The Story that Would Not Die
The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and ChristianityJon D. Levenson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993) 272 pp., $27.50.
Jon Levenson, professor of Jewish studies at Harvard Divinity School, is one of the brightest and most eloquent biblical scholars active today. Like his earlier books, Sinai and Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible (1985) and Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (1988), his most recent book presents commentaries on key biblical themes and texts for both the scholar and the interested cleric or layperson. Levenson’s clear and accessible writing is a rarity among biblical scholars. As in his earlier works, many of his readings are informed by classical Rabbinic interpretations. Furthermore, theological reflection is never far from the surface, creating an interpretive blend that is fascinating, even when the argument is weak.
The thesis of this book is that the practice and ideology of child sacrifice is one of the central influences on biblical religion and narrative, encompassing the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and rabbinic Judaism. Levenson constructs a series of arguments in support of this rather large—and on the face of it, rather dubious—claim and presents a number of illuminating readings of biblical texts.