In this episode, Father Jayme concludes our exploration of the Book of Genesis, contrasting the infidelity of Judah with the virtue of his brother, Yōsef. This episode illuminates the stories of the important women in the last quarter of Genesis: Yeshua’s ancestor, Tamar; Zelikhah, the wife of Pharaoh’s eunuch who attempted to seduce Yōsef; and Yōsef’s wife, Asnat, who complemented Yōsef and allowed the duo to replace the Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis. Learn about the southern tribe that included King David’s capital city, the northern tribes who told the Yōsef story, the marrying of women to entire families in fratriarchal societies, the ancient practice of hospitality prostitution, ancient taboos of “spilling seed,” Jewish & Muslim tellings of the Yōsef story, the type of people God “prefers,” and the absence of God in the Yōsef saga. Above all, be inspired to be a “Yōsef” in this world, loving and forgiving others as Yōsef did—which is at the heart of what it means to be an…extraordinary Catholic!
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[Becky & Terry Ann 0:03]
Welcome to “Extraordinary Catholics,” a podcast for—you guessed it—extraordinary Catholics! In a world with over a billion ordinary Catholics, the Good Samaritans of Vatican-free Catholicism are truly extraordinary, seeking to model Jesus’ inclusive spirit and his discipleship of equals. Like Roman Catholicism, Inclusive Catholicism possesses valid lines of apostolic succession and shares valid sacraments. One in every ten adult Americans self-identifies as a former Roman Catholic. If we were to band together, we would form the second-largest religion in America. In Mexico, over 1,000 Roman Catholics leave the church every single day. To learn more about Inclusive Catholicism, please visit www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith, and join our extraordinary Catholics Facebook group. And now, meet the host of Extraordinary Catholics, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, the only inclusive Catholic community in Austin, Texas: Father Jayme Mathias!
[Father Jayme Mathias 1:20]
Welcome, extraordinary Catholics! I am Father Jayme Mathias, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.
We thank the special saints who helped make this episode possible:
* Corey Hurt Montiel of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
* Bishop Jerry Brohl of the Independent Roman Catholic Church in Wyandotte, Michigan;
* Bishop Theodore Feldman of the Sanctuary of Divine Providence in Birmingham, Alabama;
* Reverend Canon MichaelAngelo D’Arrigo of Agape Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia, part of the Convergent Christian Communion; and
* Bobby Duhon and Heather Lucas of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.
Looking to earn your wings? Visit dwy.io/podcast to join the list of saints who are stepping up to sponsor future episodes.
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And now, let’s continue our exploration of the theological foundations of Inclusive Catholicism!
“A Short, Romantic Novel”
Wow, we’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring the Book of Genesis and seeing what we, as Extraordinary Catholics, might learn from this first book of the Hebrew scriptures. And now we come to the longest and most detailed story of the Book of Genesis, a story that Father Lawrence Boadt, the author of Reading the Old Testament, refers to as “a ‘novella,’ a short romantic novel. It delights in aspects completely ignored by the sagas: details about foreign customs, psychological insights, dramatic encounters, and descriptions of Joseph’s character—prudent, modest, gifted in dream analysis, well spoken, and bred to nobility—in short, the perfect wise man of the ancient world” (p. 123).
The book finishes with the story of Yaakov’s 12 sons—a clear sign of the androcentric, patriarchal society in which the work was written. The story focuses on Yaakov’s son, Yōsef, whose name was romanized as Iōsēph. In Spanish, we know him as José. In English, we know him as Joseph.
Moses would later lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, so the story of Yōsef became the etiological explanation for how we ended up in Egypt, and what is fascinating about this story is that God never speaks to Yōsef in the same way that God spoke to Yōsef’s ancestors Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov. Never.
In his work, God: A Biography, Jack Miles writes: “Jacob asked of the God of Abraham and Isaac, when this God first appeared to him at Luz (renamed Bethel), food, shelter, and safe conduct back from Padan-aram to Canaan. What Joseph receives from the same God—he never asks for it—is a successful career in the Egyptian bureaucracy….To Jacob, [God] speaks directly or in a dream or vision so unequivocal that it requires no interpretation. [God] never speaks thus to Joseph. The ‘spirit of God’ that Pharaoh (not Joseph himself) says is in Joseph is a talent, a gift of God, but not one that requires communication with God for its functioning” (pp. 78-79).
