also based in a theology of election, on the self-understanding that they are the nation - both people and land - God has chosen from among all the others (Deut 14:2; cf. Acts 15:14). Circumcision is a cultic marker of difference, rooted in God's covenant with the ancestor Abraham (Gen 17).4 The covenant also prescribed a broad terrain of laws or norms for everyday life, such that 'living like aJew' (ioudaikos zen) stands apart from 'living like a Gentile' (ethnikos zen) (Gal 2:14). The contrast between 'Jew' and 'Greek' can also denote the linguistic divide between the Hebrew and Greek tongues,5 with 'Greek' also serving as a metonymy for the entire cultural and cultic difference between those who worship 'the God of Israel' and those whose world-view is circumscribed by the polytheistic pantheon of Greek religion and literature. From a Jewish monotheistic point of view, such 'idolatry' was traditionally associated with immorality,6 thus setting up a rhetorically powerful moral boundary between the two groups.7
While these dichotomies seem firmly defined and absolutely opposed, life on the ground was messier. Not all 'Jews' were 'Judaeans,' but many lived in the diaspora, among non-Jews, and spoke Greek as their native language.8 While circumcision would seem to be a non-negotiable distinction, it was not restricted to those born to Jewish parents and circumcised on the eighth day (adult proselytism was practised), nor was it irreversible, and, even more importantly, its significance in relation to these other identifying markers was a matter of dispute.9 Further complicating that picture were individuals and whole groups who shared some, but not all, of these features, such as Samaritans (who worshipped the same one God, called themselves 'Hebrews', some in Palestine, but others in synagogues in places like Thessalonica), and 'God-fearers' (who were probably not a clearly defined group, but one term for a boundary status of Gentiles who participated in Jewish life in certain ways but not others, such as circumcision). Moreover, what it meant to 'live like a Jew' or live 'under the Law'10 was the essential religious question - not just of
4 Abrahamic ancestry implies also 'race' through his 'seed'. The categories of race and ethnicity were as much matters of construction and debate in antiquity as today (see Buell and Hodge, 'Politics of interpretation').
5 Bilingualism in 'Hellenistic Judaism' obviously confounds this map. In Acts 6:1 Luke refers to 'Hellenists' and 'Hebrews' in the Jerusalem church. Estimates of the historicity of this account of the origins of the Gentile mission vary greatly (contrast e.g. Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul, 1-29, and Hill, Hellenists and Hebrews).
6 Num 25 (1 Cor 10:1-11); Hos 3-4; Wis 12-14; Rom 1:18-3.
7 On the Gentiles as 'sinners' see e.g. Isa 14:5; 1 Macc 1:34; Gal 2:15; cf. 1 Cor 6:9-11.
9 Fuller discussion in Hall, 'Circumcision', and Cohen, Beginnings.
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