The chapter examines the feminization of elite pagan men in Apocryphal Acts of Andrew. It argues that the ancient author constructs ascetic Christianity as the ideal realization of masculinity, whereby male and female converts control their passions and appetites. Simultaneously, elite pagan men are portrayed as appetitive, passionately emotional, and lacking self-control. Such ethical weakness was commonly thought to be characteristic of women. While attributing such ethical “femininity” to pagan men trades on ancient notions that women are prone to moral weakness, the author’s portrayal also dislodges ethical character from biological sex. Thus, men and women who take up Christianity in its ascetic forms are superior in ethics and gender, compared to those who reject ascetic Christianity.
This article examines the misuse of biblical texts in order to underpin the ideology of an ‘Aryan’ or ‘German Christendom’. Seen against the backdrop of anti-Semitic ideologies, it asks to what extent were biblical texts of the Old and New Testament misused in order to uphold anti-Semitic ideas or within the framework of anti-Semitic propaganda? The focus is on typical, regularly appearing motifs, which can be encountered in anti-Semitically motivated exegesis, especially in the National Socialist milieu. The same exegesis reappears — fatally enough — in the form of stereotypically reiterated statements among authors who can by no means be reproached with an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic mindset. The case becomes even more precarious once said stereotypes catch on in wide circles of the church and society — to break through them after their acceptance involves an immense struggle and strain.
Albert C. Labriola
In line with its Greek etymology, ‘iconography’ refers to all forms of visual images, including any material means of artistic representation. Religious iconography typically refers to visual images of personages, events, and objects in the Bible. As such, religious iconography is a means of investigating how the Bible was received and interpreted in various eras. Included in religious iconography are illustrated Bibles, manuscript illuminations, books of hours, missals, sacramentaries, ectionaries, paintings, sculptures, murals, frescos, mosaics, metalwork, stained glass, and the like. This article surveys religious iconography by emphasizing medieval illuminations from the 10th through the 16th centuries, the seedbed of religious imagery. Religious iconography in the Middle Ages, moreover, profoundly affected art in the Renaissance and afterwards. The article focuses on selected but representative personages, events, and objects from the Old and New Testaments.
Michael J. Gilmour
Few contemporary artists have endured so long, reinvented themselves so frequently and successfully (folk, rock, country, gospel music), and contributed in such diverse media (music, film, poetry, prose, sketches) as Bob Dylan. What is more, there may be no other artist of the 20th and 21st centuries with such an unusual list of significant honours: Grammy Awards; an Academy Award (2000); a Polar Music Prize (2000); a Kennedy Center Honour (1997); honorary doctorates (Princeton University; St Andrew's University); nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature; and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation (2008), among them. In addition to this impressive list, Bob Dylan's music and writing is often the subject of serious academic analysis from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including literary, cultural, religious, and music studies. This article argues that the use of the Bible in the songs and other art forms that comprise the Bob Dylan canon defies simplistic systematization and containment within categories. Dylan's art is idiosyncratic, involves constant blending and bending of his sources, and is often inconsistent; a biblical image or phrase used one way in one time and place may appear quite different in another.
B. Diane Lipsett
Several of the earliest Christian texts about celibacy and virginity introduce a kind of instability with respect to their social application. If marriage, sexual relations, and reproduction are renounced, even by some, unclear consequences emerge for the insistently patriarchal social norms of antiquity and for social relations within communities of believers in Jesus. Exhortations to renunciation also raise questions about sexual practice itself: what is it about sex that makes some abjure it? They also provoke new ways of envisioning and theologizing the body, gender, and sexual difference. In the earliest Christian texts, as in an array of ancient Greco-Roman texts that help contextualize and refine analysis of the Christian writings, “virgin” and “celibate” may be at once or alternately designations of embodied states, terms for social roles and choices, or evocative figures of speech bearing surplus associations.
This chapter provides an overview of the key historical factors that led Japanese Christians to develop their beliefs and practices in the context of early twentieth-century Japan. It places the emergence of Protestant Christianity within the larger context of Japan’s uncomfortable return to diplomatic and economic ties with western powers after over two centuries of self-imposed isolation. It particularly focuses on Christian engagement with Japan’s emergence as a colonial empire. The chapter also discusses whether or not the Bible supported colonial expansion or political dissent. In addition to offering a survey of relevant existing scholarship, it also introduces some of the key figures who engaged in these debates.
