Jephthah's Daughter and Sacrifice

John L. Thompson

in Writing the Wrongs

Published in print October 2001 | ISBN: 9780195137361
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834730 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

                   Jephthah's Daughter and Sacrifice

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Feminist readers have seen Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter not only as her unlawful abuse at a father's hands, but also as the nexus of other injustices and indignities, including that Jephthah blames his daughter, that the father is commemorated in Hebrews 11 while the daughter remains nameless, and that the daughter dies while in two similar instances – Isaac in Genesis 22 and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14 – sons are allowed to live. Early Jewish and Christian commentary, however, commonly condemned Jephthah for his vow while honoring the daughter, often seeing her as a martyr. Beginning with Augustine, many saw in Jephthah and/or his daughter, a type of the sacrifice of Jesus, and the reality of her suffering was sometimes the subject of significant imaginative probing or affective identification. Rabbi David Kimhi's argument for the daughter's survival disseminated slowly in the later Middle Ages but precipitated ethical and casuistic analysis, and late medieval and Reformation interpreters generally defended the daughter against the father's actions. Some used Isaac and Jonathan as precedents for her autonomy that ought to have been followed, and at least one insinuated the daughter into the honor roll in Hebrews 11.

Keywords: casuistry; feminist exegesis; Jephthah's daughter; Judges; precritical interpretation; typology; vows

Chapter.  47370 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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