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)
This is not to discredit biblical scholars and theologians with academic training–these are, after all, the people I look up to as a young scholar. There is obviously a very real benefit to formal scholastic training when it comes to biblical interpretation. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have spent the last decade in an academic setting learning from biblical scholars and theologians shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to do so. I am speaking as an academic (a baby though I might be). However much credibility a Bachelors degree in Biblical Languages and Christianity, a Master’s degree in Biblical Languages, and 15 additional graduate hours in Theological Studies with a half-written thesis might give me, I am speaking as one how has academic training. And from this perspective I still argue that academics do not have a monopoly on the biblical texts. There is no room for academic elitism when it comes to reading the scared scriptures; the spirit of elitism does not exist alongside the Holy Spirit and the work the Spirit does in whom the Spirit desires. So, while formal scholastic training is beneficial to the individual reader of scripture, the lack thereof does not automatically disqualify one from the ability to grasp the biblical texts nor should it automatically disqualify one’s contributions to a discussion or argument or whatever.
Does not the Holy Spirit play the primary role in our ability to read and understand the scriptures?
Despite what some might assume, I would not argue that any and every interpretation is credible. For one, I prefer the language used in theological interpretation of “better” readings rather than correct or accurate. I might even differentiate between plausible and implausible readings. Furthermore, I am not arguing that the best way to read the Bible is alone in isolation with just you and the Holy Spirit. To the contrary, I actually believe that to read Scripture well we need to read it in conversation with tradition and with the church, not alone in a vacuum.
What I ultimately take issue with is the idea that someone can automatically be disqualified not based on their arguments and/or methods, but on their pedigree or lack thereof. This is a shame, it reeks of academic elitism and arrogance, and does not take into account the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual believer as well as the wide access we have to information today.
A PhD does not guarantee someone is a good reader of scripture. Unless you’re N.T. Wright, of course.
– Jessica Parks (written in 2015)
So I stumbled across this blog, Women Biblical Scholars, the other day and it looks AMAZING! It is a blog solely dedicated to women in biblical scholarship.
Throughout history women have loved, studied, and taught the scriptures. Unfortunately, many of us have never heard of these biblical scholars and theologians. Often they are left out of history books and classrooms. The goal of this blog is to draw attention to the works of these women and discover what they contribute to our understanding of the biblical text. With greater awareness, this scholarship can shape course curriculum, homilies, public discourse, and academia itself. (from the blog’s About page)
This is like my meager, short-lived (but not necessarily retired!) Frauen Friday series on steroids and I’m super excited about it. I’m probably a little late to the party but if you haven’t seen it yet you should definitely check it out. It is relatively new but there are already tons of interviews and videos and it looks like it is updated pretty frequently so mosey on over and dive on in.
Also, you can follow @Women_Scholars on Twitter for updates. Kudos to this new blog and I look forward to being a regular reader!