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.
Katherine A. Shaner
This essay argues that throughout its long history, feminist biblical interpretation has varied widely in definition, in its interpretive commitments, and in strategies for interpreting texts and contexts. It introduces readers to the major strategies used in feminist biblical interpretation as a way of showcasing the project’s diversity within the Western academy. It contextualizes feminist interpretation within conversations about the patriarchal nature of biblical texts, the intersectional identities of women and representations of women, and the ethics of biblical interpretation. In addition, the essay argues that archaeology (images, sculpture, inscriptions, architecture, and/or objects) needs to be incorporated more fully into feminist biblical interpretation.
This article considers the roles of women in which the New Testament bears witness. In Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married raised the ire of churches. The more interesting question is: why does it matter to so many people that they were or might have been? To attend exclusively to the question of Jesus' marriage is to evade the general charge laid by the novel's characters at the Church's door: that the Church has consistently marginalized and belittled women. Was Jesus (ever) married? There is no unambiguous evidence, either way, to enable us to decide, and not much ambiguous evidence either; the debate can be refined and subtle and, forever unresolved, can leave disputants as confident as ever of the view they have always maintained or presumed. Far more unsettling is the impassioned argument over the Church's treatment of women; and it may become clear in retrospect that Christian responses to the novel have shone the spotlight so brightly and narrowly on Jesus' supposed marriage that the charge of systemic misogyny has been (conveniently) forgotten in the surrounding darkness.
M. Adryael Tong
This chapter analyzes postcolonial biblical criticism as it emerged out of liberation theology, empire studies, and postcolonial theory. It argues that this convergence of disparate theoretical and disciplinary genealogies is what gives postcolonial biblical studies its unique appearance. It then turns to the place of gender and sexuality in postcolonial readings of the New Testament, exploring ways in which such readings both rely on and critique feminist and queer hermeneutics. The chapter highlights some prominent examples and discusses future challenges for scholars engaged in this approach. An extended case study of the problem of anti-Judaism in postcolonial feminist biblical scholarship illustrates key methodological challenges but also new interpretive possibilities.
Timothy Luckritz Marquis
This essay explores how the General Epistles and Hebrews use language of gender, sex, and procreation both to portray and to facilitate the spread of the messages and communities that used and produced them. Insofar as these letters attempt to create a discourse to define a fledgling, international community, the essay draws on Michael Warner’s notion of “publics” and “counterpublics” as groups constituting those individuals who recognize their membership through an intelligible discourse. In the letters, language of fictive procreation depicts itinerant, male preachers and letter-deliverers as fathering new communities (often figured as female), allowing for a novel discourse and community. At the same time, these texts default to using sexualized and gendered tropes common to the wider society to maximize intelligibility to as large as possible an audience. Public-private distinctions map onto a male female spectrum, while deviations from communal teaching become seduction and sexual sin.
The Gospels and Acts do not present a single view of either gender or sexuality; inconsistencies appear both within and among this collection. Yet despite these differences, there is a common baseline regarding sexuality, masculinity, and femininity. Consequently, this chapter begins from that baseline and then moves to the several distinct chords and notes struck by each text. The analysis surveys a broad range of topics including celibacy and singleness, marriage and divorce, lust, masturbation, adultery, incest, prostitution, and gender roles, as well as investigation of specific themes in each of the Gospels and Acts.
David E. Fredrickson
This chapter situates New Testament writings about women, men, and sex within the ancient conflict between philosophers and poets over erotic desire. While philosophers thought desire could be tamed by subordinating it to the system of household management (oikonomia), poets wrote of its unavoidably “limb-loosening” and “melting” effects. Reflecting the philosophers’ construction of gender, the ideal male according to Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles, and 1 Peter is self-controlled, and women are thought to be by nature insatiable in dress, speech, and sex. Echoing poetry’s fear of and attraction to eros with its power to cast its victims into liminal spaces, the Paul of the genuine letters both challenges philosophy’s binary construction of gender and repeats it.
