Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth

Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth

by Carol Delaney
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691070504

ISBN-13: 9780691070506

Pub. Date: 09/11/2000

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abraham on Trial questions the foundations of faith that have made a virtue out of the willingness to sacrifice a child. Through his desire to obey God at all costs, even if it meant sacrificing his son, Abraham became the definitive model of faith for the major world religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In this bold look at the legacy of this

Overview

Abraham on Trial questions the foundations of faith that have made a virtue out of the willingness to sacrifice a child. Through his desire to obey God at all costs, even if it meant sacrificing his son, Abraham became the definitive model of faith for the major world religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In this bold look at the legacy of this biblical and qur'anic story, Carol Delaney explores how the sacrifice rather than the protection of children became the focus of faith, to the point where the abuse and betrayal of children has today become widespread and sometimes institutionalized. Her strikingly original analysis also offers a new perspective on what unites and divides the peoples of the sibling religions derived from Abraham and, implicitly, a way to overcome the increasing violence among them.

Delaney critically examines evidence from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim interpretations, from archaeology and Freudian theory, as well as a recent trial in which a father sacrificed his child in obedience to God's voice, and shows how the meaning of Abraham's story is bound up with a specific notion of fatherhood. The preeminence of the father (which is part of the meaning of the name Abraham) comes from the still operative theory of procreation in which men transmit life by means of their "seed," an image that encapsulates the generative, creative power that symbolically allies men with God. The communities of faith argue interminably about who is the true seed of Abraham, who can claim the patrimony, but until now, no one has asked what is this seed.

Kinship and origin myths, the cultural construction of fatherhood and motherhood, suspicions of actual child sacrifices in ancient times, and a revisiting of Freud's Oedipus complex all contribute to Delaney's remarkably rich discussion. She shows how the story of Abraham legitimates a hierarchical structure of authority, a specific form of family, definitions of gender, and the value of obedience that have become the bedrock of society. The question she leaves us with is whether we should perpetuate this story and the lessons it teaches.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691070506
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
09/11/2000
Pages:
334
Product dimensions:
6.11(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction5
Pt. 1Abraham on Trial15
Ch. 1Abraham on Trial: Case for the Prosecution17
Ch. 2Abraham as Alibi? A Trial in California35
Pt. 2Archaeological and Biblical Evidence69
Ch. 3Child Sacrifice: Practice or Symbol?71
Ch. 4Child Sacrifice in the Bible87
Pt. 3Religious Defenses and Their Silences105
Religious Defenses: Prolegomenon107
Ch. 5Jewish Traditions111
Ch. 6Christian Commentary137
Ch. 7Muslim Interpretations162
Pt. 4The Testimony of Psychoanalysis187
Ch. 8Freud's Blind Spot189
Ch. 9Sa(l)vaging Freud211
Pt. 5The Social Legacy231
Ch. 10Sacrificing Our Children233
Conclusion251
Notes255
Select Bibliography295
Index317

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