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Jewish, Muslim, and Academic Perspectives on Abraham

I’ve been talking about doing a post about Abraham for a long time. People often reference Abraham when talking about things like Joshua’s Unholy War, the Priesthood Ban, or polygamy. Usually the reference is to the sacrifice of Isaac.

So, this post is to serve two purposes: (1) to show some different perceptions about the sacrifice of Isaac, (as well as some other strange stories of Abraham), and (2) to introduce some new information from Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and archaeological scholars. I’ve had fun learning about it, and hope you do to. While I believe Abraham is a prophet, I find some things that Abraham did as troubling, and I’ll point them out below.

Abraham was born in southern Iraq, and traditional lived somewhere between 2000 and 1500 BC in the city-state of Ur. Ur (located near the border of Kuwait) was surrounded by city walls. A Ziggarat (stepped pyramid) has been discovered there, and some scholars believe it may be the basis for the Tower of Babel story found in the Bible.

Abraham is a well traveled person. Born in Ur, he and his wife Sarah, left with his father Terah’s family (including nephew Lot), for the land of Haran (which is now Turkey), a journey of about 1000 miles. Abraham lived there until he was 75. Apparently, there was some sort of mass migration from Ur to Turkey, as it seems many others traveled from Ur to Haran. Abraham left Turkey for the Land of Canaan (now Israel), due to a revelation from God. But due to a famine, Abraham leaves Canaan to go to Egypt. After the famine ends, he returns to Canaan. Muslim scholars believe that after Sarah’s death, he traveled to Mecca (Saudi Arabia) to live with his son Ishmael.

One story not found in the Bible, is the story of Abraham destroying his father’s idols. Mormons are familiar with the story from the Book of Abraham, but similar stories are also found in the Jewish Midrash, and Muslim Koran. The Midrash is a book composed by ancient Jewish rabbi’s to explain passages of scripture. Not only does the Midrash explain interpretations of scripture, but often further explains stories, or introduces new parts of a story. The Koran also tells of this story of Abraham destroying his father’s idols. Previously, I speculated that Joseph could have found a Muslim text in translating the Book of Abraham, but it easily could also have been a Jewish fragment of the Midrash as well.

Abraham is credited for being the “founder of monotheism,” as well as the founder of the 3 great western religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. There is an old cable series (1994) from the network A&E called Mysteries of the Bible which has a show about Abraham. William Dever, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, at the University of Arizona, states that monotheism was a unique religious idea in 2000 BC. (Note these quotes are taken scattered throughout the video. I have tried to put similar quotes together for clarity in this post.)

“There is nothing like the ethical monotheism of the Hebrew prophets anywhere in the ancient world. If you want to believe in the uniqueness of the Bible, this is a good point to begin with, it is a fact. There is nothing like this anywhere else.”

Walter Zanger, a Jewish scholar concurs with this opinion. “Every other country in the world, every other civilization had gods whom you had to feed, to sacrifice to them. Abraham had a god who gave him law and behavior. The introduction of a single moral law for king, for commoner, and even for God is a milestone in the history of the world.”

Dr Nahum M. Sarna, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Brandies University. “How did one man, stand up against all cultural and religious notions and accepted views of the time. That’s a question that there just is no answer. You can ask the same question about every innovator every founder of a new religion, every revolutionary. We just have no answers. These are abiding mysteries.”

While the Bible seems to indicate that Adam down to Abraham were all monotheists, some scholars disagree. Jewish scholar Walter Zanger makes a case that Abraham was not a true monotheist. He says,

“It’s hard to talk about Abraham as a monotheist. Abraham had an agreement, a covenant with his one god, who is the Lord. Abraham didn’t say, or believe as far as we know, that there weren’t other gods. All the evidence is that there were other gods for other people. And Abraham’s god never insisted on exclusivity.”

The narrator, Richard Kiley continues, “While experts disagree over whether Abraham was a true monotheist, the Bible does not indicate if he worshipped other gods. It only tells us that led by his fervent faith in his one god, that Abraham informs his family that they will be leaving their secure, familiar world behind.”

The Law of Circumcision

Circumcision is not unique to Abraham, and in fact the practice dates before this story in the Bible.  Scholars say that the difference in the Abrahamic story is that it attains some sort of spiritual blessing.  I’m not trying to be sacrilegious here, but I have to tell you that this idea has to be one of the strangest spiritual blessings that man has ever known.

Why couldn’t God have pierced the ear, asked for a tattoo, or some other sign? I just don’t understand why God or any man thinks it’s a good idea to put anything sharp near a person’s genitals. Before I get into the scriptural account, I want to talk about a few things regarding circumcision.

Most of us are appalled by female circumcision, which usually involves removal of the clitoris (which gives pleasure to women during intercourse.) Not all Muslims support the practice, but it is quite common among African Muslims. The practice of female circumcision pre-dates Christ and Islam, and seems to have originated in Egypt. Its main purpose is to keep women virtuous by making sex not enjoyable. It seems completely barbaric and incomprehensible to me.

Male circumcision is being discouraged in western countries because it seemingly has no medical benefit.  However, medical opinion is changing.  There are several studies showing that AIDS infections have been decreased by 60% in Africa due to a new campaign to promote male circumcision, as seen in this NY Times article. Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that male circumcision has the benefit of reducing herpes infections, as well as human papillomavirus (which causes genital warts).

The Biblical account makes no reference to medical benefits, but says the Law of Circumcision is part of the spiritual covenant where God covenants with Abraham to make him a leader of many nations. The DVD talks about the ancient practice of male circumcision, making it clear that it was a practice common to Middle Eastern people prior to Abraham.

Circumcision was already widely practiced in the Middle East at Abraham’s time as a ritual of passage to adulthood, or a premarital rite. But when Abraham circumcised himself at the age of 99, the ritual acquired a new spiritual meaning.

