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Strategies of Conversion in the Pseudo-Orphic Hieros Logos: A Cognitive Approach

This paper analyses strategies of conversion that emerge from a poem composed during Hellenistic Judaism around the II century BCE in Alexandria of Egypt. The lost original text appears to be a Jewish imitation of an Orphic Hieros Logos where the legendary singer Orpheus himself professes conversion to the one God of the Old Testament, and the aim of the Jewish Hellenistic author was to glean from the religious and philosophical Greek heritage in order to show how the belief in one single God also belonged to the Greek tradition.

The text is known in two versions: the first, shorter one (26 verses) is reported among others by pseudo-Justin’s De Monarchia and Cohortatio ad Graecos, and Clement of Alexandria’s Protrepticus and Stromata. The second, expanded longer version (41 verses) is reported by Aristobulus and quoted among others by Eusebius in the Praeparatio Evangelica.

My paper will focus on the strategies that the author employed in order to address and convert his Greek pagan audience: these include quotations of many mystic Orphic formulae as well as terms derived from various Greek sources.

Furthermore, the analysis will be conducted using a cognitive approach: I will distinguish between intuitive and reflective beliefs, the first being beliefs that the individual is not consciously aware that he holds, but which underlie other beliefs and actions, while the second are those worshippers consciously hold and may reflect on. These forms of belief appear to be based on a group of cognitive systems shared by all human minds that determine the success and plausibility of certain religious beliefs: the aim of my analysis will be to understand which kind of religious beliefs lie behind the peculiar text of the pseudo-Orphic Hieros Logos and to show which strategies were used by the author in order to convert his pagan audience. 

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