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Baptism “Into Christ Jesus” and the Question of Universalism in Paul

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image of Horizons in Biblical Theology

This essay adopts Paul’s occasional theological reflections on the concrete social practice of baptism as a vantage point from which to investigate the question of universalism in the apostle’s thought, examining passages from 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, and Colossians. In these texts, Paul variously conceptualizes salvation as incorporation into “the one body of Christ”; “the seed of Abraham”; “the children of God”; or “the new humanity,” whose representative is Christ, the last Adam. Despite the different metaphors, it is clear in each case that it is the singular identity of the man Jesus Christ that is determinative for the collective identity of redeemed humanity; it is precisely—and only—with respect to union with him that diverse human beings become “one.” The essay concludes by considering briefly the implications of Paul’s christologically determined anthropology for the question of universal salvation and for the idea of the enduring election of Israel as God’s peculiar possession.

Affiliations: 1: Princeton Theological Seminary, Email:


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