Dr. Mark Brettler, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Brandies University, “What is unique in terms of the Bible is not so much the physical circumcision itself, but rather that circumcision was considered to be a central part of the covenant.”

This is my covenant which you shall keep between me and you, and your descendants after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. It shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He that is 8 days old among you shall be circumcised.” Genesis 17:12.

Rabbi David Wolpe, lecturer at the University of Judaism. “One of the reasons that circumcision is a mark on the generative organ is, that God says to Abraham, ‘you’re going to be the head of a great nation, and I want you to always remember that it comes from you and your loins, and I want a mark of your commitment at the very place where this great nation will spring from.'”

Some time after Abraham’s circumcision, Sarah became pregnant, giving birth to Isaac. I suppose it could be argued that in Abraham’s case, it may have helped Sarah get pregnant. However, Abraham had previously fathered Ishmael through his slave-servant Hagar. While I have plenty of problems with polygamy, and slavery, I’m going to ignore these issues for the purposes of this post. (FYI, I don’t believe God was happy with either polygamy or slavery.) Regardless of whether people support my position on slavery and polygamy, I’ll assume that both were culturally innocuous for this post.

The Mistreatment of Hagar

Throughout history, jealousy between polygamist wives has always been a problem. In the Bible, there are several instances of jealousy, such as David, Solomon, and Israel’s (Jacob’s) wives. Sarah was greatly jealous of Hagar after Hagar conceived Ishmael, and ordered Abraham to send Hagar away (to die) on 2 occasions. What is most ironic is that Sarah asked Abraham to take Hagar as a wife, and then blamed Abraham. The following account is from an NIV bible, Genesis 16:1-11.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.

And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.

This angelic appearance to Hagar receives far too little notice in Judaism and Christianity. What is so amazing to me is that Hagar received the vision, not Abraham. Hagar chose the name (via the angel), not Abraham. The Hebrew version of the name is Yishma’el, meaning “God has hearkened”. In Arabic, his name is Ismael. Isma in Arabic means ‘to listen’ i.e answer prayer, and ell is derived from the Hebrew word el, meaning God.

Who is the righteous one in this story? To me the answer is Hagar. Hagar returns to Abraham, and the Bible story says that 13 years after Ishmael’s birth, Sarah becomes pregnant with Isaac. (The Koran seems to put the births of Isaac and Ishmael closer together— more on that in a bit.) At any rate, Sarah once again casts out Hagar and Ishmael, this time for good, referring to Hagar with the derisive term of slavewoman, rather than maidservant as in chapter 16. The DVD narrates this incident.

“So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slavewoman and her son. For the son of this slavewoman shall not be heir with my son, Isaac. [Gen. 21:10]

Walter Zanger, “Sarah is very strong in the house. When she herself had a son, she was strong enough, and smart enough to know that the firstborn son, Ishmael, would naturally take the birthright. But she also knew that God had promised it to her son, and therefore she was strong enough to ensure that the woman got thrown out, with her son.”

“And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the lad, because of your slavewoman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you. For through Isaac, will your descendants be named.” [Genesis 22:11-12]

The heart-rending moment, when Abraham sends the Egyptian slave Hagar, and their son Ishmael into exile will sow the seeds of conflict between Jew and Muslim, which on occasion will bear bitter fruit in centuries to come.

It is hard for me to reconcile that God would go along with sending a mother and child into the desert. But just as Joseph thrived in Egypt, it seems to me that Ishmael had a few miracles ahead of him in Saudi Arabia. The more I learn about this story, the more I am amazed at God graciousness in protecting Ishmael and Hagar. We Christians and Jews fail to recognize God’s hand in dealing with the Arab nations.

I’d like to emphasize another scripture about Ishmael that is ignored by Christians. In Genesis 21:12-13, “But God said to [Abraham], “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Did you get that? God said, “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also.” The Arab nations claim their father is Ishmael. Ishmael had 12 sons— the 12 tribes of Ishmael, who became the great nations of the Arabs. God’s promises to Ishmael are in the Bible, yet I have never seen anyone emphasize this. The Koran has a similar, but more miraculous version of this event, and I was a little astonished to see that it is also in the Bible. First, let’s go over the biblical account in Genesis 21:14-20,

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.

Are Arabs God’s chosen people, as well as the Jews? Genesis seems to support that idea. The Islamic version of this story is even more amazing. First of all, I did not realize that the pilgrimage to Mecca was so tied to Ishmael and Abraham. As I was transcribing some of these quotes from the DVD, one of the Islamic scholars had a thick accent, and I couldn’t understand what she was saying, so I asked my friend Ann, who I mentioned in a previous post about Arabs and Persians, what the name of the temple was in Mecca. She then told me the story of Ishmael and Hagar, and how it relates to the pilgrimage. I was even more astonished to discover that this well mentioned in Genesis is the well in Mecca.

Each year during the Hajj (the ritual pilgrimage) to Mecca, pilgrims re-enact Hagar’s (or Hajar, in Arabic) desperate search for water for her infant son, running seven times between two hills and drawing water from the well of Zam Zam. Ann told me that the Islamic version of the story holds that Ishmael was a baby, rather than a teenager in the Genesis account. During this desperate search for water, the baby Ishmael just kicked his feet on the ground (as toddlers would do), and a spring of water came forth. To me, it sounded almost like the story of Moses getting water from the rock. The full story is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari. The well Zam Zam is still there today, and it is illegal to sell the water outside of Saudi Arabia, as it is considered so sacred.

The name of the well comes from the phrase Zomë Zomë, meaning ‘stop flowing’, a command repeated by Hagar during her attempt to contain the spring water.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham rebuilt the Bait-ul-Allah (House of Allah) at the site of the well, a building which had been originally constructed by Adam, and today is called the Kaaba, a building towards which all Muslims around the world face in prayer, five times each day. The Zamzam well is located approximately 20 meters east of the Ka’aba.

