Aseneth between Judaism and Christianity: Reframing the Debate

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



The question of whether Joseph and Aseneth is “Jewish or Christian?” is the central frame in which the provenance of this tale has traditionally been sought. Yet, such a formulation assumes that “Judaism” and “Christianity” were distinct entities without overlap, when it is now widely acknowledged that they were not easily separable in antiquity for quite some time. I suggest that the question of whether Joseph and Aseneth is Jewish or gentile is more profitable for contextualizing Aseneth’s tale. This article offers fresh evidence for historicizing its origins in Judaism of Greco-Roman Egypt. Placing the narrative’s concerns for boundary-regulation alongside the discursive projects of other ancient writers (both Jewish and gentile Christian) who engaged the story of Joseph suggests that the author of Joseph and Aseneth was likely a participant in a Hellenistic Jewish interpretive tradition in Egypt that used Joseph’s tale as a platform for marking and maintaining boundaries.

Aseneth between Judaism and Christianity: Reframing the Debate

in Journal for the Study of Judaism



Ahearne-KrollPatricia D. Joseph and Aseneth and Jewish Identity in Greco-Roman EgyptDissertation (University of Chicago Divinity School 2005).

Ahearne-KrollPatricia D. “Constructing Jewish Identity in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Case of Artapanus.” In The “Other” in Second Temple Judaism: Essays in Honor of John J. Collins ed. Daniel C. Harlowet al. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans2011) 434-456.

AndersonH. “4 Maccabees: A New Translation and Introduction.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigraphavol. 2. ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday1985) 509-529.

AptowitzerVictor. “Asenath, The Wife of Joseph: A Haggadic Literary-Historical Study.” Hebrew Union College Annual 1 (1924) 239-306.

ArgyleA.W. “Joseph the Patriarch in Patristic Teaching.” Expository Times 67 (1955-1956) 199-201.

BarclayJohn M.G. Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora: From Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE-117 CE) (Edinburgh: T&T Clark1996).

BasslerJouette M. “Philo on Joseph: The Basic Coherence of De Iosepho and De Somniis ii.” Journal for the Study of Judaism 16 (1985) 240-255.

BatiffolP. Le livre de la prière d’Aseneth (Paris: Leroux1889-1890).

BatiffolP. “Review of Apocrypha Anecdota II, by M.R. James.” Revue biblique 7 (1898) 302-304.

BergerKlaus. Das Buch der Jubiläen (Gütersloh: Mohn1981).

BlochRené. “Take Your Time: Conversion, Confidence and Tranquility in Joseph and Aseneth.” In Anthropologie und Ethik. Frühjüdische Literatur und Neues Testament: Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen ed. M. Konradt and E. Schläpfer (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck2014) 77-96.

BohakGideon. Joseph and Aseneth and the Jewish Temple in Heliopolis (Atlanta: Scholars Press1996).

BoyarinDaniel. A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press1997).

BoyarinDaniel. Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press2004).

BurchardChristoph. Untersuchungen zu Joseph und Aseneth: Überlieferung-Ortsbestimmung (Tübingen: Mohr1965).

BurchardChristoph. “Ein vorläufiger griechischer Text von Joseph und Aseneth.” Dielheimer Blätter zum Alten Testament 14 (1979) 2-53.

BurchardChristoph. Joseph und Aseneth (Leiden: Brill2003).

CharlesR.H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English. 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon1913).

ChesnuttRandall D. From Death to Life: Conversion in Joseph and Aseneth (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic1995).

ChesnuttRandall D. “From Text to Context: The Social Matrix of Joseph and Aseneth.” In Society of Biblical Literature 1996 Seminar Papers (Atlanta: Scholars Press1996) 285-302.

ChesnuttRandall D. “Review of When Aseneth Met Joseph: A Late Antique Tale of the Biblical Patriarch and His Egyptian Wife, Reconsidered, by Ross Shepherd Kraemer.” Journal of Biblical Literature 119 (2000) 760-762.

ChesnuttRandall D. “Perceptions of Oil in Early Judaism and the Meal Formula in Joseph and Aseneth.” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 14 (2005) 113-132.

CollinsJohn J. Joseph and Aseneth: Jewish or Christian?” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 14 (2005) 97-112.

DochertySusan. Joseph and Aseneth: Rewritten Bible or Narrative Expansion?” Journal for the Study of Judaism 35 (2004) 27-48.

Dulaey (Amiens)Martine. “Joseph le patriarche, figure du Christ.” In Figures de l’Ancien Testament chez les Pères (Strasbourg: Centre d’analyse et de documentation patristiques1989) 83-105.

