Apocalyptic Imagery in Joseph and Aseneth

Apocalyptic Imagery in Joseph and Aseneth

In this brief essay I would like to present two ideas to you. Firstly that the story of Joseph and Aseneth contains apocalyptic imagery, mostly similar to that used in the book of Revelation. However, the second theory, which Kraemer puts forward, is very different, and it is that the story of Aseneth and her visitation of an angel shows nothing of what we would see as apocalyptic in style, but solely that she was adjuring (or ordering) an angel to come and tell her the future, which was, in fact, a practice in the Greco-Roman world.

However, we begin with the first theory and this includes the references to apocalyptic imagery, especially with regards to the book of Revelation. I would like to examine the language used in this text. It is used, interestingly enough, only up to Chapter 18, and so it is the first 18 chapters that I will focus upon.

First of all, I would like to define the word apocalyptic. The term is derived from the Greek word which means revelation or uncovering (hence the name of the last book of the New Testament). Apocalyptic writings are usually concerned with the end times and the symbols and stories about this time are usually communicated by an angel or by other divine means. The eschatology works on a “personal as well as a cosmic dimension” (J.J. Collins, page 299, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary). This is an important distinction to remember; I will come back to it at the end. In the story of Aseneth, therefore, we can see that there is more of a personal level and not so much a level of talking of the end times. However, despite the apparent lack of direct talk of the end times its imagery is very similar to that found in Revelation and so, perhaps, it speaks in hidden language about heaven and God’s purposes for His Church.

Published: 12th July 2019