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Title: A comparative analysis of depictions of female beauty in the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
Author: Vitale, Joanna Katherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 7988
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis compares the motif of female beauty in the Hebrew Bible and in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, contending that although these sets of texts share affinities, overall there is a marked divergence between them. Scholars have argued that the condemnatory characterisations of women in the intertestamental era are inherited from the biblical tradition and are the product of increasingly negative depictions of women during the Second Temple era (Archer: 1987; 1990). I argue that in contrast to the bleaker depictions of female beauty prevalent in the later literature, the Hebrew Bible offers more diverse and balanced perspectives. Rather than seeing the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical beauty-texts as the predictable outworking of biblical Hebrew thought, I argue that the primary explanations for these critical presentations of female beauty should be sought elsewhere. Scholars have written extensively on the subject of sexuality in the Hebrew Bible and later Jewish literature. Significantly less has been written about human beauty (Augustin (1988) is one notable exception). I focus on female beauty in Hebrew literature, which has received little attention as a topic in its own right. In chapter two, I argue that in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha beautiful women are presented as seductresses undermining patriarchal control, whereas in the Hebrew Bible beautiful Israelite women are not seductresses, and foreign seductresses are not beautiful. In chapter three, I analyse the depiction of beauty as vanity. In chapter four, I assess biblical depictions of abused beautiful women. In chapter five, I consider positive associations between beauty and character. In chapter six, I summarise the comparisons, arguing that the differences between the literatures outweigh the similarities. I then assess Archer's explanation for the negative presentation of women in the post-exilic era, recommending a revised explanation that takes greater account of Hellenistic influences on Second Temple Judaism.
Supervisor: Gillingham, Susan Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available