PhD ceremony Ms. K.B. Neutel: A cosmopolitan ideal. Paul's declaration 'Neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor male and female' in the context of first-century thought
|Th 04-07-2013 at 14:30
PhD ceremony: Ms. K.B. Neutel, 14.30 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Dissertation: A cosmopolitan ideal. Paul's declaration 'Neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor male and female' in the context of first-century thought
Promotor(s): prof. G.H. van Kooten, prof. J.M.G. Barclay, prof. O.M. van Nijp
Faculty: Theology and Religious Studies
What did the New-Testament author Paul mean when he declared that there is ‘neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor male and female’ (Galatians 3:28)? While many modern readers understand these words as a statement about human equality, Karin Neutel’s study shows that it in fact reflects ancient ideas about an ideal or utopian community. With this declaration, Paul contributed to the cultural conversation of his time about such a community.
The three pairs that Paul brings together in this formula all played a role in first-century conceptions of what an ideal world would look like. Such conceptions were influenced by cosmopolitanism; the philosophical idea prevalent at the time, that all people were fundamentally connected and could all live in a unified society. Understanding Paul’s thought in the context of these contemporary ideals helps to clarify his attitude towards each of the three pairs in his letters. His thought on the pair Jew-Greek is best seen as a form of cosmopolitanism that is based on Jewish expectations about the end-time, as a time when all peoples would finally turn to Israel’s God. Paul’s attitude towards slave and free is part of a wider tendency to envision a utopian society as one without slaves. The third pair, ‘male and female’, reflects the contemporary notion that marriage has no place in an ideal community, since it distracts from the common interest. Like other ancient utopian thinkers, Paul imagined the ideal community to be based on mutual dependence and egalitarian relationships.