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Unreliable WitnessesReligion, Gender, and History in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean$
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Ross Shepard Kraemer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199743186

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199743186.001.0001

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Four Short Stories

Four Short Stories

A Bacchic Courtesan, the Reporter from Hell, the Daughters of Rabbis, a Roman Christian Matron

(p.29) 2 Four Short Stories
Unreliable Witnesses

Ross Shepard Kraemer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Four case studies illustrate how ancient narratives of women’s religious practices are less about women’s religions and more about the deployment of gender for various purposes. Livy depicts women as major players in the importation of Bacchic rites to Rome in the second century B.C.E. to feminize and denigrate these foreign rites. A resurrected Christian woman in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas reports back on the torments in hell that await women and men who violate gender norms, thus serving as the guarantor of a divinely authorized gendered ethic. Rabbinic debates about teaching women Torah say much about rabbinic anxieties and fantasies and little if anything about real women studying Torah in antiquity. Justin Martyr’s account of an elite Roman matron whose husband opposed her efforts to live a life of self-disciplined Christian asceticism demonstrates how the Christian life can make everyone, even women—by their nature less rational and ill-suited to self-discipline—the truest exemplars of the righteous philosophical life.

Keywords:   gender, Livy, Bacchic, Justin Martyr, asceticism, rabbinic, Acts of Thomas

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