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date: 21 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that a theorized and historically contextual approach to ethnicity and race allows us to look critically at these concepts in Paul’s letters and challenges the traditional reading of Paul. After reviewing race and ethnicity in Pauline scholarship, this essay applies these approaches to the Pauline texts. Arguing for an understanding of racial and ethnic identity as both ‘natural’ and malleable, of identity as multiple, and of religion as central to ethnic identity construction, this chapter shows that these discourses, rather than being peripheral or rejected by Paul, are central to his thinking. We see that Paul conceives of central theological issues—such as Paul’s identity as a Jew, Israel’s standing before God, and the invitation to faithful Gentiles-in-Christ—in terms of ethnic reasoning. This approach contributes not only to a more historically situated reading of Paul, but also to modern understandings of racial and religious identity.

Keywords: ethnicity, race, Judaism, Israel, faith, ethnic reasoning, identity, Gentiles

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