Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - SCU Access Only


Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2018.

Degree Name

Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)


Jean-François Racine


Given the prominence of the temple and Jerusalem narrative settings in Luke- Acts, the author situates the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch intriguingly not in the temple or Jerusalem setting but in the wilderness space, ἔρημος. To better understand the significance of the wilderness space in the narrative, I explore the issues of gender and ethnicity which the Ethiopian eunuch embodies. In both the Greco- Roman world and Judaism, the Ethiopian eunuch was a liminal, marginalized figure. His body became the site of tremendous anxiety, contention, and ambivalence. Sexually, he was “unmanly” due to his lack of procreative power and his perceived “effeminate” tendencies. His eunuchism blurred the clear and distinct socially constructed binaries of male and female that stressed the masculinity and superiority of men and femininity and inferiority of women. Ethnically, he was an “outsider” who did not share with the Jews or the Greco-Romans a common ancestry, history, ways of life, inherited phenotypical characteristics, or religious beliefs and practices. Among the many outcomes of crosscultural interactions, encounters with the “ethnic others” could trigger anxieties and clashes, resulting in stereotyping, marginalization, and the establishment of boundaries to differentiate the “self” from the “other,” and to keep the “other” out of the collective to safeguard the “self.”

Using Edward W. Soja’s spatial concept of thirdspace, the space of struggles and possibilities, the wilderness space is not simply a backdrop to the narrative but is key to the narrative’s meaning. In this symbolic wilderness space, Luke’s audiences were challenged to reckon with socio-religious issues, as well as questions of identities as the mission of the church expanded into the wider Mediterranean world. In addition, the wilderness space functions as the discursive field or the alternative space to the Jerusalem Temple where strict religious rules and regulations precluded many from having access to God. Seen in this perspective, God is not confined only to the temple and does not belong only to the people of Israel. Rather, God is present in the person of Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, in the community, and in wherever places the gospel is preached. Access to God is available to all.

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