Religions, Vol. 14, Pages 684: The Racial Significance of Paul’s Clothing Metaphor (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10)

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Religions, Vol. 14, Pages 684: The Racial Significance of Paul’s Clothing Metaphor (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10)

Religions doi: 10.3390/rel14060684

Authors:
Rodolfo Galvan Estrada

This essay proposes a new interpretation of the Pauline expression to “clothe” (ἐνδύω) oneself in Christ (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). The phrase has been understood in terms of putting on virtues and godly characteristics. Other understandings of this phrase appear in terms of a new identity (Gal 3:27). There has been relatively limited study, however, on the significance of clothing and how different racial groups were known and characterized by their dress. Clothing was not just something that one “puts on” to protect the body from the elements or analogously understood in terms of adopting virtues. Clothing was a racial signifier, and the putting on or taking off of clothing signaled a racial transformation. The ability to “put on clothes” would have been understood in terms of the malleable nature of racial identity. By drawing on the insights of Herodotus, Aeschylus, Plutarch, and other Greek and Roman writers, this reading proposes a racial interpretation of Paul’s “clothing” phrases in Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:24, and Colossians 3:10. This essay explores the interpretation of these Pauline passages in contemporary scholarship, describes how the changing of clothing also signified a change of racial identity, and lastly, demonstrates how these insights can impact our understanding of the Pauline expression to “clothe oneself in Christ”.

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