Remembering The Queen Of Sheba In The First Millennium

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Religious Studies
Biblical Studies
Jewish Studies
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Stinchcomb, Jillian Theresa

The Queen of Sheba is a figure known for her meeting with Solomon, first recorded in the biblical texts of 1 Kings 10:1-12 and 2 Chronicles 9:1-13. This dissertation examines the literary dynamics of every extant narrative about the Queen of Sheba which emerged before the end of the first millennium in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Syriac through the frameworks of Memory Studies and Reception History. It argues that there is a marked difference between the ways the episode between the Queen of Sheba and Solomon as described in our surviving sources from the Second Temple period and the ways it is described in extant sources in and after Late Antiquity. While early iterations of the narrative follow a similar pattern, the archive of texts from Late Antiquity witness an explosion of creativity, forming a dynamic complex of stories with shared features among Jews, Muslims, and Christians. These texts show unclear lines of dependence and are difficult to date with precision. Nevertheless, I suggest that it is valuable to examine them synchronically across “religions,” contextualizing them in light of the political, cultural, and ideological frameworks whence they emerged. The Queen of Sheba, as a wealthy, foreign queen who worshipped another god than the one worshipped by Israel, represented multiple forms of alterity inextricably bound up with one another. Her meeting with Solomon garnered a new significance in Late Antiquity, as Christian hegemonies solidified their rule and Islamic polities emerged, where conflict over material and social power was overlaid with and understood through ideological conflict over the inheritance of monarchical Israel. From the sixth to ninth centuries, one finds new expressions of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim memory-making around Israel’s monarchic past, and the Queen of Sheba became a potent site to articulate a range of visions of identity and alterity.

Steven Weitzman
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