Religious Studies Faculty Publications

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Journal of Biblical Literature


This article reads Acts 2:1–13 as an example of apocalyptic ekphrasis, bringing together disparate imagery for rhetorical effect. In particular, the Septuagint imagery of theophany is combined with the imagery of divine healing that was associated with the god Asclepius. I explore the imagery of the divided tongue that rests on bodies and transforms them, an element of Acts 2:3 that many interpreters have given up trying to explain. The visual association of snakes and healing was prevalent not only at the shrines devoted to Asclepius but broadly in a variety of contexts outside the shrines. This complex of imagery is evoked by the story in Acts 2, depicting the bodies of the apostles as the site of divine transformation, and as a sign of apocalyptic inbreaking. The transformation in this story, however, is one of a holy impairment, combining the imagery of extraordinary comprehension and impairment to describe the apostles’ different speech. In Acts 2, a scene unfolds in which the bodies of the apostles are transformed through a divine touch, receiving a holy impairment that enables human connection, not by erasing difference but by leveraging it as a symbol of apocalyptic transformation.

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Print: 0021-9231 Electronic: 1934-3876

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Society of Biblical Literature





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Embargoed until Friday, March 01, 2024