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date: 25 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter situates the rhetoric surrounding procreation, children, and family within the New Testament in its ancient context. Eschewing claims of uniqueness, it describes recent research into ancient understandings of family and children centered in the oikos, or household. It examines this rhetoric found in the Synoptic Gospels, Paul’s letters, and the Pastoral Epistles and the different ways that the communities that produced these texts participate in and reconfigure norms and expectations from surrounding Hellenistic, Roman, and Jewish cultures. It notes the tension, also found in non-Christian ancient cultures, between positive portrayals of family and children (as in the Household Codes) and negative evaluations of the same (in texts expressing an apocalyptic eschatological hope). It concludes by noting that early Christ-believing communities did not radically alter the situation of children in antiquity, even as they did create theological rationales for avoiding practices such as exposure and infanticide.

Keywords: oikos, infanticide, discipline, Synoptic Gospels, Paul, Pastoral Epistles, household codes, healing, eschatology, apocalypticism

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