Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Orlov, Andrei

Second Advisor

Hills, Julian

Third Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre


This study surveys the development of two literary phenomena in early Jewish and Christian tradition. The first is the birth story of a portentous child, exemplified by the birth stories of Moses, Noah, Melchizedek, and Jesus in biblical and Second Temple period literature. The second is the mythical expansion of the exodus tradition, which interprets the crossing of the Red Sea as a recreation of the people of Israel. I examine the appropriation of these two phenomena in the late antique Hellenistic story, Joseph and Aseneth. I contend that (1) the early Jewish birth story paradigm is influenced by the ancient Near Eastern and Hellenistic tale type of the exposed hero, and that (2) Joseph and Aseneth appropriates the birth story paradigm and is influenced by the tale type in order to subvert expectations about Aseneth’s familial status. I also maintain that Aseneth’s transformative experience in the narrative is likened in an extended metaphor to the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. These two metaphors contribute to the theology of divine providence that forms the main theme of the narrative. Aseneth is both a model for the transformation of the Foreign Woman into an acceptable worshiper of the Most High God and a representative of wayward Israel.