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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Reading Bodies: Physiognomy as a Strategy of Persuasion in Early Christian Discourse
Callon, Callie

London: Bloomsbury, 2019 pp. vii + 173. $114.00

Series Information
Library of New Testament Studies, 597

Description: Callie Callon investigates how some early Christian authors utilized physiognomic thought as rhetorical strategy, particularly with respect to persuasion. Callon shows how this encompassed denigrating theological opponents and forging group boundaries (invective against heretics or defence of Christians), self-representation to demonstrate the moral superiority of early Christians to Greco-Roman outsiders, and the cultivation of collective self-identity. The work begins with an overview of how physiognomy was used in broader antiquity as a component of persuasion. Callon then examines how physiognomic thought was employed by early Christians and how physiognomic tropes were employed to ďproveĒ their orthodoxy and moral superiority. Building on the conclusions of the earlier chapters, Callon then focuses on the representation of the physiognomies of early Christian martyrs, before addressing the problem of the acceptance or even promotion of the idea of a physically lacklustre Jesus by the same authors who otherwise utilize traditional physiognomic thought.

Subjects: Early Christian Literature, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches, Rhetorical Criticism, Social-Scientific Approaches, Ideological Critique

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Review by Chad Hartsock
Published 3/19/2020
Citation: Chad Hartsock, review of Callie Callon, Reading Bodies: Physiognomy as a Strategy of Persuasion in Early Christian Discourse, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2020).

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