2 Corinthians: A Social Identity Commentary

Philip Esler’s new book, 2 Corinthians: A Social Identity Commentary, has been published in September 2021 by Bloomsbury T&T Clark in London.

2 Corinthians: A Social Identity Commentary cover

Philip F. Esler provides a comprehensive coverage of the issues in 2 Corinthians from the perspective of social identity, with a focus on Paul’s leadership.

Esler enlists social identity theory-in critical dialogue with existing scholarship-to show how Paul sought to persuade the Corinthian Christ-followers to adopt certain views on four critical issues that had arisen in his relationship with them, with his discourse demonstrably reflecting the ancient Mediterranean culture they shared. Two introductory chapters set out those four issues, summarise the events reflected in 1 and 2 Corinthians, make an initial case for the integrity of the letter against partition theories, explain and defend the use of social identity theory in biblical interpretation, and describe the social identity approach to leadership. In the commentary, Esler explores how Paul re-establishes his leadership role by reconnecting with the Corinthians, urges their participation in the collection for Jerusalem, and defends his position against recently arrived opponents, all the while reinforcing his addressees’ social identity as Christ-followers. Prominent features of the commentary fostered by its social identity perspective include its cumulative case for the letter’s unity, for Paul’s opponents being similar to those in Galatia, and for the interweaving of social and theological dimensions in the text.

Staff and Students Visit Roman Sites in Wales

Staff and Students with friends of the Centre visited Roman sites in Wales in April 2018, focusing on Caerwent and Caerleon. At Caerwent we toured the well-preserved Roman walls, the Romano Celtic temple, and then the forum and the basilica. In Caerleon we explored the well-preserved amphitheatre, the legionary baths and the museum. Richard Cleaves, an expert on the subject and a member of the Centre, acted as our guide for the visit. From the perspective of the Centre, these two sites provide invaluable information about the Roman context for understanding the New Testament texts and connections between Britain and the biblical world (for example, Vespasian, who besieged Jerusalem, at one time commanded the legion based at Caerleon). The day was accompanied by a delicious pub meal.



The Amphitheatre at Caerleon (photo: Pekka Pitkänen)



The legionary barracks at Caerleon (photo: Pekka Pitkänen)

Migration and Colonialism in Late Second Millennium BCE Levant and Its Environs: The Making of a New World

Pekka Pitkänen’s new book, Migration and Colonialism in Late Second Millennium BCE Levant and Its Environs, has been published, by Routledge.

This book examines migration and colonialism in the ancient Near East in the late second millennium BCE, with a focus on the Levant. It explores how the area was shaped by these movements of people, especially in forming the new Iron Age societies.

The book utilises recent sociological studies on group identity, violence, migration, colonialism and settler colonialism in its reconstruction of related social and political changes. Prime examples of migrations that are addressed include those involving the Sea Peoples and Philistines, ancient Israelites and ancient Arameans. The final chapter sets the developments in the ancient Near East in the context of recent world history from a typological perspective and in terms of the legacy of the ancient world for Judaism and Christianity. Altogether, the book contributes towards an enhanced understanding of migration, colonialism and violence in human history.

In addition to academics, this book will be of particular interest to students of this period in the Ancient Near East, as well anyone working on migration and colonialism in the ancient world. The book is also suitable to the general public interested in world history.

Babatha’s Orchard

Philip Esler’s new book, Babatha’s Orchard: The Yadin Papyri and An Ancient Jewish Family Tale Retold is published by Oxford University Press on Thursday 23rd February 2017.

The book applies the new historical methodology of archival ethnography to analyse four Nabatean papyri which all concern an intriguing story of how Babatha’s father, Shim’on, came to purchase a date-palm orchard in Maoza, a Dead Sea town, from a Nabatean woman in 99 CE. One feature of the book is the first identification of the nature  of P. Yadin 4 and its two parties.


The Jews, the Catholic Church and the Gospel of Matthew

Earlier this year I published an article that interpreted Matthew 23 and the way that it presents the Jews, partly in light of the Second Vatican II document, Aetate Sua, which, inter alia,  rightly absolved the Jews of blame in connection with the death of Jesus (‘Intergroup Conflict and Matthew 23: Towards Responsible Historical Interpretation of a Challenging Text’, Biblical Theology Bulletin: Journal of Bible and Culture 2015; 45:38-59.

On 10th December 2015 the Vatican issued a document to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Aetate Sua which restates its message in relation to the Jews very forcefully and makes clear that Catholics do not seek to convert Jews. Jews are ‘our older brothers’ and since the promises of God are everlasting they can find salvation apart from Christ in a way that remains a mystery:“‘THE GIFTS AND THE CALLING  OF GOD ARE IRREVOCABLE’ (Rom 11:29): A REFLECTION ON THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS PERTAINING  TO CATHOLIC–JEWISH RELATIONS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF “NOSTRA AETATE” (NO.4).