“Behold, the Lord’s Whore”? Slavery, Prostitution, and Luke 1:38

In: Biblical Interpretation
James N. Hoke Luther College, USA

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In Luke 1:38, Mary acknowledges that she is to bear a son, calling herself the δούλη κυρίου, “the Lord’s slave.” The ambiguity surrounding the “how” of her conception raises numerous sexual questions. Specifically, what might it mean in such an ancient, sexualized context to label oneself a slave? Though Mary submits to God, her master (κύριος), some early hearers of Luke’s story surely would have pictured this submission in conformity to the slave conditions familiar to them. Therefore, the slippery connections between the conditions of the δούλη and the πόρνη (“prostitute”) in the first and second centuries ce become relevant. In other words, it is probable that some would have heard Mary’s submission as δούλη κυρίου as her professing to be the πόρνη κυρίου, “the Lord’s whore.” After arguing the plausibility of this potentially shocking reading, this article turns to the work of theorist Gayle Rubin to consider its implications.

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