I love these quotes from the DVD.

Dr. Wadad Kadi, professor of Islamic Thought, University of Chicago, “Abraham’s message is the same as Muhammad, articulated at a different time to a different nation, and a different language.”

Abraham’s spiritual odyssey inspired both Judaism and Christianity. Abraham is also a founder of Islam. According to Muslim belief, Abraham and Ishmael helped build the Ka’aba, the holy shrine at the center of the great mosque in Mecca. They believe that Abraham literally laid the foundation for what in Islam is the most sacred spot on earth.

Kadi, “Abraham developed the true faith, and it is the true faith that Muhammad eventually preached, as part of the message that he received from God. So Abraham’s role is absolutely one of the cornerstones of Islamic tradition.”

Perhaps the fact that all 3 of the west’s great religions draw upon the story of one man for inspiration holds out a promise that the 3 faiths will someday live in harmony together as God promised to Abraham in the Bible.

“By your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves because you have obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:18.

Human Sacrifice

Abraham is set up as a model of righteousness for attempting to follow a command of unimaginable horror— taking the life of his own son. It is terrible to think about. I have found some alternate interpretations, and I want to share some of them below. I’m not so sure I believe that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac or Ishmael (apparently there is a disagreement among the religions). However, I do accept that God saved Abraham from making a terrible mistake. To me the most important idea is that God saved Abraham’s son, but I don’t believe God would command anyone to kill their own child. From the DVD,

The words will haunt us today, as they have haunted the human imagination for thousands of years. “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1

Rabbi David Wolpe, “the binding of Isaac, though it is only some 20, or 22 verses, is in the Jewish tradition, the most commented incident in the entire Bible.

Walter Zanger, “It is impossible for modern man to explain that story. It is impossible to deal with. I can see this historically, but I can’t feel it personally. It’s too horrible.”

Wolpe, “One of the strange things is that although Isaac is the one who is going to be sacrificed, the focus is really on Abraham, because the truth is, that we really feel it is harder in this case to be the sacrificer than to be the victim. Isaac is a figure of simple, almost pathetic trust, and Abraham is a father that is torn between his love to a son, and his duty to a god who has given him a terrible command.”

Isaac carries the wood to a place of sacrifice, while Abraham carries the fire, and the knife. Isaac then asks his father one of the most heart-rending things in the entire bible. “He said behold the fire and the wood, but where is the Lamb for a burnt offering. And Abraham said, ‘God will provide the lamb’ for a burnt offering, my son.’ So they went both of them together. [Gen 22:8]

Abraham builds an altar, and places his son Isaac on top of it. Then Abraham took forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But an angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham.’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ He said, “do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me. [Gen 22:12]

We will never know what happened after that terrifying moment. Did Abraham and Isaac weep? Did father and son embrace through their tears. We know only that Isaac was spared.

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns, and Abraham took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” [Gen 22:13]

Perhaps no story in the Bible has inspired as great an outpouring of speculation as the binding of Isaac, of ancient times to our own.

Wolpe, “The protestant theologian Kierkegard at the beginning of his book, “Fear and Trembling”, imagines a scene in which Abraham takes Isaac, and binds him on the altar and says to him, ‘I hate you–I’ve always hated you. I can’t stand you, and now is my chance to kill you! And now I’m going to do it. And he starts to kill him, and God stops him just as he does in the Bible. And then, Abraham unties Isaac and holds him and crying, says to him, ‘I thought it was better that you should hate me, than that you should hate God.'”

But what is the meaning of the Biblical story of the binding of Isaac? Some scholars believe that it was a statement by the editors of the Bible 1000 years after Abraham against a gruesome practice of their own time.

William Dever, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, University of Arizona, “Child sacrifice was fairly common throughout the ancient near east. And in fact at Carthage in North Africa, a Jewish cemetery has been found with small urns containing the burned bones of infants and the inscriptions accompanying these burials make it clear that parents had sacrificed a child to one or another of the gods to bring them good fortune.”

Scholars have sought to probe the seemingly baffling mystery of how any parent could sacrifice his own child?

Brettler, “As horrific as this might be to us, we can really see this as a very significant religious notion, where a person is coming and is saying to God, ‘God you have given me that which is most valuable, namely a child. I am going to return it to you.'”

Dever, “I think the editors wanted for us to believe that child sacrifice was never practiced. And yet the very critique of the prophets against it is proof of the fact that the practice was common. You don’t complain about something unless there was a real problem.”

Whatever the motive of the editors to set down the story of the binding of Isaac, its impact on all 3 great western religions is immeasurable. Today a mosque known as The Dome of the Rock, built in the 7th century in Jerusalem, enshrines the site on the mountaintop where the life and death drama is said to have taken place. However, according to the Islamic holy scripture, the Koran, it is Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, who was bound and almost sacrificed on this very rock.

Dr. Wadad Kadi, professor of Islamic Thought, University of Chicago, “In the Koranic version, there’s a general tendency to accept that Ishmael to have been that son, rather than Isaac. Isaac is accepted as a prophet, but the binding itself seems to have been Ishmael.”

Christians believe that Mount Moriah was the site of Calvary, while the Jews consider this the location of their holiest shrine, Solomon’s temple. All three religions have found profound importance in Abraham’s profound ordeal.

Wolpe, “After the binding of Isaac is over, God and Abraham in the Bible never speak again. Perhaps after this, Abraham and God have nothing to say again. ‘I did what you wanted, I fulfilled the mission, but now what else is there to say.’ But one commentator notes that after this story, Abraham and Isaac never speak again. After this, no matter how much Isaac understood that Abraham needed to do it, there was a sense that they could never be as close again.

