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Entering God’s Kingdom (Not) Like A Little Child

Images of the Child in Matthew, 1 Corinthians, and Thomas

Eunyung Lim

Religion / Biblical Criticism & Interpretation / New Testament

What does it mean to be “like a child” in antiquity? How did early Christ-followers use a childlike condition to articulate concrete qualifications for God’s kingdom? Many people today romanticize Jesus’s welcoming of little children against the backdrop of the ancient world or project modern Christian conceptions of children onto biblical texts. Eschewing such a Christian exceptionalist approach to history, this book explores how the Gospel of Matthew, 1 Corinthians, and the Gospel of Thomas each associate childlikeness with God’s kingdom within their socio-cultural milieus. The book investigates these three texts vis-à-vis philosophical, historical, and archaeological materials concerning ancient children and childhood, revealing that early Christ-followers deployed various aspects of children to envision ideal human qualities or bodily forms. Calling the modern reader’s attention to children’s intellectual incapability, asexuality, and socio-political utility in ancient intellectual thought and everyday practices, the book sheds new light on the rich and diverse theological visions that early Christ-followers pursued by means of images of children.

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