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As of late much ado has been made about in the Torah world about the non-halachic conversion crisis. This is especially controversial in Israel due to halachic problems with gentiles owning land there. My question is if there are any references in Chazal or Geonim or Rishonim before the Reform/Conservative movements to non-halachic conversion. The reason I ask is because before Reform and Conservative there still existed heterodox sects of Jews such as Karaites and Sadducees and even the early church. Are there any rabbinic references made about non-Jews who “convert” to these “Jewish” movements in a non-halachic manner?

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  • The classic sources on sub-par conversions all revolve around the Cuttim, a group of people from Assyria who were brought to the Shomron and converted to Judaism due to constant lion attacks . They kept doraytas but not derabannans. At the time of the Mishna, they were assumed to be Jewish, but by the time the Gemara was written it had emerged they were bowing down to a statue of a dove and they were therefore ruled insincere converts and thus non-Jews. Commented Jan 4 at 23:07

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The Gemara in Bava Basra 3b/4a says that the conversion of Herod's ancestors was questionable. Though not a halachic source, this is mentioned in greater detail in the historical writings of Josephus. Sorry I don't know the source, but I once went to a shiur at which the Rabbi mentioned that many of the Jews who originally followed Christianity were descended from people with questionable conversions. IE they converted because they lived among Jews and thought it made sense to adopt their customs, not that they really believed it.

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