Hated by His Brothers
In Genesis 37, we find the story of Yōsef, a 17-year-old shepherd who tended the flocks with his half-brothers, the sons of Yaakov’s wife, Leah, and Yaakov’s concubine’s Bilhah and Zilpah (Gen. 37:1-2). His relationship with them was strained: Yōsef was a tattletale (Gen. 37:2), “Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons” (Gen. 37:3), and Yaakov gave Yōsef that famous and amazing technicolor dreamcoat (Gen. 37:3). Yōsef’s brothers “hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (Gen. 37:4)—which sets up the story of how we got to Egypt.
Yōsef’s dreams (Gen. 37:6-7) only inflamed the jealousy of Yōsef’s brothers (Gen. 37:11), since his dreams suggested that Yōsef was more important than his brother, and they “hated him all the more” (Gen. 37:5).
Yōsef’s brothers stripped him of his amazing technicolor dreamcoat, sold him to an Egypt-bound caravan of Ishmaelites (the descendants of Avraham and his concubine Hāgār), and covered up their misdeed (Gen. 37:18-33)
And now, Extraordinary Catholics, the story shifts from Yōsef—and gets really good!
Tamar & Judah: Ancestors of Yeshua bar Yōsef
The author of Genesis diverts our attention to Yaakov’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, who is so important in salvation history that she is listed in the genealogy of her descendant, Yeshua bar Yōsef (Jesus of Nazareth) (Mt. 1:3). In fact, Tamar is one of only four women listed in Jesus’ genealogy—as if all those guys could have given birth without women! And what is significant is the irregular situation of each of the four women, which prepares us for Mary’s very irregular situation, since she is purportedly impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:35).
The Messiah: From the Southern Tribe of Judah
Before we get to Tamar’s story, a bit of geography. King David’s “united kingdom” would later be comprised of Israel in the north, named after Yaakov, and Judah in the south, named after Judah, the fourth of six sons born by Yaakov and Leah. The capital of Judah was Jerusalem, David’s capital, so, of course, of all Yaakov’s sons, we’re going to trace Jesus back to the tribe for whom the most important part of David’s kingdom was named.
Why trace Jesus back to the tribes of Asher or Naphtali in the way north of Israel, or to Zebulun, which lies between the two and which is where Nazareth is located? Why do that when you can just as easily trace Jesus back to the tribe in which the capital, Jerusalem, is located—the tribe, incidentally, from which Micah said the messiah would one day come (Mic. 5:2)? Forget Nazareth: As the “son of David,” Jesus had to descend from Judah, and, as messiah, Jesus had to come from Bethlehem!
The Yevamah & Her Yavam
We remember that the patriarchs and their children were more likely composite figures, helping us to understand where we came from and our relationship to neighboring people, rather than as historical people who lived more than 1,000 years before the stories about them were written in the sixth century B.C. According to the saga, Judah, the son of Yaakov, married a nameless Canaanite women who bore him three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah (Gen. 38:2-5) A nameless woman? Three sons? Signs of a tale told by an androcentric, patriarchal society!
Judah secured Tamar as the wife of his firstborn, Er, who “was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death” (Gen. 38:6). Tamar now had the status of a yevamah, a widow obligated to marry her deceased husband’s brother, in order to “raise up seed” for her deceased husband. Any child born to a yevamah and her yavam (her brother-in-law) would be considered the child of the deceased man for purposes of name and inheritance.
Fratriarchy & Hospitality Prostitution
In his work, The Mothers, French social anthropologist Robert Briffault noted that this pagan practice, now found among the Israelites, was a vestige of fraternal polyandry, a form of male sexual prerogative where tribal brotherhood gave a man the right to his brother’s widow. Sheesh.
As Judith Antonelli writes: “A woman was acquired in marriage, not for an individual man, but for an entire household. The eldest brother in the household contracted marriage; his wives were then shared by his younger brothers—and sometimes by his father and uncles as well” (p. 104).
Interestingly, Antonelli suggests that this "fratriarchy"—this rule of tribal brotherhood—preceded patriarchy (the rule of fathers over their households) since “biological paternity was uncertain and often irrelevant. Children either were considered the offspring of the eldest brother, were assigned fathers in rotation, or had their paternity decided by their mother” (105).
The sharing of wives opened the door to the hospitality prostitution that we find in the Bible (Gen. 19:6-8 & Judges 19:23-24)—the custom of waiving female chastity in order to provide sexual hospitality by offering your wives, concubines or daughters for the satisfaction of male guests (Briffault, vol. 2, pp. 635-640).
