Recensions et comptes rendusThéologie

Patrick Kipasa Mayifulu, Parole, violence et ruse. Une approche narrative du début de l’histoire de Joseph (Genèse 37-39) (Théologie biblique, 4), préface d’André Wénin. Zürich, Lit, 2019, 279 p., 14 × 20,5 cm, ISBN 978-3-643-91164-3

  • Chi Ai Nguyen

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  • Chi Ai Nguyen
    Assumption University, Worcester, MA

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Cover of Volume 74, Number 1, January–April 2022, pp. 1-159, Science et Esprit

Through a narrative reading of the beginning of the Joseph story (Genesis 37-39), Kipasa shows the journey of different characters concerning their way of speaking. For him, a character can make a statement to engender violence or to temper it. The author also talks about ruse and lie in their connection with violence. Keeping the good of others in mind, a character can use ruse or lie in order to diminish violence or to allow the truth to be heard. The choice of the first three chapters of the Joseph story for analysis is astonishing, but not without justification. For Kipasa, those three chapters provide the key to reading the family conflict that will be related in Gn 42-45. Being familiar with the initial disagreement, the reader will read with more intelligence the ruse that Joseph uses against his brothers (Gn 42:8-20) or the ruse that Jacob’s sons use against their father (Gn 42:29-34). Those ruses, suggests the author, are positive because they are nourished by care for others and their well-being (p. 263-264). For Kipasa, ruse is the common thread of the three chapters that he studies because they follow almost the same narrative pattern (p. 215). In each case, a man of authority (Jacob, Judah, Potiphar) is manipulated by his family member[s] (Jacob’s sons, Tamar, Potiphar’s wife). The success of the ruse is due to an exhibit (Joseph’s tunic; Judah’s seal, cord and staff). And each exhibit is provided with a word from the liar that misleads the target person (Gn 37:32-33; 39:16-19) or that obliges him to end his lie (Gn 38:25-26). According to Kipasa, the narrator uses different ruses throughout Gn 37-39 as small ironies in order to prepare the reader to see the irony of the whole cycle of Joseph. The biggest irony is related to Joseph’s destiny itself. Indeed, every violent act, of which Joseph is victim, does not prevent him from attaining the power predicted by his dreams. Quite the opposite; it allows him to approach that power. Without knowing it, those who seek to harm Joseph are manipulated by his destiny, thus contributing to his success. What Kipasa says about the use of ruse is particularly captivating. In Gn 37, after getting rid of Joseph, his brothers think that they can finally build a united family freed from the preference of their father for a favored son. They send someone to bring Joseph’s bloodstained garment to Jacob with a word to manipulate him. Jacob says what his sons want to hear, but according to Kipasa, he discovers their ruse and secretly uses another against them. He refuses to be consoled, as if Joseph is still alive, and thus puts an end to their plan for unifying the family without Joseph (p. 75-76). In Gn 38, perceiving that she is deceived by her father-in-law, Tamar prepares a ruse to target the one who lied to her. Running the risk of playing with trick and concealment, she dresses as a prostitute to stir the desire for life in Judah. This desire was expressed when Judah got a wife for Er and after the death of the first-born, he asked Onan to fulfill his duty as brother-in-law. But now the desire for life in Judah is paralyzed due to the successive deaths of his family. Faced with such an impasse, Tamar tries to find a way to deceive, not Judah himself, but his fear. Her ruse is positive because it is marked by a desire for life, not only to have an heir for her deceased husband, but also in view of the survival of …