Hansen’s “All of You Are One”

Bruce Hansen’s ‘All of You Are One’: The Social Vision of Galatians 3.28, 1 Corinthians 12.13 and Colossians 3.11, Library of New Testament Studies 409, London/New York: T&T Clark, 2010.   

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Hansen studies the Pauline baptismal unity formula in which Paul tells his audience there is no Jew or Greek, free or slave—rather, all are one in Christ. He examines the ways Paul uses this formula, and asks what kind of unity Paul envisions. In terms of methodology, Hansen employs ethnic theory because it deals with both ethics and theology, and because he believes that Paul’s vision of unity is characterized as ethnic solidarity. Also, ethnic theory studies social identity of a community, rather than the individual alone.

Contra Daniel Boyarin and others, Hansen argues that Paul is not trying to erase all particularity among believers; Paul has not imbibed Hellenistic or Gnostic values here. Nor is Paul saying that all believers are ‘the same’ in Christ. Paul’s goal is social unity, and Hansen notes the various ways in which Paul draws upon ethnic ideas to create this sense of unity: referring to common (spiritual) ancestors, uses familial language, and lays out an ethos those in the group should display, as well as speaking of a common homeland. Hansen draws upon David Horrell for support frequently, indicating these ideas and linkages are not unheard of.

As usual in this series, the scholarship is excellent. One particular strength of this book is Hansen’s precision in tying each iteration of the unity formula with the rest of the book that contains it, taking care not to isolate the verses from their literary context or from Paul’s broader vision. A second strength is Hansen’s linking Paul’s vision to the story of Israel. I would have liked to see more on this point, but I am nevertheless thankful that he does not confine his work to the New Testament alone. Using ethnic theory provides a more holistic approach to Paul’s work, and also allows those from outside the biblical studies field—in other words, theologians like myself—to enter in more easily.

There are a few minor flaws. For one, Hansen barely even references any non-Pauline NT authors; surely a few sentences or a footnote could be added to note how this reading of Paul coheres—or fail to cohere—with the theology of other NT authors. Second, for a study employing ethnic theory, it is odd to find that Hansen does not make use of more non-Western authors, who regularly interact with the topic of ethnicity and cultural “imperialism.” For example, J. Ayodeji Adewuya’s Holiness and Community in 2 Cor 6:14–7:1 also discusses Paul’s thought world, his handling of the OT, and Israel’s self-understanding as a community called to live for God. But perhaps these aspects are missing simply for pragmatic reasons, such as book length. The final verdict: 4 stars out of 5. Thank you to T&T Clark for providing the review copy!


About Stephanie Lowery

I studied systematic theology at Wheaton College Graduate School, studying under Daniel Treier and writing my dissertation on ecclesiological models in Africa. I grew up in East Africa, and am happy to have returned at long last!
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