The Bible, Theology, and Faith: A Study of Abraham and Jesus

By R. W. L. Moberly | Go to book overview

3
Abraham and God in Genesis 22

In the light of our preceding discussion of Christ as the key to scripture, how best should we proceed in actual engagement with Israel's scripture? I propose, for several interrelated reasons, to consider only one story – but that one story is the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:1–19,1 one of the most memorable and resonant of all biblical stories (often conveniently referred to by its Jewish name, the Akedah).2

For both Jews and Christians in their differing contexts (and differently again for Muslims, through the Qur'an), Genesis 22 has been one of those highpoints in scripture where the nature and meaning of the Bible as a whole is illuminated with unusual clarity. The story has served as an interpretative key to other parts of scripture, and has interacted with continuing post-biblical patterns of faith and life. It has an enormous history of reception, rooted in its intrinsic meaning.3 I wish to stand within that broad tradition.

Genesis 22 is also one of those stories within scripture which is regularly used as a focus for discussion of fundamental and wide-ranging issues of a theological and moral nature. Probably the most famous example of this is Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, but there is no shortage of [71]

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1
For convenience I will refer to Genesis 22:1–19 as Genesis 22. In doing so I do not, however, wish to overlook the significance of Genesis 22:20–4, where the genealogy introduces the name of Rebekah, who is to be the wife of Isaac, and so the human channel through whom the renewed promise of 22:17–18 is to be fulfilled. Although Genesis 22:1–19 can be read on its own, there are numerous linkages between it and the material that both precedes and follows it.
2
Akedah is a noun meaning 'binding', taken from the Hebrew verb in Genesis 22:9.
3
Standard histories of Jewish and Christian interpretation respectively are Spiegel 1979 and Lerch 1950. There has been a remarkable outpouring of literature on Genesis 22 in recent years, but this is not the context in which to document it. A more general account of the history of reception of the figure of Abraham, and its possible implications for today, is Kuschel 1995.

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