Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Gregory A. Robbins, Ph.D.


Comic books and graphic novels, Crucifixion, Cultural studies, Gospel of Mark, Paul epistles, Popular culture


For countless adherents to the Christian tradition, the Cross functions as a symbol of divine power. For the earliest Christians, however, this overwhelmingly positive valuation of crosses would have been unintelligible. Living under Roman rule, their immediate understanding of crosses would have been as instruments of execution and thus symbols of the power and victory belonging to a foreign empire rather than to the Lord they worshipped. For them, the crucifixion was a traumatic event in which the Messiah died shamefully. It is for these reasons that the scandal of the Cross is a prominent theme in the New Testament, yet it is precisely this scandal that the traditional valuation of the Cross has come to domesticate and exclude from popular interpretation.

The academic discipline of biblical interpretation can help readers recapture an understanding and appreciation for this scandal by embracing hermeneutical practices that recognize the "weirdness" of the Cross. It is "weird" in that it is a symbol in which the world and the divine come together in startling, confounding, and undeniably violent fashion. The standard practices of biblical interpreters will not do, however, insofar as they remain imbued with modernity's categorical mistrust of the supernatural elements of biblical texts. Comic books and graphic novels, on the other hand, are a contemporary medium in which the most challenging and outlandish elements associated with the Cross are not only tolerated but embraced and appropriated.

This dissertation places several New Testament passages that interpret the Cross from Galatians, 1 Corinthians, and Mark's Gospel into dialogue with comics and graphic novel portrayals of the life and death of Jesus. The outcome of this dialogical reading is that the effectiveness in which the comics texts present the weirdness and scandal of the Cross helps illuminate where these same elements are operative in the New Testament. Foremost among the theological implications of this study is the manner in which such an understanding of the Cross increases the power of biblical texts for present-day readers.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Elizabeth Rae Coody


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

397 p.


Biblical studies, Theology