Looking Back at Lot's Wife: A Reception-Critical Character Study Open Access

Snyder, Josey Bridges (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/hh63sw55h?locale=en


The story of Lot's wife in Genesis is exceptionally brief: six words narrate the whole (Gen 19:26), with only a few other, passing references to her (Gen 19:15-17). Yet, later interpreters recall her story frequently--and in widely varying ways. Taking a documentary approach, I compare a selection of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic interpretations from antiquity to the Middle Ages and consider how the literary and historical context of each helps account for the differences among them. To aid such comparisons, I organize interpretations chronologically and by religious tradition. After an introductory chapter that outlines my theoretical and methodological approach to reception criticism, I consider interpretations of Lot's wife according to the following chapter divisions: Genesis, Second Temple, early rabbinic, early Christian, Islamic, and medieval Jewish. Within each chapter, I identify both the diversity of interpretations that existed within the given period and the distinctive features that recur. For example, even though significant diversity exists among early Christian and early rabbinic interpreters, I also identify a common pattern, where Christian interpreters tend to vilify Lot's wife for her look back, while early rabbinic interpreters tend to vilify her for varying acts of in hospitality. I then consider how the contexts of each interpreter led to these divergent ways of reading. This study makes a dual contribution to the field of biblical reception. First, through its comprehensive analysis of the diversity of interpretations about Lot's wife in antiquity, this study brings attention to a character that is often overlooked in biblical scholarship and provides a window into the interpretive diversity that existed in antiquity. Second, this study makes the case that investigating the historical and literary contexts of each interpretation is essential to the work of reception criticism, both to understand how interpreters read and to account for the vast interpretive diversity among different readers of the Bible.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Ancient Interpretations Provide Context for Modern Interpreters

1.3 A Contextual Study of Diverse Interpretations

1.3.1 The Text Received

1.3.2 Other Texts Received

1.3.3 The Document Produced

1.4 The Organization of Interpretations by Chronology and Religious Tradition

1.4.1 To Investigate the Import of Context

1.4.2 To Trace the Development of Traditions

1.4.3 To Discern the Impact of Religious Tradition

1.5 A Reader-Centered Approach to the Study of Reception

1.6 Reception Criticism versus Reception History

1.7 Reception of a Biblical Character

1.8 The Plan of the Study

Chapter 2: Lot's Wife in Genesis

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Sources and Traditions Received by the Authors of Genesis

2.3 A Literary Reading: Identifying Gaps and Questions Relevant to a Study of Lot's Wife

2.4 Conclusion

Chapter 3: Lot's Wife in Second Temple Texts

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Jubilees

3.3 Genesis Apocryphon

3.4 Wisdom of Solomon

3.5 Philo

3.5.1 Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus

3.5.2 Allegorical Commentary Allegorical Interpretation 3 On Drunkenness On Flight and Finding On Dreams 1 Concluding Remarks on the Allegorical Commentary

3.5.3 Exposition of the Law and On the Life of Moses

3.5.4 Concluding Remarks on Philo

3.6 Josephus

3.7 Conclusion

Chapter 4: Lot's Wife in Early Rabbinic Texts

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Midrash

4.2.1 Mekilta de Rabbi Ishmael

4.2.2 Genesis Rabbah Gen. Rab. 49.13 Gen. Rab. 50.4 Gen. Rab. 50.6 Gen. Rab. 50.9 Gen. Rab. 50.10 Gen. Rab. 50.11 Gen. Rab. 51.5 Concluding Remarks on Genesis Rabbah

4.2.3 Concluding Remarks on Midrash

4.3 Targums

4.3.1 Targum Onqelos

4.3.2 Palestinian Targums

4.3.3 Targum Pseudo-Jonathan

4.3.4 Concluding Remarks on Targums

4.4 Babylonian Talmud

4.5 Conclusion

Chapter 5: Lot's Wife in Early Christian Texts

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Luke

5.3 1 Clement

5.4 Irenaeus

5.5 Clement of Alexandria

5.5.1 Exhortation to the Greeks

5.5.2 Miscellanies 2

5.5.3 Miscellanies 7

5.5.4 Concluding Remarks on Clement

5.6 Origen

5.6.1 Commentary on the Song of Songs

5.6.2 Homily on Genesis

5.6.3 Homily on Jeremiah

5.6.4 Homily on Psalm 36

5.6.5 Concluding Remarks on Origen

5.7 Ephrem

5.7.1 Commentary on Genesis

5.7.2 Hymns on Virginity

5.7.3 Nisibene Hymns

5.7.4 Concluding Remarks on Ephrem

5.8 Ambrose

5.9 Prudentius

5.10 De Sodoma

5.11 Conclusion

Chapter 6: Lot's Wife in Islamic Texts

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Qur'an

6.2.1 Qur'an and Bible Compared

6.3 Later Islamic Interpretation

6.3.1 Al-K¡sai

6.3.2 Two Illustrations Compared

6.3.3 Concluding Remarks on Later Islamic Interpretation

6.4 Conclusion

Chapter 7: Lot's Wife in Medieval Jewish Texts

7.1 Introduction

7.2 Medieval Midrashic Texts

7.2.1 Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer The Addition in the 1514 Constantinople Edition

7.2.2 Tanhuma Tanhuma Buber wayyera 22 Tanhuma wayyera 7 // Tanhuma Buber wayyera 8

7.2.3 Panim Aherim B

7.2.4 Numbers Rabbah

7.2.5 Midrash Aggadah Midrash Aggadah Gen 19:8 Midrash Aggadah Gen 19:26 Concluding Remarks on Midrash Aggadah

7.2.6 Midrash Ha-Gadol Material Drawn from Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer Material Drawn from Genesis Rabbah Concluding Remarks on Midrash Ha-Gadol

7.2.7 Zohar Simple Interpretation: Lot's Wife Saw the Destroyer Sefirotic Interpretation: Lot's Wife Saw the Other Side of the Shekinah Concluding Remarks on the Zohar

7.2.8 Sefer Ha-Yashar

7.2.9 Concluding Remarks on Medieval Midrashic Texts

7.3 Medieval Jewish Commentators

7.3.1 Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzaki

7.3.2 Radak: Rabbi David Kimhi

7.3.3 Ramban: Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman

7.3.4 Concluding Remarks on Medieval Jewish Commentators

7.4 Conclusion

Chapter 8: Conclusion

8.1 Introduction

8.2 Why Are Interpreters Interested in Lot's Wife?

8.3 Gaps and Gap-Filling

8.4 When Receptions Become the Bible

8.5 The Significance of Context in the Production of Interpretations

8.5.1 The Text Received

8.5.2 Other Texts Received

8.5.3 The Document Produced

8.6 Different Contexts Produce Different Interpretations

8.7 New Contexts Continue to Produce New Interpretations

Appendix 1: References to Lot's Wife in Antiquity

Appendix 2: Modern, Creative Engagements with Lot's Wife


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