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Jesus and Mary Reimagined in Early Christian Literature

Jesus and Mary Reimagined in Early Christian Literature

Vernon K. Robbins
Jonathan M. Potter
  • Book Info
    Jesus and Mary Reimagined in Early Christian Literature
    Book Description:

    Explore the diverse character of emerging Christian narratives

    This book presents essays that show how prophetic and priestly emphases in Luke and Acts, and emphasis on Jesus's existence prior to creation in the Gospel of John, are reworked in some second- and third-century Christian literature. Early Christians interpreted and expressed the storylines of Jesus, Mary, and other important figures in ways that created new images and stories. Contributors show the effect of including rhetography, the rhetoric of a text that prompts images and pictures in the mind of a hearer or reader, in interpretation of texts.


    Readings that attempt to account for the development of richly creative and complicated early Christian traditionsEssays bridging New Testament studies and interpretation of Early Christian literatureInterpretations that integrate social and rhetorical interpretations

    eISBN: 978-1-62837-064-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Vernon K. Robbins and Jonathan M. Potter

    A majority of the essays in this volume developed from a PhD seminar titled “Luke, John, and Emerging Gospels” at Emory University during spring 2013. After some intensive sessions on the Gospels of Luke and John, every-one began to work through the infancy gospel of Thomas and the Protevangelium of James (PJ). some of the highly detailed work the students were posting electronically each week on PJ caught the instructor’s eye, and he started to envision the possibility of a collection of essays that might emerge from the seminar. He also noticed a keen interest among some of the students...

  3. Part 1: Luke-Acts

    • Priestly Discourse in Luke and Acts
      (pp. 13-40)
      Vernon K. Robbins

      This essay focuses on priestly discourse in Luke and Acts. This may seem to be a strange focus, since everyone knows that the Gospel of Luke emphasizes distribution of goods to the poor and loving one’s enemies more than priestly matters. it would seem more promising to look at the gospel of Matthew, which has a focus on “perfection” and the establishment of Peter as “the rock” on which the church is built. Luke does, however, begin with a priest named Zechariah making an incense offering in the Jerusalem temple. it is informative that Irenaeus asserts that the Gospel of...

    • Bodies and Politics in Luke 1–2 and Sirach 44–50: Men, Women, and Boys
      (pp. 41-64)
      Vernon K. Robbins

      The special topic of this paper is the manner in which the body is present in language and in interpretation of language, and how “politics” develops in, through, and around language about bodies. The topic emerges in an environment where some literary interpreters are talking about a transition from a “linguistic turn” during the twentieth century to a “corporeal turn” at the beginning of the twenty-first century.¹ A major issue is how humans fill words with meaning. Horst Ruthrof argues that “the body is always already part of language as discourse.”² Gleaning insights from Peirce, Husserl, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Derrida,...

  4. Part 2: Protevangelium of James

    • Who Am I To Be Blessed? Mary as Blessed Mother in the Protevangelium of James
      (pp. 67-102)
      Christopher T. Holmes

      Scholarship has explored the relationship between the Protevangelium of James (PJ) and the canonical gospels, especially the Gospel of Luke.¹ Protevangelium of James demonstrates a close relationship to Luke, in terms of concepts and themes as well as verbal and syntactical agreement. It is relatively apparent that the author of PJ has made use of Luke as a source text and reconfigured it in places.²

      This essay considers one such reconfiguration in PJ: Mary’s visit to Elizabeth as found in PJ 12.2–3 and Luke 1:39–56. After a comparative exegesis of the two passages, I will explore the topos...

    • Temple Virgin and Virgin Temple: Mary’s Body as Sacred Space in the Protevangelium of James
      (pp. 103-128)
      Meredith Elliott Hollman

      It is easy to see why early Christians would have been curious about Mary. Despite her essential role in the story of redemption, the New Testament reveals little about her. in the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, she takes the stage with no introduction and then fades into the background. The audience is left to wonder who Mary was and why she, of all the young women in israel, was chosen to bear the Son of God. The Protevangelium of James (PJ) takes up these tantalizing questions, filling in the gaps of the canonical accounts to give Mary a...

