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Figuring Resurrection: Joseph as a Death and Resurrection Figure in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism

ISBN: 9781683594536
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The death and resurrection of Joseph

Towards the end of Genesis, the narrative slows down to tell the story of Joseph. There is no dispute that Joseph’s story is unique, but why does it deserve such focused attention? And how does this story relate to the rest of Genesis?

In Figuring Resurrection, Jeffrey Pulse presents the view that Joseph is a death-and-resurrection figure. A close literary reading of Genesis 37–50 reveals that Joseph’s story is one of rejection and restoration, descent and ascent, condemnation and exaltation, exile and return, death and resurrection. Far from a lengthy diversion, Joseph’s story of “death and resurrection” plays an important role in the theology of Genesis and later Second Temple Jewish literature.

Figuring Resurrection has implications for our understanding of Joseph’s narrative, the book of Genesis, Hebrew thinking on the afterlife, and typology.

Praise for Figuring Resurrection

In this study of Genesis 37‐50, Dr. Pulse offers a unified reading of the last major section of Genesis, focusing on Joseph. His research into the biblical text as well as extra‐biblical sources relating to it is thorough and careful. Pulse’s argument that Joseph is presented as a figure exemplifying death and resurrection is based on sound and methodical research into the text. His exploration of recent approaches to interpreting the Joseph cycle is exemplary, demonstrating that while his thesis departs in some places from other interpreters, he is conversant with contrasting theories currently pursued by others. Pulse’s holistic evaluation of the text is a welcome breeze amidst the somewhat stale air of past readings that have tended to atomize the text.

–Andrew E. Steinmann, Distinguished Professor of Theology and Hebrew, Concordia University Chicago

Dr. Pulse shows how the hope for the resurrection of the body is prefigured by Joseph and implicit in them. His careful analysis explains how the motif of death and resurrection permeates and informs each stage in Joseph’s life and his life as a whole. He also correlates this motif with other similar motifs, such as descent into Egypt and ascent to the promised land. So in these stories Joseph is not presented as an example for moral instruction but as a figure for God’s gracious purpose for Israel and its coming king.

–John W. Kleinig, Lecturer emeritus and former head of the Biblical Department, Australian Lutheran College, University of Divinity

For those who want a refreshing and rigorous reading of a neglected portion of Genesis, Jeffrey Pulse restores Joseph to us so that even now through his delightful book the bones of Joseph cry out for resurrection.

–Arthur Just, professor of Exegetical Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary

Through a thick figural reading, Pulse resurrects Joseph from merely an example of Hebrew prose artistry. He shows Joseph's full canonical significance as a death and resurrection figure using multiple sub-motifs that serve the death/resurrection motif.

–Ryan M. Tietz, assistant professor of Exegetical Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne

When Jesus interpreted to the disciples the things concerning himself in the Scriptures (Lk 24:27) what might he have said about Genesis 37–50? Dr. Pulse opens our eyes to hermeneutical and exegetical possibilities.

–Christopher W. Mitchell, Concordia Commentary Editor, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, Missouri

Top Highlights

“Jacob assumes the sun and the moon refer to him and his wife Rachel, this does not appear to be the correct interpretation. Rachel, Joseph’s mother, has already died (Gen 35:19), and Jacob never bows down to Joseph in these narratives, or even to Pharaoh. All the interpreting has been provided by Joseph’s brothers and father and is most likely incorrect.” (Pages 72–73)

“The hermeneutic for interpretation that I advocate is reading the text of Scripture as a unified theological narrative.” (Page 4)

“but never to Joseph as one who rules over them. Jacob’s interpretation of the second dream is likewise incorrect.” (Page 73)

“death-and-resurrection motif in the Joseph narratives identified and expounded on in this book are” (Page 7)

“of submission but rather the idea of respect, or sometimes fear.” (Page 72)

Studies in Scripture and Biblical Theology

Studies in Scripture and Biblical Theology is a peer-reviewed series of contemporary monographs exploring key topics and issues in biblical studies and biblical theology from an evangelical perspective.

Learn more about the other titles in this series.

