The Jewish Converts of Antiquity

In his 2003 article “Conversion to Judaism in Classical Antiquity,” published in Hebrew Union College Annual, the classicist Louis Feldman analyzed the striking increase in the number of Jews between 586 BCE and the 1st century CE. He concluded that this was likely due to widespread, voluntary conversion to Judaism. In searching for clues as to the reasons behind this apparent trend, Pinchas Landis examines the legends of famous converts from antiquity, in both the Talmud and historical sources.

At the beginning of the first Jewish-Roman War in 66 CE, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known simply as Nero, was the emperor of Rome. It was he who sent Vespasian to put down the Jewish Revolt—the same Vespasian who, together with his son Titus, eventually conquered the country and destroyed the Second Temple.

Roman history records that, in 68 CE, a rebellion was mounted against Nero in Rome. He was declared a public enemy and sentenced to death by the Roman Senate in absentia. When Nero learned of his fate, he committed suicide.

Jewish [sources] tell a different story. The Talmud teaches that Nero came to Jerusalem during the war. In an attempt to see if fate would be on his side, he shot arrows in all four directions. All landed facing Jerusalem. In an attempt to explore further, he asked a Jewish child what verse in the Jewish Bible he was learning. The child responded by quoting the book of Ezekiel: “And I will lay My vengeance upon Edom by the hand of My people Israel.” [In talmudic literature, Edom is taken a stand-in for Rome.]

Nero concluded that “The Holy One, Blessed be He, wishes to destroy his Temple, and to wipe His hands with that man (referring to himself).” Nero then fled, and was so inspired by the pseudo-prophecy that he received that he converted to Judaism. The great Rabbi Meir, upon whose teaching much of the Mishnah is based, is said to be descended from him.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Aish.com

More about: ancient Judaism, Ancient Rome, Conversion

The Attempted Murder of Salman Rushdie Should Render the New Iran Deal Dead in the Water

Aug. 15 2022

On Friday, the Indian-born, Anglo-American novelist Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed and severely wounded while giving a public lecture in western New York. Reports have since emerged—although as yet unverified—that the would-be assassin had been in contact with agents of Iran, whose supreme leaders have repeatedly called on Muslims to murder Rushdie. Meanwhile U.S. and European diplomats are trying to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. Stephen Daisley comments:

Salman Rushdie’s would-be assassin might have been a lone wolf. He might have had no contact with military or intelligence figures. He might never even have set foot in Tehran. But be in no doubt: he acted, in effect, as an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under the terms of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie “and all those involved in [his novel The Satanic Verses’s] publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Khomeini urged “brave Muslims to kill them quickly wherever they find them so that no one ever again would dare to insult the sanctities of Muslims,” adding: “anyone killed while trying to execute Rushdie would, God willing, be a martyr.”

An American citizen has been the victim of an attempted assassination on American soil by, it appears, another American after decades of the Iranian supreme leader agitating for his murder. No country that is serious about its national security, to say nothing of its national self-worth, can pretend this is some everyday stabbing with no broader political implications.

Those implications relate not only to the attack on Rushdie. . . . In July, a man armed with an AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident who was also the intended target of an abduction plot last year orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence agent. The cumulative weight of these outrages should render the new Iran deal dead in the water.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy