We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

'You who were called the uncircumcision by the circumcision’ a study of Jewish attitudes toward the gentiles and ethnic reconciliation according to eph. 2.1-22

Nahemiah, T.-L. Yee (1999) 'You who were called the uncircumcision by the circumcision’ a study of Jewish attitudes toward the gentiles and ethnic reconciliation according to eph. 2.1-22. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The present work is a study of the connections between Jewish attitudes toward the Gentiles and ethnic reconciliation according to Eph. 2. It begins by assessing previous scholarly tradition whose hermeneutical 'grid' has been derived from the philosophy of dialectics or the Protestant Reformation. The 'new perspective(s) on Paul', however, shifts our perspective back to first century Judaism and enables us to penetrate fully into the historical context of first century Jews and Judaism. We have taken pains to describe some of the relevant Jewish features and demonstrated them by focusing particularly on Eph. 2 and attempting to set it as fully as possible into its historical context. The uncontroversial a priori of Jewish context conceals many explosive issues: how much was our author influenced by Jewish ideas? Does he wish to speak about his Gentile addressees from a Jewish perspective? Does his status as a Jew also create for him a convenient 'pre-text' so that he could reiterate the perspective of other Jews about the Gentiles in his representation of it? These questions are addressed in this study. We have paid attention to the question of 'representation' or characterization and suggested that ethnography provides a way into the author's statements about the Gentiles: it aids die author to heighten the boundary between Jews and Gentiles and to underscore the negative valence which is attached to the Gentiles. The author's ethnographic statements enable us to show the way in which the language of 'powers' had become for our author a means of dividing human groups, establishing the differences between them and suggesting wherein their 'otherness' lies (Eph. 2.2). These statements and the negative verdict which the author passes on the Gentiles represent but a preamble to the author’s arduous effort to surmount the social distance between Jews and Gentiles. This is made most evident in his rhetoric of admission and conciliation in which he lays bare the fact that the Jews (himself included) were in no better position than the Gentiles who are 'sub-let' to the 'powers', although the idea of Israel’s status was never put in question (2.3). His aim is to evoke the need for the promptings of divine grace and love toward humankind (2.4-10). We also seek to show that Ephesians does not consist of a polemic against meritorious works. We have taken pains to demonstrate that the author of Ephesians has adopted a subtle approach in unraveling the exclusivistic Jewish attitudes toward the Gentiles. His characterization of the Gentiles reveals a distinctively Jewish perspective, and, more importantly, tells us much about the Jews (2.1 l-13a). We also show that the Gentiles were estranged by the Jews and that the estrangement can be best explained by die hypothesis that the Gentiles were perceived by die Jews through the 'grid' of covenantal ethnocentrism. The task of the author at this point is to exhibit his de-constructive strategy which provides a resolution to one of the thorniest issues regarding two ethnic groups: can Jew and Gentile, the two estranged human groups, be one {people of God)l And if so, howl We then go on to consider the way in which an exclusive, ethnic-oriented 'body politic of Israel' is transposed into an inclusive community-body. We pointed out that a major weakness with previous treatments of Ephesians has been a lack of appreciation for the close connections between die exclusive Jewish attitudes toward die Gentiles and the author's encomiastic statements about Christ (2.14-18). Previous scholarship has also been substantially hampered by its attempt to 'discover' a preformed material in Eph. 2.14-18, failing to recognise the discussion in Eph. 2.11-13 which sets the parameters for understanding Eph. 2.14-22. Rather than a 'parenthesis' or 'digression', which is tangential to the primary design of die author's argument, we suggested that Eph. 2.14-18 can be best read as an amplificatio through which the author has set in comparison with the magnanimity of Christ the Jewish attitudes toward the Gentiles (w. llb-12). What becomes immediately clear in his attempt to accentuate Christ's magnanimity toward humankind is that this attempt was prompted by the Jewish tendency to exclude. The author maximises the expedient, noble act of Christ who brings peace to an estranged humanity and surmounts the social distance between Jews and Gentiles, and whose death has in his perception provided a new framework, i.e. pax Christi within which mutual acceptance or 'the oneness of spirit' between Jews and Gentiles may then be filled out (v. 18; cf. 4.1-6). Such community- enhancing metaphors as 'one new man', 'one body' and 'one spirit' signalled the importance of and were introduced to put the exclusive Jewish 'body politic' and Jewish conception about humankind in question, but they never question the legitimacy of Israel as God's choice or replace Israel. Some vital implications of Christ's reconciling work for the Christian Gentiles and, not least, for their relation to Israel are considered in the penultimate chapter of this study. Two major topoi from ancient political theorists and from the Jewish Temple are introduced by the author to surmount the 'us- them' divisions, to forge the idea of sameness and to consolidate a close relationship of Gentiles with other members of an inclusivistic community. Although die author could readily suggest that Gentiles have become fellow-citizens with 'Israel' (2.19; cf. 2.12), he nevertheless refrained from making this suggestion. The fact is that the meaning of Israel had been hijacked, transcoded and turned into an etimically-based 'body politic' (). But with 'die holy ones' (2.19), the author can redefine the relationship of die Gentiles to die Israel of God afresh. We round off our present study by considering the implications which our present study may have for future research on Ephesians. [brace not closed]

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1999
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Aug 2012 11:45

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter