Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth

Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth

by Carol Delaney
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press
Select a Purchase Option
  • purchase options
    $40.25 $46.00 Save 12% Current price is $40.25, Original price is $46. You Save 12%.
  • purchase options
    $25.55 $46.00 Save 44% Current price is $25.55, Original price is $46. You Save 44%.
    Note: Access code and/or supplemental material are not guaranteed to be included with textbook rental or used textbook.
  • purchase options


Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth

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: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction 5

Pt. 1 Abraham on Trial 15

Ch. 1 Abraham on Trial: Case for the Prosecution 17

Ch. 2 Abraham as Alibi? A Trial in California 35

Pt. 2 Archaeological and Biblical Evidence 69

Ch. 3 Child Sacrifice: Practice or Symbol? 71

Ch. 4 Child Sacrifice in the Bible 87

Pt. 3 Religious Defenses and Their Silences 105

Religious Defenses: Prolegomenon 107

Ch. 5 Jewish Traditions 111

Ch. 6 Christian Commentary 137

Ch. 7 Muslim Interpretations 162

Pt. 4 The Testimony of Psychoanalysis 187

Ch. 8 Freud's Blind Spot 189

Ch. 9 Sa(l)vaging Freud 211

Pt. 5 The Social Legacy 231

Ch. 10 Sacrificing Our Children 233

Conclusion 251

Notes 255

Select Bibliography 295

Index 317

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews