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Aseneth’s Eight-Day Transformation as Scriptural Justification for Conversion1

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
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  • 1 Department of Theological Studies, Saint Louis University, Adorjan #124, 3800 Lindell Blvd St. Louis, MO 63108, U.S.A.mthiess1@slu.edu
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Abstract

The author of Joseph and Aseneth writes a lengthy narrative about Aseneth’s conversion, thereby providing a justification for Joseph’s marriage to an Egyptian woman. The author explicitly connects her seven-day period of withdrawal to creation, thus portraying her conversion as a divinely wrought new creation. In addition, her eight-day conversion process imitates two similar processes from Jewish scripture. First, Aseneth’s transformation parallels the circumcision of the newborn male eight days after his birth. Second, on the eighth day Aseneth partakes of an angelic existence, conversing with an angel, eating the food of angels, and being dressed in angelic garb. This elevation in her status parallels the consecration of the priestly class in Lev 8, which goes through a period of seven days before it can serve as priests on the eighth day. This process thus stresses the distance between non-Jew and Jew, while at the same time providing a scriptural rationale for how Aseneth overcame it.

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