Episode: What can the language we use for “them” tell us about who “we” are? What do a group’s descriptions of outsiders tell us about the values and self-perceptions of the in-group? The New Testament uses a range of designations for outsiders and, at first blush, some of the terms, like “sinner,” “unbeliever,” and “unrighteous,” seem unusually harsh to our ears. In an age where inclusivity rules the day, the New Testament authors seem woefully out of step. Fortunately, Paul Trebilco’s new research sheds some much-needed light on this important topic. In this episode, Professor Paul Trebilco talks with Erin about outsider designations in the New Testament, New Zealand, being in a gang, jazz musicians, and more.
Guest: Paul Trebilco (PhD, University of Durham), is Professor of New Testament at the University of Otago. He has published work on the Jewish and Greco-Roman backgrounds to the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle Paul, early Christians in Ephesus, the relationship of Scripture and Church tradition, and the Self-designations used by the earliest Christians in the New Testament. In 2017, Paul was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
The Book: Paul Trebilco, Outsider Designations and Boundary Construction in the New Testament (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). Publisher’s Description: What terms did early Christians use for outsiders? How did they refer to non-members? In this book-length investigation of these questions, Paul Trebilco explores the outsider designations that the early Christians used in the New Testament. He examines a range of terms, including unbelievers, ‘outsiders’, sinners, Gentiles, Jews, among others. Drawing on insights from social identity theory, sociolinguistics, and the sociology of deviance, he investigates the usage and development of these terms across the New Testament, and also examines how these outsider designations function in boundary construction across several texts. Trebilco’s analysis leads to new conclusions about the identity and character of the early Christian movement, the range of relations between early Christians and outsiders, and the theology of particular New Testament authors.
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