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[XTalk] Re: Joseph and Asenath

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  • Frank McCoy
    (Frank McCoy-Initial Statement
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 7 6:42 PM
      (Frank McCoy-Initial Statement
      << Judging by what Burchard states (Ibid., p. 103),
      the oldest manuscript evidence for it dates to the
      century and consists of a Greek fragment and a Latin
      digest. There is considerable later manuscript
      evidence: which can be divided into a number of
      textual traditions. These manuscripts are in Greek,
      Latin, Syrian, Aremenian, and Serbo-Slavonic. >>

      (Bill Foley)
      does the evidence suddenly explode into view (for
      which there may be multiple explainations of course,
      but one may be that it was new or suddenly
      well-known) or are the first evidences more evenly
      spread chronologically, as in, from its normal
      underground obscurity, a peek here, a peek there?

      I do not know the answer.


      (Frank-Initial statement)
      << There are still some scholars who take it to be a
      Christian work. However, most scholars take it to be
      a Jewish work written sometime between 100 BCE and 138
      CE. Burchard (p. 104) states, "Most scholars would
      agree nowadays that JosAs was written in Greek in the
      Egyptian Diaspora no later than Hadrian (117-138) or
      more probably Trajan (98-117), and not earlier than
      100 B.C. >>

      How do they now figure that? Are there a couple or
      more evident puns that would fit only Egyptian koine?
      Are there terms whose cultural geographical
      isobars fit only here?

      I have not read any of the detailed analyses of the
      various texts and languages to see why Greek has been
      chosen by most scholars as being the original
      language. My knowledge of languages and of textual
      criticism techniques is inadquate for me to properly
      evaluate such analyses.

      There certainly are some cultural geographical isobars
      that give JosAs an Egyptian environment and, more
      specifically, an Alexandrian envioronment.

      For example, I have found evidence that the author of
      JosAs not only knew that Asenath, as a daughter of a
      priest of Heliopolis, would have worshipped Ra, but
      had considerable information regarding the Ra cult.

      This is a key point because, by the beginning of the
      CE period, Heliopolis was a ghost town and its
      priests had moved to Alexandria. In The Gods of the
      Egyptians (Vol. I, p. 332), E.A. Wallis Budge states,
      "During the period of the Persian invasion the
      prosperity of the priesthood of Heliopolis declined,
      and it is said that later, during the reign of Ptolemy
      II (B.C. 285-247) many of its members found an asylum
      at Alexandria, where their tradition for learning
      caused them to be welcomed....Some time, however,
      before the Christian era, the temple buildings were in
      ruins, and the glory of Heliopolis had departed, and
      it was frequented only by those who went there to
      carry away sone or anything which would be useful in
      building or farming operations."

      So, this evidence that the author of JosAs was quite
      knowledgeable regarding the belief system of the Ra
      cult indicates a sitz im leben of Alexandria.
      Further, it indicates a date of writing that is
      earlier than the triumph of Christianity in Egypt and
      the suppression of the various Pagan religions there.

      Here is an outline of some (but hardly all) of the
      evidence that the author of JosAs was quite
      knowledgeable regarding the belief system of the Ra

      According to it,t Ra was the first god, with one of
      his titles being that of Father of the Gods. So, in
      Egyptian Mythology (p. 41), Veronica Ions relates, "Ra
      was called 'father of the gods' and their head or

      In addition, according to it, Ra could be worshipped
      as a lion and even kept some lions at the temple in
      Heliopolis. Budge (Ibid, Vol. 2, pp. 359-60) states,
      "The cult of the LION was also very ancient in Egypt,
      and it seems to have been tolerably widespread in
      early dynastic times; the animal was worshipped on
      account of his great strength and courage, and was
      usually assuociated with the Sun-god, Horus or
      Ra,...AElian mentions (xii. 7) that liions were kept
      in the temple at Heliopolis,..".

      Now, let us turn to JosAs (XII), where Asenath, upon
      converting to the religion of Joseph, cries out to
      God, "For lo! the ancient and savage and cruel lion
      pursueth me, for that he is father of the gods of the
      Egyptians, and the gods of the idol-maniacs are his
      children, and I have come to hate them, and I made
      away with them, because they are a lion's children,
      and I cast away all the gods of the Egyptians from me
      and i did them away, and the lion, or their father,
      the devil, in wrath against me is trying to swallow me

      Here, she is pictured as identifying the Devil with
      Ra--who, according to his followers, is the supreme
      god, is the father of the gods, and can be worshipped
      as a lion. This tells us that the author of JosAs had
      been knowledgeable regarding the belief system of the
      Helopolian priests and knew that, as the daughter of a
      Heliopolian priest, Asenath would have been raised to
      be a worshipper of Ra.

      Notice that this identification of Ra with the Devil
      leads to a very unusual image of the Devil--which is
      that of a "savage and cruel lion" who pursues and
      tries to swallow up hapless souls.

