The attitude to women who convert to Christianity was different from the attitude described above, and extremely complex. There are almost no descriptions of women converting voluntarily. On the other hand there are discussions concerning women who were forced to convert. The discussion that we perceive as a Halakhic discussion is in fact an intellectual discussion that is particularly special.
It is impossible to understand the question of the attitude to converts to Christianity without examining the attitude to Christians who converted to Judaism. This attitude is the mirror image of the attitude to converts from Judaism. In the same way that converts to Christianity were rejected and members of Jewish communities would try to distance themselves from them, so they would try to become close with and appreciate converts to Judaism.
This chapter compares the attitude to those leaving their faith in the Hellenistic world (the Period of the Mishna), with the attitude to those leaving their faith in the Period of the Gemara when the non-Jewish world in Europe was primarily pagan.
This chapter will describe the attitude to converts to Christianity during the First Crusade when conversion was forced on the Jews by the Crusaders and when the threat of death was very real should they not succumb to the demand. Some Jews managed to flee, others were converted forcibly while some died as martyrs and others put themselves and their children to death in order not to be forcibly converted. The attitude now became that of seeing all converts as having been forcibly converted though it was still not clear how one reconciles the desire that many had to accept the forced convert back into the faith with the normative ideal expressed by the action of the martyrs.
The Jew who remained a Jew was obliged to define his attitude towards the Jew who converted to Christianity, and indeed this had to be done in many spheres. The halakhah had laid down in principle the decision that a Jew who converted to Christianity was still, despite everything, a brother and a Jew, but this decision was eroded over time. The Rabbinic authorities were being asked Halakhic questions such as: is a convert regarded as a dead person or not? What happens in the case of the wife of a convert who remains Jewish? Can a convert bequeath or inherit possessions? Is the wine he produces “the wine of non-Jews” (that Jews were forbidden to drink)? What is the law applying to those who converted to Christianity and later returned to Judaism? Can they be trusted? Do they have to undergo immersion, like converts to Judaism?
This chapter looks at the struggle of the Jews in dealing with the Christian success in conquering the Land of Israel from the Muslims and establishing the Land of Israel , the land to which the Jews were theologically due to return, as a Christian kingdom. This Christian theological success created a crisis among the Jews that brought about the phenomenon of voluntary conversion to Christianity seen clearly, for example, in the autobiography of Yehuda Herman, a Jewish apostate, and at the same time a Jewish polemic reaction directed against Christians and against Jewish converts to Christianity.
This chapter examines changes in the religious culture of Scottish towns between 1350 and 1560 that were not early Protestant or crypto-Protestant or even proto-Protestant, but rather Catholic. Sections on new devotional and educational approaches, the Council of Trent, public worship, and social discipline together portray a religious culture that was dynamic and responsive to international trends. In placing this religious culture of Scottish towns in the context of wider European currents, it becomes clear that urban Scots were participating in a deep social movement into early modernism. Since reforming momentum in Scotland began in an early modern Catholic environment and before the official Protestant Reformation, it may be necessary to reconsider an important question of causation in Scottish history: what the role of the Protestant Reformation was in bringing about social change. Specific social changes often thought to be the result of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland actually started before the Protestant Reformation, and therefore the Protestant Reformation cannot have been their trigger. Instead, it may be the case that the social changes described in this chapter and arising in a Catholic context actually helped ease the adoption of Protestantism in Scottish towns.
This chapter examines townspeople’s participation in parishes, guilds, and the burghs themselves. Each of these groups employed religious symbols to express a sense of community and each deployed religious mechanisms to strengthen communal endeavours. Although their memberships were frequently overlapping and sometimes also contested, for the most part the various communities of religion in Scottish towns were seen as mutually reinforcing rather than mutually exclusive. The smooth and harmonious unity within and between groups that was espoused in theory was sometimes punctured in practice by conflicts arising from the messy realities of day-to-day life, but when this happened Scottish townspeople sought to heal the rift through reconciliation enacted in religiously significant space. Thus for most Scottish townspeople different religious communities and their various goals tended to be complementary in principle. Even if there were in practice certain areas of tension and occasional instances of outright hostility between different religious groups, devotion within the parish and the guild was, nonetheless, generally seen as intrinsic to the welfare of the town.