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Resurrecting the Missing Parts of an Ancient Phone Call

Taylor Petrey reading his new book to an audience of friends, students, and faculty in Olmstead Room (Rachel Carson / The Index) Taylor Petrey reading his new book to an audience of friends, students, and faculty in Olmstead Room (Rachel Carson / The Index)

Assistant Professor of Religion and Women, Gender and Sexuality Taylor Petrey released a book this summer and invited friends, students, and faculty to attend his reading on November 3. The book is titled “Resurrecting Parts: Early Christians on Desire, Reproduction, and Sexual Difference” and was started in 2007 as Petrey’s doctoral dissertation.

He read from the conclusion because it was a broad overview of the book’s major contributions.

According to Petrey, the book describes five treatises dated from 170 C.E. and 205 C.E. The treatises are early Christian defenses on what the resurrection of the body would look like at the end of time.

“It then looks at how those texts look at gender and sexuality with respect to the resurrection and how they imagined the resurrected body was going to look like, what kind of sexual practices, if any, it would be capable of,” Petrey said.

“I argue that it tells us a lot about what they thought about their own bodies and sexuality, mortal bodies. The resurrection is a window into their own thoughts about what mortal bodies are supposed to be like,” he continued.

Petrey’s book cover is from the Antioch period and depicts three identical male torsos with missing genitals, which represents a texts that makes the argument that resurrection of the genitals will happen.

“So much of the debates are around whether or not the resurrected bodies have genitals or not, and the euphemism that they often use in ancient text is that they call them ‘the parts,’” Petrey explained. “I was talking about the genitals as a site of debate. I am also resurrecting the parts as a topic because modern scholarship has ignored the questions about genitals in these ancient texts.”

After the reading, Petrey answered the audience’s questions about his book. He explained a metaphor that he often uses while researching—that he only hears one half of a telephone call.

“When we read ancient Christian texts, they’re almost always arguing against someone else,” Petrey said. “We don’t always have access to what the other side thought. We have to be suspicious about how early Christians talk about how their rivals thought about things. Sometimes we get lucky, we get a part of the other half of that phone call and we can compare and see it’s a little more complicated.”

Currently, Petrey is working on multiple projects.

“I am still looking at gender and sexuality in early Christianity,” Petrey said. “I’m hoping to move into discussing how early Christians thought about the family, and I’m also working on a project on Mormonism and homosexuality.”

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Resurrecting the Missing Parts of an Ancient Phone Call