Karen L. King
This essay examines the diverse ways in which representations of Jesus/Christ served as paradigms for authorizing, exemplifying, and promoting early Christian beliefs and practices. It asks how ancients might have read the sex/gender status of Jesus/Christ in such depictions of him as a savvy interlocutor in public debates, an exorcist, an eschatological warrior, the divine Son of God, divine Wisdom, an enthroned imperial ruler, a publicly humiliated and executed criminal, a slave, a homeless man, a mother, a eunuch, the husband of many virgins, a circumcised Jew. Representations of the gender and sexuality of Jesus/Christ appear in resistance to (Roman) violence and injustice; in the cultivation of moral and spiritual selves; in intra-Christian debates regarding sexual ethics; in the promotion of Christian teachings as divinely authoritative; in the polemics of identity formation and boundary setting, especially with regard to Jews; and in theological reflection, especially Christology and ecclesiology.
Karina Martin Hogan
This essay showcases a sample of the diverse approaches to gender and sexuality that can be found in the literature of Second Temple Judaism. Within four of the major genres of Jewish literature during this period, it analyzes one example that makes particularly striking claims with respect to gender and sexuality: The Book of the Watchers, the Wisdom of Ben Sira, Jubilees, and Judith. Although all of the texts surveyed here come out of a culture with strong patriarchal tendencies, they do not all uphold patriarchal assumptions in equal measure or in the same ways. Taken together in their diversity, the texts demonstrate that the Jewish literary environment out of which the New Testament emerged was one in which sexuality was not a taboo subject but often provided an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the human person in relation to the divine.
Much scholarship has addressed the question of how Jewish writings negotiated Hellenistic imperial and cultural power. These negotiations began in the time of Alexander (d. 323), continuing through the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires until the assertion of Roman hegemony over Judaea/Israel in 63
The women of the New Testament were Jewish women, and for historians of the period their mention and status in the New Testament constitutes the missing link between the way women are portrayed in the Hebrew Bible and their changed status in rabbinic literature (Mishnah and Talmud). In this chapter, I examine how they fit into the Jewish concepts of womanhood. I examine various recognized categories that are relevant for gender research such as patriarchy, public and private space, law, politics, and religion. In each case I show how these affected Jewish women, and how the picture that emerges from the New Testament fits these categories.
Joanna Southcott's theology identified her uniquely as ‘the woman clothed with the sun’. This article shows how she performed her role as the interpreter of scripture, unsealing those parts that were obscure (or sealed), and as the petitioner to God to fulfil the promise made in Eden to bring an end to evil. She spread her message through her many books, with a view to gathering others who would join with her, as her children, in her petition for the overthrow of Satan. The major change in the interpretation of the identity of her child in the last year of her life, however, led to a literal rather than figurative actualization of the biblical promise, and when the child was not born as expected, others claimed this role. Her interpretation of the Bible combined what she claimed to be definitive interpretations of obscure biblical texts with the fulfilment of a key passage in the way she lived out an apocalyptic prophecy which she believed had always been directed to her. Like the New Testament writers who believed that Elijah had returned in the person of John the Baptist, so Southcott and her followers saw her physical condition as an acting out of the biblical text in preparation for the fulfilment of scripture and the eschatological consummation.
The English Bible reader understands ‘law’as the legal rulings and moral injunctions found within the Pentateuch, such as the Ten Commandments, the farming regulations of Exodus 22, the laws on sacrifice and purity in Leviticus, and the sermons of Deuteronomy. It is ‘law’ in this sense that is the focus of this article. The article also considers the administration of the law, whether by king, priest, or village elders.
This essay analyzes evidence for leadership roles of women in early Christianity. Gendered cultural constraints were necessarily at play from the beginning and throughout the development and enactment of leadership structures. Yet women found ways to exercise leadership in a milieu of intertwined and pervasively patriarchal and androcentric cultures—Greek, Jewish, and Roman. The essay argues that any notion of linear development in either direction, toward the “liberation” of women or toward their containment and subordination, does not seem warranted. Rather, the dynamics of both “liberation” and “oppression” and everything in between are to be seen at every level and in every historical period. It explores early Christian women’s roles in the household, in the assembly, as apostles, prophets, and teachers, as martyrs, and as widows and deacons.