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Reading Renunciation


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi Abbreviation List xv CHAPTER ONE Introduction 3 CHAPTER TWO Asceticism in Late Ancient Christianity 14 Reading for Asceticism CHAPTER THREE Reading in the Early Christian World 45 CHAPTER FOUR The Profits and Perils of Figurative Exegesis 70 CHAPTER FIVE Exegetical and Rhetorical Strategies for Ascetic Reading 104 CHAPTER SIX Three Models of Reading Renunciation 153 Rejection and Recuperation: The Old Dispensation and the New CHAPTER SEVEN From Reproduction to Defamilialization 177 CHAPTER EIGHT From Ritual to Askesis 204 CHAPTER NINE The Exegesis of Divorce 233 Reading Paul CHAPTER TEN I Corinthians 7 in Early Christian Exegesis 259 CHAPTER ELEVEN From Paul to the Pastorals 330 Afterword 371 Bibliograpky 375 Select Index of Biblical Passages 401 Select General Index 409

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Elizabeth Clark reveals in devastating detail how the ascetic project came to prevail in the culture wars of early Christianity. By an inventive and selective interpretation of the Scriptural texts, later writers made the texts suit their purpose. Through arguments that are dense, supple and exciting, Clark shows us the church fathers ruthlessly exploitating their own foundation texts. This is a magisterial work by a major scholar. -- Averil Cameron, Keble College, University of Oxford No aspect of the Christian tradition seems more alien to our own sensibilities than the ascetic temper of the late antique Church Fathers. Without diminishing their strangeness, Elizabeth Clark shows us just how they read their Bibles, their bodies, and their world. The book is itself a remarkable act of reading and writing--of 'poaching' and 'founding [her] own place'--informed by a profound knowledge of the ancient texts and by a mastery of postmodern critical theory. -- Wayne A. Meeks, Department of Religious Studies, Yale University A brilliant exploration of the consequences of late ancient asceticism for the interpretation of the Bible. In her introductory chapter, Elizabeth Clark essentially revises and reverses the regnant historical notion of a peculiarly fourth-century ascetic movement, and argues instead that the ascetic movement has its roots in the very seedbeds of Christianity, indeed in its very Jewish soil. That demonstration alone would be worth the price of admission to this book, but it is only the appetizer, for she goes on to treat in detail and with clarity and verve the consequences of the patristic promotion of celibacy for the interpretation of the Bible. This book is indispensable for students of early Christianity, early Judaism, the Bible and the foundations of western interpretation in general. -- Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, University of California at Berkeley

About the Author

Elizabeth A. Clark is John Carlisle Kilgo Professor of Religion at Duke University and the author of several books, including The Origenist Controversy (Princeton). She is the past president of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Church History, and the North American Patristics Society. She is the coeditor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies.


"This is a magisterial work... Reading Renunciation will stand the test of scholarly time and remain an essential work in the long tradition of patristic exegesis."--Richard Valantasis, Journal of Religion "[A] scholarly, conscientious and provoking study"--Philip Rousseau, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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