Blood, Bread, and Light: Female Converts in Early Judaism

Jennifer Laura Zilm


This article looks at evidence for women’s conversion to Judaism in antiquity. Literature from the Second Temple Period suggests that Judaism was attractive to women in the 1st century CE and patristic evidence suggests that this attraction continued after the rise of Christianity. Examining this literature, as well as some rabbinic material, most notably Gerim and Ruth Rabbah, this article postulates that gender specific rituals, in particular niddah (menstrual purity) observance, may have been one of the reasons that Gentile women converted to Judaism. This suggestion stands against the notion, present in both rabbinic literature and in modern New Testament scholarship, that menstrual purity laws were a burden to Jewish women.

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