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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thecla: little known woman with a great big story

Christmas night I wound up watching the History Channel's special "Banned from the Bible II."

The part I watched had to do with St. Thecla, a person I only vaguely remembered hearing about in school.

According to some fragmentary second century historical texts, she was a companion of Paul who stressed celibacy over marriage.

This type of thinking perhaps originates in the Bible where Paul writes:

"Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." 
1 Corinthians 7:8-9

Needless to say, this is one of those passages that historians show more interest in than the churches. It is, in all practicality, the exact opposite of what Joseph Smith believed about plural marriage. 

Thecla's story reminded me of Ann Lee, the 18th Century founder of the Shaker faith, who also said that God calls ardent believers to a chaste life.

Ann stressed that marriage created a unique relationship between individuals that prevented people from loving everyone equally.  I wonder what Thecla would have thought of that argument.

Like most beautiful young women, Thecla's life was spent dodging unwelcome suitors.  The most famous part of her story is perhaps how one of them had Thecla thrown into a Lion's Den.

As the story goes, a female lion protected Thecla from the others, and Thecla is often portrayed with a female Lion.  She might have been a major role-model in Christianity if not for her radical act of baptizing herself.

Check out more about Thecla here:

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