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The virginity of Mary has been an influential tenet of Christian belief, a catalyst for Marian devotion, and a foundation for the construction of female Christian piety and practice. In contrast to previous biblical interpreters who have drawn on either linguistic or historical evidence to ponder whether Mary the parthenos is indeed a "virgin," in this study Mary F. Foskett takes a different course. Rather than investigating the meaning and implications of the Virgin as a reified symbol, A Virgin Conceived examines the portrayal of Mary as a virgin in two important early Christian narratives: the canonical Luke-Acts and the second-century Protevangelium of James. Foskett explores the multiple meanings and images that parthenos and virginity display in two sources and describes how they exploit this range of possible meanings in their representations of Mary. Her study departs from earlier biblical interpretation by emphasizing neither the ambiguity of the term parthenos nor the history of tradition concerning Mary. Instead, it displays the multiple meanings of "virginity" and their implications for understanding representations of the Virgin Mary.
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