Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter

Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter

Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter

Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter


What is the purpose of Paul's letter to the Romans? Esler provides an illuminating analysis of this epistle, employing social-scientific methods along with epigraphy and archaeology. His conclusion is that the apostle Paul was attempting to facilitate the resolution of intergroup conflict among the Christ-followers of Rome, especially between Judeans and non-Judeans, and to establish a new identity for them by developing a form of group categorization that subsumes the various groups into a new entity.


This book represents the present culmination of my thought on Romans, the text that has been my main research interest since 1998, when I published a book on Galatians using a similar theoretical framework. I wrote most of it in the academic year 2001–2002 during a year’s research leave funded by the Leverhulme Trust in the U.K.; I am most grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for their assistance.

I have given papers on some aspects of the project at the Society of Biblical Literature meetings in Boston (1999) and Denver (2001), at a conference on early Christian spirituality in Melbourne in July 2002, at the meeting of the British New Testament Society in Cambridge in September 2002, at the Universities of Heidelberg and Bonn in October and November 2002, and in the University of Aberdeen in December 2002. On each occasion I profited greatly from discussion during and after my presentation.

I am particularly grateful to Scott Bartchy, Dennis Duling, Sean Freyne, Jack Elliott, Bruce Malina, Jerome Neyrey, Carolyn Osiek, and Ben Witherington for reading and commenting on sections of the text. John Barclay offered valuable advice at an early stage. Barry Matlock helped me clarify my thoughts on two important issues. Anselm Hagedorn has provided specific help on numerous occasions. Bill Campbell, David Horrell, Halvor Moxnes, and Gerald Downing offered very pertinent comments after the lecture in Cambridge.

Conversations I have had at various times over the last few years with my St. Andrews colleagues, especially Ron Piper and Richard Bauckham, have helped me develop my thinking on many aspects of this project. During my all too short visit to Heidelberg, I learned much from Peter Lampe, Robert Jewett, and Gerd Theissen, while Gunnar Garleff, then a doctoral student of Professor Theissen, alerted me to rich strands of German material on identity. in my visit to Bonn I was greatly helped by Ulrich Volp, Axel von Dobbeler, Michael Wolter, and Jochen Flebbe. in Aberdeen I benefited much from discussion with Francis Watson and from the assistance of Stephen Catto. Social psychologists Steve Reicher and Alex Haslam guided me in certain areas of social identity theory. None of them, it hardly needs saying, is responsible for the views expressed in this book.

At Fortress Press, biblical studies editor K. C. Hanson made some fundamentally useful suggestions about the overall shape of this book, while Beth Wright efficiently oversaw the production process.

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