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Title: Male circumcision and the female body : a study in identity and gender in the Jewish and Christian communities of ancient Alexandria and Egypt, in light of the 'New Perspective on Paul'
Author: Harrocks, Rebecca Louise Miren
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 7024
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Over the last 35 years, the New Perspective on Paul has directed scholarly focus to the Jewish identity features which act as 'boundary markers' of the Jewish community, such as food laws, Sabbath observance and eighth-day circumcision. In both Second Temple Jewish and Graeco-Roman writing, circumcision is presented as the ultimate marker of (male) Jewish identity, but what does this mean for Jewish women and girls? This is a question that is rarely considered. The focus in this thesis is the historical context. The study brings together some of the earliest evidence of male circumcision from Egypt, in order to ascertain its earliest connotations and implications. As Israelite circumcision was widely believed, at least in antiquity, to have been adopted from the Egyptians, a consequent survey of its presentation in Hebrew scripture, intertestamental literature and other Jewish writings from the Graeco-Roman period follows, with the purpose of establishing how eighth-day Israelite/Jewish circumcision was distinctive. A survey of contemporary non-Jewish perspectives then complements this. The relevance of male circumcision for Jewish women is evident in Hebrew scripture, especially in relation to marriage, procreation and parenthood. Intermarriage is notable as a significant threat to the community boundary that circumcision represents. In order to ascertain how reality reflected scripture, the Jewish communities of Alexandria and Egypt in the Graeco-Roman period provide an ideal context, given the variety of extant sources. Whilst the distinctiveness of this context is acknowledged, the evidence is also suggestive of certain norms throughout Hellenistic Judaism, and is therefore relevant to Pauline studies. The thesis thus brings together Jewish literary evidence as well as inscriptional and papyrological records, to ascertain the realities of marriage, intermarriage and procreation for the Jews of Alexandria and Egypt in the period from 323 BCE to 117 CE, especially for women and girls. It concludes with an exploration of the changes and consequences to Jewish customs suggested in early Christian texts, especially the Pauline writings regarding the female body and a woman's interaction with her community, and highlights nuances to the New Perspective given this broader gender awareness.
Supervisor: Taylor, Joan Elizabeth ; Adams, Edward Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available