By Prof. Cavan W. Concannon
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Additional info for "When You Were Gentiles": Specters of Ethnicity in Roman Corinth and Paul's Corinthian Correspondence
In the next chapter we will see how some of the Corinthian elite also found ways to negotiate their identities between and among ethnicities. Through this comparison, we can see Paul as he was to his Corinthian audiences: one among many in Corinth who made use of his body as a site of debate over ethnicity and identity. indb 28 3/14/14 10:20:40 AM Becoming All Things 29 All Things to All People In his testy correspondence with an audience of Corinthians, Paul lifts up his ethnically malleable body as an object deserving of praise: For being free from all things, I enslaved myself to all, so that I might win more.
I am inclined to read this as a question of geography: Gentiles who remain idolators and have not attempted to place themselves under the authority of the law of Israel’s God. This reading has a twofold benefit. indb 30 3/14/14 10:20:40 AM Becoming All Things 31 sociated. From his letters we know that he has worked with Ioudaioi, Gentiles seeking to place themselves under the authority of the Mosaic law (Galatians and Romans), and Gentiles not connected with the law. 8 On the other hand, this reading also makes it easier to imagine how Paul might have “become as” these persons.
4 It is clear that Paul still thinks of himself as an Israelite (2 Cor 12:2; Rom 11:1) and that he regards the Judeans as his own people (Rom 9:3). Paul does not convert to “Christianity” but remains a Ioudaios who sees himself as one prophetically called to the Gentiles. A better way of framing this question would be to think outside categories of religious conversion for how ethnicity itself is often malleable and flexible. That Paul has “become as” a Ioudaios suggests that he has developed a flexibility with regard to his own ethnic identity.
"When You Were Gentiles": Specters of Ethnicity in Roman Corinth and Paul's Corinthian Correspondence by Prof. Cavan W. Concannon