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The Construction and Subversion of Patriarchal Perfection: Abraham and Exemplarity in Philo, Josephus, and the Testament of Abraham

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In dialogue with recent research on the Roman discourse of exemplarity, this article explores representations of Abraham in selected sources from the first and early second centuries C.E. In the first part of the article, references to the patriarch in the writings of Philo and Josephus are considered in light of the transformation of Greek ideas about exempla by Roman authors like Polybius, Livy, and Valerius Maximus. In the second part, the inversion of Abraham's exemplarity in the Testament of Abraham is investigated in relation to the treatment of famous figures in the Apocolocyntosis and in Juvenal's 10th Satire. By juxtaposing the use of exempla in contemporaneous Roman and Jewish writings, the article explores their parallel reflections on the power of the past and shows how Romans and Jews alike appropriated of elements of Greek culture for the articulation of new expressions of local pride, ethnic specificity, and cultural resistance.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 201 Logan Hall, 249 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA;, Email:


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