The Fetishization of Female Exempla: Mary, Thecla, Perpetua and Felicitas

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Mary, Thecla, Perpetua and Felicitas are often seen as female exempla both in the early Christian world and in their modern reception. They are considered model teachers, martyrs and apostles, and counter-cultural as they surpass the normative gender hierarchy. Yet, the texts that tell their stories are not so clear-cut. In characterising their protagonists, they repeatedly place them in sexualized or subordinate roles - they are condescended to, distrusted and exhibited. In the end, the women are favoured by the divine but hold little power over their male peers. Even as these texts appear to challenge the patriarchal society from which they stem, they reinscribe it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-587
Number of pages21
JournalNew Testament Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • gender
  • Mary
  • Perpetua
  • Thecla
  • women


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