According to one old rabbinic tale, when the aged Sarah hears that her beloved son Isaac was almost sacrificed by Abraham, the shock and horror of it are too much for her. In the Bible, we know only that soon after the binding of Isaac, Sarah finally dies.

In today’s world, anytime someone claims that God commands them to kill someone, we immediately assume they are mentally ill. Yet if the story is in the scriptures, we call them a prophet, and glory in their amazing obedience. I just don’t get it. My personal opinion is that Abraham was misled, and I want to point out some other opinions on the subject.

  • Protestant theologian Kierkegaard said, “Though Abraham arouses my admiration, he at the same time appalls me.”
  • Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi (Spain, early 14th century) wrote that Abraham’s “imagination” led him astray, making him believe that he had been commanded to sacrifice his son. Ibn Caspi writes “How could God command such a revolting thing?”
  • According to Rabbi J. H. Hertz (Chief Rabbi of the British Empire), child sacrifice was actually “rife among the Semitic peoples,” and suggests that “in that age, it was astounding that Abraham’s God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it.” Hertz interprets the Akedah as demonstrating to the Jews that human sacrifice is abhorrent. “Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required.”
  • The early rabbinic Midrash Genesis Rabbah imagines God as saying “I never considered telling Abraham to slaughter Isaac (using the Hebrew root letters for “slaughter”, not “sacrifice”)”.
  • Rabbi Yona Ibn Janach (Spain, 11th century) wrote that God demanded only a symbolic sacrifice.
  • In Jeremiah 32:35, God states that the later Israelite practice of child sacrifice to the deity Molech “had [never] entered My mind that they should do this abomination.”
  • In some later Jewish writings, most notably those of the Hasidic masters, the theology of a “divine test” is rejected, and the sacrifice of Isaac is interpreted as a “punishment” for Abraham’s earlier “mistreatment” of Ishmael, his elder son, whom he expelled from his household at the request of his wife, Sarah. According to this view, Abraham failed to show compassion for his son, so God punished him by ostensibly failing to show compassion for Abraham’s son. This is a somewhat flawed theory, however, since the Bible says that God agreed with Sarah, and it was only at His insistence that Abraham actually had Ishmael leave.
  • In The Last Trial, Shalom Spiegel argues that these commentators were interpreting the Biblical narration as an implicit rebuke against Christianity’s claim that God would sacrifice His own son.
  • In The Binding of Isaac, Religious Murders & Kabbalah, Lippman Bodoff argues that Abraham never intended to actually sacrifice his son, and that he had faith that God had no intention that he do so.

Finally, I want to add one last piece of information regarding Abraham. After the death of Sarah, he bought some land located in Hebron, which is part of the Gaza Strip in Israel. The Bible records that Sarah is buried there. According to Islamic tradition, Abraham left Israel and helped build a temple in Mecca, along with his son Ishmael. Abraham was later buried near his wife Sarah, in Hebron (in the Gaza Strip) according to Genesis 25:9. Ishmael’s death (at the age of 137) is also recorded in the Bible in Genesis 25:17-18.

So, what do you think of Abraham and how he relates to circumcision, Hagar, and human sacrifice?

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45 comments on “Jewish, Muslim, and Academic Perspectives on Abraham

  1. While I think ultimately you fail in your attempt at being edgy and heretical (I kinda thought about that when I got as far as your saying, “While I believe Abraham is a prophet…”), i guess this isn’t the point really.

    That being said, I read on, and I think I was interested about these kinds of things for the first time in a while. I mean, I’ve never really seriously considered a lot of these issues. I mean, let’s take the relationship between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I mean, of course, intellectually I have recognized the centralizing place that Abraham serves in each of these (especially through the bloodlines of the different sons), but hearing it like this makes it seem more soap opera dramatic (and, in effect, more interesting). You can tell the personality of Sarai and her development throughout. (continued)

  2. Now…one thing that was particularly abhorrent to me was:

    “The protestant theologian Kierkegard at the beginning of his book, “Fear and Trembling”, imagines a scene in which Abraham takes Isaac, and binds him on the altar and says to him, ‘I hate you–I’ve always hated you. I can’t stand you, and now is my chance to kill you! And now I’m going to do it. And he starts to kill him, and God stops him just as he does in the Bible. And then, Abraham unties Isaac and holds him and crying, says to him, ‘I thought it was better that you should hate me, than that you should hate God.'”

    Because, let’s take my perspective. Basically, this goes back to what I was saying about Truth, truth, and why I don’t feel prophets are infallible. See how you have so many people commenting on this issue (maybe it truly is the most commented story in some traditions, as you had quoted). So many scholars and theologians have to rationalize what the real deal was, because their religions posit a Truth of a particular kind of God, and this is so shockingly different that they somehow have to reconcile things around. How could this be? This sacrifice?

    If you don’t necessarily see this as something that is True, but recognize that this is a constructed product of culture, society, human interpretation, then it still is terrible, but really, it’s not unthinkable. Really, I don’t have a problem with the idea, “OMG HOW COULD GOD EVER HAVE OK’D THIS,” because I don’t source this to a god by virtue of not believing in that pervasive Truth. But what I would have a problem with is how people like Kierkegaard are so ready to still put everything down for this God. K’gaard’s account of Abraham perhaps speaks something about K’s *own* views about things. So perhaps, *K’s* view would be to “have someone hate him than God.” Which seems incredulous to do in any case. I guess K’gaard would speak about the knight of faith or whatever and try to turn his comments into an absurdist virtue, but it’s just shocking.

    Another thing I found interesting was:

    Dr. Wadad Kadi, professor of Islamic Thought, University of Chicago, “In the Koranic version, there’s a general tendency to accept that Ishmael to have been that son, rather than Isaac. Isaac is accepted as a prophet, but the binding itself seems to have been Ishmael.”

