Skip to content

Paper for IBR (at SBL): Making memories in Ephesians and Barnabas

Institute for Biblical ResearchSociety of Biblical Literature

I’ll be presenting a paper for the IBR at the SBL Annual Conference in San Antonio on Friday November 18:

The paper is available for download at this site. I’ll be giving a ten minute summary of the paper and there will be 20 minutes for questions following. I will be presenting alongside Jacob M. Pratt, Timothy W. Reardon and Matt Monkemeier. Ruth Anne Reese will be presiding.

Abstract: “Remember that you were once Gentiles”: Making memories in Ephesians and Barnabas

The letter to the Ephesians is frequently located at a mid-point on a trajectory in early Christianity; i.e. Ephesians is seen as evidence of a Christianity lying somewhere between Paul’s struggle to forge unity between ethnic Jewish and non-Jewish Christ-believers and the full-blown use of the concept of Christians as a new “ethnic” or “racial” entity to deny legitimacy to ethnic Jews. This paper questions this trajectory by conducting a comparative analysis of Ephesians and the Epistle of Barnabas. Taking its starting-point from the imperatival clause, “Therefore remember that you were once Gentiles in the flesh” (Eph 2:11), it explores the way in which Ephesians and Barnabas respectively shape a collective memory for their recipients with respect to Israel, its Scriptures and its symbols.

The paper finds that Barnabas and Ephesians both seek to construct collective memories for their readers by evoking Israel’s scriptural narrative and symbols. However, the two epistles differ strikingly in the way they construct these memories.

On the one hand, Barnabas contrasts Christians with Jews as the “other”, adopts a hermeneutical approach that sees Christians as appropriating all the promises to Israel, depicts Jesus’ sacrifice as a judgment against Jews, regards Jews as having been supplanted by Christians in “first” place, describes the nullification of the law as the end of ritual, and emphasises the contrast between the new spiritual temple and the physical Jewish temple.

On the other hand, Ephesians contrasts Christians with their former way of life as the “other”, adopts an Israel-centred hermeneutical approach that views Gentile Christians as graciously included within the promises to Israel, depicts Jesus’ sacrifice as an act of reconciliation between Gentiles and Jews, regards Jews as retaining their position as “first” in Christ, describes the nullification of the law as the end of hostility between Gentiles and Jews, and emphasises the unity of Jew and Gentile in the new spiritual temple.

Looking at the two epistles from this perspective highlights their differences strikingly. This calls into question the posited trajectory. In this regard, at least, Ephesians is quite consonant with the undisputed Pauline letters (e.g. Rom 1:16, 11:17–24). There is no obvious development from Ephesians to the ethnic “replacement” concepts of the second century and beyond.

Published inEphesians

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

Recent blog posts

  • From temple to meat market in ancient Pompeii
    A very quick journey from the temple of Jupiter in Pompeii to the meat market. This helps us to understand 1 Corinthians 8-10 and probably also Romans 14.
  • TogetherThe formation of gentile Christ-believing identity vis-à-vis Israel in Ephesians and Barnabas
    Article in the journal Biblica et Patristica Thoruniensia. Keywords: Ephesians; Barnabas; Israel; replacement theology; collective memory; ethnic identity
  • Where they burn books…
    A reflection on “Bibliothek", the memorial to the Nazi book-burning of 10 May 1933 in Berlin. Could we ever end up in a similar situation?
  • Reformation sights in Oxford UK
    Some sights in Oxford UK, that are especially significant for Reformation history and the deaths of the Oxford Martyrs Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer.
  • Lift Your EyesLift Your Eyes: Introducing Ephesians
    The central message of Ephesians is that the God of the universe has an amazing plan, which is being put into effect through the preaching of the gospel.
  • Luke 5:1-32 SermonWho is Jesus for?
    Who are the right kind of people according to Jesus? Is Jesus just for one kind of person in our world: Christians versus everyone else? Is Jesus for you?
  • TogetherThe formation of gentile Christ-believing identity vis-à-vis Israel in Ephesians and Barnabas
    Article in the journal Biblica et Patristica Thoruniensia. Keywords: Ephesians; Barnabas; Israel; replacement theology; collective memory; ethnic identity
  • Is God Green? By Lionel WindsorIs God Green?
    A short book about what the Bible says about the environment: why the world is in a mess, where it's headed, and what to do about it in the here and now.
  • Donald RobinsonVale Donald Robinson
    From SydneyAnglicans: One of the towering figures of Anglicanism in the 20th century and former Archbishop of Sydney Bishop Donald Robinson, has died at the age of 95. … The first to pay
  • Interview with Sydney Anglicans about the War on Waste
    I was interviewed by SydneyAnglicans.net about the TV series War on Waste: "Our cause should be the gospel, and that gospel will reshape everything"

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor