Tag Archives: joseph

My Namesakes: Josephs in the Bible

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIn my family tree, I am named for a LOT of Josephs. My paternal grandfather was Joseph, as was his father, and his. Regretfully, we have no records of my great-great-grandfather’s name, but for all I know it was Joseph, too. (My father somehow missed out; only his middle name is Joseph.) It was not that Joseph was always the name of the first child, but each generation had a Joseph and I am directly descended from that line. It is pretty neat.

When I was younger, I would joke that I did not want to be named Joseph in honor of St. Joseph, the father of Jesus, but rather for Joseph of the Old Testament. He was a snazzy dresser! He saved Israel from famine! Sure, he contributed to the Exile of the Jews in Egypt, but no one was perfect. St. Joseph, on the other hand, was “just” the guy who famously never slept with his wife. Even though my opinion matured, when I created this blog years later, I chose to honor the Old Testament Joseph. This was a tribute, but also a way of making clear that I primarily focus on Hebrew Bible stories.

As I inch closer to Joseph of “Technicolor Dream Coat” fame, I am starting a brief new series: a look at all of the Josephs in the bible. So far, I have found eight: four in the Hebrew Bible and four more in the New Testament. Each post starts off about a different Joseph, but they lead into some very interesting discussions. It will be a lot of fun and touch on a few less well-known bible stories.

Want an advanced preview? Read on for more.

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Same-sex Marriage in Classical Biblical Commentary

As I researched an upcoming post on Enoch, I stumbled upon this passage in Genesis Rabbah:

“The generation of the Flood was not blotted out of the world until they had begun writing nuptial hymns for marriages between males or between man and beast.”
Genesis Rabbah 26:5:4

That does say what you think it says: Fifth century Jews, at least some of them, thought that Noah’s flood was caused by gay marriage. I was shocked by this, but more because I didn’t think of same-sex marriage as a social issue until the modern era. The very fact that it was condemned fifteen-hundred years ago means that the practice must have existed in some form. I subsequently learned that there was a controversy about it in the Roman Empire and was banned right around the time the commentary was written. It is a small world!

This isn’t a post in favor of gay marriage or against it, but rather I want to look at the two (that I found) references in early Jewish sources which talk about the practice– and if you know of early Christian sources, please share them with me. It should go without saying that while the bible doesn’t mention the practice directly, the prohibitions against same-sex relations are clear and as I strive for the “plain meaning” of the text in my blog, I won’t apologize for that. I support same-sex marriage, but this post isn’t a biblical defense of that practice.

I hope too many people don’t unfriend me for posting this. Read on for more!

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Timeline of Genesis From Adam to Joseph

According to the story in Genesis, there were around 2,300 years from the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden to the exodus of the Israelites in Egypt. Along the way, there were 23 generations, a flood, several famines, and generation after generation of lost stories. Many readers skim over these sections for the narrative portions of the book, but if we look carefully at these “begats” we can not only seeing biblical man becoming more like us, but there is also plenty of room for surprise. Did you know that Abraham could have met Noah? Or that Eber, for whom the Hebrew tribe is named, outlived his great-great-great-great grandson?

Come, take a look! There will be graphs!

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Much Ado About Camels… in the Bible

Somehow in all my reading of Genesis, I missed one of the great controversies of the bible: camels. Dromedaries appear in several Genesis stories, but most notably in the story of Isaac and Rebekah. In this story, Rebekah waters Abraham’s camels and fulfills a prophecy to be Isaac’s wife. I never thought twice about camels in biblical times, but science disagrees. Robert Alter summarizes the controversy best:

Archeological and extrabiblical literary evidence indicates that camels were not adopted as beasts of burden until several centuries after the Patriarchal period, and so their introduction to this story would have to be anachronistic.

Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses

Rather than point at camels as an indication that the bible is “wrong”, I argue that the rarity of camels fits the biblical narrative. The authors may even connect Abraham to the rise of camels in all of Canaan. Read on for more.

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Advent in the Bible

As a child, Advent wasn’t one of the holidays that I understood. I was raised Roman Catholic, so during those years it was as familiar to my 6-year old self as Lent– which is to say they were periods of anticipation for Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. (Oh, the crazy ways that idolatry invades everything, but I digress.) Maybe we had an advent wreath or am advent calendar around, and I remember getting them in my Catholic elementary school, but that was the limit. As I grew a little older, my family rotated through a few varieties of Protestantism, some of which certainly had Advent and some of which did not. I probably didn’t notice.

Curious about Advent in the bible? Read on!
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Christmas in the Bible

(This blog will be on hiatus for a few weeks as my wife and I enjoy our honeymoon and some well-needed rest. The blog will resume it’s regular irregular course in January.)

The holiday season is full of rush-rush-rush. Hanukkah is long gone and now it’s Christmas Day already! I hope that you have a great one!

For most people that grew up in Christian households like mine, Christmas is THE holiday of the New Testament. In the popular mind, Christmas has long since eclipsed Easter as the most celebrated holiday. Although some commentators claim that there is a “War on Christmas” today, it is nothing compared to the war on Christmas that many Christians waged in the past to keep Easter’s place secure. The Puritan founders of New England, my home, even tried to ban the celebration of Christmas!

How did Christmas become dominant? It could be that it replaced various Roman and pagan rituals as the holiday of the Winter Solstice. I dare say most of our Christmas traditions from mistletoe to Christmas trees are non-Christian, even though there’s a Christian gloss on them now. But more likely it’s because Christmas is simply a more uplifting holiday. As important as Easter is to Christians, the birth of a man is more celebratory than his death, even if he does manage to come back later.

In the Bible (and this is a bible blog, remember?), Christmas has the distinction of appearing first in the New Testament, starting shortly after the genealogies in Matthew 1:18. This may seem like a natural placement, but it’s not: most scholars now believe that Mark was the first gospel to be written and Mark begins at Jesus’ baptism. In fact, unlike Easter and the other “important” events in Jesus’ life that is recounted in all four gospels, Christmas is only discussed in two of them: Matthew and Luke. And, except for the fact that Jesus is born in both of them, they are very different stories.

Remember the wise men? The adoring shepherds? The manger? Our modern Christmas story is a mixture of the TWO Christmas stories of the bible, with no two details (except Jesus being born) repeating in both of them.

The TWO stories of Christmas? Read more after the break.

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