DunnJames D.G. The New Perspective on Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans2005).

EisenbaumPamela. Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (New York: HarperCollins2010).

EndresJohn C. Biblical Interpretation in the Book of Jubilees (Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America1987).

FeldmanLouis H. “Josephus’ Portrait of Joseph.” Revue biblique 99 (1992) 504-528.

GagerJohn G. Reinventing Paul (Oxford: Oxford University Press2000).

GastonLloyd. Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press1987; repr. Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock 2006).

GoldsteinJonathan A. 1 Maccabees (New Haven: Yale University Press1976).

GoodenoughE.R. “Philo’s Exposition of the Law and His De Vita Mosis.” Harvard Theological Review 26 (1933) 109-125.

GoodenoughE.R. By Light Light: The Mystic Gospel of Hellenistic Judaism (New Haven: Yale University Press1935).

GoodenoughE.R. The Politics of Philo Judaeus (New Haven: Yale University Press1938).

GrabbeLester L. Wisdom of Solomon (London: T&T Clark2003).

GrabbeLester L. “Jewish Identity and Hellenism in the Fragmentary Jewish Writings in Greek.” In Scripture and Traditions: Essays on Early Judaism and Christianity in Honor of Carl R. Holladay ed. Patrick Gray and Gail R. O’Day (Leiden: Brill2008) 21-32.

GruenErich S. Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press1998).

Halpern-AmaruBetsy. “Burying the Fathers: Exegetical Strategies and Source Traditions in Jubilees 46.” In Reworking the Bible: Apocryphal and Related Texts at Qumran ed. Esther G. ChazonDevorah Dimant and Ruth A. Clements (Leiden: Brill2005) 135-152.

HarringtonD.J. “Pseudo-Philo: A New Translation and Introduction.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigraphavol. 2. ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday1985) 297-377.

HayesChristine E. Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud (Oxford: Oxford University Press2002).

HealKristian S. “Joseph as a Type of Christ in Syriac Literature.” Brigham Young University Studies Quarterly 41 (2002) 29-49.

HeineRonald E. Origen: Homilies on Genesis and Exodus (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press1982).

HezserCatherine. “‘Joseph and Aseneth’ in the Context of Ancient Greek Erotic Novels.” Frankfurter judaistische Beiträge 19 (1997) 140.

Hicks-KeetonJill. Arguing with Aseneth: Gentile Access to Israel’s “Living God” in Jewish Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Pressforthcoming 2018).

HiekeThomas. “The Role of ‘Scripture’ in the Last Words of Mattathias (1 Macc 2:49-70).” In The Books of the Maccabees: History Theology Ideology ed. Géza G. Xeravits and József Zsengellér (Leiden: Brill2007) 61-74.

HilgertEarle. “A Survey of Previous Scholarship on Philo’s De Josepho.” In Society of Biblical Literature 1986 Seminar PapersSBLSP 25 ed. Kent Harold Richards (Atlanta: Scholars1986) 262-270.

HolladayCarl R. Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authorsvol. 1: Historians (Chico, CA: Scholars Press1983).

HollanderHarm W. Joseph as an Ethical Model in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Leiden: Brill1981).

HollanderHarm W. “The Portrayal of Joseph in Hellenistic and Early Christian Literature.” In Biblical Figures Outside the Bible ed. Michael E. Stone and Theodore A. Bergren (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International1998).

HumphreyEdith. “On Bees and Best Guesses: The Problem of Sitz im Leben from Internal Evidence as Illustrated by Joseph and Aseneth.” Currents in Research: Biblical Studies 7 (1999) 223-236.

InowlockiSabrina. Des idoles mortes et muettes au Dieu vivant: Joseph Aséneth et le fils de Pharaon dans un roman du judaïsme hellénisé (Turnhout: Brepols2002).

JeremiasJ. “The Last Supper.” Expository Times 64 (1952) 91-92.

Johnson HodgeCaroline. If Sons Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul (Oxford: Oxford University Press2007).

KautzschE. Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments. 2 vols. (Tübingen: Mohr1900).

KeeHoward C. Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: A New Translation and Introduction.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigraphavol. 1 ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday1983) 775-828.

KilpatrickG.D. “The Last Supper.” Expository Times 64 (1952) 4-8.

KraemerRoss S. When Aseneth Met Joseph: A Late Antique Tale of the Biblical Patriarch and His Egyptian Wife Reconsidered (New York: Oxford University Press1998).

KugelJames L. In Potiphar’s House: The Interpretive Life of Biblical Texts. 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press1994).

KugelJames L. A Walk Through Jubilees: Studies in the Book of Jubilees and the World of Its Creation (Leiden: Brill2012).

