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date: 02 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: celibacy, virginity, Virgin Mary, porneia, Paul, Jesus, Thecla, parable of the ten virgins

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