Metamorphoses: Resurrection, Taxonomies and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity

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Former 2006/2007 Humanities - Theology

Abstract

The project aims at exploring how ideas and experiences of transformation were expressed in Early Christianity. It assumes new patterns of interpreting Pre-Constantinian Christianity not so much in uniform and evolutionary terms but as a diversity of groups and beliefs. Despite a claim to exclusiveness and experiences of conflict and persecution, the early Christians depended upon and actively exploited existing forms of thought, speech and behaviour. They yielded to given discourses while slowly establishing new ones. What were the frameworks within which transformative ideas and experiences of having become "a new being" were shaped; the analogies upon which they were drawn; and the parameters by which transformation was being noted and actually asserted? The focus on transformation might help connect topics that so far have been studied separately, and the project covers the following main areas: 1. Transformation and Taxonomies: Webbing Continuity with Discontinuity; 2. The Generation of a Third Race: Transformation through Initiation into a New Social Order; 3. Resurrection Rehearsed: Asceticism as Transformative Practice (including explorations of transformation as designed by a hierarchical configuration of gender; martyrdom and the ascetic agon as transformation, and the idea of the bios angelikos, the possibility of attaining a likeness to the angels or rehearsing life in paradise); 4. Resurrection: Negotiating Continuity and Transformation, where the traditional Christian belief in a resurrection of the flesh as opposed to assumed Greek ideas of immortality will be critically examined and challenged by a nuanced reading of manifold Greco-Roman, Jewish and Christian sources.

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