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discourse and on the socio-cultural levels, which might be very different. Most, if not all, of the Pauline communities were located in cities with an active Jewish presence; it seems probable, however, that the real opposition behind Paul's arguments in Romans and Galatians was not these 'outsiders' but an alternative position within the 'Jesus movement', one with more rigorous requirements for Gentile members, and hence for the character of this new 'messianic community', as defined in relationship to the Jewish polity established in scripture as well as to contemporary practice in Jerusalem, the land, and in the diaspora. There is no consensus regarding the social, temporal or geographical location of the audience of Hebrews, but many have suggested that its fears of apostasy were provoked by the specific pressures to demonstrate (or return to) loyalty to Jerusalem in the face of the first Jewish revolt (Heb 6:4-8); however, Hebrews appeals not to the traditions of the contemporary Jerusalem temple but to those of the tabernacle as described in scripture, which might rather suggest the anxieties of more intellectual circles. Matthew and John are regularly interpreted against the background not of an attractive active 'Jewish' presence but of an antagonistic one that had, perhaps, already taken steps to exclude the nascent Christians; but the contours of such a setting are blurred and too often they have been drawn by appeals to now-discredited reconstructions of the rise and influence after 70 ce of a monolithic and enclosed rabbinic Judaism.15 By contrast, 1 Peter indicates that a group, perhaps exclusively Gentile in origin (1 Pet 1:18; 4:3-4), couldberedefinedin the language ofthe community ofthe Sinai covenant (2:5-10), without any hint of a challenge from other claimants to that identity. Already, then, the possible social contexts and the uses ofthe language of continuity or of separation are diverse, and not always easy to recover.

We cannot trace simple lines of continuity from these first-century writings into subsequent polemic and self-fashioning. There is no linear development in early Christian self-definition, and it itself never achieves a unitary form in relation to the Jewish matrix (or to anything else). Yet those that we have traced do indicate the nodal points from which future understandings of the self, and attempts to define and to deny 'the other', would grow; in time, too, they provided scriptural authority for future polemic.

Relating to a scriptural past

The difficulties of tracing a straightforward progression become evident as we move from the first into the early second century. The apparently unreflective

15 For such discrediting see Schwartz, Imperialism, 103-29; Cohen, 'Rabbi'.

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