Saturday, June 04, 2016

Review of Neutel, A Cosmopolitan Ideal

Karin B. Neutel, A Cosmopolitan Ideal: Paul’s Declaration ‘Neither Jew Nor Greek, Neither Slave Nor Free, Nor Male and Female’ in the Context of First Century Thought. Library of New Testament Studies, 513. London; New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015. Pp. xi, 266. ISBN 9780567656834. $112.00.

Reviewed by Timothy A. Brookins, Houston Baptist University (


Writing to the church in Galatia in the middle of the first century CE, the apostle Paul declared, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28, NRSV). This formula, which for Paul succinctly summed up the social consequences of Jesus Christ’s resurrection and, therewith, the inauguration of the eschatological age, has played a key role in modern reconstructions of Paul’s views on race, class, and gender. Karin Neutel’s A Cosmopolitan Ideal (a slightly revised version of her doctoral dissertation) undertakes a fresh examination of this formula. Recent treatments of this text, says Neutel, have decontextualized it from the first century and read it instead as speaking directly to modern concerns about inclusion (James Dunn, John Kloppenborg, John Elliot) or equality (Elizabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza, Hans Dieter Betz, John Dominic Crossan). Thus, the purpose of this book is to resituate Gal 3:28 within the wider conversations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, that were taking place in Paul’s own day, conversations, Neutel says, that pertained to the nature of the “ideal community.”