Sacrifice, Brotherhood, and the Body: Abraham and the Nations in Romans radically reassesses Paul’s use of sacrificial language in light of new developments in our understanding of sacrifice, particularly with regard to its construction of kinship groups. Patrick McMurray argues that Jesus’ death is not presented in sacrificial terms within Romans—rather, Paul’s key invocation of sacrifice comes in 12:1 as applied to the living sacrifice of the gentiles. Here Paul’s pairing of sacrifice with brotherhood builds on his earlier discussion of the Abrahamic lineage and brotherhood with Christ, with this familial membership being ratified and delivered by the living sacrifice of the gentiles themselves. As such, the ethnic and familial function of sacrifice is harnessed by Paul to bring God’s promise to Abraham to fruition, with the gentiles entering the Abrahamic lineage alongside their new brothers the Israelites. Notably, the promise explicitly requires plurality and therefore ethnic variegation within Abraham’s lineage. This new familial membership is profoundly transformative— the consequent influx of the spirit empowering the gentiles to live new lives of love that will fulfill the law (13:8 –10). In Romans, therefore, Christ frees the gentiles and then becomes their brother, facilitating their entry into Abraham’s lineage, thereby bringing the promise to fruition and fulfilling the law.
Patrick McMurray worked as a human rights lawyer before completing his PhD in Biblical Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
Introduction: Rereading Paul’s Use of Sacrificial Language in Romans
Chapter 1: Theorizing Sacrifice
Chapter 2: Misguided Gentile Cult (Romans 1)
Chapter 3: Is Jesus’ Death Sacrificial in Romans? (Romans 3:25; Romans 8:3)
Chapter 4: Ethnic Categories, Family Membership and Kinship in Romans (Romans 1, 3, 4, 8, 9-11, 15)
Chapter 5: Paul’s Eschatological Asceticism and the Construction of Kinship (Romans 6-8)
Chapter 6: Brotherhood in the Spirit and Transformation (Romans 12 and 13)
Chapter 7: The Obedience of the Ethne, Sacrifice and Eschatology (Romans 15)
Conclusion: Sacrifice and Fulfilment
Patrick McMurray's book makes a significant contribution to the field of Pauline studies. Demonstrating a deep understanding of the Letter to the Romans in its historical and theological context, McMurray hammers home his conclusions with confidence and conviction. The arguments of established scholars are interrogated in a respectful but critical way, as the breadth and scope of the book is carefully established. The result is a highly persuasive rereading of Paul's use of sacrificial language.
This is a fine piece of work with significant original insights that will make an important contribution to Pauline scholarship. McMurray demonstrates in an innovative way how the notion of sacrifice is intrinsically connected to the kinship discourse in Romans, with sacrificial language being used to construct kinship groups from the nations who follow Christ. He also makes a strong and very convincing argument that Paul does not understand Jesus’ death in Romans in sacrificial terms. This work deserves a wide readership and I would recommend it to colleagues and advanced students in the field.
Recent decades have seen a flowing of scholarship on sacrifice, kinship, and ethnicity. Patrick McMurray’s book centers on the splendidly productive idea of bringing these together in a new interpretation of Romans. Instead of trying to force sacrifice onto Romans 3, he goes to Paul’s explicit references (esp. 12:1). In a striking rereading, it is Christ’s brothers whose own sacrifice activates Christ’s and the spirit’s transformative work according to the ancient logic of sacrifice and kinship making. This gift exchange with God then elicits the proper ethical reformation.
There is a great deal of heated debate over how, and even whether, Paul speaks of the crucified Jesus as a sacrifice. But there is one thing that Paul incontrovertibly calls a sacrifice, namely: the bodies of gentiles-in-Christ at Rome (Rom 12:1). In this fascinating book, Patrick McMurray explores what kind of Pauline theology of sacrifice would emerge if we moved this more-clear but less-discussed passage to the centre. It turns out to be a very different one, indeed.
Patrick McMurray’s monograph is a welcome contribution to the “Paul within Judaism” strain of Pauline scholarship. Building on earlier work in this tradition, McMurray connects several themes in illuminating ways. One is sacrifice, which McMurray argues is central to Paul’s kinship construction in Romans. Another is “eschatological asceticism,” a phrase that describes Paul’s call to the gentiles to enact specific bodily practices. Undergirding both of these is the idea of proper worship, which McMurray rightfully emphasizes as being at the heart of Paul’s argument. McMurray’s careful work yields fresh interpretations and further situates Paul in the Roman world.
Patrick McMurray’s book is a remarkable and valuable contribution to the current research of Paul and his message in a Jewish context. The author’s main object is to research the manner of Paul’s conceptualization of the relationship of Israel and the nations in Romans, undoubtedly the central theme of the letter and apostle’s theology overall. The added value of this book consists in the analysis of Paul’s message at the centre of which is the familial and genealogical dimension, these being issues that were downplayed and marginalized in previous readings. The presented findings help perceptive readers to better understand the complexities of Paul’s theologizing in Romans in the setting of Second Temple Judaism, and thus are essential for anyone who wishes to learn more about this fascinating apostle, including his impact upon Second Temple Judaism, and indeed upon nascent Christianity.
It is hard to be innovative and creative in the populated field of Pauline studies. But McMurray has achieved precisely this in offering an original and innovative study that takes account of the relevance of ethnicity for understanding Paul’s gospel. The discussion of hilasterion presents excellent arguments for Christ as conciliatory gift in the context of a divine truce, arriving at a fresh understanding of the relationship between the people Israel and the nations through brotherhood with Christ.
McMurray makes a critical contribution to our understanding of Paul’s use of sacrificial terminology and its significance for his understanding of Jews and “the ethne.” McMurray shows how Paul creatively deployed sacrificial concepts to create an ideology focused on the sacrifice, not of Christ, but of the gentiles. The result is a convincing first century Jewish Paul, shorn of supersessionism and freed from the confessional tendency to tie his sacrificial terminology always to anachronistic Christian concepts of atonement. Precisely argued yet lucid, the book will be significant for all interested in Paul’s thoughts on gentiles reuniting with, not replacing, the people of God.