John Barclay to lecture kiwis on ‘unconditioned’ and ‘pure’ gifts

Professor John Barclay will be at the University of Otago (Dunedin) next week to deliver the De Carle Open Lectures on Tuesday 30 March and Wednesday 31 March. All are welcome. Here’s the details:

Tuesday 30 March, 5.10pm. (Archway 1 Lecture Theatre): ‘Paul and the Subversive Power of the Unconditioned Gift

Working from the anthropology of gift, and the practice of gifts in Paul’s first-century context, a critical question emerges concerning who is qualified or worthy to receive the gift; answers on the gift’s proper distribution reveal foundational social norms.  Paul’s mission to non-Jews broke Jewish ethnic and legal norms, and was the social corollary of his conviction that a divine gift (of Christ) had been given and distributed without qualificatory conditions.  This conviction represents a highly unsettling perception of the world, at odds with the normal categories of hierarchy, quality and significance, and capable of creating irregular, socially creative communities. Paul emerges as one of the most subversive thinkers of the ancient world.

Wednesday 31 March, 5.10pm. (Archway 1 Lecture Theatre):‘Paul, Reciprocity and the Modern Myth of the Pure Gift’

The modern ideology of the pure, unilateral and utterly disinterested gift is the product of social and economic developments in Western history, strengthened by Protestant polemics and modern individualism.  In Paul’s context, as in most traditional societies, gifts create obligations, are bi-lateral in exchange, and are a key mechanism for social integration.  Paul’s ideology of gift-reciprocity in a community bound together by gift and need indicates that he is not a modern – and all the better for that!  Special features of Paul’s notion of community-construction will be explored, with suggestions concerning their relevance to contemporary social and economic problematics.


  1. Now there’s a thought. Perhap this study leave thing is like the children’s story of the cat that went from one house to the neighbouring one for food etc, and both thought that it was their cat ;-)


  2. Well, hello John Barclay. Fancy that? Hope you all enjoy the lectures as much as I used to.
    A blessed Holy Week to all,


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