Ancient and modern interpretations of Genesis 22
Thus far we have offered an exegesis and interpretation of Genesis 22 as a first step in working out a specific example of the kind of biblical interpretation which might exemplify the more general hermeneutical stance for which we are arguing. The next step will be to consider some of the significant work already existing in this area, so that the articulation of our own thesis may be properly contextualized as a contribution to an ancient and continuing debate. The prime focus will be Christian approaches to Genesis 22, though the chaper will conclude with some brief comments on Jewish approaches.
Because the discussion of Christian approaches to Genesis 22 could itself easily take up a whole book, we will set (convenient though slightly arbitrary) limits by confining discussion (more or less) to the New Testament and two well-known twentieth-century Protestant interpreters, Wilhelm Vischer and Gerhard von Rad. Such a bypassing of centuries of intervening interpretation, much of it of great interest and profundity, is not intended to derogate from the continuing hermeneutic potential of such material. It is primarily because I wish to keep a focus on the developments of recent debate as the prime context for my own exposition. In particular, the widely acknowledged stature of von Rad makes his work an obvious marker in relation to which other contributors need to situate themselves at the outset of the twenty-first century.
The New Testament explicitly engages with the story of Genesis 22 in two passages, Hebrews 11:17–19 and James 2:18–24. Each writer uses the story as a paradigm of their understanding of the key Christian term for