    Isn’t that just so convenient? I mean, it seems really incredible if these two groups truly are the result of a tremendous birthright squabble…but isn’t it just SO convenient if Jews/Christians say that it was one son who was offered and Muslims say that it was the other?

  3. Andrew,

    I love your point of view. I guess I’ll never be a heretic in your eyes. 😀

    I have to say I love to study the inter-relationships between religions, especially the Abrahamic ones. I think it is so important to make these stories real, and I love different perspectives on these “common” stories.

    So which is more abhorrent to you: Abraham’s attempted human sacrifice, or Kierkegaard’s explanation of it?

    Now that I’m understanding your view of Truth vs truth, I’m really liking your explanation. This whole story seems to be a true story, not a True story. (And for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Andrew’s post.

    Our main differences are the fact that I’m a believer, and you’re an unbeliever. Neither one of us believe a prophet is infallible. But I believe that God reveals truth very slowly, and can allow for people like Abraham to make some big time mistakes.

    I agree that it’s really odd to see Muslims and Jews/Christians fighting over which son was nearly sacrificed by Abraham. “Please, kill me! Not not him–kill me!” Personally, I’d love to remove the story from the Bible, or make it more accurate by saying the devil inspired Abraham to kill his son, and God intervened to save Isaac/Ishmael’s life. Even that interpretation has problems–you mean the Devil can inspire a prophet?

    I find it interesting that you are an atheist, yet feel your more positive about your life because of your understanding of Truth vs truth. I’m starting to understand where you’re coming from, but I think I still have a ways to go.

  4. In a way, I think the reason K’gaard’s explanation is more abhorrent to me (wow, I guess I should feel bad for that one) is because 1) I dunno, I guess I am not solid on the idea of biblical accounts of Abraham being true biographies. They could, at best, be highly embellished or, at worst, be completely falsified. (That the different groups disagree on which son it was who was offered makes me wonder).

    Now, here’s the fun (and I guess, slightly disturbing part as I think about it) part that makes reason 2). Even if I take for granted that this actually happened as it says it did…somehow, I still don’t feel as disgusted as with K’gaard’s comments because I recognize that I shouldn’t *expect* any better. I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but the way I kind of see it is…there was so much *back then* that my modern self would find terrible that I recognize this *is* a difference in truths. So it would be silly of me to brand my standards and truths to them. What K’gaard tries to do, is figure out a Truth from it all, but it seems to me like he lives in a time far enough removed that he should be ashamed though based on the truths of his time.

    I think that the difference between us is not infallibility vs. fallibility — certainly not, as you discussed in this post. But I think the critical distinction is…a believer finds that a fallible prophet is still worth listening to with a great deal of respect, while an unbeliever doesn’t. And I guess it’s been humorous, but that’s why I say that you fit as more Mormon than Heretic. I think a liberal Mormon, for example, is Mormon (even if conservative TBMs might think otherwise)

    (to be cont’d…sorry for long comments)

  5. or make it more accurate by saying the devil inspired Abraham to kill his son, and God intervened to save Isaac/Ishmael’s life

    This is an interesting line….”make it more accurate”? It sounds to me just a bit like you’re projecting your sense of how things should be here when you say this, unless I missed something in the article that would effectively suggest that this trial was something Jobian (a wager with the devil) or something like that. This is more problematic, I think, than the implication of the Devil inspiring a prophet (which seems plausible if EVERYONE faces temptation, right?)

    I would agree then that unlike a stereotype people often have about atheism, to me I find a strange sense of peace from it. I mean, I guess I should feel bad since I just admitted I feel worse about K’gaard’s musings than the idea of a Prophet sacrificing his own son or something, but really, by not taking so much for granted, I don’t get worked up about some of the normal things.

  6. “a believer finds that a fallible prophet is still worth listening to with a great deal of respect, while an unbeliever doesn’t”

    This is an interesting comment. My first reaction was to ask, “well, then who do you respect?” Then I tried to consider your answer, which I think would be something to the effect of “respect doesn’t matter.”

    Going back to your example about gravity being a Truth. I guess before Isaac Newton had the apple fall on his head, people didn’t really understand gravity, so people didn’t have the Truth. I’m not a quantum physics expert, but I do know that there’s a distinction between Newtonian Motion, and Einstein’s laws. So even gravity isn’t a Truth, but merely a truth.

    Newton’s laws work just fine here on the earth, but since they fail when dealing with quantum physics, one must conclude that Newtonian motion (which relies on gravity) is not a Truth at all, but rather a truth. So, I can see the parallels with religion.

    But still, Newton invented Calculus, and pretty much all of his Laws of Motion apply perfectly to the world we still live in. So, in my mind, he deserves much respect. No, he didn’t figure out quantum physics, and we have Einstein to thank for that, (and Hawking is improving there even.) But I guess I still have faith in Newton’s Laws of Motion, because quantum physics doesn’t really affect my life in a tangible way anyway, whereas Newton’s laws do affect my life in a tangible way (beware of seagulls flying overhead.)

    Now since we’ve had a few conversations, I’m sure your definition of “respect” is not what I’m making it out to be, because I’m sure you respect Abraham and Newton. But what I think you’re saying is that they are not the be-all end-all. Of course, I agree, and it seems we’re almost playing a game of semantics.

  7. Well, that is a very interesting post, and I don’t have time to do it justice because I’m packing to go to SLC tomorrow for a mission reunion.

    Basically, I find the idea that God would command Abraham to kill Isaac (or Ishmael) completely abhorrent. No explanation of this story that I’ve heard alleviates the fact that this would inflict severe mental anguish on Abraham (and presumably Isaac as well), whether he actually sacrificed him or not. It was, in a word, torture.

    It’s been a while since I read Lectures on Faith, but as I recall, Joseph Smith said that in order to have true faith, one must have a perfect knowledge of the goodness of God. If that is so, then I’d say that a belief that God actually commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac would preclude true faith in God.

    However, my problems with the story of Abraham start way before that. The whole emphasis on posterity, whether through Isaac or Ishmael, seems to me to be part of a tribal outlook that affirms the tribe by excluding all others. And even though the whole moral thrust of the New Testament seems to me to oppose that tribal outlook, tribalism has had way too much influence in Mormon culture for my liking.

    The most egregious example of this is obviously the whole morass of thought regarding blacks as the descendants of Ham. Hopefully someday soon the Mormon hierarchy will wake up to the fact that the science of genetics has conclusively shown that the idea that all black Africans are descended from Ham, or any other person living in the third millennium B.C., is preposterous and completely untenable. Then they can quit wondering if Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, etc, were at all right, and acknowledge that the basic premise underlying all their thinking about blacks–that they were descended from Cain through Ham–is false. Maybe it made sense in the 1840s, but today, it’s as ludicrous as believing that Adam and Eve played with Tyrannosaurus rex in the Garden of Eden.

    Sorry, packing always makes me cranky!

    Oh, and Hebron (and the Tomb of the Patriarchs) is in the West Bank, not Gaza.

  8. Very good answer with “respect doesn’t matter.”

    I think that’s what I was originally trying to go with in “I don’t believe the prophet is infallible” — especially with my comparison to corporate CEOs. I guess ‘respect’ isn’t quite the word I’m looking for, because I think we should respect different people…but we don’t so respect CEOs and companies that we devote certain things to them. It would be strange if someone decided to adhere to Google (even if Google has services that they might like) in the way people adhere to religion. So, I think that this respect-to-adherence is what is not so necessary.

    That’s really another thing that gave me peace. I came to a point where I said, “Hey, I don’t have to believe in the church or the gospel or these different commandments just because they deserve respect. I can do these things on my terms.”

    (cont)

  9. The interesting thing about gravity is…we still may not get it. But that’s the interesting thing — gravity still exists and binds us regardless of if we have the details right or not. I think faith (in whatever religion) and believing a religion to be True (rather than merely true) is to say that the tenets of that religion will exist no matter what and bind us regardless of if we have the details right or not (this is important in the Mormon idea of a general apostasy — the priesthood was so powerful, so to speak, that it *could* be restored. It was always there; we just got off track with our hypothesis and theory.)

    You’re right about the distinction of Newtonian physics vs. quantum physics as being indicative that our *hypotheses* (which are constructed by humans, right? — that was one of my criteria for small-t truth) are truth. But the idea is that still these small t truths are based on some kind of fact that we experience. And for people with faith, I think that they obviously aren’t just deluded — they definitely experience something. I’m just not so certain if the Truth points to God or spirituality or if it’s something else that we have very poor tools to determine the true nature of.

    So, yes, I’m pretty sure the word respect is not what I mean. It’s as you kinda said: they are not the be-all end-all.

    LOL, I get into semantical games often. I still think there is something different (even if semantics makes it confusing to get through to). I’d hate to derail this topic though (since we’ve gotten kinda off the Abraham thing here and you’ve got some other commenters)

  10. Wow, the scriptures and the prophets get it wrong so many times. How can anyone trust that stuff?

    So you want to assume that Abraham was deceived by Satan rather than inspired by God? Tell me then, why did God wait until the very last second to set Abraham straight? So your theory seems to have God sitting there watching Abraham, knowing full well what Abraham’s intentions were. Why didn’t God intervene sooner? He could’ve saved Abraham and Isaac a whole lot of mental anguish. It seems almost as sadistic as the command to sacrifice Isaac. (Not that I think the command was sadistic)

    So knowing that Abraham had been set for sacrifice by his own father as well, you don’t think that Abraham may have a difficult history with human sacrifice? Wouldn’t that have made him a hard target for deception in this matter?

  11. […] 3, 2009 Andrew I’ve been having this discussion throughout the site (and also on his latest article) with Mormon Heretic, and it’s forced me to think of a few things about myself. I’ve […] http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/peace-with-the-madman/

  12. Todd,

    This whole tribal affiliation thing is a big problem, IMO. Humans seem to have a natural tendency to want to feel that they are special, or God’s chosen. As such, they only way to do this is to make others less special.

    On the one hand, the Law of Consecration’s real purpose is to make all men the same, which seems quite counter to the proposition that some men are “chosen.” I wish that mankind would figure out that all men are special, that there should be no -ites, that we’re all children of God. This argument between whether Isaac or Ishmael was sacrificed is so silly. The “winner” of the argument now has claim to be chosen by God, and the reality is that we’re all God’s children, and should not put our tribe above another.

    I just read that Sidney Rigdon book (see my previous posts on the topic), and as I understand it, Sidney had a big input into writing those Lectures. I’ll have to look into those. Apparently, they were considered scripture and part of the Pearl of Great Price (or D&C–I can’t remember), but have been removed. It sounds like there are some real gems in there.

    Thanks for the geography correction–I’d love to go over there and visit, because I think it would help me understand things better.

  13. Andrew, thanks for the comments and pingbacks. You definitely think outside my box, and it is interesting to hear your perspective on things. I agree with you–we’ll talk about Truth/truth on your blog, and we can keep the Abrahamic stuff here.

    I don’t know if you say my comment at Mormon Matters where I tried to combat racism by invoking Hagar, who was not ‘dark and loathsome’ enough to have 2 angelic visits in Genesis. As I’ve been studying this topic, Hagar has really jumped out to me as a wonderfully righteous, inspirational figure. In some ways, I think there are some real comparisons to Joseph. Yet few Christians are even familiar with her. I think this is a shame. I’m not sure if it is a race or female issue, but I think she is really amazing.