Let’s come back to that.
Sexual Taboos: The “Spilling of Seed”
The story gets better, since Onan the yavam, who didn’t want a child practiced coitus interruptus: “Then Judah said to Onan [his second-born son], ‘Sleep with your brother’s wife [Tamar] and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also” (Gen. 38:8-10). Yikes.
Let’s talk biblical taboos. Interestingly, there is no specific condemnation of masturbation in the bible, but this story was used as a prooftext for the rabbinic prohibition against “the spilling of seed,” the pre-scientific way of explaining that the child was in the sperm in the same way that the plant was in any given seed. Any person or object that touched this “seed” was made unclean “until evening” (Lev. 15:16-18), similar to the way in which any person who touched a menstruating woman or anything she touched was unclean “until evening (Lev. 15:19-23)
Note: These were issues of ceremonial cleanliness and not of morality.
Aren’t you glad that we live on this side of the Enlightenment?
The Katlanit Disguised as a Kedeshah, Yearning for Yibum
So, Judah told Tamar to wait until his third son, Shelah, was old enough to marry her (Gen. 38:11). Presumably, he was not yet 12 years old. Fast-forward, Shelah was now old enough to marry Tamar, but Judah didn’t want to give his son to a katlanit like Tamar, to a woman who seemingly “caused” two husbands to die. Poor Tamar: She was now forbidden by yibbum—a type of levirate marriage—to marry outside her deceased husband’s family!
Thinking that her father-in-law had tricked her, she plotted yibbum—levirate marriage—with her father-in-law! One day, Judah traveled to Timnah for the sheep-shearing festival. When Tamar heard about this, “she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” “And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked. “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said. “Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked. He said, “What pledge should I give you?” “Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again” (Gen. 38:14-19). OMG.
Tamar disguised herself as a kedeshah, a shrine prostitute. Her father-in-law committed idolatry by having intercourse with her. Then she disappeared with his seal, cord and staff. He sent a friend to search for her, asking, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?” “There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.” (Gen. 38:21).
Three months later, Tamar shows up and—you guessed it—she’s pregnant. We know that she’s pregnant with her father-in-law’s child, but he doesn’t know it, so he’s enraged to see that the woman who is technically “married” to his son, Shelah, is pregnant. He orders her execution, saying, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” (Gen. 38:24).
“As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she used his own words against him. Judah had previously presented Yōsef’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat to his father, Yaakov, saying, “Identify this, please” (Gen. 37:32); now Tamar shows him his own seal, cord and staff and says, “Identify this, please” (Gen. 38:25). Uh oh. And Judah recognized: “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (Gen. 38:26).
Tamar not only avoided death; she gave birth to twins—an ancient birthing story worth reading (Gen. 38:27-30), and one of her twins was later reported to be an ancestor of King David, and hence an ancestor of the messiah, Yeshua bar Yōsef.
How fascinating that, even in the context of centuries of misogyny , of hatred toward women, nothing but praise has been heaped on Tamar for her wisdom and for her tact—for not publicly shaming Judah.
Temptation: Judah Gave In, but Yōsef Resists
What a great story, and Judah’s giving in to temptation and having sex with a “prostitute” sets the stage for his step-brother Yōsef’s refusal to have sex with his master’s wife.
We said we would return to the idea of hospitality prostitution. With hospitality prostitution, men waived the female chastity of their wives, concubines and daughters in order to provide sexual hospitality for the satisfaction of male guests. Antonelli points out that the three male guests who visited Avraham and who asked where his wife was (Gen. 18:9) received the response, “She’s inside the tent”—an indication that she was not included in his act of hospitality that day (p. 105).
In his work, Sex and Family in the Bible and in the Middle East, Raphael Patai notes that there was a mutual expectation: The wife or concubine or daughter had to satisfy the guest, and the guest had to satisfy her. If he failed to satisfy her, she tore his garments, and he was shamed and chased away (p. 140). (Recall the shame of torn garments which was enacted when repentant people pour ashes on their heads and tore their garments.)
After the story of Tamar, we immediately pick up in Genesis with the story of Yōsef, now in Egypt, whose resistance to a sexual encounter will be contrasted with Judah’s giving in to temptation and having intercourse with his daughter-in-law.
