Over the course of several years, Paul established numerous Christian communities in cities throughout the Roman Empire. Each of these small groups was founded on the premise of inclusivity, mutual love, and shared concern for other members. But what happened when these core tenets were challenged or undermined? In Paul, Community, and Discipline: Establishing Boundaries and Dealing with the Disorderly, Adam G. White begins by examining the practice of exile and expulsion in the cities of the Graeco-Roman world as well as in the specific social institutions of the family, school, association, and synagogue. He then examines the Pauline letters in light of this context, arguing that what we see in Paul's communities is both a continuation of as well as a divergence from contemporary practices.
Adam G. White is a senior lecturer at Alphacrucis College in Sydney, Australia.
Part 1: Expulsion in the Graeco-Roman World
1. History of Exile: The Development of Athenian Ostracism
2. History of Exile: Exile in the Roman Republic
3. History of Exile: Exile under the Emperors
4. The Psychology of Exile: Citizenship, Belonging, and the Grief of Exile
5. Exile Writ Small: Community and Expulsion in Smaller Groups
6. From Torah to the Talmud: The Development of Jewish Exile
Summary of Part 1
Part 2: Discipline and Expulsion in Paul’s Communities
7. Defining the Boundaries: The General Shape of New Testament Communities
8. Principles of Pauline Discipline: The Need for Warnings
9. Principles of Pauline Discipline: Internal Arbitration
10. Principles of Pauline Discipline: The Requirement for Witnesses
11. Dealing with the Disorderly: Discipline in the Thessalonian Correspondence
12. How to Spot Black Sheep: Dealing with False Teachers in Paul’s Communities
13. Establishing Traditions: Discipline and Expulsion in the Pastoral Epistles
Paul, Community, and Discipline offers a fresh and important study of exclusionary practices in early Christ groups. Göran Forkman’s The Limits of the Religious Community (1972) had studied the penal code at Qumran and its importance for understanding the gospel of Matthew. But White greatly expands our understanding of exclusionary practices in Paul by setting them in the much wider context of the exclusionary practices in Athens and Republican and Imperial Rome as well as sectarian practices at Qumran. Paul, Community, and Discipline is a sophisticated and nuanced treatment of discipline within Pauline groups, based on a deep knowledge of primary source material and current anthropological theory.
With impressive breadth, Adam White here explores a range of parallels from the ancient world to illumine an understudied topic: the practice of discipline and the purpose of expulsion in the Pauline letters. The approach is fresh, and the results significantly deepen our understanding of the social dynamics of early Christian communities.
It is a conspicuous gap in the scholarship of the last fifty years that no-one has done research on the internal protection of Pauline congregations by the exclusion of wrongdoers. Dr. White has a commanding knowledge of this field and shows his expertise in Graeco-Roman, Jewish, and early Christian history on every page. His way of writing is superb: very vivid and clear, with good illustrating examples, while never losing the thread. Thus, Dr. White’s new book is a treat which everyone interested in the social aspect of Pauline ecclesiology should read!
Dr Adam White’s book Paul, Community, and Discipline is a long overdue study on church discipline in the New Testament era. Not only does it fill a gap in the academic study of discipline and expulsion in early church communities, it also fills a lacuna in practical knowledge for the contemporary local church as it seeks to reflect the standards described in the New Testament. Particularly helpful is the insight that churches expelled members for behaviours that both endangered the continued functioning of the Christian community and brought them into disrepute among their pagan neighbours. In an era, particularly in Australia, where church disciplinary practices have been brought under the public spotlight, this book gives much needed insight into how the early church dealt with significant and damaging problems.
Recent scholarship demonstrates an increasing recognition of the particularities of the Pauline assemblies; in our context as well as Paul’s, what is sometimes obscured by a focus on differences are the points of similarity. Adam White’s work on boundaries and discipline in Paul’s letters admirably manages this balance while subtly probing such realities as the social death of exile and the implications of being “handed over to Satan.” Today’s students (and professors!) are sensitive to such questions, and I am grateful for Adam’s tutelage as I endeavor to tutor my own students on Paul and his assemblies.
