Body Politics in the Letter to the Ephesians

Dr Lilly (SJ) Nortje-Meyer
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'The regulatory body' is an entity that carries political meaning. It is a product of political power. Political power produces a certain kind of body to demarcate, circulate and differentiate the bodies it controls. To be able to understand female bodies and especially the way the male body and the female body is portrayed in the letter to the Ephesians, we have to look at the way in which Greco-Roman society inscribe its hierarchies upon human bodies.

The unity of the Church in Ephesians is described as a new humanity. The author uses the image of a male body that has to grow in everything 'unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ'. (Eph 3:6, 15; 4:4,12-16). Like the Greco-Roman society, the Church used Christ as the regulatory body to inscribe its hierarchies.

In Ephesians 5:23 another image of the body is used to describe the relationship between Christ and the Church, namely the female body. But in this case, different from the image of the perfect man, this body needs to be cleansed by the washing with water through the word (5:26), namely the baptism in order to be without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless. This process of sanctification, that seems to be rather a purification, is only required of the Church as a female body but not of the Church as a perfect male body. This degrading of the female body is also due to the fact that the female body is compared with the male body and the male body with Christ (cf. Eph. 5:23-24). In this paper I will compare the models for the body images used for the Church and its relationship with Christ.

Keywords: Body Politics, Perfect Male Bodies, Female Bodies, Polyclitus' Canon, Ephesians 5:21-32, Gender Criticism
Stream: Religion, Spirituality
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Body Politics in the Letter to the Ephesians

Dr Lilly (SJ) Nortje-Meyer

Senior Lecturer, Department of Biblical & Religious Studies, University of Johannesburg
South Africa

My name is Lilly (SJ) Nortje-Meyer. I was born on 7 March 1957 in Rustenburg, RSA. As a hobby, me and my husband are involved in Siberian Husky Dogsledding mainly during the winter months in South Africa. My PhD was done on 'John the Baptist in the Fourth Gospel', but in the mean time I have taken special interest in gender critics. Therefore, I focus at this moment on gender criticism of the NT texts and the institutions of Christianity.

Ref: H06P0091