Turley begins by surveying the history of the interface between ritual studies and Pauline scholarship, identifying the scholarly gaps in both method and conclusions and a ritual theory adequate to address such gaps. The focus of the work is then on the two rituals that identified the Pauline communities: ritual washings and ritual meals. Turley explores Galatians and 1 Corinthians, two letters that present the richest spread of evidence pertinent to ritual theory.
By exploring Paul's reference to ritual washings and meals with a heuristic use of ritual theory, Turley concludes that rituals in early Christianity were inherently revelatory, in that they revealed the dawning of the messianic age through the bodies of the ritual participants. This bodily revelation established both a distinctly Christian ethic and a distinctly Christian social space by which such an ethical identity might be identified and sustained.