Wednesday, March 09, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - Joseph (part 2)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Joseph makes it to Egypt and is sold to the Potiphar, the captain of the Body Guard.
"He that bought him, being of Egypt, said to his wife, 'Give him goodly lodging [treat him with hospitality], and it may be that he will profit us [be useful to us], or we may take [adopt] him for our own son.' So We established Joseph in the land, and that We might teach him the interpretation of tales [dark sayings]." (Koran 12:21)
The Jewish accounts record no conversation between Potiphar and his wife concerning Joseph and no discussion of the possibility of adopting Joseph as their son. Also, it is unclear if Joseph was "taught" to interpret dreams and riddles in Egypt or if it was a gift imparted to him by the Holy Spirit. The latter seems more likely the case from the Jewish scriptures.
"Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian." (Genesis 39:1-2)
Unfortunately, Potiphar's wife was totally smitten by Joseph and started making googly eyes at him and pressed him to lay with her.
"Now the woman in whose house he was solicited him [conceived a passion for him], and closed the doors on them. 'Come,' she said, 'take me!' [He said] 'God be my refuge,' he said. 'Surely my lord has given me a goodly lodging [a good home]. Surely the evildoers [injurious] do not prosper." (Koran 12:23)
This angered Potiphar's wife and made her accuse Joseph before her husband, as if it was Joseph who was making the advances.
"Said he, 'It was she that solicited me [to evil]'; and a witness of her folk bore witness, 'If his shirt has been torn from before then she has spoken truly, and he is one of the liars; but if it be that his shirt has been torn from behind, then she has lied, and he is one of the truthful.' (Koran 12:26-27)
The Jewish scriptures make no record of any witness nor the test of Joseph's innocence based on whether his shirt was torn in front or in back. What is interesting in the Koranic story is that Potiphar did not believe his wife but accused her of wrong doing.
"When he saw his shirt was torn from behind he said, 'This is of your women's guile [devices]; surely your guile is great. Joseph, turn away from this [leave this affair!]; and thou, woman, ask forgiveness of thy crime; surely thou art one of the sinners.'" (Koran 12:28-29)
However, in the Jewish account, Potiphar blamed Joseph and had him locked away in prison.
"Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, "This is what your slave did to me," his anger burned. So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail." (Genesis 39:19-20)
Now we have one of the more interesting stories in the Koran, and one for which there is no evidence from the Jewish scriptures. The women of Egypt began to gossip about Potiphar's wife saying, "The Governor's wife has been soliciting her page [servant]; he smote [fired her]her heart with love; we see her in manifest error." (Koran 12:30) So Potiphar's wife devises a test to prove to those women that they would have done the same if they were her.
"When she heard their sly whispers [cabal], she sent to them, and made ready for them a repast [banquet], then she gave to each one of them a knife. 'Come forth, attend [show thyself] to them,' she said. And when they saw him, they so admired [amazed at] him that they cut their hands, saying, 'God save us! This is no mortal; he is no other but a noble angel.'" (Koran 12:31)
Joseph must have been quite a gorgeous man! Rodwell writes that they cut their hands "instead of their food, through surprise at his beauty." (J.M. Rodwell, Koran, footnote 12:10) In the Koranic story, Potiphar's wife condemns Joseph to the prison while in the Jewish story, it was Potiphar himself who sent him to prison.
"'So now you see, she said. 'This is he you blamed me for. Yes, I solicited him [I wished him to yield to my desires], but he abstained. Yet if he will not do what I command him, he shall be imprisoned, and be one of the humbled [despised].'" (Koran 12:32)
While he was in prison, he met two fellow prisoners who each had a dream. He interpreted each their own dream with its own interpretation.
"Fellow-prisoners, as for one of you, he shall pour wine for his lord; as for the other, he shall be crucified, and birds will eat of his head." (Koran 12:41)
What is interesting is that crucifixion, as a form of punishment, was unknown until about 519 BC when "Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, crucifixion) Joseph lived over a thousand years prior to crucifixion being invented.

During that time, the King had a dream and was troubled by it and unable to determine its meaning. Then one of Joseph's fellow prisoners who had been released remembered Joseph and that he could interpret dreams.
"Then said the one who had been delivered, remembering after a time, 'I will myself tell you its interpretation; so send me forth [let me go for it].' 'Joseph, thou true man, pronounce to [teach] us regarding seven fat kine, that seven lean ones were devouring, seven green ears of corn, and seven withered; haply I shall return to the men, haply they will know [that they may be informed].' He said, 'You shall sow seven years after your wont; what you have harvested leave in the ear, excepting a little whereof you eat.’" (Koran 12:45-46)
However, in the Jewish account, the man did not run to Joseph for the interpretation, but rather Joseph was called before the King and asked to interpret the dream.
"Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.'" (Genesis 41:14-15)
After interpreting the dream, in the Koranic story, the king demands that Joseph be brought before him and the king passes judgment on the women who swooned over him and on Potiphar's wife who committed him to prison for refusing her advances.
"The king said, 'Bring him to me!' And when the messenger came to him [Joseph], he said, 'Return unto thy lord, and ask of him, "What of the women who cut their hands?" Surely my Lord has knowledge of their guile [the snare they laid].' 'What was your business [purpose], women,' he said, 'when you solicited Joseph?' 'God save us!' they said. 'We know no evil [ill] against him.' The Governor's wife [wife of the Prince] said, 'Now the truth is at last discovered [appear]; I solicited him [It was I who would have lead him into unlawful love]; he is a truthful man." (Koran 12:50-51)
Again, as with most of the Koranic story of Joseph, there is no evidence at all of this in the Jewish or Christian scriptures.

More to come...
David Robison

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