Pseudo-Phil: Studies of Hebraic Heroines

By WeiEn Chen

[WeiEn Chen is a junior at Valley Forge Christian College who is spending her Junior Year Abroad studying at St. Mary’s College in the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]

Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (LAB) is a book of re-written biblical narratives giving an abundant supply of significant Jewish females. In his re-telling of the Bible, Pseudo-Philo carries on the tradition of exemplifying women who have devoted themselves to upholding their covenant with God. Not unaware of the various embarrassing problems with biblical narrative, Pseudo-Philo re-routes directives and stories to help ease some of the uncomfortable facts without actually damaging the integrity of the tale.

One such example of this is Pseudo-Philo’s treatment of the biblical figure, Tamar. Genesis 38 bluntly tells of Tamar’s seduction of her father-in-law, Judah, and how she subsequently succeeds in having her execution stayed because Judah had gone back on a promise. LAB recounts the tale in a speech given by Amram, father of Moses. Gone are the facts of Tamar’s seduction of Judah, the wickedness of Judah’s sons, and various other embarrassing details. In the end, Pseudo-Philo’s Tamar becomes a bastion of Jewish history rather than a seductress (however upright her intentions were).


Murphy, Frederick J. Pseudo-Philo: Rewriting the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Polaski, Donald C. “On Taming Tamar: Amram’s Rhetoric and Women’s Roles in Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum”. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha. 13 (1995): 79-99.

van der Horst, Pieter Willem. “Portraits of Biblical Women in Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum”. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha. 5 (1989): 29-46.

(c) 1997
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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