      This is an important point because this highly unusual
      image of the Devil is found in I Peter 5:8, "Be sober,
      be watchful. Your adversary the Devil prowls around
      like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." So,
      ISTM, it is likely that the author of this epistle
      had read JosAs.


      (Frank-Initial Statement)
      << Third, in JosAs, virginity is revered and it is
      linked to the number seven. So (II), we read, "And
      remaining seven chambers the seven virgins who
      ministered to Asenath occuped, each one having one
      chamber". >>

      With all the hassle about virginity here, and in
      relation to the LXX Isaiah virgin, you'd think we
      thought virgins were as hard to come by in those times

      as in our own, but here's seven of them together. Of
      course, the likelihood of its having a relation to our
      Joe/Mary because they're both virgins is less with
      every virgin, being that in that case there'd be a lot
      of Joes with virgins at that time, assuming Joseph is
      a common name.

      To the best of my knowledge, there is no allusion to
      the LXX Isaiah virgin in JosAs. Certainly, in it,
      once Asenath is married to Joseph, they have sex and
      this is how she conceived and gave birth to her

      I seriously doubt that your assumption that few first
      century CE Jewish females kept their virginity until
      they were betrothed. Do you have any evidence to back
      it up?

      Where did you get the idea that Joseph was a virgin
      before his marraige to Mary?

      Now, just as, in JosAs, the virgin Asenath had seven
      virgins who ministered to her, so, in at least one
      early Christian tradition, the virgin Mary had seven
      virgins who ministered to her. See The Gospel of Mary
      6:7, "But the Virgin of the Lord, Mary, with seven
      other virgins of the same age, who had been weaned at
      the same time, and who had been appointed to attend
      her by the (high) priest, returned to her parents'
      house in Galilee."

      The parallel is even more remarkable in that, in each
      case, all eight virgins are of the same age. So, just
      as the seven virgins who ministered to the virgin Mary
      were of the same age as her, so the seven viirgins who
      ministered to the virgin Asenath were of the same age
      as her. See JosAs II, "For that they were of the same
      age, born on the same night with Asenath, and she
      loved them much".

      What I suspect is that this legend of the virgin Mary
      having seven virgins, of the same age as her,
      ministering to her arose among early Christians who
      had read JosAs and, so, knew of its account of the
      virgin Asenath having seven virgins, of the same age
      as her, ministering to her.

      (Frank-Initial Response)
      Fourth, in JosAs Asenath (XIII) declares to God, "Lo!
      I have also, Master, been fasting seven days and seven
      nights and neither ate bread nor drank water." This
      reminds us of the Therapeutae, whose cult meals
      consisted of bread and water. Further, they were
      zealous fasters who didn't eat or drink between dawn
      and dusk--with the most zealous fasting for days at a
      time. >>

      Hold on. Here, Asenath fasts and has bread and water
      only, which is probably a starvation diet for someone
      not used to it, but for the Therapeutae this was a
      normal thing? I don't have the text; does the context
      seem that she's trying to fit in because of this, or
      is she implying that she has gone above and beyond?
      (and also, please send me an url for this text?)

      Her statement apparently assumes that a normal meal
      consists of bread and water. This appears to reflect
      a Therapeutic influence. See Cont. (97), "Still they
      eat nothing costly, only common bread with salt for a
      relish flavoured further by the daintier with hyssop,
      and their drink is spring water. For as nature has
      set hunger and thirst as mistresses over mortal kind
      they propitiate them without using anything to curry
      favour but only such things as are actually needed and
      without which life cannot be maintained."

      What Philo says seems to imply, ISTM, that a
      Therapeute's normal meal consisted only of bread and
      water. However, since he says this in the context of
      discussing their cult meal of bread and water and
      since he ends his statement by emphasising that they
      had a simple diet, I do not think that, this means,
      they never had anything other than bread and water.

      (Frank-Initial Statement)
      << Fifth, in JosAs, Asenath (XI) turns to the east at
      dawn to pray to God, "When the dawn came and the birds
      were already chirping and the dogs barking at
      passers-by, >> masterful narrative touch, this <<
      Asenath...rose up from the wall where she was sitting,
      and raised heself upon her knees towards the east and
      directed her eyes toward heaven and opened her mouth
      and said to God...". Similarly, the Therapeutae
      prayed to the east at the time of the dawning sun.
      See Cont (89), where, Philo states, "They stand with
      their faces and whole body turned to the east and when
      they see the sun rising they stretch their hands up to
      heaven and pray...".>>

      This strikes a chord - doesn't Justin imply the same
      dawn behavior for the xians of his time?

