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Abraham on Trial


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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction5Pt. 1Abraham on Trial15Ch. 1Abraham on Trial: Case for the Prosecution17Ch. 2Abraham as Alibi? A Trial in California35Pt. 2Archaeological and Biblical Evidence69Ch. 3Child Sacrifice: Practice or Symbol?71Ch. 4Child Sacrifice in the Bible87Pt. 3Religious Defenses and Their Silences105Religious Defenses: Prolegomenon107Ch. 5Jewish Traditions111Ch. 6Christian Commentary137Ch. 7Muslim Interpretations162Pt. 4The Testimony of Psychoanalysis187Ch. 8Freud's Blind Spot189Ch. 9Sa(l)vaging Freud211Pt. 5The Social Legacy231Ch. 10Sacrificing Our Children233Conclusion251Notes255Select Bibliography295Index317

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A strikingly original and provocative analysis of a topic that is intensely controversial and yet peculiarly conventional. Carol Delaney's combination of critical methods as well as her particular focus on the implications of the Abraham story for our understanding of kinship, gender, and reproduction are unique, and bring to our attention major common ethical problems among Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. -- Gillian Feeley-Harnik, University of Michigan

About the Author

Carol Delaney is Associate Professor in Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University. She has a Master's degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Doctorate in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Her other works include The Seed and the Soil: Gender and Cosmology in Turkish Village Society.


The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is at the heart of the three monotheistic religions that see Abraham as their father in faith: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Writing from a feminist perspective, Delaney (anthropology, Stanford) considers the traditional interpretation, i.e., that Abraham's faith is proved by his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command. Delaney then examines the role this story has played in modern ideas of paternal authority, taking as an example the case of a father who killed his daughter and claimed at his trial a few years ago that he did it because God told him to. Delaney examines the role the story plays in the psychological literature as well as in religion and argues against its perpetuation. While not all readers will agree with her interpretations, she certainly offers a thought-provoking argument. For larger collections.ÄAugustine J. Curley, O.S.B., Newark Abbey, NJ

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

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