Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul's Letter to the Galatians in its Anatolian Cultic Context

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Bloomsbury Academic, Jun 15, 2008 - Religion - 412 pages
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In Cutting Too Close for Comfort, Susan Elliot considers Paul's letter to the Galatians in its Anatolian cultic context. What does circumcision have to do with castration? Self-castrated devotees of the Mother of the Gods travelled in the central Anatolian territory where the audience of Paul's letter to the Galatians lived. The goddess was identified with many of the region's mountains. In a goddess-possessed frenzy, these galli castrated themselves and became lifetime cultic representatives as her slaves.
Cutting Too Close For Comfort offers a thick description of this cult and other aspects of the Anatolian cultic context to provide solutions to several persistent puzzles in the letter. Starting with problems in the so-called "Hagar and Sarah" passage (4.21-5.1), Elliot argues that Paul attempts to dissuade his audience from being circumcised by identifying circumcision with the enslaving self-castration of the galli and by portraying the Law as a Mountain Mother. The Anatolian background is also seen in Paul's Flesh-Spirit dichotomy in Gal. 3.1-5 and in the Two Ways form in Galatians 5-6.

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Frank J. Matera
Limited preview - 2007

About the author (2008)

Susan Elliott (The Rev. Susan M. Elliott, M. Div., Ph.D.) earned a Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christianity in 1997 from Loyola University Chicago. Her research focuses on the social context of early Christianity with an emphasis on family relationships, pagan and Roman Imperial backgrounds, and Greco-Roman mystery cults. Her primary expertise is the cult of Cybele and Anatolian popular religiosity. She has taught courses at Iliff School of Theology and Loyola University Chicago and was a core faculty member of a lay ministry program of the UCC and Disciples in the Rocky Mountain area. She has served churches in Illinois, Colorado, and Minnesota as well as in urban and justice ministries in Chicago and economic development work in rural Mexico.

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