Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity

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In this book, Colleen Conway looks at the construction of masculinity in New Testament depictions of Jesus. She argues that the New Testament writers necessarily engaged the predominant gender ideology of the Roman Empire, whether consciously or unconsciously. Although the notion of what constituted ideal masculinity in Greek and Roman cultures certainly pre-dated the Roman Empire, the emergence of the Principate concentrated this gender ideology on the figure of the emperor. Indeed, critical to the success of the empire was the portrayal of the emperor as the ideal man and the Roman citizen as one who aspired to be the same. Any person who was held up alongside the emperor as another source of authority would be assessed in terms of the cultural values represented in this Roman image of the "manly man."

Conway examines a variety of ancient ideas of masculinity, as found in philosophical discourses, medical treaties, imperial documents, and ancient inscriptions. Manliness, in these accounts, was achieved through self-control over passions such as lust, anger, and greed. It was also gained through manly displays of courage, the endurance of pain, and death on behalf of others. With these texts as a starting point, Conway shows how the New Testament writings approach Jesus' gender identity. From Paul's early letters to the Gospels and Acts, to the book of Revelation, Christian writings in the Bible confront the potentially emasculating scandal of the cross and affirm Jesus as ideally masculine. Conway's study touches on such themes as the relationship between divinity and masculinity; the role of the body in relation to gender identity; and belief in Jesus as a means of achieving a more ideal form of masculinity. This impeccably researched and highly readable book reveals the importance of ancient gender ideology for the interpretation of Christian texts.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Given the abundance of work on ancient masculinities that has appeared in the neighboring field of classics in recent decades, it is surprising that scholars of early Christianity have had to wait so long for a book-length study of how Jesus' masculinity is constructed and performed in the New Testament. But it has been worth the wait. Colleen Conway's Behold the Man is erudite, original, provocative, and incisive. Not only should it be read by anyone interested in gender in/and the New Testament, it should also be read by anyone interested in New Testament Christology. Picking up an old feminist thread with new conceptual tools, Conway shows how the study of Christology is illuminated by the study of masculinity, occasionally to the point of incineration." —Stephen D. Moore, author of God's Gym: Divine Male Bodies of the Bible and co-editor of New Testament Masculinities

"Colleen Conway shows how New Testament authors appropriated imperial gender rhetoric to outfit Jesus, stripped of claims to masculinity by his humiliating death, in the armor of Roman manhood. Essential reading on the gender dynamics of early Christianity." —Jennifer Glancy, author of Slavery in Early Christianity

"In this theoretically sophisticated, historically sensitive, and engagingly written book, Colleen Conway highlights the complexities in early Christian presentations of the masculinity of Christ. Focusing on the writings of the Apostle Paul, the four canonical Gospels, and the book of Revelation, Conway shows how early Christian authors drew from common Greek and especially Roman notions of masculinity, sometimes by outright appropriation but also by means of ironic imitation or sly inversion. We see the 'imperial' Jesus of some gospel traditions and Paul, the 'ascetic' Jesus of Matthew and Paul, and the 'militant' Jesus of Revelation. The study is wide-ranging, well informed by recent scholarship, and eminently readable." —Dale B. Martin, Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies, Yale University, and author of Sex and the Single Savior

"Colleen Conway's book Behold the Man shows that gender has been a central concern in representations of Jesus from the beginning. ...Conway's study is important because it reveals the complex strategies of masculinization employed by New Testament authors...Conway's discussion of how masculinity was transmitted from culture to individual is an especially welcome addition to scholarship." —Church History

"[Behold the Man] offers a fresh and profound examination of how the manliness of Jesus is deliberately affirmed in the NT, in dialogue with the cultural expectations of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean world of the first century. ...Conway's study integrates the latest and best scholarship in her investigation." —Interpretation

"Behold the Man is an ambitious book that traverses exciting new terrain ... [It] applies new critical tools to long-standing questions concerning Jesus' relationship to his surrounding culture, his relationship to God, and his relationship to humanity itself." —Koinonia

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195325324
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/7/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Colleen Conway is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. She is the author of Men and Women in the Fourth Gospel: Gender and Johannine Characterization.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Jesus and Gender 3

2 How to Be a Man in the Greco-Roman World 15

3 Constructing the Lives of Divine Men: Divus Augustus, Philo's Moses, and Philostratus's Apollonius 35

4 The Unmanned Christ and the Manly Christian in the Pauline Tradition 67

5 The Markan Jesus as Manly Martyr? 89

6 The Matthean Jesus: Mainstream and Marginal Masculinities 107

7 The Lukan Jesus and the Imperial Elite 127

8 "He Must Increase": The Divine Masculinity of the Johannine Jesus 143

9 Ruling the Nations with a Rod of Iron: Masculinity and Violence in the Book of Revelation 159

10 Conclusion: The Multiple Masculinities of Jesus 175

Notes 185

Bibliography 223

Subject Index 243

Index of Citations 247

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