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Open AccessArticle

Paul, Timothy, and the Respectability Politics of Race: A Womanist Inter(con)textual Reading of Acts 16:1–5

Ashland Theological Seminary, Southfield, MI 48075, USA
Religions 2019, 10(3), 190; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030190
Received: 10 February 2019 / Revised: 9 March 2019 / Accepted: 10 March 2019 / Published: 13 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in New Testament Study)
In this paper, I interpret the story of the Apostle Paul’s circumcision of Timothy in the New Testament text The Acts of the Apostles (16:1–5) from a womanist perspective. My approach is intersectional and inter(con)textual. I construct a hermeneutical dialogue between African American women’s experiences of race/racism, respectability politics, and the Acts’ narrative. In conversation with critical race theorists Naomi Zack, Barbara and Karen Fields, and black feminist E. Frances White, I discuss the intersection of race/racism, gender, geopolitical Diasporic space, and the burden and failure of respectability politics. Respectability politics claim that when non-white people adopt and exhibit certain proper behaviors, the reward will be respect, acceptance, and equality in the white dominated society, thereby ameliorating or overcoming race/racism. Race and racism are modern constructions that I employ heuristically and metaphorically as analytical categories for discussing the rhetorical distinctions made between Jews and Greeks/Gentiles, Timothy’s bi-racial status, and to facilitate comparative dialogue between Acts and African American women’s experiences with race and racism. I argue that Paul engages in respectability politics by compelling Timothy to be circumcised because of his Greek father and despite the Jerusalem Council’s decision that Gentile believers will not be required to be circumcised.
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Keywords: New Testament; womanist; Acts; Paul; Timothy; race; respectability; interpretation; intercontextuality; racism; Diaspora politics New Testament; womanist; Acts; Paul; Timothy; race; respectability; interpretation; intercontextuality; racism; Diaspora politics
MDPI and ACS Style

Smith, M.J. Paul, Timothy, and the Respectability Politics of Race: A Womanist Inter(con)textual Reading of Acts 16:1–5. Religions 2019, 10, 190.

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