Unnamed and Uncredited: Anonymous Figures in the Biblical World
Editorial, Unnamed and Uncredited: Anonymous Figures in the Biblical World, 1–4.
Esther Brownsmith “‘Call Me By Your Name’: Critical Fabulation and the Woman of Judges 19,” 5–27.
KEYWORDS: anonymity, critical fabulation, Judges 19, Levite’s concubine, metacriticism, naming, onomastics, pilegesh
Is anonymity a form of violence? The woman of Judges 19 endured gang-rape and dismemberment, and neither the Bible nor its ancient exegetes gave her a name. This article surveys the modern writers and scholars who chose new names for her, examining how their choices of names reflected their broader goals for retelling her story. From there, I turn to the broader fields of critical fabulation and literary onomastics, particularly as rooted in Black American experience. I confront the affective yearning that undergirded these naming attempts and their negotiation with archival absence. Naming is an act of power, and the choice to name this woman ultimately reflects our own decision: do we “rescue” her from anonymity or leave her to dwell in a space of abjection? The decision is less simple than it appears.
Katherine E. Southwood, “The Social Dynamics Surrounding Yahwistic Women’s Supposed Ritual Deviance in Ezekiel 13:17–23,” 28–46.
KEYWORDS: ritual, magic, Ezekiel 13, anonymity, power, anxiety
This article suggests that in Ezekiel 13:17–23 we have an example of the ritual activities of Yahwistic women being undermined. However, rather than opening the hermeneutical crux of attempting to understand what it is the women are doing or how their ritual activity is functioning, I will focus squarely on the broader social dynamics in the text. Specifically, I pay attention to the way in which stereotypes are used as foils in the struggle to define authentic authority and power. Instead of dividing ancient Israelite society solely along gender lines, I will acknowledge the text’s misogynistic undertones, but I will also attend to broader social questions. I use, as a heuristic analogy, examples of magic accusations drawn from Classics in order to illustrate the potentially complex social dynamics and tensions potentially underlying the text. I argue that Ezekiel’s accusation, in and of itself, of the women’s ritual deviancy is enough to damage the women’s reputation. Likewise, I argue for the possibility that the women’s ritual activity is an attempt to gain a sense of agency and control after the chaos of the Babylonian exile.
Jonathan Homrighausen, “Forgetting the Forgetter: The Cupbearer in the Joseph Saga (Genesis 40–41),” 47–65.
KEYWORDS: Joseph, characterisation, minor characters, eunuchs, courtiers, Book of Genesis, dreams, cupbearer, supporting cast, narrative criticism
Typically, the cupbearer in Genesis 40–41 is interpreted only as a member of Joseph’s supporting cast. However, closely reading this minor character suggests more options for interpreting both him and other anonymous courtiers found throughout the Hebrew Bible. The cupbearer’s actions (and inactions) raise ethical and psychological questions about remembering, forgetting, and the shades of grey between them. The cupbearer, ironically, is remembered most for forgetting Joseph; yet in forgetting the cupbearer, we forget the lesson in remembrance that he exemplifies. This minor character study partners conventional narrative criticism with the gaps and possibilities found in the cupbearer’s reception among sources as diverse as Jerome, the Qur’an, Genesis Rabbah, and Thomas Mann.
Katherine Low, “Moses Married a Black Woman: Modern American Receptions of the Cushite Wife of Moses,” 66–88.
KEYWORDS: Numbers 12, reception history, Moses, marriage, race
Americans overwhelmingly assume that Moses married a Black woman. Using sources from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this article highlights interpretations of Moses’s marriage to the Cushite woman in Numbers 12. Utilising cultural-critical reception history—that biblical interpretation is culturally conditioned—readers in the United States contrast a Black wife with an assumedly white Moses and Miriam and therefore display an assumption of a racial binary at work in their contemporary societies. In some cases, the name Tharbis is utilised as part of a post-biblical tradition that Moses acquired a war-bride in his early days as an Egyptian military leader. In three parts, the article first discusses nineteenth century associations between a Black wife and a white Miriam, followed by several examples of readers using “Moses Married a Black Woman,” or, as I call it, “Mosaic miscegenation” in their social and intellectual spaces. Readers call upon Moses’s marriage to a Black woman to address their contemporary social issues. Tharbis makes a come-back with twentieth-century novels that lead up to the 1956 Hollywood film The Ten Commandments. Whether named or not, the wife of Moses, mentioned briefly in Numbers, serves as a touchstone on which Americans project their anxieties about abolition and inter-racial marriage.
Heather Macumber, “Muted and Hidden Monsters in Revelation 12,” 89–106.
KEYWORDS: Woman clothed with the Sun, dragon, monster theory, Revelation 12, apocalypse, monsters, hybridity
The Woman clothed with the Sun makes a brief appearance in Revelation 12; however, her influence upon the imaginations of artists and interpreters is substantive. She is unnamed and yet multiple identities are ascribed to her including individual women (Eve, Mary), corporate institutions (Israel, the church), and ancient goddesses. In this article, rather than attempting to classify her with a definite identity, my goal is to destabilise this figure by aligning her with the monstrous. Using the lens of monster theory, I examine her otherworldly orientation, her hybrid and extraordinary body, and her correspondence with other monstrous characters. Her unknowability and refusal to fit interpretive categories are part of her monstrosity, as she moves across hybrid boundaries and liminal spheres.
Janelle Peters, “The Mother of Rufus and Paul in Romans 16,” 107–112.
KEYWORDS: church leaders, Pauline authorship, women leaders, motherhood, benefaction, Romans
Rufus’s mother features in Paul’s concluding list of church leaders such as Phoebe in Romans 16. Paul calls her his own mother. I argue that Rufus’s mother’s inclusion indicates higher status and influence within the Pauline house-churches, building on Elmer’s notion of corporate Pauline authorship.
Joseph Scales, “Who is ‘Worthy of Honour’? Women as Elders in Late Second Temple Period Literature,” 113–129.
KEYWORDS: elders, Judith, Susanna, gender, inscriptions, synagogue, Second Temple period
Groups and individuals known as “elders” (Greek: presbyteros, gerousia; Hebrew: zaqan) are often found in ancient Jewish texts and inscriptions. Their ubiquity in such texts and inscriptions is accompanied by very little information about their actual function. Generally, this may be because we have some kind of impression that a group of older men in patriarchal and androcentric societies might form a kind of local authority and would naturally be referred to as elders. In the works known as Judith and Susanna, female protagonists are set against or in contrast to elders. There is a presumption that these elders are an influential, all-male, locally authoritative, collective. This article will explore power dynamics within these texts where the elders function as a specific narrative device, often as a foil to exemplary female characters, and consider how this gendered reading of such a group forms contemporary understandings of ancient Judaism.