The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Armenian Joseph

I have returned from San Antonio. For what I heard at the IQSA side of this vast SBL/AAR conference, you may read my recaps at CEMB. I still have a few days off from paying work, so I'll be delivering further notes on this blog, notes that don't fit at CEMB.

Among the pleasures of that paradise was the exhibition hall, mainly a bazaar of books. Last year I didn't find anything; this year I loosed my wallet. I have here the latest issue of Michael Stone's Armenian Apocrypha Relating To... series, Angels and Biblical Heroes published through the SBL itself. In the book's second half, Stone is appending to what he could not append to his 1982 book. I was here interested in what Armenians made of the Joseph story.

Last June we discussed whether or not sura 12 is based on Christianity. Scholars have found several elements which - if not Christian - were helpful to Christian homiletic (I want to say, "homilectic"...). I wish to highlight two of these. Witztum notes that the Qur'an has made of the phantom beast, which majoritarian Israel claimed had killed their leader Joseph, a wolf: and argued (plausibly) this wolf was meant to signify Judah. Dye added that the Qur'an's making of the dry pit a well, also, could be of use to Christian preachers, here alluding to Johannine living-water. (Even if I thought that Dye had made too much of this.)

The Armenian tradition on Joseph is Christian. Among Stone's evidence, the Armenian sermons (pp. 206-7) have the Israelites selling Joseph for thirty silver where the Bibles in Hebrew and Greek offer twenty or maybe even less than that. [One Armenian story has Gad and Dan steal ten of the silver: p. 130; thus accounting for why the narration's witnesses to the mainstream Bible, Joseph and Judah, only know twenty.] As another example, Joseph is sometimes left in the hole for three days, hinting at the span between Good Friday and Easter.

What I note of the Armenian homilies is that they are unaware of the Jewish wolf, and are unaware that the pit is (or should be) a life-giving well.

I conclude that the Armenian Christians were not, here, in contact with the Syrian Christians. The Armenians were also nonconversant with sura 12.

I should not like to say more than that, but the Armenians' midrash and sermons appear to be early, and (after the base text was accepted) conservative.


posted by Zimri on 09:21 | link | 0 comments

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