The daughter of Jeftah died?

Bill Burks rwburks at
Mon Jun 3 10:30:19 EDT 2002


While I can appreciate our attempts to explain something that to us is
unexplainable, it could be that the text indicates just what it says and
no more.  The girl was sacrificed.  The vow foolish, or not well
planned.  The text however can be taken at its face value.  To do
otherwise is beyond the limitations of the language and steps into the
muddy waters of interpretation.

Bill Burks

Polycarp66 at wrote:

> In a message dated 6/3/2002 7:24:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> sh at 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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