Journal Article

‘AND JOSEPH SLEPT WITH POTIPHAR'S WIFE’: A RE-READING

Theodore Weinberger

in Literature and Theology

Volume 11, issue 2, pages 145-151
Published in print June 1997 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online June 1997 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/11.2.145
‘AND JOSEPH SLEPT WITH POTIPHAR'S WIFE’: A RE-READING

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Joseph's decision not to sleep with Potiphar's wife is traditionally held up by Christian and Jewish faith communities as a model of piety. Yet both the biblical text and the way the text is transmitted in traditional Judaism may suggest otherwise. From a close reading of Genesis and an appreciation of traditional Jewish cantillation, there emerges an alternate model of piety out of this biblical story—one that privileges sexual gratification over renunciation. Though ancient biblical exegetes saw complicity in Joseph's relationship with Potiphar's wife, and saw Joseph's imprisonment as punishment for the sin of irresolutely rejecting adultery, it is possible to argue that Joseph's incarceration is punishment for the sin of rejecting mutual attraction and sexual intimacy in favour of loyalty to a slavemaster.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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