Unmanly Men

Brittany E. Wilson
Oxford University Press
Published Year: 
Unmanly Men

Brittany E. Wilson, assistant professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, has written a book that examines Jesus and other male characters in Luke-Acts in relation to Greco-Roman masculinity.

The book, Unmanly Men: Refigurations of Masculinity in Luke-Acts, will be published by Oxford University Press on April 21.

Contrary to popular opinion, Wilson argues that men in Luke’s two-volume narrative do not conform to elite representations of manliness within the Greco-Roman world. Luke instead portrays men as “unmanly” to illustrate his understanding of God’s refiguration of power in Jesus.

Of all Luke’s male characters, four in particular conflict with first century masculine norms: Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father), the Ethiopian eunuch, the Apostle Paul, and, above all, Jesus. Wilson contends that these men disrupt elite masculinity because they do not protect their bodily boundaries or embody corporeal control. Instead, Zechariah loses his ability to speak, the Ethiopian eunuch is castrated, Paul loses his ability to see, and Jesus is crucified.

With these bodily violations, Wilson argues, Luke points to the all-powerful nature of God and in the process reconfigures—or refigures—men’s own claims to power. What is more, Luke also refigures the parameters of power itself. According to Luke, God provides an alternative understanding of power in the figure of Jesus and thus redefines what it means to be a man. Indeed, in Luke-Acts, “real” men look manifestly unmanly.

Wilson has served on faculty at the Divinity School since 2011. Her research focuses on constructions of bodies, gender, and ethnicity in the Gospels and Acts, as well as early Christian accounts of suffering, persecution, and death.