Colleen M. Conway
This chapter begins with a brief overview of the theorists who have shaped gender analytical work on the New Testament, especially the application of gender theory in classical studies. It then concentrates on gender analyses on New Testament writings that demonstrate the differing approaches of masculinity studies, queer theory, and intersectional analysis. The primary focus is on gender construction in Paul’s letters and the canonical gospels, with additional discussion of symbolic and metaphorical uses of gender in other writings of the New Testament. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of future directions for gender criticism.
Lester L. Grabbe
This article discusses Jewish history from the rise of Hellenism to 70
J. W. Rogerson
This article discusses the social, political, and economic background of Israel to the end of the Persian period, based upon extra-biblical texts, archaeological discoveries, and anthropological models. Where appropriate, reference will be made to Old Testament material, not in order to vindicate its historical ‘truth’ through the back door, but to suggest ways of looking at it in the light of the historical and social reconstruction. The biblical narrative is silent on all but religious happenings for the first half of both the 8th and 7th centuries, as well as much of the 6th to 4th centuries. In the case of kings such as Omri, the biblical record is virtually silent on the subject of his many military achievements. However, it should not be concluded that the historical information in the biblical records is worthless; and, to be fair to the biblical editors, they refer constantly to the books of the chronicles of the kings of Judah and Israel as sources of further information.
Craig A. Evans
This article reviews studies on the life and teaching of Jesus and the rise of Christianity. The beginning of critical research into the life of Jesus is traditionally traced to the posthumous publication of seven fragments of a lengthy manuscript on ‘reasonable religion’ by Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768). In the 1960s and 1970s life of Jesus research continued, but often the emphasis was placed on Jesus as a social or political figure, rather than as one relevant for faith. Some of the studies that appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, however, seem to represent a quest not governed primarily by theological or political agendas. Jewish scholars are now active participants in the discussion.
Samuel N. C. Lieu
Of all the heresies that threatened the unity of the early church, the followers of Mani occupied an exceptional position, as they were devotees not of Jesus but first and foremost of a prophet from Mesopotamia who claimed to be a latter-day ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’ and possessor of ‘the seal of the prophet’. Mani, the founder of the sect, gave a more gnostic interpretation to the rituals, but his views were held to be dangerous by the elders of the sect, who subsequently expelled him. It was probably in India that Mani encountered Buddhist asceticism and monasticism as well as the doctrine of metempsychosis. On his return to Mesopotamia, he converted the Shah of Mesene to his teaching, and through him Mani was able to have an audience with Shapur I, the second Shahanshah of the new Sasanian dynasty, which had replaced Parthian rule in the Near East.
Richard M. Price
It is a mistake to suppose that the scientific history of the Christian church, worthy of continuing use, started only a few decades ago. Arguably, the best work with which to begin a study of the Roman persecutions is article 16 of Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1776. The earliest literary evidence for the cult of martyrs dates to the mid-second century, and relates to the place of burial of the martyred Polycarp of Smyrna. This article also discusses the witness of the martyrs; saints and Christian living; a religion of Sundays or of saints' days; miracles; archaeology and art; and the cult of the Virgin Mary.
Christianity had ascetic commitments from its very foundation, in the words and deeds both of Jesus and of Paul. When it surfaced into legitimacy in the 310s, Christianity's deep-seated ascetic impulses surfaced as well. The movement called monasticism left an indelible impression upon Christian faith and practice in the medieval West, the Byzantine East, and beyond. Two classic forms of monasticism emerged early: the anchoritic, or solitary life of the hermit; and the cenobitic, or life within a structured community. Monastic life required, from the outset, stark renunciations: of family, property, marriage, and career. Early monks typically joined ascetical disciplines – fasting, vigils, poverty, lifelong celibacy – with a life of manual labour. This article surveys the classic figures and classic texts, since these provide the point of departure for contemporary research, both the deconstruction of received views and the reconstructions opened up by new discoveries and new methods.
Michele R. Salzman
As Christianity ‘triumphed’ over the course of the fourth century, so too did Christians' growing intolerance for pagans, and also Jews and ‘heretical Christians’. In the traditional narrative, Christians ended the fourth century by persecuting pagans and coercing their conversion. The political conflict was constant. The balance of power only shifted after Constantine, as Christians came to persecute pagans in the new Christian empire. This clear, simple model of pagan–Christian political conflict, leading, in the first three centuries, to persecution and martyrdom, and ending, in the fourth century, with Christianity triumphant, has been challenged, if not displaced, by nuanced studies of the interactions of pagans and Christians in Roman society.
Eckhard J. Schnabel
The missionary work of Paul has inspired countless missionaries in the history of the church, but it has been only relatively recently that his missionary activity has become the focus of academic study. This essay considers the primary sources for Paul’s missionary activity, the event of his apostolic commissioning, his description of the missionary task, and a number of significant aspects of Paul’s missionary activity: audiences, geography, chronology, methods, and occupational hazards. It is argued that, while we certainly need to be cautious not to interpret Paul in terms of modern categories and institutions, Paul’s self-understanding as an ‘apostle’ is doubtlessly that of a missionary.
The roles played by the figures of the apostles in Christian Apocrypha may be viewed from a number of different perspectives; these include aspects of theology, sociology, and literature. The focus in this essay is upon mission, as well as considering soteriology and salvation history as related issues. Features examined in this essay include the lifestyle of apostolic figures, miracles attributed to them, animal stories, visionary experiences, rhetoric, and missionary technique. Although they were clearly not considered to be divine, apostolic figures tend to become agents of salvation who recruit followers for themselves, i.e. they become ‘christ’-like figures to others.
Theodore W. Jennings Jr.
While the Bible is often understood to forbid same-sex love, a closer examination reveals a wide variety of forms of same-sex love that are presupposed and even celebrated in these texts. After demonstrating that biblical texts taken to prohibit same-sex love have been misunderstood, the chapter explores multiple forms of same-sex love in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Love between women in the story of Ruth, the expressions of warrior love in the stories of David and the centurion who came to Jesus, the transgendering of Israel in the prophets and the transgendering of Jesus and Saint Paul in the New Testament, even tales of sexual awakening and violence, provide a rich tapestry of same-sex love exhibited in biblical literature giving deeper meaning to the message of divine love which for Christians is exemplified by Jesus.