Emotional Responses to the Pain of Others in Josephus’s Rewritten Scriptures and the Testament of Zebulun: Between Power and Vulnerability
- Journal of Biblical Literature
- Society of Biblical Literature
- Volume 133, Number 4, 2014
- pp. 838-857
- View Citation
- Additional Information
The first eleven books of Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities and the Testament of Zebulun, part of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, present a common insistence on emotional responses to the pain of others. This article studies how both texts construct the emotions that one is supposed to have when facing the suffering of others. For Josephus, the basic response to others’ pain is pity, rooted in the rhetorical tradition but reinterpreted. Emotionally responding to others’ pain depends on a cognitive appraisal and is characteristic of high moral character, which may contribute to creating a sense of superiority. In the Testament of Zebulun, the response to others’ pain is primarily an embodied experience. The self may be unable to help the one in pain, and intense emotions then compensate for lack of action. Compassion is rooted in the realization of one’s own vulnerability. Both discourses, in fact, illustrate a particular aspect of compassion, emphasizing either empowerment or vulnerability. In the conclusion, the article looks at emotional responses to others’ pain as occasions for the self to position itself toward others while they are vulnerable, thus less threatening. By displaying appropriate emotions, the self redefines its position vis-à-vis its peers and manifests its belonging to the social group.