Examples of sexual violence and mentions of it appear with a disturbing level of frequency in the literature of early Christianity. This collection of essays explores these occurrences in canonical and noncanonical Christian texts from the first until the fifth centuries CE. Drawing from a range of interpretive lenses, scholars of early Christianity approach these writings with the goal of identifying how their authors employ the language of sexual assault, rape, and violence in order to formulate and support various rhetorical and theological claims. Individual chapters also address how and why these episodes of sexual violence have been ignored or, sometimes, read in a way that would make them less problematic. As a collection, Sex, Violence, and Early Christian Texts examines these texts carefully, ethically, and with an eye toward shining a light on the scourge of sexual violence that is so often manifest in both ancient and contemporary Christian communities.
Christy Cobb is assistant professor of Christianity at University of Denver.
Eric Vanden Eykel is associate professor of religious studies at Ferrum College in Virginia.
Christy Cobb and Eric Vanden Eykel
1. Sexual Slander and Moral Supremacy in the Elenchos
2. Danaids and Dirces in Roman Corinth: Sexualized Violence and Imperial Spectacle in 1 Clement
Chance E. Bonar
3. Euclia’s Story: Coordinated Sexual Assault, Violence, and Willfulness in the Acts of Andrew”
4. “Guardians of Chastity and Companions in Suffering”: The Didactic and Rhetorical Function of Rape Threats in Ambrose of Milan
5. Corinthian Concerns and Textual Assault
6. Sexual Violence, Martyrdom, and Enslavement in Augustine’s Letter 111
7. Virginity, Bestiality, and Virtue in Sozomen’s Account of the Attack of the Consecrated Virgins of Heliopolis
LaToya M. Leary Francis
8. Tertullian of Carthage, Sexualized Violence, and the “Abjection” of the Female Flesh
Travis W. Proctor
9. Paul Trading Barbs: Sexual Invective as Gendered Violence
Joshua M. Reno
10. Ambivalent Wedding Imagery in Matthew’s Jerusalem Narrative
11. Virgin Acts: Blinding, Castration, & the Violence of Male Chastity
12. Assaulting the Virgin: How the Protevangelium of James Hides Sexual Violence
Eric Vanden Eykel
13. Five Husbands: Slut-Shaming the Samaritan Woman
Meredith J. C. Warren
14. Revelation Naturalizes Sexual Violence and Readers Erase It: Unveiling the Son of God’s Rape of Jezebel
About the Contributors
Sex, Violence, and Early Christian Texts promises a welcome set of new approaches to study sexual violence in early Christianity broadly conceived. The editors, Christy Cobb and Eric Vanden Eykel, have carefully curated a collection of essays that spotlight the talents of many new scholars. A particularly valuable contribution this volume makes is the consistent engagement with lesser-known Christian texts to help expand our understanding of this salient topic and its range in the ancient world. It is a timely collection and one that does not shy away from our contemporary concerns and the frequency from which the past continues to haunt our collective moment of account.
Cobb and Vanden Eykel have brought together a collection of innovative, important, and poignant essays inviting their readers to contemplate the topic of sexual violence found in the literature of early and late-ancient Christianities. From biblical to non-canonical texts, the contributors to this volume apply a range of methodological and theoretical tools to an equally wide range of literary genres. What culminates in this excellent and timely book is a compilation of diverse and thought-provoking readings of sexual violence in antiquity, which aid readers in better understanding the persistence of this especially heinous form of violence in our contemporary moment.
Examinations of sexualized and other violence have, in biblical studies, focused predominantly on the Hebrew Bible. Sometimes (albeit often inadvertently or unconsciously) this has contributed to supersessionist and Judeophobic ideologies. This important volume persuasively and compellingly demonstrates that rape culture also has a firm foothold in the New Testament and other early Christian texts. And this, in turn, provides an important impetus not just to recognize but also to call out and resist such harmful ideologies, which, regrettably, resonate on up to the present.
Packed with cutting-edge research, this volume contains considerable coverage of topics and texts on the theme of sexual violence in early Christian literature. This book provides original, critical insights on ancient texts by exploring the sexual violence narrated in the biblical texts themselves and in the use and impact of these texts in the contemporary world. This volume pays testimony to the urgent need not to avert our eyes and to read such texts in transformative ways.
This is a really important book. Each chapter shines a light on the sexual violence that lurks, often unnoticed, in early Christian texts and insists that such violence is recognized and named by contemporary readers. This volume illuminates the ongoing capacity for sacred texts to shape the social imaginaries and lived realities of readers across the centuries. As such, it serves as an important reminder that the tragedy of sexual violence can never be allowed to hide in the shadows of religious writings, no matter how ancient these writings are.