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date: 01 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Paul saw himself as apostle to the Gentiles, and his mission consisted in founding communities of believers in cities across the Roman Empire. This chapter first outlines recent scholarship on the nature of these communities, considering their character, socio-economic composition, and likely meeting places, and asks in what sense we should consider them ‘Pauline’ communities. Suggesting that Paul’s letters may be seen as instruments of community formation, the chapter then turns to examine the kind of ethos Paul hoped these communities would embody, and the ways in which scholars have studied what is generally labelled Paul’s ‘ethics’. In terms of the broad contours and moral principles that shape this ethic, it is suggested that a primary focus is on corporate solidarity ‘in Christ’. Despite Paul’s emphasis on the distinctiveness and purity of the Christian communities in the midst of a ‘sinful’ and hostile world, it is also important to notice how far Paul’s ethical instruction exhibits points of common ground with both Jewish and Graeco-Roman ethics, and how far Paul himself calls for a stance of ‘doing good to all’. Finally, ‘other-regard’ is proposed as the second meta-moral principle in Paul’s ethics, a stance grounded in the example of Christ, whose self-giving for others forms the paradigm to which believers should conform.

Keywords: community, socio-economic level, meeting places, ethos, ethics, solidarity, other-regard, imitation of Christ

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