Bibliographic leftovers on physiognomy in early Judaism and Christianity

Originally my article on Philo’s stance toward physiognomy contained some brief discussion of other proposals to see physiognomy at work in early Jewish and Christian texts. In the end, I cut much of it, but it may be helpful here to assemble a bit of the bibliography for others who may be interested in pursuing these lines. These are, of course, suggestive rather than exhaustive bibliographies.

On the Dead Sea Scrolls: For the text of 4Q186 see J. Allegro’s edition in Qumrân Cave 4.V (4Q158-4Q186) (DJDJ 5; Oxford: Clarendon, 1968), 88-91 with J. Strugnell, “Notes en marge du volume V des «Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan»,” RevQ 7 (1970): 163-276, here 274-76; Mladen Popović, “4Q186. 4QZodiacal Physiognomy. A Full Edition,” in The Mermaid and the Partridge: Essays from the Copenhagen Conference on Revising Texts from Cave Four (ed. G. J. Brooke and J. Høgenhaven; STDJ 96; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 221-58. For 4Q561 see É. Puech, Qumrân Grotte 4.XXVII. Textes en Araméen, deuxième partie (DJD 37; Oxford: Clarendon, 2009), 303-21; Søren Holst and Jesper Høgenhaven, “Physiognomy and Eschatology: Some More Fragments of 4Q561,” JJS 57 (2006): 26-43. For discussion, see Popović, Reading the Human Body; idem, “Physiognomic Knowledge in Qumran and Babylonia: Form, Interdisciplinarity, and Secrecy,” DSD 13 (2006): 150-176; idem, “Reading the Human Body and Writing in Code: Physiognomic Divination and Astrology in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Flores Florentino: Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Early Jewish Studies in Honour of Florentino García Martínez (ed. A. Hilhorst, É. Puech and E. Tigchelaar; JSJSup 122; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 271-284; idem, “Reading the Human Body and Discerning Zodiacal Spirits: A Proposal For the Use of Physiognomies in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Northern Lights on the Dead Sea Scrolls: Proceedings of the Nordic Qumran Network 2003-2006 (ed. A. Klostergaard Petersen, et al.; STDJ 80; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 155-172. Cf. Philip S. Alexander, “Physiognonomy [sic], Initiation, and Rank in the Qumran Community,” in Geschichte – Tradition – Reflexion: Festschrift für Martin Hengel zum 70. Geburtstag; Band I. Judentum (ed. Hubert Cancik, Hermann Lichtenberger, and Peter Schäfer; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 385-94.

On how possible physiognomic associations may have been operative in the apostle Paul’s own lifetime, see Jennifer Larson, “Paul’s Masculinity,” JBL 123 (2004): 85-97 and J. Albert Harrill, “Invective against Paul (2 Cor 10.19), the Physiognomics of the Ancient Slave Body, and the Greco-Roman Rhetoric of Manhood,” in Antiquity and Humanity: Essays on Ancient Religion and Philosophy Presented to Hans Dieter Betz on His 70th Birthday (ed. Adela Yarbro Collins and Margaret M. Mitchell; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 189-213; Dale Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). Note also the appeal to physiognomics as background to Paul’s concept of the ‘belly’ in K. O. Sandnes, Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles (SNTSMS 120; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 24-34.

On the Acts of Paul, contrast R. M. Grant, “The Description of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla,” VC 36 (1982): 1-4; Abraham J. Malherbe, “A Physical Description of Paul,” HTR 79 (1986): 170-175; János Bollók, “The Description of Paul in the Acta Pauli,” in The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla (ed. J. N. Bremmer; Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1996), 1-15; Jan N. Bremmer, “Magic, Martyrdom and Women’s Liberation in the Acts of Paul and Thecla,” in Bremmer, Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, 36-59, esp. 38-39; P. W. Dunn, “The Acts of Paul and the Pauline Legacy in the Second Century,” (Ph.D.Thesis, University of Cambridge, 1996), 150-51; B. Malina and J. Neyrey, Portraits of Paul: An Archaeology of Ancient Personality (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 100-52; Heike Omerzu, “The Portrayal of Paul’s Outer Appearance in the Acts of Paul and Thecla: Reconsidering the Correspondence Between the Body and Personality in Ancient Literature,” R&T 15 (2008): 252-279; Jeremy W. Barrier, The Acts of Paul and Thecla: A Critical Introduction and Commentary (WUNT 2.270; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 73-75. For critique of the relevance of physiognomy, see Monika Betz, “Die betörenden Worte des fremden Mannes: Zur Funktion der Paulusbeschreibung in den Theklaakten,” NTS 53 (2007): 130-45, esp. 132-37.

For Luke and Acts, see Mikeal C. Parsons, Body and Characters in Luke-Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006; repr. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2011); Chad Hartsock, Sight and Blindness in Luke-Acts: The Use of Physical Features in Characterization (Biblical Interpretation 94; Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2008). But note especially the important critical review of Parsons’s work by Glenn Snyder in RBL 3/2009.

One might also note the discussion in J Massyngberde Ford, “The Physical Features of the Antichrist,” JSP 14 (1996): 23-41, which is, however, somewhat homogenizing and undisciplined in its appeal to sources of widely differing historical context.

For later Jewish interest in physiognomy, note Gershom G. Scholem, “Ein Fragment zur Physiognomik und Chiromantik aus der Tradition der spätantiken jüdischen Esoterik,” in Liber Amicorum: Studies in Honor of C. J. Bleeker (SHR 17; Leiden: Brill, 1969), 175-193; P. Alexander, “Rabbinic Physiognomy,” in E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C. – A.D. 135) (rev. ed. by G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Goodman; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986), III.1: 366-69; P. Schäfer, Hekhalot-Studien (TSAJ 19; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1988), 84-95.


  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: