Abraham, Isaac, and Covenant

On Friday, we’ll be reading the ‘Akedh, or the 22nd chapter of Genesis that recounts the near killing of Isaac by Abraham and the institution of the covenant. 

To prepare for our discussion, you’ll want to read Gen. 22, and keep in mind Gen. 15 and Gen. 17 as well.  Also, we’ll be talking about Erich Auerbach’s “Odyssues’ Scar” chapter from his famous book, Mimeses.  Auerbach’s observation about the work of literature as the representation of reality will help us throughout the remainder of the course.

You also might want to think about interpretations of the Abraham and Isaac episode.  Two of my favorites are the paintings by Caravaggio.  What is the difference between these two paintings?  Does it appear that Caravaggio’s interpretation of the account has changed over time?  Like the Lot’s Daughters account, the ordeal with Abraham and Isaac is potentially troubling and would cause the reader to ask many questions.  What are some of these questions?  You might want to pay particular attention to the word “hineni.”

What are the theological challenges posed by this narrative?  What does it say about the covenant between God and his people?

How does Auerbach’s analysis help us arrive at a useful literary interpretation of the Abraham and Isaac account?  Or is it useful at all?

What does Auerbach mean when he suggests that many biblical narratives, including the Abraham and Isaac account, are “fraught with background?”


About Andrew Battista

Andrew Battista is Librarian for Geospatial Information Systems at New York University
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