Joseph and Asenath

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Louis L Sorenson
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Joseph and Asenath

Post by Louis L Sorenson » February 19th, 2012, 8:47 am

There is a pseudepigraphical work titled Joseph and Asenath (among other names). It relates how Joseph when he went to Egypt could marry an Egyptian wife from whom he sired Ephraim and Mannaseh. Mark Goodacre keeps a web page on it at The Greek version (partly reconstructed?) can be found in the book by Pierre Batiffol in Studia Patristica (1889) on Google books at ... ne&f=false

There is a newer text.
Christoph Burchard, "Ein vorläufiger griechischer Text von Joseph und Aseneth" in Gesammelte Studien zu Joseph und Aseneth: Berichtigt und ergänzt Herausgegeben mit Unterstützung von Carsten Burfeind (Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha 13; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996), pp. 161-209; also available in Dielheimer Blätter zum Alten Testament 14 (1979), pp. 2-53; & 16 (1982), pp. 37-39

Burchard's eclectic, longer text is the basis for his English translation in Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (see below). Quite the best place to access Burchard's text is in the recent Gesammelte Studien listed first here: it is easier to get hold of this and it is in computer format with diacriticals and so on. But note that the text is also available in the following volume.
This looks like a fun book to read and the Greek is fairly easy but the story unfamiliar. Perhaps a reader's edition? I've extracted the pages of Batiffol's version into a separate pdf. It can be found at ... senath.pdf.

Ken M. Penner
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Re: Joseph and Asenath

Post by Ken M. Penner » February 19th, 2012, 3:32 pm

Philonenko, M. Joseph et Aséneth: Introduction, texte critique, traduction et notes. SPB 13; Leiden: Brill, 1968.
Burchard, Christoph. Joseph und Aseneth. Pseudepigrapha Veteris Testamenti Graece 5. Leiden: Brill, 2003.
A Greek text of Joseph and Aseneth is available in electronic (and morphologically tagged) format from the three major Bible software makers.
The production of this text for the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha was assigned to John C. Johnson (, but it is not yet ready.
Ken M. Penner
St. Francis Xavier University

Mark Lightman
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Re: Joseph and Asenath

Post by Mark Lightman » February 21st, 2012, 12:23 am

εὐχαριστοῦμέν σοι, ὦ Λεονίδα, δείξαντι ἡμῖν ταύτην τὴν γραφήν.

As usual, you have done a great job of locating a good resource for Greek learners and making it more accessible.

I see that nobody gave it a GRONT score. Do I have to do everything myself?

Easy 10 Close to NT 10 Good 5 Total 25

which is well within the range for recommended reading. The vocab is not extensive or specialized and the syntax is extremely simple. At the same time, it has the feel of “real Greek,” and not that frustrating sense you sometimes get from reading Semitic Greek translationese.

The plot is similar to the Hellenistic novels, but the language seems more purposely Judeo-Christian than pagan. Unless I missed it, the word ἔρως and its derivatives do not occur—odd given the subject matter-- but ἀγαπῶ does, quite often. The simplest explanation, for me, of the many verbal echoes of the GNT is that the author was a Christian.
Perhaps a reader's edition?
How about an edition, period? I read the text off your PDF, which, again, I really appreciate, but I hate reading Greek on computers. I could not find any affordable Greek editions on Amazon, and, indeed, it seems handy Greek texts of the Pseudepigrapha in general are hard to find. We really need something like Charlesworth’s two volumes, but in Greek. Do you know why so many of us Greek learners read and re-read the Apostolic Fathers so much? (Apart from the high Gront scores.) It’s because of Michael Holmes fine, affordable edition. From what I can tell, the Pseudepigrapha is at least as interesting and generally easier, but a lot less accessible, unless I am missing some texts that are already out there. Maybe the solution is finding these old texts on Googlebooks and printing them oneself.

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Re: Joseph and Asenath

Post by RandallButh » February 21st, 2012, 4:41 am

Joseph and Aseneth is a delightful book and the textual history is quite complicated and involved. I do recommend it for reading, because it's easy and because of the inherent cultural interest, but with a caveat.

One comment in the thread surprised me:
At the same time, it has the feel of “real Greek,” and not that frustrating sense you sometimes get from reading Semitic Greek translationese.
I would say just the opposite. Totally.
It has the strong feel of Semitic Greek. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, but most of the comentators call it 'Greek original' because they sense that a few alpha-privative words seem thematic and alpha-privative words (αδυνατος'impossible') are considered indications of a non-Semitic origin. I find the alpha-privatives clustered and they do not define the book but they may define a Greek redactor.

So read the book, but be aware that even the word order is fairly Hebraic. Actually, like Tobit, the book may have circulated in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
On my own tests it scores as Hebrew rather than Aramaic.
The older Battifol text (1892) shows an Aramaic-influenced recension, B (Burchard) and D (Philonenko) are Hebraic and reflect the original closer.

Here are a couple of notes from a forthcoming article:
b. intrusive Greek editing
27.3 καὶ ἔπεσεν ὁ υἱὸς Φαραὼ and Pharoah's son fell
ἀπὸ τοῦ ἵππου αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν from his horse onto the ground
ἡμιθανὴς τυγχάνων. half-dead becoming
The word ἡμιθανής has a compound, non-Semitic etymology and the word order is inverted from Semitic patterns. Ἡμιθανής looks like intrusive Greek editing. This Greek word does not smoothly mesh with the style of the surrounding text.

c. 15:5 ‘A’-family text with a possible Christian interpolation:
καὶ φαγεῖ ἄρτον ζωῆς εὐλογημένον, and he will eat blessed bread of life
καὶ πιεῖ ποτήριον ἐμπεπλησμένον ἀθανασίας, and will drink a cup of immortality
καὶ χρίσματι χρισθήσῃ εὐλογημένῳ τῆς ἀφθαρσίας and with an ointiment you will be
anointed, blessed of incorruptibility.

Louis L Sorenson
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Joined: May 5th, 2011, 9:21 pm
Location: Burnsville, MN, USA

Re: Joseph and Asenath

Post by Louis L Sorenson » February 21st, 2012, 8:32 am

I agree that the Greek is Semitic in style. There is an overwhelming number of constructions starting with καὶ ἦν, καὶ ἦσαν there was/ there were. Other structures such as καὶ ἑγένετο occur throughout. But it is a polished Semitic style and does not seem to have some of the ugly odd constructions that some of the LXX books have.

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