Blessed Among Women?: Mothers and Motherhood in the New Testament

ISBN : 9780190677084

Alicia Myers
248 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2017
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Mothers appear throughout the New Testament. Called "blessed among women" by Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most obvious example. But she is far from the only mother in this canon. She is joined by Elizabeth, a chorus of unnamed mothers seeking healing or promotions for their children, as well as male mothers, including Paul (Gal 4:19-20) and Jesus. Although interpreters of the New Testament have explored these maternal characters and metaphors, many have only recently begun to take seriously their theological aspects. This book builds on previous studies by arguing maternal language is not only theological, but also indebted to ancient gender constructions and their reshaping by early Christians. Especially significant are the physiological, anatomical, and social constructions of female bodies that permeate the ancient world where ancient Christianity was birthed. This book examines ancient generative theories, physiological understandings of breast milk and breastfeeding, and presentations of prominent mothers in literature and art to analyze the use of these themes in the New Testament and several, additional early Christian writings. In a context that aligned perfection with "masculinity," motherhood was the ideal goal for women-a justification for deficient, female existence. Proclaiming a new age ushered in by God's Christ, however, ancient Christians debated the place of women, mothers, and motherhood as a part of their reframing of gender expectations. Rather than a homogenous approval of literal motherhood, ancient Christian writings depict a spectrum of ideals for women disciples even as they retain the assumption of masculine superiority. Identifying themselves as members of God's household, ancient Christians utilized motherhood as a theological category and a contested ideal for women disciples.


Chapter 1: Introduction: Motherhood and Womanhood in New Testament Contexts
Mothers, Anthropology, and Theology in the New Testament
Cults of Motherhood: Matrons Ancient and Contemporary
Maternal Theologies, Maternal Bodies: Method, Argument, and Overview

Chapter 2: Maternal Bodies: Constructing Women in Mediterranean Antiquity
Sexes amongst the Sects: Debates on the Female in Greco-Roman Medicine
[Hu]man or Un[hu]man: Masculinity in the Greco-Roman World
What Makes a Woman? Femininity, the Female Body, and Motherhood
Wo/man Made: Summary

Chapter 3: Conceiving Christ and Community: Mary, Mothers, and God's Household in the Gospels and Acts
Is the Mother a Parent? Ancient Theories of Conception, Generation, and Childbirth
Conceiving Christ and Community: Mary and Other Mothers in God's Household

Chapter 4: Taste that the Lord is Good! Breastmilk and Character Formation in the New Testament
The Sacred Fount: Breastmilk, Paideia, and Character Formation in Mediterranean Antiquity
Learning to Drink: Breastmilk and New Testament Paideia

Chapter 5: Salvation and Childbearing: Does Motherhood Matter?
Molding Princes for Rome: Maternal Power in the Augustan Age
Getting Saved: Multiple Traditions of the Maternal Telos in Early Christian Literature

Chapter 6: Conclusions: The Blessedness of Women
How to Become a Woman: A Core Assumption
Becoming a Woman after Christ: Mothers and Motherhood in the New Testament
The Blessedness of Women: Some Lingering Effects of the Maternal Telos


About the author: 

Alicia D. Myers is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek at Campbell University Divinity School. Her previous publications include Characterizing Jesus: A Rhetorical Analysis on the Fourth Gospel's Use of Scripture in Its Presentation of Jesus (2012) and Abiding Words: The Use of Scripture in the Gospel of John (co-editor, 2015).

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