Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford

By Gary N. Knoppers; Antoine Hirsch | Go to book overview

THE JOSEPH STORY – SOME BASIC OBSERVATIONS

John Van Seters


Introduction

While the field of Egyptology may be the discipline in which Donald Redford has made his greatest contributions to scholarship, he has nevertheless also had a significant impact on biblical studies. Among his many important contributions to this field, the best known and most often cited is his book, A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph (1970), a work written early in his career. It was a very bold work at the time of its publication, challenging both the early dating of the Joseph story, using his Egyptological expertise for his careful review of the Egyptian coloring, and the Documentary Hypothesis, which was at the time the dominant method of literary analysis of the Joseph story. In both respects he anticipated the furor of the mid-70s, with my own work, Abraham in History and Tradition (1975), being a part of that change, along with the book of Thomas L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchs (1974), on the dating of the Patriarchal traditions and the works of H. H Schmid, Der sogenannte Jahwist (1976) and Rolf Rendtorff, Das überlieferungsgeschichtliche Problem des Pentateuch (1977) on literary questions. Redford's book continues to have a significant impact on the discussion of the Joseph story and to inspire renewed attempts at solving the problems that beset this difficult composition in Gen 37–50. In preparation for this paper, it was a real pleasure for me to reread his book in the light of the more recent discussion on this unit of biblical literature. In tribute to a friendship of over forty years I want to offer some basic observations on recent developments in the discussion of the Joseph story which reflect the continuing influence of Redford's earlier work.

The current debate about the form, nature, compositional character and socio-historical setting has its point of departure in the piece by G. von Rad, “The Joseph Narrative and Ancient Wisdom” (1953).1 In this

1 G. von Rad, “Josephsgeschichte und ältere Chokma,” VTSup 1 (1953) 121–27.
The English version appears in G. von Rad, The Problem of the Hexateuch and other Essays
(Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1965) 292–300. References are to this latter version.

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