On Mere Fidelity this week, Derek, Matt, and I discuss Moshe Halbertal’s book, On Sacrifice. I recommend Halbertal’s book very highly. Do share your thoughts in the comments.
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About Alastair Roberts
Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Regarding Matt’s concerns about violence in Sacrifice: There is definitely pathos, and tension in, say, Genesis 22, but I don’t think that we do well to describe that as violence. The tension isn’t that violence is being done to Isaac, but that once Isaac has been given to God, he will no longer be there to continue Abraham’s line, and to be the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. (This is Levenson’s point–at least in his more recent lectures, not necessarily in Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son–we get the story of the Binding of Isaac very wrong if we think that God asked Abraham to kill Isaac, that is, to do violence to Isaac. God did not ask Abraham to kill Isaac, but to sacrifice him. And to the ancient ears, though there is pathos here, the pathos is “oh, no, he has to do that” not “he’s asked to do something he oughtn’t do.”)
Likewise, the martyr isn’t being asked to do violence, but rather, to explicitly pursue life. However, the martyr is being asked to take the hard way, and only seek life in resurrection–eternal life, freed from death–not in what feels like the good now.
Derek mentions that, for instance, the minkha, was not violent. But McClymond goes further than this, and Levenson endorses her reading, the death that accompanies sacrifice is perceived as a non-violent death–that is, even animal sacrifice is non-violent. (And this is, I think, important for qualifying Derrida’s concerns about carnophallogocentrism, so that we can accept them as critiques of our situation today, but nevertheless, not reject the sacrifices in the Scriptures, as, for instance, Derrida thought Levinas ought to have.)
Regarding Matt’s point that there is a loss of something you value: I’m not sure this should be called violence. When, for instance, a child leaves home, the parents aren’t doing violence, though they are giving up something they value deeply.
(Another very good book–though, it doesn’t attempt to have the commentary on our current situation–is Mary McClymond’s Beyond Sacred Violence.)