KuglerRob. “Hearing the Story of Moses in Ptolemaic Egypt: Artapanus Accommodates the Tradition.” In The Wisdom of Egypt: Jewish Early Christian and Gnostic Essays in Honour of Gerard P. Luttikhuizen ed. Anthony Hilhorst and George H. van Kooten (Leiden: Brill2005) 67-80.

LachsSamuel Tobias. “An Egyptian Festival in Canticles Rabba.” Jewish Quarterly Review 51 (1960) 47-54.

LevinsonJoshua. “An-Other Woman: Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife. Staging the Body Politic.” Jewish Quarterly Review 87 (1997) 269-301.

MarcusJoel. “The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Didascalia Apostolorum: A Common Jewish Christian Milieu?” Journal of Theological Studies 61 (2010) 596-626.

Massebieau L. and E. Brehier. “Essai sur la chronologie de la vie et des oeuvres de Philon.” Revue de l’historie des religions 53 (1906) 25-64164-185 267-289.

MroczekEva. The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press2016).

NanosMark D. and Marcus Zetterholm eds. Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle (Minneapolis: Fortress2015).

NickelsburgGeorge W.E. Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Minneapolis: Fortress2005).

NiehoffMaren. The Figure of Joseph in Post-Biblical Jewish Literature (Leiden: Brill1992).

NiehoffMaren. Philo on Jewish Identity and Culture (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck2001).

NiehoffMaren. “New Garments for Biblical Joseph.” In Biblical Interpretation: History Context and Reality ed. Christine Helmer (Atlanta, GA: SBL2005) 33-56.

NirRivka. Joseph and Aseneth: A Christian Book (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix2012).

ParryDonald W. and Emanuel Tov. The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader2nd ed.revised and expandedvol. 1 (Leiden: Brill2014).

PhilonenkoMarc. Joseph et Aséneth: Introduction texte critique traduction et notes (Leiden: Brill1968).

RichardEarl. “The Polemical Character of the Joseph Episode in Acts 7.” Journal of Biblical Literature 98 (1979) 255-267.

RuniaDavid T. Philo in Early Christian Literature: A Survey (Assen: Van Gorcum1993).

SchullerEileen. “4Q372 1: A Text about Joseph.” Revue de Qumran 14/55 (1990) 349-376.

SchullerEileen and Moshe Bernstein. “4QNarrative and Poetic Compositiona-c.” In Wadi Daliyeh II The Samaria Papyri from Wadi Daliyeh and Qumran Cave 4. XXVIII Miscellanea Part 2 ed. Douglas M. GroppJames VanderKam and Monica Brady (Oxford: Clarendon2001).

StandhartingerAngela. “Recent Scholarship on Joseph and Aseneth (1988-2013).” Currents in Biblical Research 12 (2014) 353-406.

StowersStanley K. A Rereading of Romans: Justice Jews and Gentiles (New Haven: Yale University Press1994).

ThiessenMatthew. “4Q372 1 and the Continuation of Joseph’s Exile.” Dead Sea Discoveries 15 (2008) 380-395.

ThiessenMatthew. Paul and the Gentile Problem (Oxford: Oxford University Press2016).

Van RuitenJacques T.A.G.M. “Abraham and the Nations in the Book of Jubilees.” In Abraham the Nations and the Hagarites: Jewish Christian and Islamic Perspectives on Kinship with Abraham ed. Martin GoodmanGeorge H. van Kooten and Jacques T.A.G.M. van Ruiten (Leiden: Brill2010) 105-116.

VanderKamJames C. The Book of Jubilees. Guides to the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic2001).

VikanGary. Illustrated Manuscripts of Pseudo-Ephrem’s Life of Joseph and the Romance of Joseph and AsenethDissertation (Princeton University 1976).

WermanCana. Jubilees 30: Building a Paradigm for the Ban on Intermarriage.” Harvard Theological Review 90 (1997) 1-22.

WestStephanie. “A Neglected Greek Romance.” Classical Quarterly 24 (1974) 70-81.

WillsLawrence M. The Jewish Novel in the Ancient World (Ithaca: Cornell University Press1995).

WintermuteO.S. “Jubilees: A New Translation and Introduction.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigraphavol. 2 ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday1985) 35-142.

ZerbeGordon M. Non-Retaliation in Early Jewish and New Testament Texts: Ethical Themes in Social Contexts (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic1993).

ZervosG.T. “History of Joseph: A New Translation and Introduction.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigraphavol. 2 ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday1985) 467-471.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 29 29 17
Full Text Views 29 29 23
PDF Downloads 8 8 5
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0