Cart Log In
SBL Press Bookstore
Joseph and Aseneth and the Jewish Temple in Heliopolis
Gideon Bohak
EJL 10
Publication Date
June 2009


This work analyzes and offers a new interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth, a second-century B.C.E. Jewish novel that recounts the story of Joseph’s marriage with his Heliopolitan wife. The novel’s central scene describes a revelation in which an angel shows Aseneth how a group of bee-priests flees its honey-comb temple and establishes a new temple in Heliopolis. Following a detailed survey of the history of Onias’s temple, Bohak elucidates how narrative elements in the novel suggest a connection between the novel and the temple. Of interest to students of ancient Jewish history and literature, this detailed study of Joseph and Aseneth provides insight into the fate of the Jewish temple in Heliopolis and sheds new light on the Diaspora during the second century B.C.E.

“This study displays thorough knowledge of a contested apocryphon and an uncommon joy. … [It] will intrigue NT and Pseudepigrapha students and those concerned with cultural and religious developments in diaspora Judaism.”
Religious Studies Review

“His proposal deserves to be taken as a serious working hypothesis for the text. It will no doubt stimulate further discussion, both of the novel and of the history that it probably reflects.”
Catholic Biblical Quarterly

“Bohak’s book constitutes a renovation, or better a revolution, of traditional answers to the burning questions about the purpose, intention, date and authorship of Joseph and Aseneth. … an extremely ingenious and interesting work.”
Journal for the Study of Judaism

“Bohak has proposed a highly ingenious and original interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth, which deserves serious consideration by all students of Hellenistic Judaism.”
—John J. Collins, Yale Divinity School

“Bohak’s meticulous and stimulating study convincingly traces a connection with Onias’ erection of a temple at Heliopolis.… Bohak’s work … will be read with keen attention not only by students of the ancient novel but also by scholars concerned with the various forms of cultural cross-fertilization manifested in the Hellenistic world.”
—Stephanie West, Hertford College, Oxford

“Bohak’s book offers an incisive and original reading of the fascinating Jewish-Hellenistic romance ‘Joseph and Aseneth.’ It represents the most thorough effort to locate this text in the cultural and political milieu of the Jewish experience in Egypt.”
—Erich S. Gruen, University of California, Berkeley

“It is the most creative thing done on Joseph and Aseneth in a long time…”
—Randall D. Chesnutt, Pepperdine University