Who is this Asenath anyways?

I’ve been reading a lot of ancient texts lately. I mean, it’s my job and that’s pretty cool. A lot of the stuff I’ve been reading is full of familiar people, places, and things. But have you ever wondered about some of the characters from Scripture who seem to only make a brief appearance? How about Joseph’s wife?

“And Pharaoh called the name of Joseph Zaphenath-paneah and gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as a wife. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.” (Gen 41:45, LEB)

I mean, who is this Asenath anyways? She is only mentioned two other times in the Hebrew Bible (Gen 41:50 and 46:20). If you’re really curious and want to know more about Asenath, you’re in luck. As a matter of fact, I got to know Asenath a bit more this summer as I was reading through the Pseudepigrapha. The Pseudepigrapha refers to a number of texts attributed to her.

Why should you read the Pseudepigrapha? Well, for one at least one reason: it’s a whole lot of fun. Another, perhaps more valuable reason, is that the literature of the Pseudepigrapha sheds a lot of light onto the world of the Old and New Testaments.

As a newly-initiated lover of the Pseudepigrapha, I suspect that I am not the only one who has (unfortunately) neglected this body of literature. I mean, I learned about the Pseudepigrapha in school but never thought to actually read any of it! Crazy, I know. In some ways it was often touted as “dangerous” and “unchristian” and many of the same things are said about the Septuagint, which is also really unfortunate. The Pseudepigrapha is a rich (and did I mention fun?!) resource for anyone interested in the Bible, ancient history and culture, ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and so on.

– Jessica Parks (written in 2015)

3 thoughts on “Who is this Asenath anyways?

  1. Hopefully you’re not referring to your profs at HBU as those who ‘touted [it] as “dangerous” and “unchristian”’, much lest “often-ly” (to coin a term). I was under the impression that we gave a good bit of respect for engaging the range of Second Temple Judaism.

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    1. No, definitely not referring to HBU. I’m not even sure how this post got posted as I wrote it last year (and never finished it) but I imagine I had past church experiences and lay persons in mind.

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