Paul in his Jewish and Graeco-Roman Context


About this event

As a Pharisee who had risen to prominence among his Jewish contemporaries, Paul emerged from the cradle of Second Temple Judaism to become, by God’s calling, Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles. That the apostle was intimately familiar with both worlds, Jewish and Graeco-Roman, is often overlooked by New Testament scholars, who gravitate either to one background or the other in explaining the legacy of the apostle in the western intellectual tradition or in writing commentaries on his epistles.

This Sydney College of Divinity conference (October 26-27, 2023) aims to investigate the legacy of Paul’s thought from both perspectives, allowing that there is a calculated polyvalence in the apostle’s
reasoning. Whether it is the ‘state-of-play’ of the New Perspective debate (Sanders, Dunn, Barclay), situating Paul’s Christ-communities within the context of ancient associations (Kloppenborg, Ascough, Harland), locating Paul among other Hellenistic-Roman “founder” figures (Hanges), or evaluating an apocalyptic re-reading of Paul’s gospel (Campbell), the debate on both sides is as strong as ever.

Papers are invited to discuss the legacy of Paul’s thought from either perspective (or, indeed, both), either in his socio-historical and rhetorical context or arising from the development of the western intellectual tradition. Approaches discussing the apostle’s theological, ecclesial, social or political perspectives are most welcome.

Call for Papers

The Sydney College of Divinity invites scholars, doctoral candidates, and others working in the theological and wider academic community to propose a paper on the apostle Paul in his Jewish and
Graeco-Roman context. Papers are to be submitted by 1 June, 2023.

Acceptance of papers will be communicated by 30 June, 2023. Presentations will be 25 minutes maximum, with 5-10 minutes discussion (30 minutes total). The conference will cater for face-to-face (if possible) AND online attendance, with a mixture of pre-recorded and real-time sessions. One advantage that immediately presents itself is that those who may have been precluded from attending, due to the barriers of distance, may now participate in the proceedings.

Further details, including registration costs, will be available on the SCD website in March 2023

Guidelines for Paper Proposals

1. The title of the proposed presentation, with an abstract of 250 –300 words, should be sent to: Professor Constantine R. Campbell
Research Director
[email protected] by 1 June, 2023.

Submissions should be accompanied by contact details: name, institutional affiliation, postal address, phone number and email address.

2. The title of the paper and its abstract must articulate clearly the line of argument that the paper will take, indicating its contribution to research in the chosen area.

3. Proposals should indicate that the paper will be available for pre-recording (if necessary) at least two to three weeks prior to the conference dates.

4. Further enquiries should be directed to Professor Constantine R. Campbell: [email protected] or 02 9889 1969

Keynote Speakers:

Lynn Cohick

Houston Christian University

Plenary Session 1

Slave Women and Freed Women in Pauline Communities: Manumission and Freedom in Christ

Manumission of slaves was a feature of the institution of slavery in the Roman empire, and scholars often focus on the male slave and freedmen experience. This paper explores the daily experiences and legal context of female slaves and freedwomen, with special attention given to Ephesus, the Letter to the Ephesians, and Xenophon’s Ephesiaca.

Plenary Session 4

‘The Body’ in Paul: Christ’s Body, the Church as Christ’s Body, and Bodily Resurrection

How does Paul understand ethnic and sex differences within the church in the present age, and do these particularities continue in the eschaton? This paper explores the eschatological importance of Jesus’s Jewishness as marked on his body by circumcision, and pursues the question of whether believers’ bodies will retain ethnic and sex distinctions in the resurrection.

David Starling

Morling College

Plenary Session 2

‘In the Same Mind and the Same Purpose’: 1 Corinthians, Unity, and the Graeco-Roman Political Tradition

As has been noted by a line of commentators extending at least as far back as Joseph Lightfoot, Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 1:10 is steeped in the idioms of ancient Greek politics. In recent decades, that observation has been given renewed currency by the work of Margaret Mitchell, whose study (Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation) not only highlights the political background of Paul’s language but also singles out the verse as the πρόθεσις for the entire letter, arguing that the letter as a whole is to be read as “a series of arguments ultimately based in the subject of factionalism and concord” (p. 65). Readings of 1 Corinthians that have been influenced by this tradition of interpretation tend to characterise the politics of the letter as conventional, conservative, and conciliatory (cf. Mitchell, pp. 296–304).

In this paper I subject Mitchell’s influential thesis to critical examination, posing two main questions: (i) whether Mitchell’s claim that 1:10 functions as the as the πρόθεσις for the rest of the letter is borne out by the content and emphases of the chapters that follow; and (ii) whether her reading of 1 Cor 1–4 gives sufficient weight to the particularity of the “mind” and “purpose” in which Paul hopes to see the Corinthians united and the potentially contentious nature of his appeal. On both scores, I argue that there is a need for significant revisions to Mitchell’s thesis, with greater emphasis placed on the content and distinctiveness of the mind Paul urges the Corinthians to adopt.

Plenary Session 3

‘But We Have the Mind of Christ’: 1 Corinthians, Wisdom, and the Interpretation of Israel’s Scriptures

Having argued in my first paper for the particularity and distinctiveness of the “mind” in which Paul wishes the Corinthians to be united—not just “the same mind” but “the mind of Christ”—I go on in this second paper to explore the hermeneutics and implicit epistemology that inform that appeal and shape the politics and ecclesiology of 1 Corinthians. The starting point for the investigation is Paul’s use of Isaiah 40:13 in 1 Corinthians 2:16 and the adversative syntax with which Paul coordinates the rhetorical question of the prophet—“Who has known the mind of the Lord . . .?”—and the response that he offers in verse 16b: “But we have the mind of Christ.” 

In the remainder of the paper I trace the elements of continuity and discontinuity between Scripture, the message of the gospel and the work of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians, seeking to understand what Paul has in mind when he speaks of a community that possesses and is shaped by the mind of Christ. Scripture, for Paul, plays an indispensable and canonical role as a measure and test for the faithfulness of Christian thought, speech and purpose; but Scripture itself is to be read in strikingly new and surprising ways in light of the light of the revealed mystery of the gospel and the outpouring of the Spirit within the community of believers. 

Parallel Speakers:


Scott Goode

DongWoo Oh

Brent Niedergall

Grant Buchanan

Errol Lobo

Liam Carlton-Jones

Sunny Chen

Kai Akagi

Lyn Kidson

Peter Bolt

Chris Thomson

James Harrison

Jonathan Robinson

Brendan Byrne

Michael Rhodes

Lionel Windsor

Adam White

Emmanuel Nathan

Paul Barnett

Download the program here.

SCD-Research-Conference-Program [V2]



    • Full conference registration (face to face or online) – $300

    • Early bird full conference registration (face to face or online) – $275

    • Student full conference registration (face to face or online) – $250

    • One day registration (face to face or online) – $150

Face-to-face conference fees include morning tea and lunch, tickets to the Conference Dinner can be purchased for $60.

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