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Title: The emergence of gentile leadership and the Jerusalem conference : a socio-psychological approach to the group dynamics of the participation of gentile believers in the early church
Author: Faulkner, Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 2683 8119
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis looks at the Jerusalem Conference and Antioch dispute as described by Paul in Galatians (2.1-14) and Acts (15). A new approach to the topics is used, that of using models derived from socio-psychological research. The Jerusalem Conference and Antioch dispute are concerned with group interactions and dynamics; socio-psychological research studies the behaviour of individuals in social groups and so is well suited to study this aspect of early church history. I argue that the emergence of Gentile leadership at Antioch precipitated the need for the Jerusalem Conference. Whereas ‘sympathizers’ to Judaism, lacking circumcision, were not fully integrated into Jewish communities, Gentile believers at Antioch underwent the initiation rite of baptism. Thus Gentile believers had a greater sense of belonging than did ‘sympathizers’ in Judaism. Also Gentiles entered the Antiochene church in numbers, forming a distinct subgroup within the community. These two factors provided ideal conditions for Gentile leadership to emerge. However, leadership inferred a certain status for Gentile believers. This was opposed by some Jewish believers who insisted on complete Torah observance, including circumcision, for full membership of the early church. The Jerusalem Conference met to resolve the issue. Paul’s claim that nothing was added to his gospel implies that the Jerusalem Conference accepted Gentile membership of the church, including Gentile leadership, without circumcision. This would be unacceptable to the Law-observant Jewish believers. To avoid schism the Conference needed a compromise which appeased the Jewish believers. I suggest that the compromise was the ‘two missions’; Gentile believers were accorded the status of full membership as Gentiles, but provision was made for those Jewish believers, who experienced threats to their Jewish identity by associating with Gentile believers under these conditions, to avoid such Gentile contacts. The test of the ‘two missions’ came at Antioch. Peter, in eating with Gentiles, accepted their status as full members of the church. However, the ‘people from James’ did not accept the Gentile believers on equal terms and insisted on their right to avoid such contact with Gentiles. Peter and the other Antiochene Jews had to choose – offer hospitality to their fellow Jews and withdraw from Gentile contact or maintain table fellowship with Gentiles and isolate their fellow Jews. They opted to extend hospitality to the Jews, but this decision implied a rejection of the Gentiles’ status within the early church.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available