Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The Joseph story (Gen 37-50) is often recognized for its remarkable literary unity and depth. At the same time, much of its richness derives from its relationship with the rest of Genesis, as the Joseph story's context is an essential aspect of its meaning and message. This dissertation explores the Joseph story's relationship with the beginning of Genesis, by illuminating its connections with the Eden narrative and the story of Cain and Abel (Gen 2:4-4:26). It argues that the Joseph story's allusions to these narratives deepen its literary themes and theological vision by setting it in its proper context for interpretation.
Using the concepts of intratextuality and narrative analogy, this project traces various patterns of correspondence between Gen 37-50 and Gen 2-4. These intratextual patterns are characterized primarily by reversal. The story of Joseph's sale into slavery (Gen 37) mirrors Cain's murder of Abel (Gen 4:1-16), showing an initial parallel between the actions of Joseph's brothers and those of Cain. Subsequent developments in the story, however, illustrate how Joseph and Judah move beyond the primeval impulse to conflict and violence, achieving reconciliation and reversing Cain's failure. Likewise, the account of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (Gen 39) echoes the story of Adam's disobedience in Eden (Gen 3), as Joseph remains faithful to God where Adam violates God's command. Joseph's ability to provide food during the famine circumvents the curse upon the ground, one of the consequences of the humans' disobedience in Eden. Throughout the dissertation, close attention is paid to Joseph's knowledge, which plays an important role in the Joseph story's connections to Gen 2-4.
These intratextual relationships add depth to the Joseph story's theological outlook, casting fresh illumination on its themes of reconciliation, knowledge and perspective, and divine providence. At the same time, they remind the reader that the preservation of Jacob's family in the Joseph story bears significance for all of humankind. They offer a vision of how Jacob and his sons surpass the normal limitations of human life in the post-Eden world.