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How to find us B.E.A.L. (Birgit) van der Lans, MA

B.E.A.L. van der Lans, MA

PhD student
B.E.A.L. van der Lans, MA


This project examines the role of the Roman state in Jewish and Christian self-definitions under Claudius and Nero by relating Paul’s letter to the Romans to the historical context of its addressees.


The effect of Rome's destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD on Jewish self-definitions and on the ‘parting of the ways’ between Judaism and Christianity has been well researched (Dunn 2006; Goodman 2007). This project, however, explores the hypothesis that the Roman state had already been a factor in the self-definitions of Jewish groups and in the emergence of a Christian identity at an ealier stage.

Around the year 49 AD, Claudius is reported to have expelled the Jews from Rome. According to Suetonius, they kept causing unrest ‘at the instigation of Chrestus’ (Claudius 25.4). Paul wrote his letter to Roman Christ-followers – both Jews and ‘gentiles’ – six or seven years after these events. As such, it is a relevant historical source that should be appreciated as such. When New Testament research refers to the Claudian expulsion, it is usually used as ‘external evidence’ to support a particular argument about the letter. But what can be said about the consequences of this and other expulsions? Early imperial Rome saw several decrees that declared Jews, Egyptians, philosophers or astrologers unwanted in the city. Expulsions of foreign groups -or those who could be portrayed as such - distort Rome's reputation of welcoming people from all over the oikoumene, granting citizenship relatively easily and incorporating foreign religious practices. What kind of evidence is there for people actually leaving Rome after an expulsion had been decreed? What is it about these groups that made them targets? What sort of statement did the state make by declaring a certain group unwanted?

The wider framework of my research is the impact of Roman politics on such groups. Identity discourses, the way in which people talk about themselves in relation to others, are affected by power and politics. There is a relationship between the way in which people are addressed and categorized by political elites and those forged in everyday discourse. Imperial categorizations or ‘framings’ have an impact on the way people perceive themselves, their own group and their relationship to the state.

Paul’s letter to Rome is the only source we have that is written to a group in Rome that had been implicated in an expulsion in one way or the other. In what ways can Paul’s letter be used as one of our sources for a non-elite minority group in first-century Rome. How can we situate Paul as a letter-writer among other early imperial authors? I focus in particular on those parts of the letter where Paul addresses tensions within the Roman community between Jew and Greek. What are Paul’s strategies for dealing with feelings of ‘ethnic pride’ how can he be compared to other ancient authors in this respect?

See also my Academia page


Prof.dr. G.H. van Kooten

Prof.dr. O.M. van Nijf

Laatst gewijzigd:13 september 2019 07:37

Contact information

Oude Boteringestraat 38
9712 GK Groningen
The Netherlands