One reconstruction of first-century Christianity views Paul as separating from Peter and Jewish Christianity to lead his own independent mission which was eventually to triumph in the creation of a church with a gentile identity. It is claimed, however, that Paul’s gentile mission represented only one strand of the Christ movement which has been universalized to signify the whole. Thus, the earliest diversity in which he operated and which he affirmed has been anachronistically diminished almost to the point of obliteration. There is little recognition of the Jewish form of Christianity or that Paul, by and large, related positively to it as evidenced in Romans 14–15. Here Paul acknowledges Jewish identity as an abiding reality rather than as a temporary and weak form of faith in Christ.
Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity argues that diversity in Christ was fundamental to and recognized by Paul, particularly in his ethical guidance. Paul’s relation to Judaism is best understood not as a reaction to his former faith but as a transformation resulting from his vision of Christ. In this the past is not obliterated but transformed. Thus, continuity is maintained so that the identity of Christianity is neither that of a new religion nor of a Jesus cult. In Christ the past is reconfigured and the diversity of humanity continues within the church, which can celebrate the richness of differing identities under the Lordship of Christ.
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Campbell’s study is an important assessment of the role of identity formation in Paul’s thinking. It advances the discussion of Pauline thought in creative and significant ways.
William Campbell’s study is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Christian identity formation in the first century CE . . . His grasp of the material is commendable, as is the precision with which he writes.
—Bryn Mawr Classical Review
This book should be read by Pauline scholars, especially those working in Romans. Campbell’s creativity and ability to sustain an argument makes this work well worth the time invested and provides a much-needed perspective in the current debate on identity formation in early Christianity.
—Criswell Theological Review