top of page


cobb book.jpg

Slavery, Gender, Truth, and Power in Luke-Acts and Other Ancient Narratives

Cobb, Christy

This book examines slavery and gender through a feminist reading of narratives including female slaves in the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and early Christian texts. Through the literary theory of Mikhail Bakhtin, the voices of three enslaved female characters—the female slave who questions Peter in Luke 22, Rhoda in Acts 12, and the prophesying slave of Acts 16—are placed into dialogue with female slaves found in the Apocryphal Acts, ancient novels, classical texts, and images of enslaved women on funerary monuments. Although ancients typically distrusted the words of slaves, Christy Cobb argues that female slaves in Luke-Acts speak truth to power, even though their gender and status suggest that they cannot. In this Bakhtinian reading, female slaves become truth-tellers and their words confirm aspects of Lukan theology. This exegetical, theoretical, and interdisciplinary book is a substantial contribution to conversations about women and slaves in Luke-Acts and early Christian literature.


​“In her dialogic reading of Luke-Acts, Christy Cobb insists that the reader listen closely to three female slaves. Their voices punctuating the narrative at vital moments, the slave women ‘interrupt the kyriarchal biblical text with their essential messages of discipleship and truth.’ A truth-teller herself, Cobb argues convincingly that speaking truth to power is essential to the practice of freedom.”

Jennifer Glancy, author of Slavery in Early Christianity and Corporal Knowledge: Early Christian Bodies

“In this masterful work, Christy Cobb pairs thoughtful application of contemporary literary theory with a polished command of Greek novels, Apocryphal Acts, and ancient material culture. Through her dynamic methodology, she draws several marginalized and underappreciated characters of Luke-Acts into the spotlight and makes a compelling case for reassessing their roles within Luke’s theology. This book makes a formidable contribution to our understanding of gender, slavery, and conceptions of truth in Luke-Acts and in early Christianity more broadly.”

Eric M. Vanden Eykel, Ferrum College, USA

“In Slavery, Gender, Truth, and Power in Luke-Acts and Other Ancient Narratives, Christy Cobb offers a fresh and original reappraisal of the narrative role that enslaved female characters play in Luke-Acts.  She adds texture and depth to her analysis by working comparatively with the genre of ancient novels and drawing on Bakhtinian literary concepts in fruitful ways.  The result is a potent reading of Luke-Acts that highlights the intersection of slavery and gender--a conjunction too often overlooked--and offers a compelling account of its narrative function.”

Benjamin H. Dunning, Fordham University, USA

“In this book, Christy Cobb lets marginalized and overlooked slave girls in Luke-Acts enter the central stage. By highlighting and combining fragments normally ignored in scholarship, she manages in a creative way to present a new reading contributing to our understanding of each of these small episodes. The un-named slave girl in Luke’s Gospel who asks Peter if he is a disciple of Jesus (Luke 22), the slave-girl Rhoda in Mary’s house (Acts 12), and the Python possessed slave girl (Acts 16) bring elements of truth to the narrative, although they are minor characters. In this book, these texts are placed in a broader Greco-Roman context, read side by side with ancient novels where female slaves play important roles, and interpreted in light of archaeological materials (gravestones, monuments, coins). By help of Bakhtin, feminist theory and intertextuality, these female enslaved characters get full attention for a brief moment and help promote Lukan theology. The author shows in a unique and innovative way that power can be destabilized, truth can be a polyphony, and those normally ignored can bring vital knowledge to readers of all times.” 

Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, University of Oslo, Norway

bottom of page