Yōsef found himself in Egypt, where he was sold by the Ishmaelites to the captain of the guard (Gen. 39:1). His master, Potiphar, put him in charge of his household (Gen. 39:3-6). Antonelli shares the suggestion from the Genesis Rabbah that Potiphar was a eunuch, since “any man who was a ‘harem guard’ or worked in the women’s quarters of the palace was castrated to prevent his sexual involvement with the women” (p. 110).
Married to a eunuch, Potiphar’s wife tried to lure to bed the “well-built and handsome” Yōsef (Gen. 39:6)—a phrase, says Antonelli, that “indicates sexual objectification—a person’s looks are all that matter in that moment” (p. 109). Antonelli continues: “Joseph had a lot of sex appeal, to men as well as to women” (p. 109). I personally like Philo’s telling in his work, On Joseph. Philo writes: “[Potiphar’s wife] was driven mad by the youth’s handsomeness” (40).
Antonelli cites the Genesis Rabbah, which states that Yōsef was “like a man who stood in the marketplace, making up his eyes, curling his hair, and lifting his heel” (87:3). In her book, Rabbinic Body Language: Non-verbal Communication in Palestinian Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity, Catherine Hezser goes to town on that line, noting how the seemingly-vain Yōsef’s three effeminate behaviors, despised of men, were tolerated for this 17-year-old. At the time that the Genesis Rabbah was written, it was not uncommon for some men in the Roman Empire to curl their hair or use eye make-up. She writes, “The gesture of raising or swinging one’s heel…also needs to be understood as part of the vain man’s dandy-like deportment. It is reminiscent of dancers and actors…athletes, gods and emperors alike….In the context of midrash, Joseph’s effeminate behavior seems to have been tolerated by rabbis” (pp. 59-60).
The same Genesis Rabbah continues this effeminate image of Yōsef, suggesting that, when his brothers arrived in Egypt, they imagined that they would find him working as a male prostitute: “Our brother Joseph is well-built and handsome; maybe he is [working as a prostitute] in a brothel” (91:6). The Sotah (36b) and Genesis Rabbah (87:7) contain x-rated stories of the interaction between Yōsef and Potiphar’s wife—stories that I would blush to share here.
Yōsef “refused to go to bed with [Potiphar’s wife] or even be with her” (Gen. 39:10). The story continues: “She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (Gen. 39:12). Potiphar’s wife screamed and blamed Yōsef, suggesting that he made an advance on her (Gen. 39:13-16).
Sexual Hospitality for Joseph the Outsider
Burning with rage, Potiphar imprisoned Yōsef, where Yōsef showed prophetic ability to interpret the dreams of two sexual minorities: two eunuchs who served as Pharaoh’s baker and chief butler. Jack Miles notes that what Yōsef would soon “directly [accomplish] is the rescue of an entire social order in which he is an outsider” (p. 80).
In an article in the European Electronic Journal for Feminist Exegesis, Thalia Gur-Klein picks up on this theme of Yōsef as an outsider, noting the parallelism of this story to the sex hospitality and hospitality prostitution we spoke of earlier: “Potiphar, the insider, offers lavishly privileges and supervision to Joseph, while Joseph the outsider brings divine blessing on Potiphar’s house.…Relaxing her chastity, the host’s wife exposes the structure, if we consider sexual hospitality in the story’s pre-text….Potiphar opens his entire house and its supervision to the outsider’s pleasure, while his wife offers him her sexuality….Sexuality and hospitality intersect.” Gur-Klein notes the similar elements to sexual hospitality or hospitality prostitution: the failure to satisfy the woman, the tearing of the man’s clothing, and public shaming.
A Jewish & Muslim Addition
We know that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are Abrahamic faiths—all tracing back to the same ancestor, Avraham. The Quran, the holy book of Islam, and the Sefer ha-Yashar, a medieval Jewish text, contain a subsequent story that Potiphar’s wife, who was mocked by gossiping noblewomen for being infatuated with a Hebrew slave boy, then invited the handsome, young Yōsef, to a party of women who were distracted by his beauty. The 7th-century Quran shares a story that goes like this: “Some women of the city gossiped, ‘The Chief Minister’s wife is trying to seduce her slave-boy. Love for him has plagued her heart. Indeed, we see that she is clearly mistaken.’ When she heard about their gossip, she invited them and set a banquet for them. She gave each one a knife, then said to Joseph, ‘Come out before them.’ When they saw him, they were so stunned by his beauty that they cut their hands, and exclaimed, ‘Good God! This cannot be human; this must be a noble angel!’ She said, ‘This is the one for whose love you criticized me! I did try to seduce him but he firmly refused. And if he does not do what I order him to, he will certainly be imprisoned and fully disgraced.’ Joseph prayed, ‘My Lord! I would rather be in jail than do what they invite me to. And if You do not turn their cunning away from me, I might yield to them and fall into ignorance’” (Surah 12:30-33).
