Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Dandy Discipleship: A Queering of Mark's Male Disciples

Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Dandy Discipleship: A Queering of Mark's Male Disciples

Article excerpt

The male disciples in Mark make an interesting case study for queer and gendered hermeneutics because of their ambiguous portrayal. What are we to make of the often flawed followers of Jesus who, within dominant imperial discourses regarding ancient Mediterranean gender, appear hopelessly short of achieving their masculinity? How too might we queer the text, so that in the production of meaning our interpretations are not constrained by oppressive constructions of gender and sexuality?

This article seeks the liberation of the Markan text: firstly, from homophobic and erotophobic (2) interpretations, both conscious and unconscious, that work within the unacknowledged assumptions of heteronormativity; and, secondly, from interpretations that assume, again usually unacknowledged, that gender and sexuality is binary and essential. These two presuppositions underlie most conventional readings of Mark; however, they limit the text in a number of ways. On the one hand, they are anachronistic with regards to ancient Mediterranean understandings of gender and sexuality, and, on the other, they ignore contemporary queer and gender theorists such as Butler (1990) who, for example, considers gender as a performance measured against a set of culturally determined norms. Such readings are, in fact, not only perpetuated by essentialist interpretations dominant within both "hardcore" traditional and conservative Christianity, but constitute social reality itself which can be further articulated as the heteronormative meta-narrative.

Internalized reading guided by the tradition of biblical interpretation is often unconscious to the point that readers of the Bible do not even notice they are constantly interpreting what they are reading. This article reads the male disciples attentive to issues of masculinity and masculine sexuality in both Western culture and the cultures that surrounded the text's production. This involves the identification of possible interpretative avenues previously obstructed or overlooked by the erotophobia and homophobia present within existing interpretive practices by purposefully reading the texts sexually. The interpretations that I offer are as much a challenge to the limitations and indeed the ethics of conventional reading strategies as they are a fruitful provision of meaning. The task at hand involves a rereading of three selected texts concerning the male disciples as presented in the Gospel of Mark (1:16-20; 9:33-37; 14:43-52) by combining queer and gendered hermeneutics with socio-rhetorical criticism. The interpretations are not exhaustive in their exegesis, but rather seek to see what might emerge when approached from this particular hermeneutical perspective. First, however, I outline some insights regarding queer theory and the New Testament, and offer a brief description of how gender discourses functioned within the ancient Mediterranean. These discussions should assist in providing a foundation for the subsequent interpretations.

Situating an Ideological Position--Queering the New Testament

Of those biblical scholars who have explored the application of queer and gender theory, and more recently masculinity studies, many have begun to expose the strange relationship that exists between sex, the Bible, and its interpretation. Although there is a risk of domestication through its definition, Jagose (1997) writes that "queer theory describes those gestures or analytical models which dramatize incoherencies in the allegedly stable relations between chromosomal sex, gender, and sexual desire" (p. 3). In other words, queer theory locates and exploits the incoherencies that normalize heterosexuality, but moreover, by demonstrating the impossibility of any "natural" sexuality, it calls into question the apparently unproblematic terms of "man" and "woman." Moore (2007) notes that queer theory enables biblical scholarship to move beyond the increasingly tired debates on biblical texts that apparently deal with homosexuality into a totally different task of problematizing the concept of homosexuality itself. …

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