Original Research - Special Collection: Social-scientific perspectives

Sending a boy to do a man’s job: Hegemonic masculinity and the ‘boy’ Jesus in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

Eric Stewart
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 1 | a2817 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i1.2817 | © 2015 Eric Stewart | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 September 2014 | Published: 29 May 2015

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Eric Stewart, Department of Religion, Augustana College, United States; Department of New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

SStudies of masculinity have shown that masculinity is a socially acknowledged gender status. Rather than automatically attaining such a status simply through physical maturation, boys must ‘earn’ such status by matching the social conventions associated with masculinity. Boys earn such status through ‘doing gender’, that is, acting in ways that are assessed by others as meeting gendered norms. Failure to meet these norms can result in suggestions that boys are unmanly. For elite Romans, masculinity was attained through the domination of others, including spouse, children and enemies. Though Jesus is presented as a child in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, his actions lend themselves to interpretation in terms of expectations for elite Roman males. In this text, Jesus is described as behaving in ways normally associated with hegemonic masculinity in the Roman world. He is able to defeat opponents in violent ways through the power of his word, he is able to teach his teachers, and he is able to provide for his family. Throughout the text, Jesus is described more in terms of an adult male than a child.

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