Whereas the Sefer ha-Yashar imagined Potiphar’s wife tearing the front of his cloak (ch. 14), the Quran imagined that “she tore his shirt from the back” as he tried to run away from her (Surah 12:25). Both texts gave her a name: Zelikhah.
From Sexual Abuser to Mother-in-law & Symbol of the Soul’s Longing
Some contemporary scholars, like Meir Sternberg, speak of the sexual abuse perpetrated against Yōsef by Zelikhah, who abuses her position of power, tries to coerce Yōsef into sex, and punishes him for his refusal by accusing him of attempted rape.
Antonelli concludes: “Potiphar knew that Joseph was innocent….Had Potiphar really believed [Yōsef] was guilty, he would have had him executed. A servant—even a valued one—does not sleep with his master’s wife and get away with it. Had anything really happened, a rape charge would have saved Zelikhah, but not Joseph, from the death penalty for adultery” (pp. 110-111).
Interestingly, the 15th-century Persian Islamic work, Yusuf and Zulaikha, brought together various tellings of this epic love tale, likening Zelikhah’s longing for Yōsef to the soul’s longing for God!
The Book of Jubilees draws together loose threads, stating that Zelikhah later became Yōsef’s “mother-in-law” when he married Asnat (Gen. 41:45), the daughter of Shechem and Dinah (recall the last episode) who was raised by Potiphera (understood by the author of the Book of Jubilees to be Potiphar) and Zelikhah in Egypt.
Yōsef & Asnat: The New Osiris and Iris
Interestingly, as a reward for interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Yōsef was given a new name, Zaphnat, and a wife, Asnat (Gen. 41:45). Both Egyptian names end with “nat,” showing that they received their names from the Egyptian goddess, Nut, the goddess of death and rebirth who was believed to be speaking through Yōsef—an intriguing example of syncretism—and whose son, Osiris, was the Egyptian Christ figure, a god of death and resurrection who, in the words of James Frazer, “fed his people with his own broken body in this life, and who held out to them the promise of a blissful eternity” (The Golden Bough, p. 426).
Antonelli points out that Osiris introduced in Egypt the cultivation of the grain (wheat and barley) discovered by his sister, Isis. Osiris was depicted as a cornstalk, and Isis, the “green goddess,” as a field of corn. Osiris was also depicted as a bull, and Isis as a cow. Grain? Cows? Symbols in Pharaoh’s dream interpreted by Yōsef (Gen. 41:1-7 & 41:17-32)! Yōsef was put in charge of Pharaoh’s grain supply. The name of his wife, Asnat, means “storehouse” or “granary.” And so we see the Jewish heroes Yōsef and Asnat eclipsing the Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis and foreshadowing another Yōsef and his wife who would raise the god of resurrection to whom early Judeo-Christians looked as their messiah
God’s Absence in the Yōsef Story
Let’s pause and reflect on the role of God in all this. Jack Miles writes: “The Lord announces no intentions for Joseph and his offspring as [God] did for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and theirs, and, for that matter, God has no intentions for Egypt either. In deciphering Pharaoh’s dream and so foreseeing a coming famine, Joseph does not infer any divine plan for Egypt that he then implements. The famine is not divinely sent; God has simply helped Joseph to foresee it. The famine preparation plan, too, is Joseph’s, not God’s. In short, modest, timely, indirect assistance to Joseph essentially exhausts the divine repertory…The story of Joseph and his brothers is a moving and accessible one for modern readers…because of this ‘modern’ absence from it of a powerful, intrusive God. In the Joseph story, as in modern, post-religious society, God is remote, but [God’s] remoteness matters little, for [God[ is thought of only fleetingly, in crisis moments when [God’s] help is sought to escape from some dilemma or avert some catastrophe. Modernity, expecting no surprises from God, speaks of [God] calmly, as Joseph does, and assumes that, whatever God’s power, [God’s] intentions are benevolent. God is kind, as Joseph is kind” (p. 80).
From this story of Yōsef, we infer how God is. Jack Miles continues: “But if God is implicitly like Joseph in the closing chapters of Genesis, we can only note that [God] was not like Joseph in the opening chapters. The Lord who did not forgive Adam and Eve for their single act of disobedience was not like the forgiving Joseph. Neither was the Lord/God like Joseph when [God] sent a flood that ‘destroyed all flesh’ in retribution for scarcely named offenses in Noah’s generation. The Lord God in those scenes is maximally powerful and minimally kind, whereas the God mirrored in Joseph is maximally kind and minimally powerful…The Lord, the less lawful, more willful, and more personal form of the deity, is absent from the last quarter of the Book of Genesis” (p. 81).
The End of Genesis
And with the story of Yōsef, we come to the end of the Book of Genesis, a book that sheds great light on the ancient world and allows extraordinary Catholics to see so many vestiges of patriarchy, androcentrism and marginalization that linger to this day, influencing the way that people think and see the world, their God and themselves today.
As I so often say here at Holy Family: Catholics are not famous for knowing the Bible. When we do read the bible, though, we find a tremendous story here of love and forgiveness and a belief that God is “writing straight with crooked lines,” as Father Angeles LaFleur was fond of saying.
God took care of Yōsef, and, despite what they did to him, Yōsef forgave his brothers.
Yōsef brought them and his father to Egypt, to live in peace and prosperity.
Yōsef reunited his family.
And he credited God. He tells his brothers: “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (Gen. 45:8). Later he reaffirms: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about that many people should be kept alive as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).
Ordinary Catholics might tear others down and betray them. Ordinary Catholics might say and do things that divide families and harbor ill will for those unable to forgive like Yōsef.
But we can’t end there.
Notice that Yōsef’s God chose Yōsef for a reason, and Yōsef’s God chose Yōsef over his older brother, Judah, and over all his ten older brothers. Why is this significant? Jack Miles writes: “Social custom, repeatedly acknowledged in the text, dictated that the eldest son would be the father’s heir. When God chooses against this custom [God] expresses [God’s] love to the admittedly limited extent that [God] is choosing someone and rejecting someone else….The text subtly suggests that God would not have like Joseph if he were not like Joseph; and since Joseph has been shown to be loving, so perhaps is God….God does prefer Joseph, the text suggest, because—and here is the novelty—Joseph is the better [person]. In character and achievement, he is superior” (pp. 81-82). As extraordinary Catholics, we have to be the better people, superior in character.
We now recognize that most elements of this story of Yōsef were written by the tribes of Yōsef—of Ephraim and Manasseh—in the north, in Israel, and the injection into the Yōsef story of the incestuous relationship of Judah and Tamar is there for a reason.
As you hear these words of Jack Miles, think of Inclusive Catholicism as Yōsef, and of the much older and larger Roman Catholic Church as Judah. Miles writes: “The polemical point of the story is not just that the Jews are the offspring of an incestuous union, nor even that they are the offspring of an incestuous Israelite-Canaanite union, but that they are the offspring of an incestuous union between an Israelite man and a Canaanite woman in the act of Canaanite cultic copulation….By Genesis 38, intermarriage with the Canaanites has twice been condemned” (pp. 82-83)
At the end of Genesis, Yaakov’s blessing didn’t go to Judah’s sons by Tamar. Their sons, Perez and Zerah, are ignored! Yaakov’s blessing went to Yōsef’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. This blessing by Yaakov and by Yaakov’s God didn’t go to the elder son, from whom the messiah descended. It went to the tribes who told their story.
Being the Yōsefs of this World, Worthy of God’s Blessing
As Inclusive Catholics, we need to do a better job of telling our story and of the way in which we are truly living Jesus’ good news of love, mercy, forgiveness and peace—of the way in which we, like Yōsef, are worthy of God’s blessing. So often in Inclusive Catholicism, we find ourselves reflecting on the various “incestuous” relationships that have deprived the Roman Church of Yaakov’s blessing—beginning with its alliance with the Roman Empire and its choosing of money, power and influence over a wholehearted embrace of Jesus’ gospel message and his discipleship of equals. That’s the vision we need to hold up and live in our lives and ministry.
Let’s be the Yōsefs of this world, loving and forgiving others—even those who have done us wrong.
Let’s be the Yōsefs of this world, bringing others together and reflecting to them God’s mercy and peace.
Let’s be the Yōsefs of this world—which is what it really means to be…extraordinary Catholics!
[Becky & Terry Ann]
Thank you for joining us for Extraordinary Catholics podcast with Father Jayme Mathias! Check out our directory of over 2,000 Inclusive Catholic clergy at www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith. Have an extraordinary day!