Joseph and His Fabulous Queer Technicolour Dreamcoat.

Sometimes, stories and images are so familiar to us, that we completely fail to see their significance. The story of Joseph and his coat is familiar to us all from childhood Bible stories – and even more familiar as Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Ignore the main story for now, and just focus on that coat of many colours.
In the modern world, colour is everywhere, so much so that we hardy notice it unless it is used particularly well, or until it is unexpectedly absent. It was not always so. In the Biblical world, clothing was mostly drab: dyes of all kinds were costly , brightly coloured cloth of any kind was an expensive luxury. It is not surprising that Joseph’s brothers would have been jealous of the special favour shown by their father, and wished to sell him into slavery.
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But there could be more to the story than first appears: this was not just a coloured coat, but a very specific type – a coat of many colours, in stripes. Just such a coat was typically worn by a specific group of people – a distinctly queer group.
Joseph sold into slavery, Edward Knippers

Joseph sold into slavery, Edward Knippers

Consider this extract from “Coming Out Spiritually“, in which he draws on Conner, ” Blossom of Bone“:

These were the qedeshim, who served as priests to the Canaanite goddess Athirat. They were responsible for the upkeep of her temples, and also engaged in ritual temple prostitution, engaging in sex with the devotees of the goddess to achieve enhanced states of consciousness. (It is possible that several of the biblical texts of terror that are used to condemn sex between men were in fact referring specifically to these temple prostitutes – and so were directed at idolatry, rather than at homoerotic activity itself).

Connor notes an interesting connection between the multicolour garments of the qedishim and Joseph’s “coat of many colours”, which, at least based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s portrayal, was “fabulous”. Although Connor’s mission is not to “out” Joseph, he presents other clues which make one wonder, such as the fact that Potiphar, the man who bought Joseph from his brothers and brought him to Egypt as his servant, was actually a eunuch priest of a pagan goddess.  Furthermore, the interpretation of dreams was one of the qualities for which the qedishim were known; and indeed, biblical writings reflect that prophetic dreams were commonplace with Joseph.

This needs some fact-checking: most obviously, Potiphar did not buy Joseph directly from his brothers, but from a band of Ishmaelites who were the original purchasers. It is certainly true though that male temple prostitution was commonplace in the Mediterranean world, including in the land of  Canaan, and that in cultures all around the world, men who were attracted to men or to female gender roles were often regarded as possessing special spiritual gifts – including the prophetic interpretation of dreams.

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Noah’s Queer Ark

Well, isn’t the rainbow part of the story, as well as a major gay symbol? What other couples would you expect? Kittredge Cherry at Jesus in Love blog has some wonderful shots of a painting by Paul Richmond, depicting well -known gay coples, and same sex animal pairs, enjoying married bliss on the decks, with prominent foes of equality drowning in the sea.

Noah's Gay Wedding Cruise, Marriage Evolved Edition

 Kittredge writes:

He was moved to create the work after California’s Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage last fall. Demonstrations across the United States in support of marriage equality inspired Richmond to paint a wickedly funny satire on the classic Bible story.In Genesis 6-9, God commands Noah to gather his family and heterosexual pairs of animals into a boat to rescue them from the global flood sent to destroy human evil and the violence of nature. After the flood, a rainbow appears as a symbol of God’s promise never again to destroy all life on earth.

How appropriate that the rainbow has become a symbol of GLBT pride! Richmond puts a fresh twist on the Biblical epic with his sweeping vision of a gay-positive new world. A rainbow flag flies high on the mast of Noah’s gay cruise ship. “As the clouds begin to part, a heavenly rainbow appears in the sky to remind hopeful voyagers that full legal recognition and acknowledgement of same-sex love is just over the horizon,” Richmond explains.

This is huge fun, with the visual puns spelt out for those unable to instantly recognise each face.  Just what we need to cheer us in the aftermath of the loss in Maine:  a reminder that victory in the long run will still be ours.

Apart from fun, of course, the idea of gay couples on the ark is entirely appropriate. Sexual diversity is everywhere in the animal kingdom, just as it is in human society. See “Natural Families: The Wildlife Rainbow“, at Queering the Church.



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