This introductory chapter lays the groundwork for the rest of the study by articulating the thesis of the book and then addressing several key issues. The book argues for a new way to read kinship and ethnic language in Paul that dismantles the contrast between a universal, “non-ethnic” Christianity and an ethnic, particular Judaism. Paul uses the discourses of kinship and ethnicity to construct a myth of origins for gentile Christ-followers and relies on the logic of patrilineal descent to create a new lineage for the gentiles, a lineage which links gentiles through Christ to the founding ancestor, Abraham. The chapter reviews scholarship on Paul, distinguishing between traditional readings and various strands of the “new perspective”. It addresses the issue of the audience of the letters, discusses the translation of Ioudaioi as “Jews“ or “Judeans”, and outlines a specific theoretical position which treats kinship and ethnicity as social constructs that nevertheless carry authority in defining collective identity.
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