The Bible and Beyond Podcast Episode
What We Can Learn from Imperial Ancient Rome and Its Rape Narrative
An Interview with Dr. Celene Lillie
Dr. Celene Lillie discovered in some ancient texts a remarkable metaphor, a rape narrative that relates to both the imperial actions of ancient Rome and modern forms of destructive behavior. Three writers of the second century re-imagined the story of Eve in Genesis as a representation of the violation of Rome’s victims. Despite the violence, Eve overthrows victimization and becomes a healing Christ figure. Her children become saviors of the world.
Dr. Celene Lillie is a scholar of extracanonical texts. She was the director of translations for A New New Testament and co-authored a new translation and introduction for one of the Nag Hammadi texts, “The Thunder Perfect Mind.” She is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. The topic we discuss in the podcast is from her book, The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis.
Click here to listen to a previous Bible and Beyond podcast featuring Dr. Celene Lillie.
Thank you both, so very much, for this fascinating interview. I’m so grateful that these early Christian texts have come to light. They change the whole narrative! We can rejoice that “the night is far spent and the day is at hand” (Romans). Thank YOU, for being part of this light and for bringing your knowledge to the public. Truth and progress will prevail!!
This interview is stunning! It just seems likely to me that some of these ancient works such as On the Origin of the World and the Reality of the Rulers, and perhaps even The Secret Revelation of John, were written by women. And it is also clear that women were impacted negatively in antiquity as much as today, by the Genesis 2 narrative of Adam and Eve. Their lives and their oppression compelled them to brilliantly re-imagine these stories–out of necessity. And yet these narratives, as Dr. Lillie makes clear, speak not just to women but to all those across time brutalized by imperialism and authoritarianism. This kind of research continues to cement my affinity with these ancient texts, as well as give me a deep appreciation of the diversity of these early communities, and their freedom to be so creative. Art and literature have always been the means of speaking truth to power for those not in power. Thank you Dr. Lillie for your work, and Shirley for your website.