Medieval Monasticism and the Evolution of Jewish Interpretation of the Story of Jephthah's Daughter‏

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Exegesis, Jephthah, Monasticism, Judges, Karairte In unanimous fashion, the midrashic exegetical tradition affirmed that Jephthah's vow was a commitment to sacrifice the first creature that greeted him upon his victorious return from battle against the Ammonites (Jgs 11.31). Several medieval rabbinic exegetes, however, posited a different interpretation of the vow: were the first creature to greet him be a person, then that person would indeed be dedicated to God, Not in the form of a sacrifice, but through a life of devotion to God through seclusion. An extensive understanding of monastic practices reveals these exegetes to be highly sensitive to the economic, familial, social, institutional and ceremonial contexts in which women religious engaged the monastic life, and the imaginative, if anachronistic, way in which the medieval exegetes read these insights into the story of Jephthah's daughter. The evolution of exegesis to the story of Jephthah's daughter from its Karaite beginnings through the late middle ages, also sheds new light on Ibn Ezra's use of Karaite legal material in the formation of his biblical commentary. These rabbinic readings are further illuminated when we examine the evolution of patristic and Christian scholastic scholarship to this story in search of lines of mutual fructification
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)228-256
JournalJewish Quarterly Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


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