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

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Photo by Ruben Bagues on UnsplashLiving light (Ephesians 5:11–14)
    How should Christians relate to the world around us? Should we withdraw, or should we engage? How do we know which action to do when?
  • Photo by Ben Mullins on UnsplashThe test that matters (Ephesians 5:10)
    We live in a world full of tests and measurements. Believers in Christ should also test our lives. But when we do, we need to use the right standard.
  • Photo by Eric Patnoudes on UnsplashChildren of light (Ephesians 5:8–9)
    Believers in Christ have had their very identity changed: once darkness like the world, but now light. The challenge is to believe it, and to live it.
  • Dark tunnel coming out of the Amphitheatre, PompeiiWhat do you want to become? (Ephesians 5:5–7)
    Our dreams drive our daily actions. In 5, 10, 20 years, what will you have become? Living in grace as an imitator of God, or a partner with the world?
  • Photo by Jordan Beltran on UnsplashHoly talk (Ephesians 5:3–4)
    Often we try to fit in with others by the way we speak. But God calls believers to be holy, not filthy, in our speech, even if it sounds strange to others.
  • Holding child's handImitators of God (Ephesians 5:1–2)
    Christians are God’s dearly loved children, raised from death to life and secure with him, now and forever. This is what gives us the power to sacrifice.
  • Preaching sermons and shepherding the flock: What’s the connection?
    Lionel Windsor | 2 Feb 2015 | Priscilla and Aquila Conference | Moore College, Sydney I’m here republishing my 2015 paper, which originally appeared as a PDF and video. See here for more on the
  • Photo: NASA/ISS CrewThe Amazon Fires: A Gospel Response
    Unprecedented numbers of fires are now burning in the Amazon rainforest. How can the gospel of Jesus Christ be brought to bear on the situation?
  • Photo by Xan Griffin on UnsplashThe Victory of the Cross
    According to the Bible, Jesus’ death on the cross is God’s victory and triumph—a victory and triumph Christ shares with all who trust in him... (Audio)
  • Photo by Lina Trochez on UnsplashThe power of forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31–32)
    Believers are to forgive, as God has forgiven us. Forgiveness is not only possible for believers, it’s also powerful for our lives and relationships.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor