Apocryphal "Joseph and Asenath" as Grail Literature

The shifts in roles do indicate that the Apocryphal "Joseph and Asenath" was being reworked for a different time period. In the Genesis account, the Pharaoh himself is the Judah figure whereas in the Apocryphal version he is the Pharaoh's son. There is also no hint in the Genesis story of animosity between the "Pharaoh" (Judah) and Joseph. Yet, in the Apocryphal version the Judah figure becomes an outright murderous villain. Also, there is no rehabilitation of Simeon and Levi in the Genesis story, but they become heroes in the Apocryphal version. Here's a quote from a previous study I did on the Genesis narrative:

"The New Kingdom Judah, that being Thutmose IV, also died young and as the result of an assassination attempt. In Genesis 40, the cupbearer and baker of Pharaoh (Thutmose IV) were both imprisoned. The cupbearer was later exonerated. However, the baker was impaled, which suggests that he was found guilty of trying to kill the king. Thutmose IV did not die immediately, however poisoning is the probable cause of his debilitating illness and premature death. The mummy of Thutmose IV is most notably characterized by its emaciation.

"We do not know what role Simeon and Levi played in the assassination attempt of Judah. However, they were later disgraced by Jacob for the murder of another prince, Hamor, and for killing the nobility of Shechem."


The cupbearer is a role associated with Benjamin, which again is modified in the Apocryphal version. In Genesis, the cupbearer is accused but eventually exonerated. In the Apocryphal version, Benjamin actually wounds (with a stone rather than with poison) the Crown Prince ("Pharoah's Son"), who lingers for three days and then dies. It is the baker in the Genesis account who is found guilty of the assassination. However, the tribal name Asher is more closely associated with Asher and not Gad. Of Asher it is written (in Genesis), that "his bread is abundant, he produces royal delicacies." So, this appears to be a significant deviation from the original pattern as well.

Unfortunately, the variations from the Genesis account found in the Apocryphal story aren't an exact fit for the time of Jesus either. In the Acts of Thomas, Gad is actually a representation of Christ, because he dies but miraculously comes back to life, which causes the Indian king to be "saved." Gad is not a bad guy as he is in the "Joseph and Asenath" story.

So, what's going on here? It appears that the remake of "Joseph and Asenath" may actually apply to the Roman court of the 2nd Century AD or later. The Christian themes are all there (Asenath "of the tower" washes the feet of Joseph, Asenath and her seven virgin attendants keep nighty vigils in wait for Joseph's return, the message of not repaying evil for evil is repeated over and over, etc.), but the pattern doesn't match that of Jesus' time. We should be looking for another time when there was a super-abundance of royal princes, and as many as twelve! That was actually quite rare. The time of Constantine the Great (with the princely Joseph-figure Crispus) may be a candidate, but it perhaps could have been inspired by one of the so-called Good Emperors, such as Nerva (a known Joseph figure) or Marcus Aurelius (whose wife Faustina had 14 children). If "Joseph and Asenath" is truly a 6th Century AD creation, then we might suspect that the atypical rise of Justinian and the "penitent" Theodora is the inspiration. It deserves more study!

This blog is a spin-off of a TDG featured news story. See comments 2 thru 4 on the following page:

On-line translation of "Joseph and Asenath":

Keep in mind when your are reading this story that the royal family was "all things to all people." To Egyptians they were Egyptian, to Hebrews/Jews they were Hebrews/Jews, etc. Along these lines, at the beginning of the story, we are told that Asenath looked more like a Hebrew than an Egyptian!

Also keep in mind that birth order was extremely important within the royal family and the typecasting associated with each birth position was recycled with every successive royal generation. This practice did not change from the time of the pharaohs right through the time of Jesus! The fourth royal prince ("Judah") could be appointed pharaoh of Egypt while the twelfth prince ("Joseph") made champion of the Hebrews. In Julio-Claudian times, a fourth prince named Tiberius was made Emperor of Rome while his brothers were given kingly appointments elsewhere, including in Israel. That's the way it was and always had been.


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Charles Pope's picture
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23 October 2009
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6 hours 36 min

A documentary on the "Joseph and Asenath" manuscript has aired as part of the new Biblical Conspiracies series. It is Part IV (of only four parts) of the series and called "Bride of God/The Lost Gospel."


The program was well constructed and with fascinating looks at archaeological sites in Galilee. It also enlisted the likes of James Tabor and Elaine Pagels as talking heads, and who spoke very favorably about the theory. The basic conclusion is that Jesus was the son of a Phoenician (Sidonian) soldier in the Roman Army named Pantera and Mary Magdalene was a priestess of the Artemis cult! So, we can add the above local epithets to the above list of "all things to all people" categories.

The name Pantera is obviously a code name, even as is Mary Magdalene, "Mary of the Tower." Pantera was interpreted by Ahmed Osman as, Pa-neter, "The God". It could also be parsed as Pan-Tera ("All the Earth"). Jesus and Mary Magdalene were royal persons. They assumed whatever regional aliases that they saw fit. A literal son of a Phoenician mercenary did not establish a new world religion. That's not how the ancient world worked! Everything flowed downward from the royal court.

The documentary actually spent more time on the Phoenician and Artemis connections of the happy couple, and this was in fact extremely fascinating. However, it didn't address the issues raised in the blog above about the "Lost Gospel" of Joseph and Asenath. I still agree that it was a Christian/Gnostic manuscript and encodes the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Nevertheless, it appears to be more specifically modeled upon successors of Jesus and Mary in later Roman times.