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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  January 2001

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION January 2001

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Subject:

Re: children and the drama of persecution.

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 11 Jan 2001 13:58:26 +0000

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> The daughter of Jephthah is another Biblical example of a child being sacrificed
> (Judges 11:30-40).  Unfortunately, she didn't fare as well as Isaac and her story
> was not used as a negative exemplar.  I know this story was the subject for some
> later paintings but does anyone know if the iconography appears in Medieval art?

Dear Nancy,
In the Morgan Picture Bible (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library)
probably painted in Paris the 1240s and undoubtedly a royal
commission, the story is told in three scenes on folio 13 verso: 1)
Jephthah, returning from his victory, is met by his daughter; 2)
Jephthah's daughter laments with her companions in the mountains; 3)
Jephthah sacrifices his daughter according to his vow.  In the latter
scene, Jephthah beheads his kneeling daughter with a sword, but there
is a rather bare-looking altar behind them.  There is a facsimile
entitled Old Testament Minatures, published by George Braziller in
New York and still apparently in print.
         Perhaps even more helpfully, the episode is also treated in three
scenes in one of the slightly earlier Bibles Moralisees (Vienna,
Osterreichisches Nationalbibliothek, Codex Vindobonensis 2554), also
associated with the French court (this is the only one of the
several Bibles Moralisees to which I have visual access, thanks to
the splendid facsimile edited by Gerald Guest for Harvey Miller
Books, 1995).  As is typical of the Bibles moralisees, on folio 61
verso each of the three episodes is accompanied by a "moralizing"
scene, which puts it in exegetical perspective.  Guest conveniently
gives translations of the accompanying texts:
1) Here Jephthah and his own who have palms of victory return from
battle and his daughter comes to him with her maids to greet them
with timbrels and cymbals to celebrate and her father sees her and is
angry and painted, and he regrets his vow.
The moralizing accompaniment: That Jephthah returned and won the
battle signifies Jesus Christ, who after His Resurrection vanquished
and trampled the devil under his feet.  The daughter who came before
him with timbrels and cymbals to celebrate him signifies Synagoga who
comes before Jesus Christ and celebrates worldly things which are
deniers and the flesh.
2) Here the girl comes before her father who is pained and angry and
says to him: Give me forty days of respite to play with my maids, and
he does so, and she returns to her maids.
Moralized as: That the girl asked for respite for her life signifies
Synagoga who asked Jesus Christ for respite for her life and He gave
it, and she returned to purses and to earthly delights.
3) Here Jephthah sacrifices his daughter and cuts her into two parts,
the one part is white and the other is black.
Moralized as: That Jephthah sacrificed his daughter and cut her into
two parts, and the one part was white and the other black signifies
Jesus Christ who sacrificed Synagoga and cut her into two parts, the
one was black and the other white.  The white signifies Christianity
and faith, and that which is black signifies the Jews who remain in
darkness as before, and God is angered by their miscreance and is
happy with their faith.

This is so far from being a "literal" interpretation that no sign of
sympathy for the daughter emerges at all, and I'm not sure it is much
help with the original query.
Cheers,
Jim Bugslag

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