Fortress Press

Queering the Ethiopian Eunuch: Strategies of Ambiguity in Acts

Queering the Ethiopian Eunuch

Strategies of Ambiguity in Acts

Sean D. Burke (Author)

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Were eunuchs more usually castrated guardians of the harem, as florid Orientalist portraits imagine them, or were they trusted court officials who may never have been castrated? Was the Ethiopian eunuch a Jew or a Gentile, a slave or a free man? Why does Luke call him a “man” while contemporaries referred to eunuchs as “unmanned” beings? As Sean D. Burke treats questions that have received dramatically different answers over the centuries of Christian interpretation, he shows that eunuchs bore particular stereotyped associations regarding gender and sexual status as well as of race, ethnicity, and class. Not only has Luke failed to resolve these ambiguities; he has positioned this destabilized figure at a key place in the narrative—as the gospel has expanded beyond Judea, but before Gentiles are explicitly named—in such a way as to blur a number of social role boundaries. In this sense, Burke argues, Luke intended to “queer” his reader’s expectations and so to present the boundary-transgressing potentiality of a new community.
  • ISBN 9781451465655
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192
  • Emerging Scholars category Bible
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Publication Date August 1, 2013

Endorsements

"Queering the Ethiopian Eunuch broadens and deepens our understanding of a mysterious figure in Acts, who can now be seen as pivotal to the book as a whole. What is more, Burke demonstrates that venerable traditions of historical and philological criticism and newer approaches such as queer theory, far from being intrinsically opposed to each other, can join together to shed new light on the reading of ancient texts."
—L. William Countryman
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific/Graduate Theological Union

"Sean Burke's remarkable analysis of the Ethiopian Eunuch in the book of Acts not only interprets the eunuch's many social ambiguities as a fitting and insightful introduction to the theology of Acts as a whole, but it also rests that interpretation on a comprehensive and surprisingly enlightening study of sexualities and masculinities in Mediterranean antiquity. The historical depth and scope of this volume is amazing, but the originality involved in wedding that historical work with the productive proclivities of postmodernism and specifically queer theory makes Burke's work outstanding in the field. It clearly stands as a model for how theory, history, and biblical scholarship can be integrated to produce creative, new readings of biblical texts."
Mary Ann Tolbert
Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union
 

Reviews

Review in New Testament Abstracts



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