Three of the Lived Scriptures in Late Antiquity project members have recently contributed to a Finnish volume on gender in the biblical world. Edited by Susanna Asikainen and Elisa Uusimäki, Sukupuoli Raamatun maailmassa is the first Finnish textbook on gender in the Bible. Intended both to students of theology and biblical studies and to a wider audience, the book introduces intersections of biblical studies and gender studies to the Finnish audience and illustrates how gender studies can be applied to analyze the Bible and other early Jewish and early Christian literature. Moreover, Lived Scriptures in Late Antiquity is currently the only Finnish research project which actively addresses the issues of gender in biblical texts, and the three project members contributed articles based on their research interests.
Anna-Liisa Rafael’s article draws from her doctoral thesis on the reception of the story of the mother and her seven sons in 4 Maccabees. In her article, Rafael examines gender, age, and status as potential conditions for virtue. She addresses virtue and the construction of gender in 4 Maccabees from the point of view of gender hierarchy and negotiability of gender. The hierarchical reading emphasizes how gender is related to the specifically male virtue of bravery (andreia). However, if gender is examined from the point of view of negotiability, attention is directed at how the different characters have equal opportunities to practice virtue and piety (eusebeia). In both readings, the philosophical-religious way of life is not restricted only to men, and in the latter case it is not restricted only to male virtues.
Susanna Asikainen’s article is based on her book Jesus and Other Men: Ideal Masculinities in the Synoptic Gospels (published by Brill in 2018). She examines masculinities in the ancient Greco-Roman culture, focusing especially on masculinities in the synoptic Gospels. Greco-Roman world had several competing masculinity ideals: one masculinity ideal emphasized men’s ability to control other people, while the other encouraged men first and foremost to practice self-control. According to Asikainen, the way the synoptic Gospels present Jesus’ behavior, teaching, emotions, and death reflect different masculinity ideals. For example, the first half of the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus’ power and strength, whereas Luke’s passion narrative stresses Jesus’ self-control. At times the hegemonic masculinity ideals can also be challenged, like when Jesus exhorts his followers to adopt the social position of marginal groups such as children and eunuchs.
Vilja Alanko draws from her work on early Christian acta literature to examine sexualized violence in the story of Drusiana in the Acts of John. The starting notion is that depictions of sexualized violence are common in ancient sources and they colour also the narratives of women who embrace asceticism. This violence is a naturalized part of the story world, and therefore its depictions have to be analyzed critically. Alanko asks how violence shapes the constructions of gender and the relationships between men and women. In acta literature, such violence is connected specifically to men’s failed attempts to interfere with the ascetic life style adopted by their wives, whereas male celibacy does not raise similar resistance. Asceticism seems to have rendered alternative life styles possible also for women.
Published by the Finnish Exegetical Society, Sukupuoli Raamatun maailmassa includes articles by fourteen writers focusing on a wide variety of themes. The methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks utilized in the book range from archaeology to textual studies and from lived religion to queer theory. The articles in the book examine biblical literature including canonical texts, Qumran writings, and early Christian and rabbinic literature.