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:

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

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Yes no“Paul within Judaism” and Romans 2:17–29
    My article on Romans 2:17–29 supports one key feature of the "Paul within Judaism" perspective, but undermines another common feature.
  • Photo by Engin Akyurt on UnsplashThe goals of Bible teaching (1 Timothy 1:1–11)
    In gospel ministry and Bible teaching, if you’re not committed to the right goal, or if you have the wrong goal, it’s not just a matter of being ineffective: you’ll be downright dangerous. So what is that goal? What are you seeking to achieve in your gospel ministry and Bible teaching - now and in the future? And how would you know if you’d done it right? This passage in 1 Timothy 1:1–11 speaks to this issue of the goals of ministry and teaching. It challenges us to think about our own aims in teaching, and to see how important it is to get it right. A sermon preached at Moore College Men's Chapel on 14 July, 2021.
  • Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashSlow-burn crazy-making behaviours: recognising and responding
    Do you know someone who seems to have drama and problems constantly appear around them? Whenever you relate to this person, perhaps you find yourself feeling vaguely guilty, or uncomfortable, or put down, or obligated to affirm them? Do you often feel like you’re questioning yourself and your actions because of what they say and do? You don’t feel the same way around other people; it’s just this individual who seems to attract these dramas and give rise to these feelings in you. If that’s the case, the chances are it’s not you who is the problem. It’s quite possible that the person you’re thinking of is exhibiting a pattern of behaviours that can be significantly detrimental to you and to others. This pattern of behaviours is hard to pin down; it doesn’t seem too serious in the short term, and indeed it might appear quite normal to a casual acquaintance. However, over the long term, it can cause serious problems for you and others. That’s especially true in close-knit communities, like families, churches and other Christian ministries.
  • Romans Crash CourseRomans Crash Course (video)
    A 75 minute video course in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans designed for church members and leaders.
  • The Mistranslation "Call Yourself a Jew" in Romans 2:17: A Mythbusting StoryThe mistranslation “call yourself a Jew”: A myth-busting story (Romans 2:17)
    This is a story about a scholarly myth and how I had the chance to bust it. I’m talking here about a small but significant 20th century biblical translation: “call yourself” instead of “are called” in Romans 2:17.
  • Breaking news: Religious Scandal in RomeThe named Jew and the name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29
    I've just had an article published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In it, I provide a detailed defense of my new reading of Romans 2:17–29. This passage is not primarily about Jewish salvation - rather it's primarily about Jewish teaching and God's glory.
  • Photo by Joseph d'Mello on UnsplashPreaching the Pastoral Epistles
    A one-hour audio seminar with principles and ideas for preaching the biblical books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus ("Pastoral Epistles")
  • A Crash Course in Romans: Livestream
    Here's a <90 minute "Crash Course in Romans" I'm running on Monday evening 1 Feb 2021. It's aimed at leaders and any interested members of my church St Augustine's Neutral Bay and Church by the Bridge Kirribilli. Anyone is welcome to watch the livestream.
  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.
  • What does Ephesians say about reconciliation?
    We humans are not very good at living up close with others. This is especially true when we have a history of conflict with those others. Reconciliation isn't easy. No matter how much you might want healing, it’s hardly ever a matter of just everybody getting on and pretending the hurts didn’t happen. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says some very important, fundamental things about peace and reconciliation, and gives many other very practical teachings about how to live together in light of these truths.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor