Charitable like Abigail: The history of an Epitaph

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Abstract

This article traces the development of a narrative presenting the biblical figure of Abigail as charitable, an idea that is especially evident on early modern tombstones. The article documents different approaches to Abigail and argues that the connection between Abigail and charity originated only in medieval Europe and was a departure from earlier sources. During the Middle Ages, this narrative was introduced by medieval rabbis to justify accepting charity from female donors who contributed to the community without their husbands’ permission, a course of action that was forbidden by law. Subsequently, Abigail and charity became associated in much broader terms and this attribution appeared on early modern and modern tombstones in Germany. These changes are examined against the backdrop of Christian exegesis concerning Abigail and broad connections between the novel Jewish understandings and Christian exegesis are noted. The final part of the article summarizes these developments and discusses the value of locating changing biblical narratives for social historians and especially for scholars interested in the history of women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-339
Number of pages28
JournalThe Jewish Quarterly Review
Volume105
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Religious studies
  • History

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