  14. Tara, Welcome back.

    You asked why God waited until the last second to save Isaac. Well, if he didn’t, the story wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic now, would it–in fact, there would probably be no story, and no moral to the story.

    Let me try to answer your question with a question of my own. Recently in the news, we had the miracle on the Hudson, and a plane crash killing everyone in Buffalo. Why did God save one plane, and not the other?

    The simple answer is “God’s ways are not man’s ways,” which is another way to say, “I don’t know” which is probably the best answer.

    Your question “why didn’t god intervene sooner” can be asked of literally every situation man faces. Why didn’t he intervene in the Holocaust, World Trade Center, or Crusades? I think that is a question that simply can’t be answered by man, though we all create our own justifications to try to answer that question.

    So knowing that Abraham had been set for sacrifice by his own father as well, you don’t think that Abraham may have a difficult history with human sacrifice? Wouldn’t that have made him a hard target for deception in this matter?

    Well, let’s look at the situation, and I’ll bring back some quotes.

    According to Rabbi J. H. Hertz (Chief Rabbi of the British Empire), child sacrifice was actually “rife among the Semitic peoples,”

    William Dever, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, University of Arizona, “Child sacrifice was fairly common throughout the ancient near east. And in fact at Carthage in North Africa, a Jewish cemetery has been found with small urns containing the burned bones of infants and the inscriptions accompanying these burials make it clear that parents had sacrificed a child to one or another of the gods to bring them good fortune.”

    Brettler, “As horrific as this might be to us, we can really see this as a very significant religious notion, where a person is coming and is saying to God, ‘God you have given me that which is most valuable, namely a child. I am going to return it to you.'”

    Dever, “I think the editors wanted for us to believe that child sacrifice was never practiced. And yet the very critique of the prophets against it is proof of the fact that the practice was common. You don’t complain about something unless there was a real problem.”

    You even mention yourself that Abraham’s own father tried to sacrifice him. Apparently, it was an extremely common form of devotion for these ancient people. It’s really hard for us to imagine such a primitive culture where people would commonly sacrifice children. In the US, we have no graveyards of burnt children as this discovery in Carthage. Are you trying to tell me that Abraham wasn’t influenced by his culture, which showed child sacrifice not only common, but perfectly acceptable?

    What do you make of the proposition that Some scholars believe that it was a statement by the editors of the Bible 1000 years after Abraham against a gruesome practice of their own time.?

    As late as Jeremiah, Israelites were sacrificing children to idols. Ironically you condemned the people of Jericho for the same practice of child sacrifice to Baal hundreds of years earlier in my Joshua post.

    In Jeremiah 32:35, God states that the later Israelite practice of child sacrifice to the deity Molech “had [never] entered My mind that they should do this abomination.”

    Could it be that the story of God saving Isaac is a repudiation of child sacrifice?

    On another note, can you give me your impressions of Hagar and Ishmael? Do you think we fail to appreciate their spiritual experiences, and chosen status?

  15. This was a very interesting post, MH. I had honestly never thought about the sacrifice/killing of Isaac in this context before, but it’s a very thought-provoking idea.

    Reading about Sarah and Hagar, I can’t help but think about polygamy again. 🙂 One of the most common arguments I’ve heard from Mormons in defense of polygamy is that “Abraham did it, it was OK for him, so why not in modern times?” Sometimes it’s easier to accept things that happened a long time ago. “It was another time, another place” we say. Although I think such a statement can justify and/or explain certain things in history, I’m just not sure polygamy is one of them. When I read about Sarah and Hagar, I understand that they lived in a time and culture where polygamy was acceptable. But how much of this polygamous way of life was cultural and how much of it was commanded by God?

    Even a prophet who is revered by so many people all throughout history and supposedly had a close relationship to God was, IMO, in over his head with polygamy. I think this is evident by his treatment of Hagar and Ishmael. With all the jealousies and dramas which are inevitable in a polygamous relationship, how, really, can we expect anything else?

    “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.”

    I acknowledge that according to the laws and culture of that time, Abraham wasn’t really breaking any laws. Sarah’s arrangement was, probably, quite normal and to be expected. We always just assume that Abraham did what the Lord told him to do. God told him to do something, so he did it. How many Mormons (or other religious folk) assume that Abraham took Hagar because God told him to? Here we read, “Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” Does that automatically mean that it’s what God commanded of Abraham? Was Abraham obeying Sarah, or was he obeying God?

    I think there is reason to question whether we sometimes blur what is considered “right” culturally-speaking and spiritually-speaking. So Abraham and others took additional wives and concubines. Culturally and legally speaking, they were doing something completely acceptable. God obviously did not find it to be grounds for removing Abraham, but does this mean that he condoned it? Did God cut him some slack and allow him to enter into a polygamous relationship because it was culturally acceptable back then? Or did he truly want Abraham (and others) to enter into such drama-ridden relationships that were destined to result in hurt, jealousy and the type of treatment that we saw with Hagar? Honestly, I can’t imagine that God couldn’t see this coming. And that’s what makes it all the more significant that he showed such mercy on Hagar.

  16. FD,

    You bring up some interesting complexities in the story. From Genesis, it would seem that the marriage to Hagar had no request from God, but that it was more that Abraham was just doing what Sarai asked. On the other hand, after Hagar got pregnant, Sarai’s reaction was similar to Emma’s reaction when she discovered Joseph marriage to the Partridge sisters was not a “spiritual sealing” after all. Could there be more to the story than we know from Genesis? Could Abraham have first approached Sarai about marrying Hagar, Sarai finally agreed, and we only get the 2nd part of this story? Remember Sarai blames Abraham for the whole incident: “Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.

