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Why does Jephthah’s daughter weep? Readers have creatively imagined the causes of her tears as she weeps upon her betulim—usually translated virginity or maidenhood. But her menstrual cycle’s relation to these terms is rarely mentioned. A child-oriented theoretical and methodological foundation and research with post-menarcheal girls provide new answers to oft-raised questions about Bat-Yiphtach’s weeping and her agency. Through an in-depth philological review and a focus on the “excluded middle” of the child-adult binary, this translation and interpretation of the story contribute to the field of childhood studies and shows that menarche and menstruation play a larger role in the narrative than readers have realized.

Abstract

Bat-Yiphtach is a transitioning child, lamenting her בתולים. Chapter 4 argues that research on the experiences of menarche and menstruation for transitioning children sheds light on several ambiguities in the narrative, including the phrase שׁנים חדשׁים (two new moons). The chapter surveys the biblical scholarship and texts that have been used to expand the allusions in בתולה and בתולים; then it surveys menstruation terminology (e.g., נדה) and its treatment in the biblical texts and in biblical scholarship. To incorporate the perspectives of children—a primary tenet in childhood studies research—it surveys studies with post-menarcheal subjects to take their voices into account when interpreting Bat-Yiphtach in her narrative. It concludes with a childoriented interpretation of Bat-Yiphtach as transitioning child and a new translation of Judges 11:29–40.

In: Why Jephthah's Daughter Weeps

Abstract

What does a child-oriented interpretation of Bat-Yiphtach’s narrative do to assessments of her agency? Chapter 5 surveys how agency has emerged in childhood studies scholarship and in previous scholarship on Bat-Yiphtach’s narrative. It includes a brief review of the focus on agency in childhood studies, including theoretical moves made by Nick Lee, David Oswell, and Michael Gallagher, whose research constructs agency relationally and contextually, in open assemblages. A survey of how biblical scholars have constructed Bat-Yiphtach’s agency reveals the vast differences the narrative’s gaps and ambiguities allow, and the place of the interpreter within the relational assemblage. Using Gallagher’s assemblage framework, and in conversation with the interpretation of Bat-Yiphtach’s narrative in Chapter 4, the chapter adds to previous assessments of her agency by suggesting that Bat-Yiphtach is at the mercy of her body (she bleeds), her father (she echoes and obeys), and socio-cultural and religious traditions for menstruating girls (she goes).

In: Why Jephthah's Daughter Weeps

Abstract

Chapter 1 sketches the story of Bat-Yiphtach and some of the gaps and ambiguities that have inspired interpreters’ imaginations. The chapter also provides readers with a roadmap of the book—from the history of scholarship on Judges 11:29–40 in Chapter 2, to the book’s theoretical grounding in childhood studies in Chapter 3, to the fresh, child-oriented views that are offered of this Judges tale in Chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 1 establishes my argument: that menarche and menstruation play a larger role in Bat-Yiphtach’s characterization and narrative, including in her weeping, than previous scholars and readers might have recognized. Together, the theoretical lenses in childhood studies; curiosity about the shifts in translations of בתולה, ‪בתולים‬, and נדה; and a means to access children’s perspectives offer opportunities to see what previous interpretations have missed.

In: Why Jephthah's Daughter Weeps

Abstract

Chapter 6 reviews the moves made through this project, including its development of the proposed category of transitioning child and its capacity to question the child–adult binary, as well as the revelation of the experiences of menarche and menstruation to transitioning children and its relevance to Bat-Yiphtach’s narrative. The chapter identifies multiple questions that remain to be studied and that invite further research. These questions have implications for interpretations of the biblical texts, including of Judges 11:29–40 and of Judges more broadly, and for how the biblical texts affect contemporary children, their contexts, and child–adult relationality.

In: Why Jephthah's Daughter Weeps

Abstract

Scholars contributing to the field of childhood studies first and foremost have an interest in children and their realities. Chapter 3 reviews this field and its breadth, including its interdisciplinary interest in sociological, psychological, biological, philosophical, and theoretical perspectives of children and their realities. It examines the field’s primary tenets and the shifts being made in recent years. The chapter argues that research in childhood studies—on children, the sociology of childhood, and child–adult relationality—reveals presuppositions that underlie a child–adult binary. It then examines developments in childist and child-oriented biblical scholarship, including a review of child-oriented biblical scholars whose work attends to Bat-Yiphtach. The perspectives offer new interpretive possibilities for Bat-Yiphtach’s narrative, including interpretations of her life stage (i.e., transitioning child) and agency.

In: Why Jephthah's Daughter Weeps

Abstract

This chapter answers the question: How have readers and interpreters constructed Bat-Yiphtach’s character? It answers the question by noting when readers have used an adult-centric gender binary to flesh out Bat-Yiphtach as woman (not man), and when readers use a child–adult binary to characterize her as a child who, in her obedience, is worthy of emulation. Chapter 2 complements this previous work by suggesting an alternative characterization of Bat-Yiphtach as transitioning child, thus creating a space for studying the “excluded middle” of the child-adult binary and for questioning adult-centric presuppositions underlying both binaries.

In: Why Jephthah's Daughter Weeps