This is an important and timely study that uncovers Paul’s practices of communal discipline as found in the Pauline tradition. Adam White’s social history and social theory approach offers a sophisticated framework for understanding historical evidence that is at the same time theoretically aware. He offers new pathways to uncover answers to old questions in regard to the parallels for the Pauline Christ groups and the types of contextualized solutions he and those who followed him offered. This book serves as an informative entry point into to social setting of the earliest Christ-movement while making the foreign understandable. Highly recommended!
Adam White’s Paul, Community, and Discipline is a breakthrough contribution to an area of Pauline studies that has suffered neglect for more than a generation. White’s striking new insights into the ways in which Paul set boundaries for the Christ groups and dealt with the conduct of transgressive members result from the application of a thorough-going comparative method which immerses readers in the practices of ostracism, exile, and excommunication in the Greek, Roman, and Jewish worlds. Lucidly written and persuasively argued, White’s work places our knowledge of discipline in Pauline communities on a higher niveau.
The disciplinary practices of Paul’s churches, including expulsion from the community, is a subject of critical importance to understanding Paul’s ecclesiology and ethics. Adam White’s Paul, Community, and Discipline, is the first comprehensive study of the Graeco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds to the topic and takes full account of all of the relevant texts in Paul’s letters. With appropriate use of Social Identity Theory, and due attention to theme of exile in the ancient world, this book sheds new light and is a major contribution to Pauline Studies.
Adam White offers a compelling account of the way in which Pauline communities enacted discipline within and expulsion from their membership. His insightful historical and social analysis provides close inspection of key Pauline texts in light of their Jewish and Graeco-Roman contexts. White’s analysis demonstrates clearly how Pauline communities both mirrored and differed from their ancient counterparts with regard to the structure and maintenance of their communal boundaries. This volume is a welcome contribution to the study of the shape and practice of the earliest Christian communities.
It is a matter of celebration when a new monograph not only pursues a little traversed trail in New Testament scholarship but does so in a manner that will define the field for years to come. Adam White has achieved precisely this in his major contribution to our understanding of discipline and expulsion in the Pauline communities. White authoritatively expounds the history of exile in the Athenian, Roman, and Jewish world, including its psychology of exile and group dynamics. White’s masterful exegesis and expert sociological analysis of the Corinthian, Thessalonian and Pastoral epistles places New Testament scholars in his debt.
Adam White’s detailed research helps us understand how discipline was understood and how it was expected to function according to the Pauline literature. White helpfully provides the relevant contextual background regarding the use of ostracism, exile, and expulsion in the wider historical context and in various other communities that wrestled with issues of discipline and the regulation of group membership and identity. This study fills a gap in the research and will be the necessary starting point for all future discussions of the topic.
In a world where dysfunction dominates relationships, the need has never been greater for thoughtful analysis. Adam White’s incisive focus on ancient historical and early Christian concerns about community preservation brings a much-needed reminder of the intricacies involved in maintaining the integrity and cohesion of social groups. Paul emerges as indebted to his Jewish inheritance but also as critically interactive with the wider Mediterranean environment where expulsion governed larger and smaller entities. There has been no work like it in decades; it carves new insights, opens new perspectives and invites a new consideration of the dynamics of Paul’s pastoral commitment.
How did Paul’s communities discipline members? To what extent was discipline in Pauline communities similar to, or different from, discipline in other contemporary groups? Against the background of in-depth discussions of expulsion and exile in the Graeco-Roman world and within Jewish communities, and expulsion from groups such as the family, associations and synagogues, White answers these important and illuminating questions. In his consideration of Pauline communities he discusses the role of warnings, internal arbitration, witnesses and of expulsion in order to protect the community and, at times, to restore the offender. This well-researched book sheds much new light, not only on its theme of discipline in Pauline texts, but also on the dynamics of the early Christian communities and their identity formation. I highly commend this insightful and learned book to all who are interested in New Testament communities and in understanding them within their wider world.
Recent scholarly discussions of discipline in the NT are relatively rare, focused mostly on individual passages, and set almost exclusively within the Jewish disciplinary tradition. Adam White’s book represents a most welcome change in research. He focuses on discipline in the Pauline communities and sets their practice within both its Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts. Highly recommended.