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PhD thesis: approved and now available online (Paul and the Vocation of Israel)

My PhD thesis has been accepted by Durham University. It is available online as a PDF file at Durham e-Theses.

WINDSOR, LIONEL JAMES (2012) Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans. Doctoral thesis, Durham University. Available at Durham e-Theses Online:

Many thanks to all who have helped and supported us over the last (almost) three years. Here’s what I said in the acknowledgements section:

The challenge of writing a PhD thesis lies not only in writing the thesis itself, but also in organizing all the rest of life to create the time and space to write. I cannot express enough my gratitude for Leonie Bronwyn, my wife and true companion of 14 years, who has supported and loved me all the way through the trials and joys of the last three years, as we have uprooted our family and moved halfway round the world from Sydney to Durham. This endeavour is very much a joint effort, and Bronwyn deserves as much credit as I. Our children, Adelaide, Harry and Ellie, committed members of the Australian Diaspora, have been a joy and a delight. Our extended family, especially our parents, have been a constant source of support and care during our time in the UK—despite our being 10,000 miles away.

Having time and space to study is, of course, a great privilege which requires tangible support. We are grateful to the trustees of the Joan Augusta Mackenzie Travelling Scholarship, which has provided just over a third of our expenses. So very many thanks for the gifts from brothers and sisters in churches in the Sydney Diocese: Kurrajong Anglican Church, Unichurch / Campus Bible Study at the University of New South Wales, St Augustine’s Anglican Church at Neutral Bay, St Michael’s Anglican Church at Wollongong; as well as from Christchurch Durham. So many have prayed for us and provided us with the financial support that has enabled us to live here in the UK. The saints at Christchurch Durham have been our church family, who have ministered to us and have enabled me to keep my feet on the ground of Christian ministry while my head sometimes felt like it was in the clouds.

In writing the thesis, I am of course indebted to many scholars and teachers who have gone before me. Many of the ideas and methods in this work stem from my experience at Moore College in Sydney; I greatly value the teaching and friends made during my time there. Mark Thompson and John Woodhouse, in particular, have been superb role models as pastor-theologians. I should also mention the invaluable legacy of Donald Robinson, a pioneer of evangelical biblical theology who taught the students at Moore College about the importance of the Jew-Gentile dynamic as an interpretative key to the New Testament long before it became popular in mainstream scholarship. I owe a number of the key ideas in this thesis to his remarkably fertile mind. I am also immensely grateful for the ministry of Phillip Jensen, whose teaching and training showed me the importance of keeping in-depth scholarly theology and practical ministry firmly intertwined, despite the constant pressures to separate them. I also owe a great deal to Brian Rosner, my Masters supervisor, whose insights have inspired me, whose encouragement led me to take up PhD study, and whose help in smoothing the way (graciously letting me go as a potential PhD candidate at Moore) contributed a great deal to the ease of transition from Sydney to Durham. I would also like to thank Con Campbell, who graciously pointed me to Durham as a potential place for further study.

My decision to come to study at Durham, while costly, was made in light of its reputation as a place of superb scholarship. I have not been disappointed. The Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University has been a stimulating and challenging environment, and I have benefitted greatly from the experience. I am especially grateful for my supervisor, Francis Watson. Professor Watson not only is a deeply theological thinker, he also is an enormously insightful reader of texts. His simultaneously sympathetic and critical reading of my own text (through so many iterations) has not only played a key role in shaping the final product, it has also provided me with an outstanding model of critical scholarly engagement. I would also like to extend special thanks to Lutz Doering, my secondary supervisor, who went beyond the call of duty in providing me with many hours of personal tuition in understanding the background to ancient Jewish texts. My examiners, John Barclay and William Campbell, honoured my work with exceedingly careful reading and invaluable further insights. I also hold very fond memories of the study rooms at 37A Bailey. We’ve had a lot of fun, and I have benefitted enormously from the depth of spiritual and academic insight represented by my fellow students. I particularly value the special friendship of Peter Orr, whose passion and commitment to the gospel of Christ continues to inform and encourage my own teaching and ministry.


This dissertation argues that Paul’s apostolic mission to the Gentiles was the definitive expression of his divine vocation as an Israelite, and thus of his Jewish identity. For many of Paul’s Jewish contemporaries, Israel’s divine vocation was to keep and to teach the precepts of the Law of Moses as an exemplary witness to God’s power and wisdom. For Paul, however, Jewish identity was expressed primarily by preaching the gospel of Christ, as the fulfilment of the Law of Moses, to the Gentiles. This is seen most clearly in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

In chapter 1, we summarize our methodology: we are seeking to examine Paul’s Jewish identity by reading Paul’s letters (especially Romans), in light of other second-temple Jewish texts, using certain insights from social identity theory. We show that the concept of vocation is an important dimension of Jewish identity, especially in Paul’s letters. We also discuss some prior approaches to the question of Paul’s Jewishness, demonstrating both their value and also their limitations for our purposes.

In chapter 2, we survey three key aspects of Paul’s explicit language of Jewish identity in his letters: Jewish distinctiveness, divine revelation and divine vocation.

In chapter 3, we demonstrate that Paul deliberately frames his letter to the Romans (Rom 1:1–15, 15:14–33) by presenting his apostolic ministry as the fulfilment of positive scripturally-based eschatological expectations concerning Israel’s divine vocation with respect to the nations. We also compare Paul’s self-presentation in the outer frame of Romans with other first-century expressions of Jewish vocation.

In chapter 4, we concentrate on Rom 2:17–29. Contrary to most interpretations which read this passage as a discussion about the nature of (Jewish or Christian) salvation, we argue that Paul deliberately sets this passage in the context of the mainstream Jewish synagogue, in order to contest the nature of Jewish vocation.

In chapter 5, we examine Rom 9–11 from the perspective of Jewish vocation. We demonstrate that in Rom 9–11, Paul presents his own apostolic vocation, in various ways, as a contrast to, a fulfilment of, and a means of hope for Israel’s place and role in God’s worldwide purposes.


Biblical Studies; New Testament; Paul; Pauline Studies; Jew; Jewish; Jewish Identity; Vocation; Ministry; Mission; Missionary; Apostle; Apostolic Ministry; Israel; Romans 2:17-29; Romans 9-11; Romans; Law of Moses; Gospel; Servant; Isaiah; Scripture; Use of Scripture; scriptural

Published inBiblical theologyDurhamMissionPaulRomans

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • The Named Jew and the Name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29

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