Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 6146
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by MrMacSon » Thu Nov 19, 2015 3:00 am

The Biblical story we have inherited is not the original story, [Bible scholar] Tzemah Yoreh believes. Using a variation of a well-known approach to Biblical scholarship, he sees hints of a bloodier version of Isaac’s binding that he finds too convincing to ignore.

In the earliest layer of the Biblical text, Yoreh believes, Isaac was not rescued by an angel at the last moment, but was in fact murdered by his father, Abraham, as a sacrifice to God.The Biblical story we have inherited is not the original story, Yoreh believes. Using a variation of a well-known approach to Biblical scholarship, he sees hints of a bloodier version of Isaac’s binding that he finds too convincing to ignore.

In the earliest layer of the Biblical text, Yoreh believes, Isaac was not rescued by an angel at the last moment, but was in fact murdered by his father, Abraham, as a sacrifice to God.

One eye-opening hint at what he believes is the original story lies in Genesis 22:22. Previously, in verse 8, Abraham and Isaac had walked up the mountain together. But in verse 22, only Abraham returns.

So Abraham returned unto his young men [waiting at the foot of the mountain], and they rose up and went together to Beersheba,” the text relates.

That strange contradiction, Yoreh says, may be why a few ancient midrashim, or rabbinic homilies, also assumed Isaac had been killed.

In one homily quoted by Rashi, the revered 11th-century French rabbi and commentator, “Isaac’s ashes are said to be suitable for repentance, just like the ashes of an [animal] sacrifice.”

“That’s a very weird midrash,” Yoreh says, “since Isaac is clearly alive in the next chapter. But that’s the way midrash works. It analyzes episodes without looking at the larger context. That’s why you can have midrashim about Isaac dying, because it doesn’t have to notice that he’s alive in the next chapter.”

There are many hints of Isaac’s untimely demise. The sacrifice story itself contains strange contradictions and clues that are best resolved, he believes, by assuming a very different, earlier narrative.

In verse 12, after staying Abraham’s knife-wielding hand in mid-air, the angel of God tells the father of monotheism, “I now know you fear God because you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

That phrase, “have not withheld your son,” “could indicate Abraham was merely willing to sacrifice his son, or that he actually did so,” Yoreh says.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/when-abrah ... red-isaac/
.

shunyadragon
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:50 pm

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by shunyadragon » Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:19 am

Interesting read, concerning the possible over lap of Canaanite and other pre-Babylonian texts and stories with later edited stories.
go with the flow the river knows . . .

Frank

I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

andrewcriddle
Posts: 1816
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by andrewcriddle » Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:27 am

It is not clear how Abraham can be regarded as the father of Israel in a version of the story in which Isaac ends up dead on Mount Moriah.

Andrew Criddle

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 12154
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:42 am

Ha ha ha
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 12154
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:47 am

I remember Goodenough (I think) argued for Philo's writings being edited to remove a reference to the resurrection of Isaac. Again solely from memory.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

andrewcriddle
Posts: 1816
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by andrewcriddle » Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:00 pm

Secret Alias wrote:I remember Goodenough (I think) argued for Philo's writings being edited to remove a reference to the resurrection of Isaac. Again solely from memory.
See Goodenough

Andrew Criddle

John Kesler
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:54 am

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by John Kesler » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:15 am

andrewcriddle wrote:It is not clear how Abraham can be regarded as the father of Israel in a version of the story in which Isaac ends up dead on Mount Moriah.
The same scholar quoted in the linked article, Dr. Tzemah Yoreh, answers that question in footnote 33 of this article: http://thetorah.com/the-sacrifice-of-isaac-in-context
The reader may be wondering at this point, if Isaac is killed, how do we get from Abraham to Jacob? My answer is that we do not. In my view, E sees Jacob, not Abraham, as the father and founder of the Israelite nation. Abraham is an ancient hero and role model, not an ancestor.

User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 6146
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by MrMacSon » Sat Nov 21, 2015 11:08 am

John Kesler wrote:
andrewcriddle wrote:It is not clear how Abraham can be regarded as the father of Israel in a version of the story in which Isaac ends up dead on Mount Moriah.
The same scholar quoted in the linked article, Dr. Tzemah Yoreh, answers that question in footnote 33 of this article:
The reader may be wondering at this point, if Isaac is killed, how do we get from Abraham to Jacob? My answer is that we do not. In my view, E sees Jacob, not Abraham, as the father and founder of the Israelite nation. Abraham is an ancient hero and role model, not an ancestor.
and in the article Dr. Tzemah Yoreh explains 'E' -

In talking about the "supplementary hypothesis, which argues that the Torah developed accretively", rather than through the "combination of individual, complete sources", and how the "original story over the generations was supplemented in order to make the account relevant for a new generations of readers", Dr. Yoreh says he believes that
  • "the original story is largely identical to what other scholars call “E” or the Elohistic source, since it uses the name “Elohim” (almost) exclusively (at least up until Exodus 3 –afterwards there is some disagreement)."
In context, and with nuance, this is the full passage in which Dr Yoreh says that^ -
– Part 3 –
The Akeda in Context
A Note on Source/Redaction Criticism and my Method
Thus far, I have made scant reference to different sources or documents in this section of the Torah. I wanted my arguments to be accessible to people who are unfamiliar with source criticism and its terminology. In addition, for those who are familiar with source criticism, I felt my arguments would be clearer without reference to classical source criticism. At this point, however, it may be confusing if I don’t offer more information.

I subscribe to the supplementary hypothesis, which argues that the Torah developed accretively rather than through the combination of individual, complete sources. The original story over the generations was supplemented in order to make the account relevant for a new generations of readers. I believe that the original story is largely identical to what other scholars call “E” or the Elohistic source, since it uses the name “Elohim” (almost) exclusively (at least up until Exodus 3 –afterwards there is some disagreement). The editors or supplementers I refer to are Judean redactors of later periods (as opposed to E which was composed in Northern Israel before the kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians): the most prominent among these redactors is “J” who preferred to use Y-HWH (the Tetragrammaton) as the deity’s name. (In the Akedah account of Genesis 22 the Yahwistic editor I refer to is always J.)


http://thetorah.com/the-sacrifice-of-isaac-in-context/
Dr Yoreh later writes -
The earlier Elohistic source originally read:
  • The angel of E-lohim called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Now I know that you fear E-lohim, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
The later Yahwistic later added half a verse and changed the deity’s name to Y-HWH.[29]
  • 11 But the angel of the Y-HWH called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear Elohim, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”[30]
In other words, in the original E story, Isaac, the tiny wisp of Sarah’s laughter, is sacrificed by his zealous father Abraham to atone for his past indiscretions. Thus, the midrashic traditions that suggest this are not reading the text creatively, but preserving an older, original tradition concerning the Akedah. The J editor (the later source that consistently uses the Y-HWH sobriquet) could not accept this outcome, and altered the narrative, turning a story of ultimate sacrifice and the cruelty of zeal into a story of redemption. The addition of verse 12a (Do not raise your hand) and verse 13-14 (the substitution) elegantly overturn the meaning of the original revelation.[31]

.

andrewcriddle
Posts: 1816
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by andrewcriddle » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:23 pm

John Kesler wrote:
andrewcriddle wrote:It is not clear how Abraham can be regarded as the father of Israel in a version of the story in which Isaac ends up dead on Mount Moriah.
The same scholar quoted in the linked article, Dr. Tzemah Yoreh, answers that question in footnote 33 of this article: http://thetorah.com/the-sacrifice-of-isaac-in-context
The reader may be wondering at this point, if Isaac is killed, how do we get from Abraham to Jacob? My answer is that we do not. In my view, E sees Jacob, not Abraham, as the father and founder of the Israelite nation. Abraham is an ancient hero and role model, not an ancestor.
IMO E has Isaac as the father of Jacob. Genesis 31:53b
And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.
is generally assigned to E.

Andrew Criddle

semiopen
Posts: 471
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:27 pm

Re: Did Abraham really sacrifice Isaac?

Post by semiopen » Tue Nov 24, 2015 5:03 pm

Isaac's name is spelled differently than usual in four places. That seems to indicate that these were written earlier than the stuff in Genesis (or not I suppose).
8 He is ever mindful of His covenant, the promise He gave for a thousand generations,
9 that He made with Abraham, swore to Isaac,
10 and confirmed in a decree for Jacob, for Israel, as an eternal covenant, (Psa 105:8-10 TNK)[ /quote]

יִשְׂחָֽק (Psa 105:9 WTT)
Earlier the psalm goes
O offspring of Abraham, His servant, O descendants of Jacob, His chosen ones. (Psa 105:6 TNK)
Maybe that is due to the poetic nature of the line, or maybe the Isaac thing was inserted later.

The line in Hebrew is important in Jewish prayer.
זֶ֭רַע אַבְרָהָ֣ם עַבְדּ֑וֹ בְּנֵ֖י יַעֲקֹ֣ב בְּחִירָֽיו׃
(Psa 105:6 WTT)
so I will never reject the offspring of Jacob and My servant David; I will never fail to take from his offspring rulers for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Indeed, I will restore their fortunes and take them back in love. (Jer 33:26 TNK)
גַּם־זֶ֣רַע יַעֲקוֹב֩ (Jer 33:26 WTT)
Seed of Jacob now, and also the later reference to the three amigos.

The other two references are in Amos - Amos is pretty old, and we can hypothesize that all four examples are prior to Genesis.
The shrines of Isaac shall be laid waste, and the sanctuaries of Israel reduced to ruins; and I will turn upon the House of Jeroboam with the sword."
(Amo 7:9 TNK)
JPS 1917 is worth mentioning -
And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. (Amo 7:9 JPS)
And so, hear the word of the LORD. You say I must not prophesy about the House of Israel or preach about the House of Isaac; (Amo 7:16 TNK)
Abraham is missing from Amos.

To go back to the original question, it appears that Isaac might well predate Abraham. Therefore the idea that Abraham kills Isaac is not easy to accept. Granted, the story is so obscure, anything is possible.

Post Reply