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Israeli Gnosticism: Amos Oz's Gospel According to Jephthah

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Amos Oz's early story, Ish Pere' [Wild Man, 1966] is analyzed here as a modern Midrash that superimposes Jephthah's sacrificial story [Judges 11] on the analogous story of the Aqedah [Genesis 22], thereby following in the footsteps of the Christian tradition, which had early on elevated Jephthah to the status of a “hero of faith” [Hebrews 11] and later prized the daughter as a model of female martyrdom.

I argue moreover that Oz was not content to allude to normative Christianity alone but rather made use of the Church's subversive margins, of the Gnostic sects that rejected the Judeo-Christian tradition. Hence the Jephthah of this story represents three “bad” guys turned “good.” He is not only also Ishmael—he in fact aspires to be Cain too! Not however the biblical Cain—the rejected son, but rather the Gnostic Cain—the beloved son.

The political meanings of this story for 1966 [!] are explored in the study from which this paper is culled, Glory and Agony: Rewriting Isaac/Sacrifice in Tel Aviv (Stanford: Stanford University Press; forthcoming).


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