Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2005 Volume 1 :: Article 10
2005 Volume 1, Article 10
Purity and Anger: Gentiles and Idolatry in Antioch

Author: Magnus Zetterholm (Lund University)

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The so-called Antioch incident (Galatians 2:11–14) has puzzled New Testament scholars for a long time. Some scholars have suggested that the problem in Antioch was related to Jewish purity regulations and that Jews during antiquity considered Gentiles to be ritually impure, which complicated social contacts between Jews and Gentiles. The Jewish Jesus-believers in Antioch are usually assumed to have stopped observing the traditional purity regulations as a consequence of their general repudiation of the Torah, and this is generally believed to have been the underlying source of the conflict. However, the most recent research on Jewish purity regulations and Jewish views of Gentiles suggests that Jews in general considered Gentiles to be not ritually but morally impure, mainly because of their involvement in Greco-Roman religion. Furthermore, an increasing number of scholars argue that it is unlikely that Jewish Jesus-believers ceased to observe the Torah. This article suggests a radically new way of picturing the relations between Jewish and non-Jewish adherents to the Jesus movement. It argues that some parts of the Jesus movement began to consider non-Jewish adherents to the Jesus movement to be holy and morally pure in spite of these Gentiles’ sociopolitically motivated involvement in Greco-Roman cultic activities. The fact that Jews within the Jesus-believing community in Antioch began to consider the Jesus-believing Gentiles to be covenant partners affected the degree of commensality, which was the real source of the conflict in Antioch.

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