Redressing Clothing in the Hebrew Bible: Material-Cultural Approaches
Wagstaff, Bethany Joy
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
In order to publish papers from my thesis.
Despite the dynamic portrayal of clothes in the Hebrew Bible scholars continue to interpret them as flat and inert objects. They are often overlooked or reduced to background details in the biblical texts. However, this thesis will demonstrate that the biblical writers’ depictions of clothes are not incidental and should not be reduced to such depictions. This thesis employs a multidisciplinary approach to develop and challenge existing approaches to the clothing imagery in the Hebrew Bible. It will fall into two main parts. In the first part, I draw insights from material-cultural theories to reconfigure ways of thinking about clothing as material objects, and reassessing the relationships between people and objects. Having challenged some of the broader conceptions of clothing, I will turn to interrogate the material and visual evidence for clothing and textiles from ancient Syro- Palestinian and ancient West Asian cultures to construct a perspective of the social and material impact of clothing in the culture in which the biblical texts were constructed and formed. In the second part, I will examine the biblical writers’ depiction of clothing through two case studies: Joseph’s ketonet passim (Genesis 37) and Elijah’s adderet (1 Kings 19 and 2 Kings 2). These analyses will draw from the insights made in the first part of this thesis to reassess and challenge the conventional scholarly interpretations of clothing in these texts. In this thesis, I argue that clothes are employed in powerful ways as material objects which construct and develop the social, religious and material dimensions of the text. They are also intimately entangled in relationships with the characters portrayed by the biblical writers and can even be considered as extensions of the people with whom they are engaged. Clothes manifest their own agency and power, which can transform other persons and objects through their performance and movement in a biblical text.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in Theology and Religion