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20. The "Anti-household" Paul: Thecla

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Introduction to New Testament (RLST 152)

The Acts of Paul and Thecla has a narrative quite similar to those in ancient Greco-Roman novels: Thecla becomes enamored of Paul and they share a number of adventures. However, the Acts redirects eroticism towards a belief in a gospel of purity and asceticism. The Acts of Paul and Thecla present an ascetic, anti-marriage, anti-family message that would break the cycle of sex, birth, death, and decay that was so obvious in the ancient world. Given that Thecla emerges from the story as the true hero (and not Paul), is it possible to read the story as a feminist one?

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Acts of Paul and Thecla in Its Literary Context
15:10 - Chapter 2. The Gospel of Asceticism in the Acts of Paul and Thecla
26:50 - Chapter 3. The Cultural Phenomenon of Sexual Hierarchy
33:11 - Chapter 4. The Early Christian Answer to the Cycle of Birth and Death: Asceticism
41:25 - Chapter 5. Thecla, the Heroine

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Spring 2009.