2013 Social World of the New Testament

Session 3 is a joint session with New Testament: Use and Influence seminar.

Session 1

A Variety of Roles for a Variety of Women? – Diversity of Practice in the Pauline Communities

From Junia the apostle to Euodia and Syntyche, his co-workers in the gospel, Paul is not without female friends. These women, it would seem, exercise authority and have characters worth praising; they are acknowledged alongside men and in the same terms as men in the Pauline communities. And yet, women in these same communities are told to be quiet, to ask questions to their husbands at home and are told to submit to their husbands. How does one prophecy or pray in the congregation whilst being silent at the same time? The roles that women enacted in the Greco-Roman world were varied, and not merely  based on gender but on a variety of associations and societal considerations (including differences between Greek and Roman). I shall be looking at evidence from women’s engagement in religion, economic practice and household tradition within the types of communities to which Paul writes. Rather than trying to decode one ‘pauline practice’ for women, the aim of this paper is to discuss how we might understand the diversity of ideas and difference in practice within the Pauline communities regarding women, worship and household structure.


Stephen Barton (Durham University)

Holiness and Marriage Rules in Paul: The Case of Mixed Marriages in 1 Corinthians 7.14

'In social-scientific perspective, one of the ways of establishing and sustaining group identity is by the marking out of boundaries separating and distinguishing insider from outsider or insider from insider. The binary opposites so identified have their mutual identities reinforced by symbols that lend themselves to polarization and separation. In this process of moral and cultural differentiation, what Mary Douglas identifies as ‘natural symbols’ are particularly effective. Marriage rules are a case in point. 

Against the backdrop of traditions in sectarian Judaism which would urge converts to divorce their unbelieving spouses for fear of moral contagion deriving from the likely porneia and idolatry of the unbeliever, Paul’s advice concerning mixed marriages (in 7.12-16) appears counter-intuitive. Nevertheless, addressing in reciprocal fashion both the believing ‘brother’ and the believing ‘sister,’ Paul’s advice is not to divorce: mē aphietō (7.12, 13). This is consistent with his advice to married believers not to divorce, in the previous sentences (7.10-11). Paul’s concern for the oneness of the church as the body of Christ spills over into a concern for the oneness of marriage partners. Why? Because oneness is a sign of holiness. It is a witness against the chaos of the creation that is passing away, and a witness for the oneness of the new creation inaugurated by Christ and realized through the Spirit.'


Session 2

Professor Chris Keith (St Mary's University, Twickenham)

Social Memory Theory and the New Testament: The Past, Present, and Future of a New Methodology

English-speaking New Testament scholarship received a formal introduction to social memory theory in 2005.  Since then, this new methodology has gained many adherents as well as detractors.  Many important key questions in New Testament studies are now being addressed in terms of this so-called “memory approach.”  This essay is an assessment of the state of New Testament scholars’ appropriations of this interdisciplinary approach, addressing the past, present, and future of social memory theory and the New Testament.  In terms of its past, the essay will address the important precursors of current applications of social memory theory in hermeneutics and philosophy outside Biblical Studies, as well as the initial applications within Biblical Studies.  In terms of its present, the essay will address applications of social memory theory to conceptions of the transmission of tradition, historical Jesus studies, and construction of early Christian identity.  In terms of its future, the essay will address important possible applications of social memory theory in early Christian material culture, Patristics, and the negotiation of Christian identity in the second to fourth centuries.


Session 3

James Crossley
David Horrell
Chris Keith

Panel Discussion

A panel discussion of New Testament social-scientific scholarship as social history, with James Crossley, David Horrell, and Chris Keith.