Conversion and Initiation in Antiquity

Shifting Identities – Creating Change 

Birgitte Secher Bøgh (Editor), Peter Lang Verlag, 2014


For decades, Arthur D. Nock’s famous definition of conversion and his distinction between conversion and adhesion have greatly influenced our understanding of individual religious transformation in the ancient world. The articles in this volume – originally presented as papers at the conference Conversion and Initiation in Antiquity (Ebeltoft, Denmark, December 2012) – aim to nuance this understanding. They do so by exploring different facets of these two phenomena in a wide range of religions in their own context and from new theoretical and empirical perspectives. The result is a compilation of many new insights into ancient initiation and conversion as well as their definitions and characteristics.

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents



Theme 1. The choice: reasons, motivations, and results.

Becoming Christian in Carthage in the Age of Tertullian

Conversion in the oldest Apocryphal Acts

Theme 2. Agency and agents: The context of decision.

Ontological Conversion: A Description and Analysis of Two Case Studies from Tertullian’s De Baptismo and Iamblichus’ De Mysteriis

Agents of Apostasy, Delegates of Disaffiliation

Theme 3. The change: the nature of reorientation.

‘The Devil is in the Details’. Hellenistic Mystery Initiation Rites: Bridge-Burning or Bridge-Building?

Conversion, Conflict, and the Drama of Social Reproduction: Narratives of Filial Resistance in Early Christianity and Modern Britain

There and Back Again: Temporary Immortality in the Mithras Liturgy

Theme 4. Education: instructing and guiding the convert.

The Role of Religious Education in six of the Pagan Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Period

Educating a Mithraist

Observations on Late Antique Rabbinic Sources on Instruction of Would-Be Converts

The Role of Philosophy and Education in Apologists’ Conversion to Christianity: The Case of Justin and Tatian

General Index

Index Locorum


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