Original Research

Ethnic reasoning and early Christian identity: A Pauline theological perspective

Philip La Grange Du Toit
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a5800 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.5800 | © 2020 Philip La Grange Du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 August 2019 | Published: 28 January 2020

About the author(s)

Philip La Grange Du Toit, Faculty of Theology, New Testament, North-West University, Mafikeng, South Africa


Within the ethnic-reasoning position, which has gained momentum in recent years, it is argued that in the in-Christ identity there exists no dichotomy between natural, physical relationships and constructed, made-up relationships. Ethnicity is viewed as fluid and changeable and as including the category of religion, which is understood as involving a nation’s culture and their cultic and ritualistic practices. Yet, it is a question whether these notions are compatible with the way in which the in-Christ identity is portrayed, especially by Paul. In terms of the theological way in which ethnicity and even religious practices are portrayed, they rather belong to the domain of humanness or human conduct, and thus to the anthropological domain. In contrast, believers’ relation to Abraham and their new mode of identity in the S/spirit is portrayed as being in contrast with the anthropological domain or the domain of ‘flesh’, which includes things such as ethnicity, human conduct and even religious practices. This tension between divine identity and human or natural identity in the New Testament is accounted for and applied to the ethnic-reasoning position, which also influences the way in which the in-Christ identity finds cultural expression in the lives of present-day readers.


ethnic reasoning; Pauline theology; ethnicity; kinship; religion; Spirit; flesh


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