#CFP Conference on Religious and Philosophical Conversion in Ancient Mediterranean Traditions

#CFP Conference on Religious and Philosophical Conversion in Ancient Mediterranean Traditions December 29, 2017

I received this call for papers and thought I should pass it on, since I now there are blog readers who will be interested in it:

We are pleased to announce the Conference on Religious and Philosophical Conversion in Ancient Mediterranean Traditions (CoRPC), which will take place at the University of Bonn from 25 to 27 of September 2018 (https://www.etf.uni-bonn.de/de/ev-theol/institute/corpc/startseite).


Steering Committee

Kelley Coblentz Bautch (St. Edward’s University in Austin)
Athanasios Despotis (Universität Bonn)
Edith M. Humphrey (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)
Hermut Löhr (Universität Bonn)


Rationale: Research on the experience of religious conversion or spiritual transformation is necessarily interdisciplinary and interest in this field grows progressively. In light of this important and burgeoning area of study, CoRPC explores conversion or converting experience in the environment of the ancient Hellenistic world(s) with attention to early Judaism and early Christianity/the New Testament. Presentations will undertake both historical and philological reconstructions relying on source material and utilising interdisciplinary approaches. Similarly, discussions take up the literary use of the motif of conversion, the topic of philosophical conversion as well as ritual, social and embodied aspects of spiritual transformation.


CONFIRMED KEYNOTE SPEAKERS (in alphabetical order)

  • Pierre-Yves Brandt, Lausanne
  • Natacha Bustos, Rosario
  • Stephen Chester, Chicago
  • Athanasios Despotis, Bonn
  • Edith M. Humphrey, Pittsburgh
  • Miguel Herrero de Jauregui, Madrid
  • Rikard Roitto, Stockholm


We are accepting papers for the following main subjects of discussion:

  1. Theorising conversion and de-conversion
  2. “Turning” in the Hebrew Bible
  3. Conversion rhetorics in Hellenistic Judaism
  4. Spiritual transformation in the purview of the Qumran Communities
  5. Conversion in the New Testament and Christian Apocrypha
  6. Philosophical conversion
  7. Conversion and the pagan mysteries
  8. Early Christian reception of the New Testament texts
  9. Polemical and satirical approaches to religious and philosophical conversion
  10. Ecumenical readings
  11. CSR (Cognitive Science of Religion) approaches to conversion experience in the Jewish and Hellenistic world

Abstracts of no more than 300 words for 20-minute papers should be sent to corpc@ev-theol.uni-bonn.de by 30th January 2018. The abstracts will be revised by 15th of February.

We look forward to hearing from you and please do not hesitate to contact us at corpc@ev-theol.uni-bonn.de with any questions.



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  • John MacDonald

    An interesting paper might be on Paul’s conversion.

    1. Dr. Barrie Wilson (author of “How Jesus Became Christian”) argues, regarding Paul’s conversion report, that “What people don’t realize is that, if true, it would undermine the whole point of Jesus’ mission. If all it took was a vision, why waste time with a 3-yr mentoring process?” Wilson clearly doesn’t trust Paul.

    2. Price points out that the account of Paul’s conversion in Acts is hardly historical Price writes:

    As the great Tübingen critics already saw, the story of Paul’s visionary encounter with the risen Jesus not only has no real basis in the Pauline epistles but has been derived by Luke more or less directly from 2 Maccabees 3’s story of Heliodorus. In it one Benjaminite named Simon (3:4) tells Apollonius of Tarsus, governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia (3:5), that the Jerusalem Temple houses unimaginable wealth that the Seleucid king might want to appropriate for himself. Once the king learns of this, he sends his agent Heliodorus to confiscate the loot. The prospect of such a violation of the Temple causes universal wailing and praying among the Jews. But Heliodorus is miraculously turned back when a shining warrior angel appears on horseback. The stallion’s hooves knock Heliodorus to the ground, where two more angels lash him with whips (25-26). He is blinded and is unable to help himself, carried to safety on a stretcher. Pious Jews pray for his recovery, lest the people be held responsible for his condition. The angels reappear to Heliodorus, in answer to these prayers, and they announce God’s grace to him: Heliodorus will live and must henceforth proclaim the majesty of the true God. Heliodorus offers sacrifice to his Saviour (3:35) and departs again for Syria, where he reports all this to the king. In Acts the plunder of the Temple has become the persecution of the church by Saul (also called Paulus, an abbreviated form of Apollonius), a Benjaminite from Tarsus. Heliodorus’ appointed journey to Jerusalem from Syria has become Saul’s journey from Jerusalem to Syria. Saul is stopped in his tracks by a heavenly visitant, goes blind and must be taken into the city, where the prayers of his former enemies avail to raise him up. Just as Heliodorus offers sacrifice, Saul undergoes baptism. Then he is told henceforth to proclaim the risen Christ, which he does… Luke has again added details from Euripides. In The Bacchae, in a sequence Luke has elsewhere rewritten into the story of Paul in Philippi (Portefaix, pp. 170), Dionysus has appeared in Thebes as an apparently mortal missionary for his own sect. He runs afoul of his cousin, King Pentheus who wants the licentious cult (as he views it) to be driven out of the country. He arrests and threatens Dionysus, only to find him freed from prison by an earthquake. Dionysus determines revenge against the proud and foolish king by magically compelling Pentheus to undergo conversion to faith in him (“Though hostile formerly, he now declares a truce and goes with us. You see what you could not when you were blind,” 922-924) and sending Pentheus, in woman’s guise, to spy upon the Maenads, his female revelers. He does so, is discovered, and is torn limb from limb by the women, led by his own mother. As the hapless Pentheus leaves, unwittingly, to meet his doom, Dionysus comments, “Punish this man. But first distract his wits; bewilder him with madness… After those threats with which he was so fierce, I want him made the laughingstock of Thebes” (850-851, 854-855). “He shall come to know Dionysus, son of Zeus, consummate god, most terrible, and yet most gentle, to mankind” (859-861). Pentheus must be made an example, as must poor Saul, despite himself. His conversion is a punishment, meting out to the persecutor his own medicine. Do we not detect a hint of ironic malice in Christ’s words to Ananias about Saul? “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).

    3. The above connection of Acts to Euripides’ Bacchae interests me. Dr. Dennis MacDonald has done an interesting job of connecting Euripides’ Bacchae to Luke/Acts in his book “Luke and Vergil (2015),” and to the Gospel of John in his book “The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides (2017)”. Characterizing, for instance, the relation between The Bacchae and the Gospel of John in Dennis MacDonald’s writing, we read:

    “‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.’ Dennis R. MacDonald offers a provocative explanation of those scandalous words of Christ from the Fourth Gospel, an explanation that he argues would hardly have surprised some of the Gospel’s early readers. John sounds themes that would have instantly been recognized as proper to the Greek god Dionysos (the Roman Bacchus), not least as he was depicted in Euripides’ play The Bacchae. A divine figure, the offspring of a divine father and human mother, takes on flesh to live among mortals, but is rejected by his own. He miraculously provides wine and offers it as a sacred gift to his devotees, women prominent among them, dies a violent death, and returns to life. Yet John takes his drama in a dramatically different direction: while Euripides’s Dionysos exacts vengeance on the Theban throne, the Johannine Christ offers life to his followers. MacDonald employs mimesis criticism to argue that the earliest Evangelist not only imitated Euripides but expected his readers to recognize Jesus as greater than Dionysos.”

    • John MacDonald

      Dr. Wilson points out that another example of a highly dubious vision is Peter’s setting aside the Kosher laws.