The topic of children in the Bible has long been under-represented, but this has recently changed with the development of childhood studies in broader fields, and the work of several dedicated scholars. While many reading methods are employed in this emerging field, comparative work with children in the ancient world has been an important tool to understand the function of children in biblical texts.

Children in the Bible and the Ancient World broadly introduces children in the ancient world, and specifically children in the Bible. It brings together an international group of experts who help readers understand how children are constructed in biblical literature across three broad areas: children in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, children in Christian writings and the Greco-Roman world, and children and materiality. The diverse essays cover topics such as: vows in Ugarit and the Hebrew Bible, obstetric knowledge, infant abandonment, the role of marriage, Greek abandonment texts, ritual entry for children into Christian communities, education, sexual abuse, and the role of archeological figurines in children’s lives. The volume also includes expertise in biological anthropology to study the skeletal remains of ancient children, as well as how ancient texts illuminate Mary’s female maturity. The volume is written in an accessible style suitable for non-specialists, and it is equipped with a helpful resource bibliography that organizes select secondary sources from these essays into meaningful categories for further study. 

Children in the Bible and the Ancient World is a helpful introduction to any who study children and childhood in the ancient world. In addition, the volume will be of interest to experts who are engaged in historical approaches to biblical studies, while appreciating how the ancient world continues to illuminate select topics in biblical texts.

Table of Contents

List of contributors


Part I: Children in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East

Chapter 1

Vows and Children in the Hebrew Bible

Heath D. Dewrell

Chapter 2

Turning Birth into Theology: Traces of Ancient Obstetric Knowledge within Narratives of Difficult Childbirth in the Hebrew Bible 

Claudia D. Bergmann

Chapter 3

Uncooperative Breeders: Parental Investment and Infant Abandonment in Hebrew and Greek Narrative

David A. Bosworth

Chapter 4

Failure to Marry: Girling Gone Wrong

Kristine Henriksen Garroway


Part II: Children in Christian Writings and the Greco-Roman World

Chapter 5

Girls and Goddesses: The Gospel of Mark and the Eleusinian Mysteries

Sharon Betsworth

Chapter 6

Children and Church: The Ritual Entry of Children into Pauline Churches

John W. Martens

Chapter 7

"Stay away from my children!": Educators and the Accusation of Sexual Abuse in Roman Antiquity 

Christian Laes


Part III: Children and Material Culture 

Chapter 8

I Bless You by YHWH of Samaria and His Barbie: A Case for Understanding Judean Pillar Figurines as Children’s Toys 

Julie Faith Parker

Chapter 9

Coming of Age at St Stephen’s: Bioarchaeology of Children at a Byzantine Jerusalem Monastery (5th–7th Centuries CE) 

Susan G. Sheridan 


Chapter 10

Protoevangelium of James, Menstruating Mary, and Twenty-First-Century Adolescence: Purity, Liminality, and the Sexual Female

Doris M. Kieser