The story of the sacrifice of Jephthah daughter according to the philosopher Adelard of Bath

The story of Jephtha’s meeting his daughter upon his return from a successful fight is told in the lament for Jephtha’s daughter. As Jephtha watches his daughter Qudges emerge from the house in a victory dance, he remembers his pledge to sacrifice the first thing he saw upon his return home. This meeting, together with the preparation and sacrifice, is detailed in the lament. The tragic backdrop of the annual liturgical rite of the maidens of Israel commemorating the loss of Jephtha’s daughter sets the stage for the story.
The story of the sacrifice of Jephthah daughter according to the philosopher Adelard of Bath

This poetry doesn’t change points of view so much as it changes emotions, moving from language of joy to language of grief, from celebration to lamentation. In a seemingly paradoxical deed, the Israelite virgins are commanded to sing laments “as celebrations” (PI vir Is I. 1. 4), while the handmaids at the baths are instructed to “prepare for the death of Jephtha’s daughter as they would her marriage” (a later directive in the poetry). The tenor and the vehicle are polar opposites in the metaphor that they are to perform. Though instructed to gather in mourning garb to sing elegies at the poem’s outset, the first chorus concludes with an exhortation to rejoice, not lament, and behold a virgin who excels even among the greatest men.

The opening scene of the play also has a sudden change in tone. Because he cheers Jephtha’s triumphant return dance while secretly moaning in pain. In his statement to her, he expresses his feelings of betrayal by saying that he is overwhelmed by pain and surrendered by his success. Pseudo-Philo may have based his lament on the Jephtha theme on an ancient tradition of wedding laments, according to Alexiou and Dronke. Throughout these “marriage songs,” according to them, “the language of wedding was suffused with that oflament-lament by the parents for the loss of the bride, lament by the bride at leaving her parents’ home.”

They are both expressions of conflicting feelings. Sadness and joy coexist at the wedding, according to the traditional forn. Rather, Abelard has the chorus and the victim experience a range of emotions, including despair, longing, and delight, as they contemplate the little girl’s imminent death. The joy of self-sacrifice and the grief of the wedding are both mingled in Abelard’s paradoxes. After Jephtha’s daughter convinces her father to maintain his commitment, the ceremonies that follow follow the same cycle of joy and grief alternating. She mourns the loss of her life and the hollowness of her womb by donning mourning garments and facing the possibility that her sacrifice would be a punishment rather than a blessing.

Like the virgins in the opening chorus, she sneaks back into the baths in the next scene, but this time she takes off her mourning robes—the same ones they were asked to leave behind—in favor of more solemn ones. The bride, who is repulsed by the rite, urges the handmaids to carry it out. Upon their return in the last stanza, the chorus begins in a state of grief, recalling a vision of her dying moments. Their ritual commemoration of her death is lamentation, but they change gears from this nearly as abruptly as the victim changed gears from ritual preparation. Similar to his daughter, they approach Jephtha, but instead of apologizing, they curse three times: “Oh, sick mind of judge! The general’s insane enthusiasm! You are my father, yet I am an enemy of your people!
So, the chorus echoes Jephtha's daughter's reaction: torn between grief at her loss, disgust at her father's deal, admiration for the heroine
Last but not least, they abruptly shift their focus back to Jephtha’s daughter, praising and admiring her as they conclude, “through her we are greatly ennobled!” So, the chorus echoes Jephtha’s daughter’s reaction: torn between grief at her loss, disgust at her father’s deal, admiration for the heroine, and joy at the grandeur that her conduct bestows upon them as her gender inheritors. Despite the overall tone of ambivalence, the heroine makes it clear in her lengthy speech that she wants her father to keep the vow by expressing her wish to be sacrificed. According to Abelard, she is willing to give her life if she must. In her mind, her destiny is a crowning achievement for her gender, much like Isaac’s. By prioritizing her life over his word to God, her father, she claims, is fighting for his own glory as much as hers.

She contends that her father is putting his relationship with her ahead of his relationship with God, and that he risks losing God and his people if he does not change his ways. “This is not cruelty but rather piety toward God, who, if he did not want sacrifice, would not have given victory,” she says, swiftly dispelling any doubt about the divine will and its justice. She reframes her sacrifice as “piety” instead of “cruelty.” She insists there is no rivalry between her father’s and her own glory, but she appears to follow Abelard’s theological stance in assuming that there is only one way to love: God or other people.

Naturally, this is the same perspective that Abelard conveys regarding his connection with Heloise in the Historia. She or God, the philosopher’s life or that of a husband and father—that’s the choice. The daughter of Jephtha knows that there is a cost to choosing between the two options: either he gives her up or he loses her for sure. According to the dreadful logic that controls this deal, he will lose everything if he attempts to hold on to her. Letters written by Abelard to Heloise describe Jephtha’s daughter as “the greatest lover of truth,” and he reflects on her resilience in contemplating Christian sacrifice in one of his songs.

Although she likes the “truth” that the religious life she wants and chooses is better than a secular existence, she also knows that the religious life has its own set of challenges and conflicts. The most antithetical path to a spiritual existence, martyrdom, is imposed on her. Abelard argues that virtue is not being in harmony with one’s baser instincts but rather being willing to put one’s own desires aside for the greater good. Thus, according to Abelard, the most sacred and heroic deeds are marked by internal struggle and ambivalence, which are fundamental to religious and moral existence.