Wednesday, April 21, 2004


After returning to school in 1996 at the age of 32, and FINALLY graduating from seminary in 2004 at the age of (late) 39, I can say without a doubt, "I AM DONE!!" However, the more I mull this over, the more intriguing it sounds.

For my Genesis class we have to do an annotated bibliography on Genesis 22 (the binding of Isaac). First, let me say that this particular prof is fascinated with Genesis 22; so much so that he assigns a paper on it for everyone in his classes. I know for a fact that OT I in '99, '00, '01, '02, & '03 have written on it. For awhile I thought he was doing his doctoral thesis on it and was using students as cheap research labor. And now, in this class, he's having us put together an annotated bibliography on it.

The first thing I did was look at my old paper and see if I could cull from that (it's not plagerism if you use your own stuff, right?). On re-reading it, I don't now particularly like what I had to say then. So, never one to take the easy road, here is the summarization of what I would have written on had this been a paper.

A Faithful Mistake: Abraham and the Binding of Isaac

The bible is full of myths, traditions and stories. Some of these, like the creation myth, explain how we got here and how the universe is ordered. Some are family traditions that have been told for countless generations and relay God’s promise to one particular family. Some, like the Joseph story and the Exodus, relay a people’s migration from the “old country” to their new home in a far off “promised land.” But none of them (or very few of them) are what they seem to be on the surface. And so it is with the story of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac.

Within a variety of biblical stories, we are able to see the presence of lying spirits (1 Kings 22:19-23), the inability to understand and be confused by the speech of another (Gen. 11:7), the propensity to incorporate local custom (Joshua 2:8-13) and the atrocities of human sacrifice (Numb. 25:1-5). Is it possible that the story of the binding of Isaac reflects all of these traits? Whenever people presume to do “God’s will,” a certain amount of discernment should be involved. Abraham doesn’t appear to make any discernment about the impending child sacrifice; could it be that Abraham was responding to lying spirits? Ever since Babel, people have had difficulty understanding each other. Could it be that Abraham did not clearly understand God and that he was made to understand God’s desire only at the last possible second? We continually read of Israel’s turning from God to follow local custom. Could it be that Abraham was so inculturated to accept filicide that this “request” by God seemed normal? I contend that all of these factors played a part in the Aqedah, and that Abraham was obediently faithful to a misunderstanding of God’s will based on his knowledge of, and participation in, the surrounding culture.

Doctoral dissertation? God, please no.


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