Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Mark K. George, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Amy Erickson

Third Advisor

Scott Howard


Abraham, Bible, Comparison, Genesis, Queer, Sarah


Interpreters of the Abraham and Sarah narratives in Gen 11-21 often focus on the importance of the line of inheritance, through a particular biological child. While they also note the many irregularities in Abraham and Sarah's familial relationships and activities, there has been no sustained attention to the combination of deviance and normativity that characterizes these narratives. I argue that, due to their particular combinations of normativity and deviance, Abraham and Sarah are Queer, where Queer is a general, cross-cultural category which includes but is not limited to contemporary forms of queerness (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, etc.).

Using a comparative method drawn from Jonathan Z. Smith, I compare Abraham and Sarah's narratives to stories of contemporary queer families and other queer resources. This comparison allows me to suggest initial descriptions of the larger Queer category, and to argue that both Abraham and Sarah and contemporary queer families are examples of Queerness: (1) Queers often pass. (2) Queerness involves legitimate alternatives to familial norms. (3) Resistance to norms of reproduction constitutes evidence of Queerness. (4) Queerness is often represented as inverted tragedy. (5) Queer people with ethnic and/or class privilege can sometimes use that privilege to achieve greater inclusion into normativity.

In addition to and in support of this overarching argument, this dissertation makes several more specific contributions to the interpretation of the Abraham and Sarah narratives. I offer new interpretations of (1) the reasons for Abraham and Sarah's passing as siblings in Gen 12 and 20 (because of deviance in their marriage), (2) the complications of Abraham's strategies for obtaining an heir in Gen 15, 16, and 21 (they are legitimate alternatives to the norm), (3) the reasons for Sarah's childlessness (she chose to be childless), (4) Sarah's response to Isaac's conception and birth in Gen 18 and 21 (it represents "inverted tragedy"), and (5) the relationship between Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in Gen 16 and 21 (Abraham and Sarah use their class and ethnic privilege to pursue greater normativity).

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Gil Rosenberg


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

310 p.


Biblical Studies, LGBTQ studies, Comparative Literature