  • Introduction
  • Part I: Biblical Interpretation
    • Biblical Interpretation and the Joseph Narratives
    • Reading Scripture as a Unified Theological Narrative: A Recommended Methodology
  • Part II: The Text of Genesis 37–50
    • The Masoretic Text of the Joseph Narratives
    • Joseph and His Character: Perceived Problems and Difficulties
    • The Death-and-Resurrection Motif in the Joseph Narratives
  • Part III: Other Texts of Genesis 37–50
    • The Septuagint in Comparison to the Masoretic Text
    • A Comparison of Targum Onqelos with the Masoretic Text
    • The Second Temple “Resurrection” of Joseph
    • Joseph, “The Adopted One”: The Use of Joseph
    • Traveling Bones: Death and Resurrection
  • Conclusion
  • Title: Figuring Resurrection: Joseph as a Death and Resurrection Figure in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism
  • Author: Jeffrey Pulse
  • Series: Studies in Scripture and Biblical Theology
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Pages: 288
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • Trim Size: 6x9
  • ISBN: 9781683594536

Jeffrey Pulse (PhD, University of Durham) is professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He spent more than twenty-two years in parish ministry in churches in Iowa and Washington state.


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  1. Mike Harris

    Mike Harris


  2. Nathan Kreider
    Introduction There has always been much debate over when the Jewish people first unraveled the doctrine of resurrection. Some say it was Isaiah. Some Daniel. Some even say that Job, who lived much early than those two was the first to hint at the idea of the afterlife. Some way they did not have a doctrine of the afterlife at all, or that it did not come to fruition until the second temple period under the Pharisees. Finally, some say that it is a Christian reading into the Hebrew scriptures. In the book Figuring Resurrection by Jeffery Pulse, this topic is answered clearly through hermeneutical approaches to the story of Joseph, and his portrayal as a symbol of resurrection. Pulse, in his book, analyzes in depth the themes and pictures which the story of Joseph reveals to it's audience. In his introduction, he states that "this book is an attempt to resurrect Joseph's character and present him as he once was seen. Such an attempt may provide a new view of Joseph and may also provide insight into the Hebrew understanding of death and resurrection from ancient times". What he means by this, as he points out from the ancient Jewish commentaries of the passage, as well as comparing the LXX and the Hebrew scriptures, is that he intends to restore who Joseph really is to the Biblical audience. He aims to do this in a couple of ways: 1) Joseph, who is often seen as a heroic character, is not all that he seems to be. In a similar manner, some have more deeply analyzed the life of David, and have showed that he most certainly was not a man of sinlessness, but instead that he was as much a trespasser of the Law than any before him. He points out that Joseph has faltered in more than a few ways; such as a) That Joseph was seen as being unclean. b) That he mistreated his brothers deeply, and c) that he, assimilating to the Egyptian culture. Here he marries a pagan wife. 2) Joseph is undoubtedly a character who's story shows signs of there being resurrection theology among the Jewish community at the time of it's composition. What does Pulse mean by this? He states in his book that there are no less than 10 themes that point to a theology of resurrection, and they are as follows: a) Separation and Reunion b) Three-day/Three-stage separation and restoration c) Barren/Opening of Womb d) Cast into Pit/Being lifted up e) Down to Egypt/Up to Canaan f) Slavery/Freedom g) Imprisoned/Released h) Famine/Deliverance I) Sowing/Fruit j) Into water/out of water k) Exile/Return from Exile l) Stripped/Clothed Through these different examples listed above, we can see the death-and-resurrection "motif" played out in the text of this story. Readability To the average lay person, this book is fairly readable. I would say that the book is more suited towards the Bible college/seminary student who is seeking to delve deeper into the themes of the Old Testament scriptures, and their relation to Septuagint and Rabbinic literature of the ancient world. Knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and Targumic would make the book more accessible for critical readers, although he does translate non-English texts. Usability The book itself is fair. The covers are nice and sturdy, sure to keep the pages inside safe. The binding seems average, although the glue job looks a little sloppy. The book is light, portable, and aesthetically pleasing all around. The paper is great quality. Applicability This books is very applicable to the audience mentioned above under the section about readability. It discusses thoroughly the topics at hand, and seeks to come to a robust consensus on the issues. This can apply to a pastor who is preaching on the passage, as it give the preacher themes to follow throughout the entire narrative of the next. It also allows the student of the Old Testament to come to a conclusion as to the timing of the development of the doctrine of resurrection in the Jewish communities.


Print list price: $29.99
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