Unmanly Men: Refigurations of Masculinity in Luke-Acts

Brittany E. Wilson

This book examines key male characters in Luke-Acts with respect to constructions of gender and masculinity in the Greco-Roman world. Of all Luke’s male characters, four in particular problematize elite masculine norms: Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist), the Ethiopian eunuch, Paul, and, above all, Jesus. These men do not conform to the strictures of elite masculinity, for they do not protect their bodily boundaries nor do they embody corporeal control. Zechariah loses his ability to speak (Luke 1), the Ethiopian eunuch is castrated (Acts 8), Paul loses his ability to see (Acts 9), and Jesus is crucified on a cross (Luke 22–23). With these bodily “violations,” Luke points to the all-powerful nature of God and in the process reconfigures—or refigures—men’s own claims to power. Luke, however, not only refigures the so-called prerogative of male power, but he refigures the parameters of power itself. According to Luke, God provides an alternative construal of power in the figure of Jesus and thus redefines what it means to be a “real” man. Indeed, for Luke, “real” men look manifestly unmanly.