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Religion, identity and ethnicity: the contribution of Paul the Apostle

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The argument of this article is that although the Christian legacy of Western societies suggests continuity with the values of the apostle Paul, particularly in relation to universalism, the perception needs to be reconsidered. This arises from a perceived conflict between universalism and particularism, such that particular identities, not the least those associated with faith, are regarded as somehow threatening universal values such as equality, human rights and freedom. Recent interpretation of Paul's letters indicates that the universality of his gospel is not to be confused with sameness in its adherents but seeks for both, Jews and gentiles, equality in abiding difference. It emerges thus that Paul recognised particularity while still proclaiming a universal gospel. There is a need therefore to clarify which values emanate directly from the New Testament and those which have developed in its interpretation in subsequent history. This alternative perception of Paul indicates that there is within the Christian tradition a paradigm which accommodates the perceived universal scope of the gospel and the positive recognition and appreciation of particular identities.
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Keywords: anti-Judaism; ethnicity; identity; universalism/particularism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wales, Lampeter, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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