The First Apocalypse of James: Martyrdom and Sexual Difference
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CitationHaxby, Mikael C. 2013. The First Apocalypse of James: Martyrdom and Sexual Difference. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractMy dissertation presents a new reading of a rarely-studied early Christian text, the First Apocalypse of James, and seeks to intervene in major scholarly debates concerning martyrdom, scriptural interpretation and sexual difference. I begin by showing how the text exhorts its readers and hearers toward martyrdom by narrating the progress of James, the brother of Jesus, in overcoming his fear and preparing for martyrdom. Here Jesus' revelation to James sets out a ritual of ascent that constitutes the martyr's confession of faith—a previously unattested form to articulate the meaning of dying for God. I use intertextual methods to identify an interpretation of the Gospel of John in which Jesus' statements of identity in John are read as descriptions of the true nature of the perfected martyr. This analysis locates scripturally-based debates about the nature of Christ within a context in which practices of preparation for martyrdom are being devised. 1ApocJas also reads Isaiah to identify female heroes whose example it exhorts James to follow. I use this reading of 1ApocJas to challenge the notion that a strict gendered hierarchy was reinscribed equally by Christian martyrdom texts. Through comparison to select examples of Valentinian theology, I establish that 1ApocJas envisions a productive tension in the divine realms between lower and higher female divine figures. By associating female martyrs with the higher female divinities and contrasting them to the lower female divinities, 1ApocJas valorizes martyrs as female and thus complicates any straightforward masculinization of the martyrs. My reading of 1ApocJas broadens our understanding of how Christians prepared themselves for martyrdom by interpreting scripture in innovative ways, devising new ritual practices, and developing distinctive articulations of human and divine sexual difference.
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