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Genesis 39 and its Inner-Biblical Relations to Genesis and the Book of Proverbs

Project number: P27888 Einzelprojekte
Project lead: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Irmtraud Fischer
Project member: Mag. Daniela Feichtinger
Project lifetime: 2015/04/15-2018/04/14


While the history of the reception of the narrative of Joseph and Potiphar's wife has been elaborated on in detail in the past, a monograph with a thorough exegesis of this chapter of Genesis is to the present still outstanding. The proposed project intends to close this research gap.

It uses a multi-perspectival method to investigate the narrative, which - like Gen 38 - frequently was seen as an erratic block in a self-contained (if also historically developed) Joseph narrative. Hereby, narratological and rhetorical-discursive approaches to an analysis are used along with the steps prescribed by the historical-critical method. The perspective of gender is of great relevance hermeneutically since the narrative operates with sexual stereotypes that are to be ascertained clearly and also because a massive gender bias frequently lay at the root of its exegesis in the course of the history of research.

The first part is devoted to the analysis of Gen 39 using diachronic and synchronic approaches. Two excurses on ancient oriental marriage law and slave law are intended to shed light on the legal realities lying at the root of the text, and against whose background the plot of the narrative must be understood. Here, above all, the problems of sexuality and slavery must be pursued.

In the second part, the inner-biblical relationships of Gen 39 to three texts, or text complexes, are investigated: the passages concerning the "strange woman" in the Book of Proverbs (Prov 2:16-19; 5:1-23; 6:23-35; 7:4-27), the narrative of Tamar and Judah (Gen 38), as well as the so-called "abandonment narratives" (Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18; 26:1-11). The investigation of these inner-biblical relationships takes place in two steps. The first consists in the finding, description, and limitation of the thematic tertium comparationis as this results from use of the method. This "point of comparison" is taken essentially from the history of research, that is, it is here a matter of a thematic parallel that, to be sure, was noticed frequently, but upon which was not reflected extensively until now. In step two, the three text complexes are compared with Gen 39 on the level of form as well as content.

The third part deals with the extra-biblical relationships of Gen 39. Here, what must be treated is the Egyptian "two brothers' tale", to which reference is made repeatedly in the history of research. Identifying further extra-biblical relationships - possibly also those to the Hellenistic novel - is one of the goals of the foregoing and concomitant literary research. Only the comprehensive consideration of all the results of the individual stages of the work will make possible a complete interpretation of the narrative and, possibly, a dating of the same.


Head of Department Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dr.h.c. Irmtraud Fischer Phone:+43 (0)316 380 - 6021


Heinrichstraße 78 A-8010 Graz
Patrick Marko Phone:+43 (0)316 380 - 6020
Fax:+43 (0)316 380 - 9305


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