    • From Prophetic Hymns to Death at the Altar: Luke 1–2 and Protevangelium of James
      (pp. 129-178)
      Michael K. W. Suh and Vernon K. Robbins

      The goal of this essay is to present comparative exegetical analysis and interpretation of Luke 1–2 and the Protevangelium of James (PJ).¹ On a first reading, the four well-known prophetic hymns in Luke 1–2—the Magnificat, Benedictus, Gloria, and Nunc Dimittis—are absent from PJ. Careful analysis, however, shows that fragments of these appear in significant places in PJ. an underlying goal of this essay is to present the rhetorical skill of the author of PJ in the context of the rhetorical skill of the author of Luke. it is typical to think of PJ as simply performing...

  5. Part 3: Acts of John

    • Naked Divinity: The Transfiguration Transformed in the Acts of John
      (pp. 181-222)
      Jonathan M. Potter

      The transfiguration was a deeply meaningful story about Jesus that was variously retold in a wide spectrum of early Christian writings. Not only do the three Synoptic Gospels recall this episode, but also 2 Peter, both extant versions of the Apocalypse of Peter,¹ the acts of Peter, and the acts of John (AJohn).² While all of these compositions contain an episode that can be identified as “the transfiguration,” in each case this extraordinary encounter with Jesus is (re) configured in ways that develop the themes of the host compositions and make sense within their conceptual worlds.

      In the case of...

    • Christ as Cosmic Priest: A Sociorhetorical Examination of the Crucifixion Scenes in the Gospel of John and Acts of John
      (pp. 223-250)
      Thomas Jared Farmer

      InDe fuga et inventione, Philo of Alexandria suggests that the high priest is a manifestation of thelogos, the agent of divine wisdom through which god created and sustains the world (Fug.108–112). in the Gospel of John (GJohn) and the acts of John (AJohn), Christ has taken over the roles of redeemer and cosmic priest. The crucifixion scenes in the GJohn and the AJohn each present Christ as a divine mediator, who through his sacrifice on the cross helps to restore a fractured cosmos and bridge the chasm between God and humanity. In both cases, their respective...

  6. Part 4: Response Essays

    • Response: Luke and the Protevangeliumu of James
      (pp. 253-278)
      Ronald F. Hock

      Most volumes of essays, even if they contain several engaging and insightful contributions, nevertheless often lack any overarching coherence. The present collection of seven essays by Vernon Robbins and his students at emory university, however, manages to do both, and to do so very well. The essays not only provide many insights but also gain in coherence by focusing on a small group of texts and by analyzing those texts with the same interpretive methodology. The texts include Luke-Acts and John as well as two apocryphal texts, the Protevangelium of James and the acts of John, and the methodology is...

    • Response: The Gospel of John and the Acts of John
      (pp. 279-290)
      Susan E. Hylen

      The final two essays of this volume continue the analysis of early Christian texts using sociorhetorical criticism. These authors focus on the Acts of John (AJohn), a second-century Greek text that survives in fragments. This work recounts the miracles and teachings attributed to the apostle John, including John’s experiences of Jesus. Jonathan Potter focuses on AJohn 87–105, and in particular on the transfiguration of Jesus in AJohn 90–91.¹ He compares AJohn with Luke’s transfiguration story (Luke 9:28–36), drawing attention to its similarities while also bringing out the distinctive perspective of AJohn. Thomas Jared Farmer’s essay analyzes AJohn...

    • Rhetorical Discourses in Gospel of John and Acts of John: A Response
      (pp. 291-312)
      L. Gregory Bloomquist

      Two of the chapters in this collection concern rhetorical analysis of material found in the acts of John (AJohn) with a view to its relation to the Gospel of John (GJohn). My response seeks to develop further the sociorhetorical interpretation used to analyze these two texts, AJohn and GJohn.

      Sociorhetorical interpretation (SRI) has shown itself to be useful for rhetorical interpretation. it has done so primarily through the use of two sets of strategies for interpretation. The first set of strategies, developed in the last decades of the twentieth century, concerns the analysis oftextures. As I have suggested, building...

  7. Ancient Sources Index
    (pp. 325-347)
  8. Personal Names Index
    (pp. 348-352)