Paul, Inclusion, and Whiteness: Particularising Interpretation
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
This article takes its point of departure from the effort to reflect critically on how my racial/ethnic identity shapes what I (and the academic tradition of which I am a part) see and ask (and do not see or ask) in our interpretative work. Selections from commentaries are used to illustrate the history of interpretation of Gal. 3.28, and the findings are interrogated in the light of questions and issues deriving from the field of ‘whiteness’ studies. For a start, such studies may provoke us to think about how far Christianness – and unspoken assumptions about its superiority – shapes what is said about this text (e.g., in the frequent contrast drawn between Jewish exclusivism and Christian inclusivism). Furthermore, we may ask about the particular location of this interpretative tradition not only in religious terms, but also in racial ones. The changing contours of interpretation help to show how it is, in part at least, shaped by its contexts of production in the white, Christian West: it may thus be ‘particularized’ in both religious and racial terms. Just as whiteness studies has criticized the tendency of the ‘white’ perspective to remain ‘unlabelled’, unspecific, implicitly ‘human’ and universal, so too we may critique the tendency of this tradition of biblical studies to avoid labelling and recognizing its own specificity. Doing so, moreover, may help us not only to acknowledge our own particularity, but also to recognize why we need the insights of differently located and embodied interpreters to reach towards richer insight. Recognizing and labelling the particularity of our own perspective is thus one step towards equalizing the value of the various (labelled and unlabelled) perspectives in biblical studies.
I would also like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK for their support of the research project on which this essay draws (grant reference AH-M009149/1).
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from SAGE Publications via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 40 (2), pp. 123-147
- Theology and Religion