Original Research - Special Collection: Old and New Testament Studies

Reframing Paul’s sibling language in light of Jewish epistolary forms of address

Kyu Seop Kim
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 1 | a2860 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i1.2860 | © 2015 Kyu Seop Kim | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 November 2014 | Published: 17 June 2015

About the author(s)

Kyu Seop Kim, Department of Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom


Recent scholars focus mainly on Paul’s use of ‘brothers (and sisters)’ or ‘brother (and sister)’ in Greco-Roman epistolary conventions and cultural backdrops. However, Jewish dimensions (particularly ethnic dimensions) of Paul’s sibling language still remain unexplored in current scholarship. Furthermore, scholars have not drawn much attention to how Jewish letter writers use sibling terms in their letters. This article offers a new interpretation on Paul’s sibling language in light of its Jewish usage. We should note that Jewish letter writers did not address their Gentile letter recipients as ‘brother(s)’. However, Paul did call his recipients ‘brothers’. It is unlikely that Paul employed sibling language without being aware of its common Jewish usage. The author proposes that Paul’s sibling language is used in the context of an ethnic insider designation (shared ethnicity), and that ascribing the title of brother to believers including Gentiles signals the re-definition of the family of Abraham.


Sibling Language; Paul's Letters; Jewish Epistolary Forms of Address; Status of Gentile Christians


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