I tried to engage him by asking the question:
"To what religion were the uncircumcised gentiles converting in Acts 15:3 when it talks about their conversion?"
"Well, Peter, I don’t know much about the compound Greek word epistrophe (translated in most as “conversion”). But it is used only once in the NT. I do, however, understand the basic sociology of Jew vs. Greco-Roman in the first century. The word does not mean “conversion from one religion to another” in a modern sense (like switching from Buddhism to Judaism)."
Derek then disabled comments and poor James was left holding his popcorn in the dark:
James wrote: "(Takes a seat with drink and popcorn in hand…prepared to watch the Peter/Derek debate over the “epistrophe” issue). "
So let's discuss:
Epistrepho means to "turn" and it's the same as the Hebrew "teshuvah" used of converts who are turning to follow Torah. It literally denotes changing your orientation so that you have a completely different identity, an identity that, in Judaism, has always meant becoming part of Am Yisrael.
Oh, and, big surprise, it's used several times in Acts 15. Verses 3 and 19 I believe.
I'm gonna post a few scholarly quotes on epistrepho and teshuva and then ask my question:
" [tois apo ton ethnon epistrephousin epi ton theon] [those among the Gentiles who are turning to God] could be said by a Jew of Gentile converts to Judaism; to a Jewish Christian the Christian conversion of Gentiles must have had to a considerable extent the same appearance. Gentiles were turning from whatever heathen gods they had previously worshipped to the God of the OT, the God of the Jews. It was this fact that gave strength to the requirement that they should behave like converts to Judaism, that is, should be circumcised and thereafter keep the Law. [epistrephousin--which is teshuvah or turning] could be used to describe what was required of Jews (3.19). [Acts 3:19 says "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord"]" pg. 728 of A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles by C.K. Barrett
The term...(epistrophe) refers to a change of thinking, a 'turn' in orientation, and so a conversion; this is the noun form of the verb...(epistrepho, turn). It is the only place the noun is used in the NT, although the verb is frequent in Acts (3:19; 9:35, 40; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19, 36; 16:18; 26:18, 20; 28:27)." pg. 495 of Acts: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament by Darrell L. Bock
"Teshuva, a different definition of one's identity, can change one's whole world..." pg. 415 of Change & Renewal by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
ON TO THE QUESTION...
Is Derek Leman correct that epistrepho does not mean to change your religion?