Why This New Race offers a radical new way of thinking about the origins of Christian identity. Conventional histories have understood Christianity as a religion that from its beginnings sought to transcend ethnic and racial distinctions. Denise Kimber Buell challenges this view by revealing the centrality of ethnicity and race in early definitions of Christianity. Buell's readings of various texts consider the use of "ethnic reasoning" to depict Christianness as more than a set of shared religious practices and beliefs. By asking themselves, "Why this new race?" Christians positioned themselves as members of an ethnos or genos distinct from Jews, Romans, and Greeks.
Buell focuses on texts written before Christianity became legal in 313 C.E., including Greek apologetic treatises, martyr narratives, and works by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian. Philosophers and theologians used ethnic reasoning to define Christians as a distinct people within classical and ancient Near East society and in intra-Christian debates about what constituted Christianness. Many characterized Christianness as both fixed and fluid-it had a real essence (fixed) but could be acquired through conversion (fluid). Buell demonstrates how this dynamic view of race and ethnicity allowed Christians to establish boundaries around the meaning of Christianness and to develop universalizing claims that all should join the Christian people.
In addressing questions of historiography, Buell analyzes why generations of scholars have refused to acknowledge ethnic reasoning in early Christian discourses. Moreover, Buell's arguments about the importance of ethnicity and religion in early Christianity provide insights into the historical legacy of Christian anti-Semitism as well as contemporary issues of race.
From the Publisher
Why This New Race offers a radical new way of thinking about the origins of Christian identity. Conventional histories have understood Christianity as a religion that from its beginnings sought to transcend ethnic and racial distinctions. Denise Kimber Buell challenges this view by revealing the centrality of ethnicity and race in ear...
other books by Denise K. Buell
Hardcover|Apr 4 1999
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10:0231508204
ISBN - 13:9780231508209
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Table of Contents
List of AbbreviationsPrefaceIntroductionEpilogueNotesBibliographyIndex of Ancient SourcesGeneral Index1. ìWorshippers of So-Called Gods, Jews, and Christiansî: Religion in Ethnoracial Discourses2. ìWe Were Before the Foundation of the Worldî: Appeals to the Past in Early Christian Self-Definition3. ìWe, Quarried from the Bowels of Christ, Are the True Genos of Israelî: Christian Claims to Peoplehood4. ìA Genos Saved by Natureî: Ethnic Reasoning as Intra-Christian Polemic5. ìFrom Every Race of Humansî: Ethnic Reasoning, Conversion, and Christian Universalism
An important book.