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James, Peter, and the Gentiles

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Chapter Summary

The starting-point for this chapter is an examination of what it meant, in the late Second Temple period, to consider Gentiles profane or impure. The language of impurity is used in the Bible and in much Second Temple Jewish literature both for what is usually called ritual or cultic impurity and for what is more commonly called sin. In general, the polluting offences of the Canaanites, according to Leviticus, can be summed up as idolatry. Since the real barrier to Jewish and Gentile table-fellowship was Gentile impurity, it seems very unlikely, even if logically possible, that someone should hold that Gentile Christians are pure but remain profane and therefore to be kept separate from Jewish Christians. Peter argued that the coming of messianic salvation changed that. That Gentiles could be Christians without becoming Jews was James' achievement as much as it was Peter's and Paul's.

Keywords: Gentile Christians; James; Jewish Christians; Peter

10.1163/9789047414742_005
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