The daughter of Jeftah died?

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Mon Jun 3 08:44:05 EDT 2002


The story may be related to the permission granted husbands and
fathers to abrogate the vow of a woman. She, being such a rash
and foolhardy creature, may be given to making vows like Jephtha's
without considering the Doctrine of Unintended Consequences.

Liz

  -----Original Message-----
  From: Polycarp66 at aol.com [mailto:Polycarp66 at aol.com]
  Sent: Mon, June 03, 2002 8:19 AM
  To: Biblical Hebrew
  Subject: Re: The daughter of Jeftah died?


  In a message dated 6/3/2002 7:24:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
sh at teol.ku.dk writes:



    Sorry for not having answered before. Was on my way from Copenhagen to
    Jerusalem. I should possibly have kept out of this, as I don't have a
    well-thought-out and "finished" interpretation of the Yiphtach episode
that
    I want to promote. All I wanted to say was, if we focus on the
historical
    referent of the text (the past event), and so limit interpretation of
the
    text to questions of how that EVENT is to be understood ("an early stage
in
    Israelite reliogion" vs "an early perversion of Israelite religion") we
    might be entirely overlooking issues of how the TEXT is to be
understood,
    which might have nothing to do with what may or may not have happened in
the
    past, but rather with how the world was perceived by the author and his
    community of faith. I wouldn't necessarily call it a morality tale (as
the
    point could be about matters other than the strictly ethical) and
certainly
    wouldn't say it was "just" a morality (or any other brand of) tale, as
tales
    may often have more, and not less, to tell us than eye-witness
reporting.
    I'm not sure whether the text offers an answer or not, but it seems to
me
    quite obviously to be raising a philosophical question buy asking
something
    like "is a man to blame if he involuntarily commits himself morally (by
    making a promise) to carrying out an utterly immoral act like
sacrificing
    his child? And what is God's role in this?". Actually I think this is
rather
    close to the problematic Soren Kierkegaard took up in writing about the
    Aqedah/Abraham's proposed sacrifice of his son -- thanks Ben Crick for
the
    reference -- and I can't believe the ancients were so much more callous
than
    Kierkegaard that they couldn't perceive the horror of killing one's
child.



  Ah, yes, good old "Fear and Trembling."  I recall reading it in a class in
Existentialism with Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff years ago.  It was
comprehensible compared to "Sickness unto Death" which rather had my head
spinning.

  Regarding whether this account reflects actual events, I rarely expect
that any of our texts do.  Rudolf Bultmann lead us to see the gospels as the
creation of the NT church and its kerugma rather than reflective of history
(or if they are, that is incidental).  I think we can say the same for the
OT passages with the possible exception of the prophets.

  My take on this, however, is that the story cannot be understood to be
totally unreflective of history.  In this case this would not mean that such
an event took place to a particular individual at a particular time under
particular circumstances whom we call Jephthah.  It rather would indicate
that historically such things did happen.  Regarding the 'morality play'
idea, I am inclined to think that, although some searching for a moral in
the story is simply a fishing expedition to attempt to resurrect the status
of the text as important in the canon, there is an inherent chill which
settles over one when he reads this which would lead to the impression that
one should be very careful when he makes any vow or promise.  Perhaps that
is the moral if it indeed has one.

  gfsomsel ---
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