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Body and Character in Luke and Acts
The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity

By Mikeal C. Parsons

Body and Character in Luke and Acts
Paperback, 192 pages $29.95
Published: 15th June 2011
ISBN: 9781602583801
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Biblical Studies, All Religious Studies, New Testament

Early Christianity developed in a world where moral significance was often judged based upon physical appearance alone. Exploring the manifestations of this ancient “science” of physiognomy, Parsons rightly shows how Greco-Roman society, and by consequence the author of Luke and Acts, was steeped in this tradition. Luke, however, employs these principles in his writings in order to subvert the paradigm. Using as examples the bent woman (Luke 13), Zacchaeus (Luke 18), the lame man (Acts 3-4), and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Parsons shows that the Christian community—both early and present-day—is established only in the image of Jesus Christ.

1 Soul and Body React on Each Other: Body and Character in Greek and Roman Literature
2 The Movement of the Body Is a Voice of the Soul: Body and Character in Early Jewish and Christian Literature
3 Your Eye Is the Lamp of Your Body: Luke and the Body-Soul Relationship
4 Ought Not This Daughter of Abraham Be Set Free?: Getting the Story of the Bent Woman Straight
5 Short in Stature, Son of Abraham: The Height of Hospitality in the Story of Zacchaeus
6 His Feet and Ankles Were Made Strong: Signs of Character in the Man Lame from Birth
7 What Is to Prevent Me?: Ambiguity, Acceptance, and the Ethiopian Eunuch
Appendix: Abbreviations from the Progymnasmata

"Not many books really break new ground. This one does. Parsons cast Luke's descriptions of the bent woman, Zacchaeus, the lame man, and the Ethiopian eunuch in a new light and shows how the gospel radically challenges cultural conventions and speaks a word of grace."

—Alan Culpepper, Dean, McAfee School of Theology

"With a stunning command of both ancient sources and contemporary scholarship, Parsons offers a trove of fresh insights on physically challenged figures in Luke and Acts. Readers of this carefully argued work will never look at the bent woman, the diminutive Zacchaeus, the lame man (Acts 3), and the Ethiopian eunuch the same way again. Deformed bodies (by conventional standards) pose no barriers to transformed character through dynamic encounters with the Lukan Jesus and his emissaries. Such experiences mount a poignant resistance to prejudicial and superficial profiling in Luke's day—and ours."

—F. Scott Spencer, Professor of New Testament, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond

"Parsons trains his eagle eye on details missed by most scholars. The results are fascinating and unexpected, throwing fresh light on attitudes to bodily characteristics in Luke's day before bringing us back to our world with a theological jolt."

—Graham Stanton (1940-2009) was Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge

Mikeal C. Parsons is the Kidd L. and Buna Hitchcock Macon Chair in Religion at Baylor University. He is the author of numerous books including most recently Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text and Acts: A Handbook on the Greek Text, and the editor of The Acts of the Apostles: Four Centuries of Baptist Interpretation. Parsons lives in Waco, Texas.

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 192 pages
 9in x 6in

 Baylor University Press

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