This paper studies the birth of the concept of the gentile (goy). We begin by presenting an outline of a genealogy of “goy,” as a word and a concept, from the Bible to rabbinic literature, and then focus on one chapter in this genealogy: the meaning and use of ethnê in Paul's epistles. We claim that Paul takes a crucial part in the emergence of the goy in its new, non-ethnic, privatized and generalized sense. In contrast to the scholarly consensus, according to which Paul's simply borrows his binary distinction between Jews and ethnê from an established Jewish tradition, we show that no such tradition existed, and that Paul in fact plays a key role in forming this new meaning of ethnê /goyim and in consolidating the binary division between the Jews and their others. The paper reconstructs the discursive conditions and form of reasoning underlying Paul's novel rendering of ethnê as generalized-individualized others. This calls for a thorough revision of the recent surge of interest in the teaching of Paul by historians, political-theologians and philosophers who all presuppose the Jew-Gentile division as a given.


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