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Abraham on Trial : The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth - Carol Delaney

Abraham on Trial

The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth

Paperback Published: 1st October 2000
ISBN: 9780691070506
Number Of Pages: 352

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"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.

Finalist for the 1998 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish Scholarship, Jewish Book Council "This provocative and thoughtful analysis will resonate with all who are bothered by a father's readiness to sacrifice his son in order to demonstrate his unquestioning devotion to God."--National Jewish Post and Opinion "A thought-provoking argument."--Library Journal "Many scholars would be wary of charging a single biblical myth with aiding and abetting such a vast array of lethal power structures and ideologies as Delaney catalogues throughout the book. Yet she marshals extensive evidence and prosecutes her case with great care and competence."--Cynthia M. Baker, Bible Review

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgmentsp. 5
Abraham on Trialp. 15
Abraham on Trial: Case for the Prosecutionp. 17
Abraham as Alibi? A Trial in Californiap. 35
Archaeological and Biblical Evidencep. 69
Child Sacrifice: Practice or Symbol?p. 71
Child Sacrifice in the Biblep. 87
Religious Defenses and Their Silencesp. 105
Religious Defenses: Prolegomenonp. 107
Jewish Traditionsp. 111
Christian Commentaryp. 137
Muslim Interpretationsp. 162
The Testimony of Psychoanalysisp. 187
Freud's Blind Spotp. 189
Sa(l)vaging Freudp. 21
The Social Legacyp. 231
Sacrificing Our Childrenp. 233
Conclusionp. 251
Notesp. 255
Select Bibliographyp. 295
Indexp. 317
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691070506
ISBN-10: 0691070504
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 1st October 2000
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.88  x 1.91
Weight (kg): 0.5