Paul and the Politics of Diaspora

Paul and the Politics of Diaspora

Ronald Charles
Copyright Date: 2014
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    Paul and the Politics of Diaspora
    Book Description:

    It is a commonplace today that Paul was a Jew of the Hellenistic Diaspora, but how does that observation help us to understand his thinking, his self-identification, and his practice? Ronald Charles applies the insights of contemporary diaspora studies to address much-debated questions about Paul’s identity as a diaspora Jew, his complicated relationship with a highly symbolized “homeland,” the motives of his daily work, and the ambivalence of his rhetoric. Charles argues for understanding a number of important aspects of Paul’s identity and work, including the ways his interactions with others were conditioned, by his diaspora space, his self-understanding, and his experience “among the nations.” Diaspora space is a key concept that allows Charles to show how Paul’s travels and the collection project in particular can be read as a transcultural narrative. Understanding the dynamics of diaspora also allows Charles to bring new light to the conflict at Antioch (Galatians 1–2), Paul’s relationships with the Gentiles in Galatia, and the fraught relationship with leaders in Jerusalem.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8975-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-42)

    Scholars have long recognized Paul was socially located within and fundamentally influenced by different, interdependent social worlds: the Jewish milieu of his ethno-religious origin, and also the larger Hellenistic-Roman worlds that had established significant political and cultural hegemony over the Mediterranean region.³ Though Paul has been seen as existing in these worlds, the specific character of his diaspora existence has not been addressed in any systematic manner. To be clear, one may find a few scattered chapters dealing with Paul as a diaspora figure, but there is not one monograph dedicated solely to the subject. Thus, Paul’s relationships as an...

  6. 1 Negotiating Diaspora in Ancient Hellenistic Judaism
    (pp. 43-86)

    This chapter constitutes a very important background of how insights from diaspora studies in relation to postcolonial studies may help one analyze differently some works and diasporic figures in ancient Hellenistic Judaism of the Roman period. The aim of studying Paul not only in the Greco-Roman context but also within the framework of ancient Judaism is to understand some of the different ways several ancient figures in ancient Judaism navigated and negotiated their diasporic sociopolitical situations.

    Paul was a Diaspora Jew and the Scripture of the Diaspora was the Septuagint. Gustav Adolf Deissmann was the first to have described Paul...

  7. 2 Paul, the Diaspora Jew
    (pp. 87-124)

    This chapter contributes to my argument by bringing my conceptual framing of Paul into sharper focus, providing a clear description of him as a diaspora figure. I argue here that Paul’s social positioning in the Diaspora allows him to imagine, think through, and wrestle with issues of spaces, identities (social, economic, gender), cultures, and traditions. Paul’s diasporic identities are constantly in the process of crafting novel ways of being and evolving; his movements across boundaries requires him to engage in ever-expanding improvisations susceptible to creating new and complex tapestries of continuity and rupture, similarity and difference.³

    In order to provide...

  8. 3 Paul and Others in the Diaspora Space
    (pp. 125-162)

    The issue at stake in this chapter is the Antioch conflict reported by Paul in Gal. 2:11-14. What becomes clearer under the generative insight from diaspora studies is that the incident in the very messy, multilayered, and contested diaspora space of Antioch was not simply about gentiles, but more about the mundane matter of two Judean social groups claiming the identity of being Jewish and struggling to control, and having authority over, the contested spheres of home and diaspora, center and periphery, alongside divergent sociopolitical and theological agendas and interpretations. I argue that, far from being at the periphery, the...

  9. 4 Paul among the Nations
    (pp. 163-200)

    In this chapter, I continue to employ the interpretive model I adopted for this study by contextualizing the diasporic identities and performance of Paul among non-Jews, specifically his dealings with the Galatians. In terms of the theoretical aspects articulated in the introduction, one can observe how the diasporic condition crucially formed Paul’s relationships with the nations. As a diasporic figure, Paul’s negotiation of his social, religious, and political realities was organized along ethnic lines; his many relationships as a missionary among the gentiles were embedded in his conception and treatment of those who were ethnically other. In this chapter, I...

  10. 5 Paul’s Travels as Transcultural Narratives: The Collection Project
    (pp. 201-246)

    The focus of this chapter is to revisit another difficult issue in Pauline scholarship, namely, the collection project. It is my contention that the various interpretations of Paul’s collection have not paid sufficient attention to how the concepts ofhomeandhomeland, as well as Paul’s acute sense of geographical space, might inform our understanding of his willingness to risk his life to move around to serve those inhabiting the ancestral “home.” Since diaspora studies is keenly concerned with the dynamics of movements, it is well poised to shed new light on the connections between Paul’s diasporic social locations and...

  11. 6 Conclusions
    (pp. 247-260)

    In a field where so many important studies have been done on Paul, and where scholars really need to scratch their heads in order to find a small niche to work on a research project, it is surprising, at least to me, that the present study is the first full-fledged work that explores the specific character of Paul’s diaspora existence, especially in ways enriched by insights from diaspora studies—in relation to postcolonial studies in terms of upsetting some received conclusions—and gender critical analysis. Paul’s social relationships as an itinerant worker and preacher in the Diaspora with various communities...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 261-264)

    The extent to which I come closer to understanding Paul as a diasporic subject, caught between his grand theological ideals, on one hand, and the nitty-gritty social realities of life as an itinerant worker, preacher and as a contested leader of Christ believers in his diasporic space(s) under the Roman Empire, on the other hand, is difficult for me to assess. But it has been an exercise worth pursuing and it certainly provided me with a lot of intellectual pleasures. The present project has led me to challenge my own Christian upbringing, ready answers, and theological preunderstandings on many Pauline...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-300)
  14. Index
    (pp. 301-305)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 306-306)