Unreliable Witnesses: Religion, Gender, and History in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean

Paperback | June 15, 2012

byRoss Shepard Kraemer

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In her latest book, Ross Shepard Kraemer shows how her mind has changed or remained the same since the publication of her ground-breaking study, Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions Among Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Greco-Roman World (OUP 1992). Unreliable Witnesses scrutinizesmore closely how ancient constructions of gender undergird accounts of women's religious practices in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean. Kraemer analyzes how gender provides the historically obfuscating substructure of diverse texts: Livy's account of the origins of the Roman Bacchanalia; Philo of Alexandria's envisioning of idealized, masculinized women philosophers; rabbinic debates about women studying Torah; Justin Martyr'sdepiction of an elite Roman matron who adopts chaste Christian philosophical discipline; the similar representation of Paul's fictive disciple, Thecla, in the anonymous Acts of (Paul and) Thecla; Severus of Minorca's depiction of Jewish women as the last hold-outs against Christian pressures toconvert, and others.While attentive to arguments that women are largely fictive proxies in elite male contestations over masculinity, authority, and power, Kraemer retains her focus on redescribing and explaining women's religious practices. She argues that - gender-specific or not - religious practices in the ancientMediterranean routinely encoded and affirmed ideas about gender. As in many cultures, women's devotion to the divine was both acceptable and encouraged, only so long as it conformed to pervasive constructions of femininity as passive, embodied, emotive, insufficiently controlled and subordinated tomasculinity. Extending her findings beyond the ancient Mediterranean, Kraemer proposes that, more generally, religion is among the many human social practices that are both gendered and gendering, constructing and inscribing gender on human beings and on human actions and ideas. Her study thus poses significantquestions about the relationships between religions and gender in the modern world.

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In her latest book, Ross Shepard Kraemer shows how her mind has changed or remained the same since the publication of her ground-breaking study, Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions Among Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Greco-Roman World (OUP 1992). Unreliable Witnesses scrutinizesmore closely how ancient constructions of g...

A native of New York City, Ross Shepard Kraemer majored in Religion at Smith College and holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton University. She is the author and editor of numerous books and scholarly articles on women's religions in the Greco-Roman world, particularly Christian and Jewish women. She is Professor of Religi...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:344 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:June 15, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199916519

ISBN - 13:9780199916511

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments1. Introduction2. Four short stories: a Bacchic courtesan, the reporter from Hell, the daughters of rabbis, a Christian matron in Rome3. Spouses of Wisdom: Philo's Therapeutae, reconsidered4. Thecla of Iconium, reconsidered5. Artemisia of Minorca: Gender and the Conversion of the Jews in the 5th century6. Veturia of Rome and Rufina of Smyrna as Counterbalance: Women Officeholders in Ancient Synagogues and Gentile Adopters of Judean Practices7. Rethinking Gender, History and Women's Religions in the Greco-Roman MediterraneanBibliographyAbbreviationsIndex