      Can you cite the relevant passage? I'm not aware of

      (Frank-Initial Statement)
      << If this is a Therapeutic work, then it probably
      dates to later than 20 BCE (for the sect was
      founded one or two generations before Philo visited
      them) but earlier than 60 CE (for this sect appears to
      have died out soon after Philo's death c. 50 CE). >>

      (This is fun) Why do they figure they died out
      instead of becoming less popular (than however popular
      they were) and going underground? I always thought
      that this was a very obscure cult but actually never
      really focussed on it very much to see what other
      evidence exists, or how far the common evidence in
      some NT intros would imply.

      Sure, they *might* have gone underground. However,
      that they disappear from history about the time that
      Christianity spread to Egypt leads me to suspect that
      they died out because most of them became Christians.

      The survival of some ot their ascetic practices in
      some circles of early Egyptian Christian monasticism
      (e.g., a diet mainly of bread seasoned with salt,
      abstention from wine, and multi-day fasting) supports
      this idea. Indeed, the word monasterion appears from
      the first time in Therapeutic thought--where it was
      used to describe a sacred room in which a Therapeutae
      would study and mediate in solitude. Likely, then,
      this word (from which are derived such English words
      as "monastary" and "monastic") was invented by the


      (Frank-Initial Statement)
      << Further, Eusebius believed, the Therapeutae had
      been true Apostolic Christians converted by Mark--a
      siginificant point if, as some evidence indicates, the
      very Christian-like JosAs is a Therapeutic work.
      Above all, this raises questions as to what degree
      what became Christianity had been influenced by the
      Therapeutae and Therapeutic thought. >>

      I'd have to know more about Eusebius's sources on this
      to think it significant that he thought this.

      See The History of the Church (Book 2, sects. 16-17).
      Basically, what Eusebius argues is that many of the
      practices of the Therapeutae described by Philo are
      uniquely Christian practices. Since he believed that
      Mark was the first to evangelize Egypt, and that he
      did so while Philo was still alive (he has Mark dying,
      in Alexandria, in 62 CE) this leads him to conclude
      that the Therapeutae were people converted to
      Christianity by Mark. His closing sentence reads,
      "Anyone who is anxious to gain precise knowledge of
      these things can learn them from Philo's account:
      anyone can see that when he wrote it he had in mind
      the first preachers of the gospel teaching and the
      customs handed down by the apostles from the

      Of course, there are also many practices of the
      Therapeutae that are clearly pre-Christian Jewish and
      Eusebius did recognize this. This is his explanation,
      "And again, when he (i.e., Philo) describes the life
      of our ascetics with the greatest precision, it is
      plain enought that he not only knew but welcomed with
      whole-hearted approval the apostolic men of his day,
      who it seems were of Hebrew stock and therefore, in
      the Jewish manner, still retained most of their
      ancient customs."

      (Frank-Initial Statement)
      Barbara Thiering, a member of the Jesus Seminar,
      engages in what I deem to be overly-speculative
      thinking in Jesus & the Riddle of the Dead Sea
      Scrolls, but she just might be right in seeing the
      Therapeutae as being intimately connected to the
      movement that became Christianity. >>

      I've heard that name before (but never linked her with
      the JSem). what else did she write?

      Well, for one thing, according to her, the Therapeutae
      were in control of Qumran c. 5 BCE and Joseph allied
      himself with them. She states (p. 55), "Joseph,
      returning to visit his family in March, 5 BC, joined
      in the protest. In this mood he allied not with the
      Palestinian Essenes who followed his father, but with
      the Therapeutae, the Egyptian ascetics who now
      controlled Qumran. While they occupied the
      settlement, Qumran was 'Egypt', and Joseph with them
      was 'Joseph in Egypt', evoking the Old Testament
      story....The head of Therapeutae at this time was a
      man called Theudas. As Diaspora Essenes of his kind
      and village Essenes were similar in discipline, Joseph
      formed an alliance with him. The two, in warrior
      mode, gave themselves titles drawn from an Old
      Testament verse: the Star (Joseph, Star of David) and
      the Sceptre (Theudas)....Herod now had even more
      reason for pursuing Joseph and his family. Joseph
      knew that both he and his child were in danger, and he
      again asked for direction from his priestly superior,
      the 'angel'. He was told: 'Flee into Egypt'. Qumran,
      'Egypt' while the Therapeutae were there, was a
      suitable place to hide."

      This Theudas, she claims, also was one of Jesus'
      disciples and, in addition, was Barabbas. She states,
      (p. 81), "Thaddeus of the twelve apostles was in fact
      Theudas, in a variant of his name. The former
      Prodigal Son, he was now much older, remaining head of
      the Therapeutae,..His primary association, however,
      was with the tetrarch Antipas, who saved him, as
      Barabbas, from crucifixion."

      I strongly recommend you read it. It's a new and
      radical paradigm that she proposes. I think that it
      is incorrect. But, in several places in her book,
      what she said actually made sense to me and I am now
      re-thinking a couple of basic assumptions I have had
      regarding early first century CE Judaism.

      Frank McCoy
      1809 N. English Apt. 17
      Maplewood, MN USA 55109

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