The Sacrifice of Isaac: The Aqedah (Genesis 22) and Its Interpretations

By Ed Noort; Eibert Tigchelaar | Go to book overview

GENESIS 22: HUMAN SACRIFICE AND THEOLOGY
IN THE HEBREW BIBLE

Ed Noort

In Honour of Karel A. Deurloo, on the Occasion of His Retirement
on the 10th of February 20011


1. Introduction

The exegete desiring to study the narrative of the Aqedah in Genesis 22 is confronted with the warning sentences of Gerhard von Rad, who wrote one of the most sensitive studies2 about the Sacrifice of Isaac. Surveying many modern publications about the Aqedah, he concludes:

Aber, wie unberührt, wie wenig bedrängt sind sie im Grunde von der
Gewalt der Aussage, die frühere Ausleger zugleich fasziniert und
abgestoßen hat. Von dem Entsetzen, das hinter Luthers Auslegung
oder hinter Rembrandts Zeichnungen steht, ist wenig zu spüren. Wer
sich auf diese Erzählung einläßt, muß darauf gefasst sein, dass er immer
wieder wie vor einem Abgrund zurückschaudert.3

The theologian Von Rad argues that the great, most influential studies of Gen 22 are written by people, who [selbst tiefer als andere an Gott gelitten haben].4 Since early times, people have been fascinated by this narrative, which recognises and expresses their own sufferings. Others were put off and could not reconcile this story of a God who asked for the sacrifice of a son with the image of God they had. Immanuel Kant had such doubts, when he stated:

daß ich meinen guten Sohn nicht töten solle, ist ganz gewiß; daß aber
du, der du mir erscheinst, Gott sei, davon bin ich nicht gewiß und kann
es auch nicht werden, wenn sie (die Stimme) auch vom Himmel her-
abschallete.5

1 In grateful remembrance of the many hours we spent together with the late
Dr. Roel Oost, and our common interest in the theology of the Hebrew Bible.

2 G. von Rad, Das Opfer des Abraham (Kaiser Traktate 6), Munich 1971.

3 G. von Rad, Opfer, 11.

4 G. von Rad, Opfer, 10.

5 I. Kant, Der Streit der Fakultäten (1798), Werke VI, Hrsg. Von W. Weischedel,
Darmstadt 1966, 333.

-1-

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