Intersectionality, Gender Liminality and Ben Sira’s Attitude to the Eunuch

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 Department of Ancient HistoryMacquarie University, Australia
  • | 2 Department of Ancient HistoryMacquarie University, Australia
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Ben Sira twice cites the eunuch in sayings that play on his sexual impotence. In so doing he diverges from what we know of the Hebraic tradition before him. Blending theory is used to interpret the sayings and their apparently malicious intent. After appraising the ambiguous status/identity of the eunuch in terms of ‘intersectionality’, Ben Sira’s attitude is contextualised using the concepts of ‘gender liminality’ and ‘hybridity’ and set against the strict binary system that underlies his understanding of gender more generally. It is suggested that Ben Sira’s theology of creation, like that of the Wisdom tradition more generally, forms the principal basis for this binary system. At the same time, the more accepting attitude to the eunuch in Isaiah 56 is considered and its notion of the ‘new creation’.

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