Click here to get the answers to the most commonly asked RBL questions.

Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Reading Phinehas, Watching Slashers: Horror Theory and Numbers 25
Grafius, Brandon R.

Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2018 pp. xvii + 209. $100.00

Description: The tale of the “zeal” of Phineas, expressed when he killed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman having sex and thus stopped a “plague” of consorting with idolatrous neighbors in the Israelite camp (Numbers 25), has long attracted both interest and revulsion. Scholars have sought to defend the account, to explain it as pious fiction, or to protest its horrific violence. Brandon R. Grafius seeks to understand how the tale expresses the latent anxieties of the Israelite society that produced it, combining the insights of historical criticism with those of contemporary horror and monster theory. Grafius compares Israelite anxieties concerning ethnic boundaries and community organization with similar anxieties apparent in horror films of the 1980s, then finds confirmation for his method in the responses of Roman-period readers who reacted to the tale of Phineas as a tale of horror. The combination of methods allows Grafius to illumine the concern of an ancient priestly class to control unsettled and unsettling community boundaries‒‒and to raise questions of implications for our own time.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Pentateuch, Numbers, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches

Login to Read the Review(s)

You must be a member of SBL to read the review(s). In May 2019, SBL improved security of its main site with a new login procedure that requires an email address and a password, instead of an SBL member number. RBL’s login procedure is now synched to SBL’s. Please use your email address and SBL password to log in to RBL. Your use of this site indicates your acceptance of RBL’s Terms of Use.

Email Address
SBL Password
 Forgot Your Password
 Join SBL or Renew Membership

Review by Richard Walsh
Published 5/2/2019
Citation: Richard Walsh, review of Brandon R. Grafius, Reading Phinehas, Watching Slashers: Horror Theory and Numbers 25, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2019).

Adobe Acrobat Reader
All RBL reviews are published in PDF format. To view these reviews, you must have downloaded and installed the FREE version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have the Reader or you have an older version of the Reader, you can download the most recent version now.


Privacy PolicyTerms of UseContact Us