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date: 25 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores sexual slander in early Christian literature in order to show how it illuminates the Greek concept of porneia, the formation of religious and cultural identities, and the regulation of sexual practices within early Christian communities. Porneia is central to understanding sexual slander in the New Testament because it functioned as an umbrella term for a variety of sexual practices deemed shameful, sinful, or illicit. The essay suggests two related directions for future study. First, studies of sexual slander should take into account the strong ties between slavery, prostitution, sexuality, and social status in the ancient Mediterranean world. Second, more work is needed on the relation of sexual invective and violence. By understanding the early Christian contribution to the twin legacies of sexual polemic and violence, we move closer to a critical understanding of the use of dehumanizing rhetoric and sexualized representation in the justification of violence.

Keywords: porneia, Hellenistic Judaism, early Christianity, sexual slander, gentile impurity, anti-Judaism, false teacher

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