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Wearing it well: Gender at work in the shadow of empire

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Chapter Summary

On the brief journey into the unstable domain of gender in antiquity, various figures will serve as guideposts, including a pair of prostitutes, one from the book of Revelation, the other from late antique Antioch. This part begins with the latter. She plays the starring role in a story about a woman who became a man who became a woman. The part considers the prostitute Babylon and then, mediated by the figure of the Roman gladiator, gazes upon the Lamb. It then examines the Hekhalot requirements of ritual and sexual purity that prohibited the male mystic’s contact with women, as well as the concomitant assumption in the Hekhalot texts that only men can engage in mystical practices. The part aims to answer the following question: Why were there no female Hekhalot mystics and why was the visionary experience “gendered male” in the Hekhalot literature?

Keywords: Babylon; book of Revelation; gender; Hekhalot literature; Lamb; late antique Antioch; mystical practices; Roman gladiator



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