Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Hills, Julian V.
Burns, Joshua E.
This study compares two seemingly dissimilar ancient texts, the Gospel of Mark and Joseph and Aseneth. The former is a product of the nascent Jesus movement and influenced by the Greco-Roman βίοι (“Lives”). It details the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of a wandering Galilean. The latter is a Hellenistic Jewish narrative influenced by Jewish novellas and Greek romances. It expands the laconic account of Joseph’s marriage to Aseneth in Genesis 41 into a full-blown love story that promotes the romantic, theological, and ethical incentives of spurning idols and converting to Judaism. Generically, theologically, and concerning content the two texts are quite different. Nonetheless, Mark and Joseph and Aseneth exhibit a number of remarkable affinities. As to language and style, both are paratactically structured and contain few long, complex periods. They are repetitive with respect to words, clauses, sentences, and pericopes. Each employs a similar proportion of active to passive voice verbs, as well as present and imperfect to aorist tenses. They are similar in length, and the direction of each narrative dramatically shifts at its midway point. Both are intertextually echoic, evoking Jewish Scriptures metonymically rather than by direct citation. And each has a multiform textual tradition that went unprotected from dramatic revisions by later authors and editors. I argue that Mark and Joseph and Aseneth are similar in these respects because of their medium and mode of composition. Each was composed via dictation. They are what I will call “textualized oral narratives.” As such they represent one instantiation of the complex relationship between orality and textuality in early Judaism and Christianity. This thesis is argued on the basis of modern sociolinguistic studies that compare oral and written narratives, considerations of ancient media culture, and the linguistic and metalinguistic characteristics of the texts themselves.
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