Skip to main content

Ethnicity, Race, and Religion in Early Christian and Jewish Identities

A Critical Examination of Ancient Sources and Modern Scholarship

Religion and ethnicity or race are facets of identity that intersect and overlap in complex and varied ways. They are neither identical nor entirely separable, but clearly bound up in some of the most intractable and prominent conflicts in the contemporary world. The key aim was to explore the intertwining of religious and ethnic/racial facets of identity in Jewish and Christian texts from the period of Christian origins, to expose the ideological and political motivations of scholarly depictions of these in modern New Testament scholarship, and to assess how far this scholarly discipline reflects and reinscribes a 'Western' mode of knowledge that is built on both religious and racial presumptions.

This AHRC Leadership Fellowship ran from 1 October 2015–31 March 2017, and was led by Professor David Horrell and Research Assistant Katherine Hockey.

David G. Horrell, Ethnicity and Inclusion: Religion, Race, and Whiteness in the Construction of Jewish and Christian Identities (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020)

Katherine M. Hockey and David G. Horrell (eds), Ethnicity, Race, Religion: Identities and Ideologies in Early Jewish and Christian Texts and in Modern Biblical Interpretation (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2018)

David G. Horrell, ‘Religion, Ethnicity, and Way of Life: Exploring Categories of Identity’, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 83/1 (2021) 38-55.

David G. Horrell, ‘Judaean Ethnicity and Christ-following Voluntarism? A Reply to Steve Mason and Philip Esler’, New Testament Studies 65 (2019) 1-20.

David G. Horrell, ‘Grace, Race, and the People of God’ in John Anthony Dunne and Eric Lewellen (eds), One God, One People, One Future: Essays in honour of N. T. Wright (London/Minneapolis, MN: SPCK/Fortress, 2018), 191-210.

David G. Horrell, ‘Paul, Inclusion, and Whiteness: Particularising Interpretation’, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 40 (2017) 123-47.

David G. Horrell, ‘Ethnicisation, Marriage, and Early Christian Identity: Critical Reflections on 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Peter 3, and Modern New Testament Scholarship’, New Testament Studies 62 (2016), 439-60.

Three events during the lifetime of the project brought together a range of scholars to address the questions at the heart of the research.

15-16 March 2016: Workshop on ideologies of race and their impact on NT Interpretation

Presenters: Love Sechrest, Kathy Ehrensperger, Halvor Moxnes, James Crossley.

19-20 April 2016: Workshop on ethnicity, race and religion in ancient constructions of identity

Presenters: Denise Kimber Buell, John Barclay, Judith Lieu, Tim Whitmarsh.

8th August 2016: ‘The Bible in the Bush: Translating and Reading the Bible in Africa’.

Including an informal conversation with Musa Dube - 7.30pm at Exeter Cathedral’s Chapter House.  Poster with more information.

9-11 August 2016: International Conference - Ethnicity/Race/Religion: Identities, Ideologies, and Intersections in Biblical Texts and Interpretation

Main speakers: Musa Dube, Malou Ibita, Gregory Cuéllar.

The following academic visitors spent 1-2 weeks at Exeter as part of the project, presenting papers to one or other of the workshops or final conference.


Love Sechrest is Associate Professor of New Testament at Fuller Seminary, California, USA. She is the author of A Former Jew: Paul and the Dialectics of Race (T&T Clark, 2009) and co-chair of the African American Biblical Hermeneutics section in the Society of Biblical Literature.


 Denise Kimber Buell is Dean of Faculty and Cluett Professor of Religion at Williams College, Massachussetts, USA. She is the author of Why This New Race: Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity (Columbia UP 2005) and Making Christians: Clement of Alexandria and the Rhetoric of Legitimacy (Princeton UP 1999).


 Musa Dube is Professor in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Botswana, Botswana. She is the author of Postcolonial Feminist Interpretations of the Bible (Chalice Press, 2000); The HIV and AIDS Bible: Some Selected Essays (University of Scranton Press, 2008) and co-editor of Postcolonial Perspectives on African Biblical Interpretations (Society of Biblical Literature, 2012).