Husbands scorned and fathers ignored: a social analysis of the Acts of Thomas
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The wildly popular Acts of Thomas is an invaluable artifact of early Christian literature because it details the struggles that Christian communities had with local authorities once Christianity had transitioned from a superstition to a religion. The text displayed a considerable amount of fluidity, being adapted by local Christians to better suit their own communities. The popularity of the Acts of Thomas in the 3rd to 8th centuries in the Roman Empire attests to the power the Thomasine Christians' story had in helping other Christians cope with their common experiences. The Acts of Thomas is an apocryphal account of the Apostle Thomas' commission and mission to India. It was composed in the early third century somewhere in the vicinity of Edessa in Roman Syria. The writers of this document within it both encoded their community's experiences within Edessa and the surrounding countryside and prescribed their values and imagined communal experiences within the narrative. This celibate apocalyptic work encouraged its readers to completely reject the outside world in favor of its internal community. Their celibate apocalypticism lead to the persecution of the group, not by the imperial government, but by local paterfamiliarum whose families had been partially converted to this brand of celibate Christianity. The group responded to this threat by a variety of means, chief among which were strategies of confusion through their hidden transcript and an appeal to their apocalyptic framework.
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