputting relevant data. Participants are requested to prepare materials relevant to one or more converts (or an example of mass conversion) according to the parameters of the database set out above. We will study these test cases together, input the materials, and attempt to deal with the problems that arise, thereby creating a protocol for the database and ironing out the difficulties.
See the full program here.
For several videos of the lectures see here (the funniest joke I have heard on the topic comes one minute 40 seconds into the presentation).
Reflection and Prayer: Whilst most, if not all, of the participants at this conference would not be sympathetic to Messianic Judaism today, their work sheds much light on the context, character and motivations of Jewish believers in Jesus throughout history, many of whom were forced to ‘convert’ for all the wrong reasons, including their treatment by the Church.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, open our eyes, and open our hearts, to see the way we have gone against your word, your love, and your purposes for your people Israel. Help us to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes again. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
Some abstracts of topics addressed
“Fear of Conversion to Judaism in Thirteenth-Century Christian Segregatory Legislation”
|Paola Tartakoff, Rutgers University|
|Scholars have long noted the prominence of “fear of Jewish religious influence” among the stated justifications for a variety of types of medieval legislation aimed at segregating Christians and Jews. This justification was prominent not only in the first centuries of the Common Era, before Christianity amassed political and military might, but also into the late Middle Ages, by which point Jews constituted a persecuted minority.
In seeking to account for the persistence of expressions of concern about Jewish religious influence during the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, some scholars have simply cited “the force of tradition.” According to this view, the theological competition between Christianity and Judaism and any robust sense of rivalry between Christians and Jews were, by the high Middle Ages, long over. Therefore, whereas late medieval Jews, whose leaders likewise favored segregating Jews and Christians, had reason to fear that Jewish-Christian intermingling might lead to apostasy from their own community, Christians did not. In fact, according to this view, Christians had every reason to hope that intermingling would result in the absorption of more Jews into the Christian flock.
I shall argue, by contrast, on the basis of a broad array of evidence about conversion to and from Judaism in thirteenth-century Western Europe, that expressions of concern about Jewish religious influence often were genuine. In fact, they shed light on dynamics of repulsion and attraction between medieval Christians and Jews far more complex than previously imagined. It was not only the case that, in particular contexts, Christian employees in Jewish homes became Jewish, that some Christians fraternized extensively with Jews, and that some Jewish converts to Christianity returned to Judaism, but it was also well known that wealthy and educated Christians occasionally officially converted to Judaism. With attention to chronology and geography, my paper shall consider how these social realities influenced Christian fears about Jews as reflected in legal sources.
“Conversion as a Historiographical Problem”
“Are Jewish-Christian Disputations a Source of Conversion?”