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Writing the WrongsWomen of the Old Testament among Biblical Commentators from Philo through the Reformation$
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John L. Thompson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195137361

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195137361.001.0001

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Jephthah's Daughter and Sacrifice

Jephthah's Daughter and Sacrifice

(p.100) 2 Jephthah's Daughter and Sacrifice
Writing the Wrongs

John L. Thompson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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