Early Christians used charges of adultery, incest, and
lascivious behavior to demonize their opponents, police insiders,
resist pagan rulers, and define what it meant to be a Christian.
Christians frequently claimed that they, and they alone were
sexually virtuous, comparing themselves to those marked as
outsiders, especially non-believers and "heretics," who were said
to be controlled by lust and unable to rein in their carnal
desires. True or not, these charges allowed Christians to present
themselves as different from and morally superior to those around
them. Through careful, innovative readings, Jennifer Knust explores
the writings of Paul, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, and other
early Christian authors who argued that Christ alone made
self-mastery possible. Rejection of Christ led to both immoral
sexual behavior and, ultimately, alienation and punishment from
God. Knust considers how Christian writers participated in a long
tradition of rhetorical invective, a rhetoric that was often
employed to defend status and difference. Christians borrowed,
deployed, and reconfigured classical rhetorical techniques, turning
them against their rulers to undercut their moral and political
authority. Knust also examines the use of accusations of
licentiousness in conflicts between rival groups of Christians.
Portraying rival sects as depraved allowed accusers to claim their
own group as representative of "true Christianity." Knust's book
also reveals the ways in which sexual slurs and their use in early
Christian writings reflected cultural and gendered assumptions
about what constituted purity, morality, and truth. In doing so,
Abandoned to Lust highlights the complex
interrelationships between sex, gender, and sexuality within the
classical, biblical, and early-Christian traditions.
Subjects: Religion, History
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