In this book, Colleen Conway looks at the construction of masculinity in New Testament depictions of Jesus. She argues that the New Testament writers necessarily engaged the predominant gender ideology of the Roman empire, whether consciously or unconsciously. Although the notion of what constituted ideal masculinity in Greek and Roman cultures certainly pre-dated the Roman Empire, the emergence of the Principate concentrated this gender ideology on the figure of the emperor. Indeed, critical to the success of the empire was the portrayal of the emperor as the ideal man and the Roman citizen as one who aspired to be the same. Any person or power that was held up alongside the emperor as another source of authority would be assessed in terms of the cultural values represented in this Roman image of the 'manly man.' Conway details how the New Testament writings reflect different approaches to the issue of Jesus' gender identity, including resistance to, accommodation to, and imitation of, imperial masculinity.
The themes that emerge from her study include the relationship between divinity and masculinity in the Roman world and in depictions of Jesus; the role of the body in relation to gender identity; and belief in Jesus as a means of achieving a more ideal form of masculinity. Conway's work will be of interest to the broad range of biblical scholars who are interested in gender critical issues and in the emergence of Christianity in the Roman Empire.