The Despoliation of Egypt

in Pre-Rabbinic, Rabbinic and Patristic Traditions


This work examines the role played by the biblical motif of the despoliation of Egypt in the understanding Gentiles had of Jews, and how Jews defended themselves, their heroes and their God in the face of anti-Jewish slander. It also examines the manner in which Christians learned from their rabbinic counterparts how to defend Moses and his God against the gnostic challenge. Beginning with Philo and based on haggadic additions, the embarrassment of the episode was 'healed' through allegory and became a critically important biblical justification for the Christian appropriation of the 'Egyptian treasures' of their Greco-Roman cultural heritage. This work describes how Christians borrowed exegetical traditions from rabbis not only to defend their sacred texts against gnostic attacks but to justify their interest in and appropriation of non-Christian philosophy in their theological understandings.

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Joel S. Allen, Ph.D. (2006) in History of Biblical Interpretation, Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati, is pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Barbourville Kentucky. He also teaches History and Religion at Union College and Bible at the Appalachian Local Pastors School.


A. Part One: Pre-Rabbinic Interpretations
1. The Septuagint:
2. Jubilees
3. Artapanus
4. Ezekiel the Tragedian
5. The Book of Wisdom
6. Philo’s Life of Moses
7. Philo’s Who is the Heir?
8. Josephus
9. Excursus
The Social Background of the “Fair Wage” Interpretations

B. Part Two: Rabbinic Interpretations
Midrashic Pondering the Plunder

C. Part Three: Patristic Interpretations
1. Irenaeus
2. Tertullian
3. Origen
4. Augustine
5. Others Patristic Texts


All those interested in biblical interpretation, the relationships between Jews, Pagans, and Christians in Late Antiquity, midrashic and allegorical biblical interpretation, and issues of Christ and Culture.
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