    I guess the previous speculation might be flawed, when we consider that an angel appeared to Hagar. The angelic appearance would make it seem that God approved of Hagar and Abraham’s marriage (though it is obviously self-serving to Hagar.)

    The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.

    And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

    The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.

    So which is it: God approved of Hagar’s marriage, or was it Sarai’s approval, or is it a combination?

    The other interesting thing to me is that Hagar, and Egyptian slavewoman receives the revelation. Why didn’t the priesthood holder Abraham get it?

  17. “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.”

    Should this statement be understood to mean that Abraham and Hagar’s marriage had the Lord’s seal of approval, or could it be a case of “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s?” In other words, Hagar was subject to the laws and culture of the time and as Sarah’s servant, and therefore the Lord instructs her to go and submit herself to Sarah. Surely the Lord did not approve of all that Caesar did, and yet Christ instructed his followers to “render unto Caesar” what they were supposed to. Perhaps the Lord could also instruct someone such as Hagar to submit herself to someone or something that he didn’t necessarily approve of (polygamy) for the sake of being humble.

    The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

    Perhaps this was Hagar’s “compensation” or “reward” for being a humble servant, being submissive to those above her (of whom the Lord didn’t necessarily approve of) and giving meaning and power to her seemingly miserable, lowly status?

  18. That’s an interesting perspective, FD, but I tend to see the Lord’s stamp of approval when he gives the same blessing to Ishmael as he does to Isaac. “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.”

    This is very similar to the promise given to Isaac in Gen 17:19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him.

    Even between the mothers, there is an obvious tug of war over who is the “chosen” son. The fact of the matter is that God loves Isaac and Ishmael equally. To infer God loves one over the other makes God partial in a stupid sibling rivalry.

  19. […] in a way, who can blame them? As Mormon Heretic wrote, the idea that God would command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac gets at our senses and sensibilities. […] http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/coming-to-terms-with-atheism/

  20. One story not found in the Bible, is the story of Abraham destroying his father’s idols. Mormons are familiar with the story from the Book of Abraham, but similar stories are also found in the Jewish Midrash, and Muslim Koran.

    This was very interesting to me since I have recently been studying the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. I had just about given up all hope, but this little tidbit helps Joseph redeem his book. Thanks.

    I’m also interested in the broader idea of sacrifice. I believe that sacrifice strengthens our souls, but does intentionally giving something up or putting ourselves in a challenging situation in the name of God, purchase blessings? Did Abrahams willingness to put himself in a challenging situation purchase blessings for him and his future family/nations? When I make intentional sacrifices in the name of God, should I get blessings?

    p.s. I take most scripture stories with a grain of salt because I don’t think the true story has made it through the miriad translations that the bible has been through. Plus, every event, even a recent event can be interpreted differently by every participant. That said, I do enjoy the discussion!

  21. Fanny,

    I am aware of some of the authenticity problems, but have not studied it well. Do you have some sources that you find compelling?

    I will say that soon after the Gospel of Judas was discovered, someone published a fragment of the book on the internet, and at the time, it was widely considered a fraud, because the fragment displayed had nothing to do with Judas.

    Ancient books were often combined with other books. Often there was no relationship to each other. So, when this fragment was published, the conventional wisdom was that the Gospel of Judas had never really been found.

    However, the book has been found. The story of its’ discovery is a real “cloak and dagger” story. I’ve read 2 books on Judas, and I can’t remember if it is found in Randolph Kasser’s book, or Bart Ehrman’s book. (Perhaps the story is in both, as they both participated in the translation.) The first book contains the actual translation, which I found interesting (and is a short read). Bart’s book provides some excellent commentary.

    Anyway, I know that Hugh Nibley speculated that the funeral scroll which was found and discovered to be different than the Book of Abraham might have come from another scroll. At first, I thought this idea was crazy, wishful thinking on Nibley’s part, but after I read that a similar scenario happened with the Gospel of Judas, then I realized that Nibley’s scenario is quite legitimate.

    “When I make intentional sacrifices in the name of God, should I get blessings?”

    That’s a really interesting question. Sacrament talks often say “yes”, and often it’s true. But on the other hand, it has to be God’s will, and sometimes it isn’t. I guess we need to be open to the possibility either way, but usually we only want a “yes” answer.

  22. I have only just begun to dig into the authenticity issue, so would not qualify myself as an authority. One of the books I read was by Allen Fletcher, A Guide to the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham. I just finished Fawn Brodies, No Man Knows My History and am currently reading Mormon Origins and both concer with Fletchers findings that Joseph Smith claimed to translate the book of Abraham from the scrolls which were soon after discovered to be funeral documents. I wish Joseph would have said he was inspired to write the Book of Abraham. Then there would be no controversy.

    Thanks for the Book of Judas references. And thanks for the blog. I enjoy reading all of your comments!

  23. […] where Abraham destroys his father’s idols is quite similar to a Koranic tale.  Then my second post on Abraham, I learned that this story is also found in the Jewish Midrash, so there is another non-biblical […] http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/06/24/comparing-the-book-of-abraham-and-the-gospel-of-judas/

  24. […] where Abraham destroys his father’s idols is quite similar to a Koranic tale.  Then my second post on Abraham, I learned that this story is also found in the Jewish Midrash, so there is another non-biblical […]

  25. Mormon Heretic | Atonement Theories

  26. […] Tara and I have been discussing several topics, such as the Priesthood Ban, Polygamy, and Abraham, and the story of Balaam always seems to come up.  She takes the position that Balaam is a fallen […] http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/10/04/balaam-prophet-wicked-one-both-neither/

  27. Abraham leaving his beloved son Ishmael in Macca ( Saudi Arabia) is nothing to do with Sara`s jealousy or command, infact God seemed to have loved & appeared to Hajar & not Sara He is the decision maker, but kept Ishmael`s seed aside for the future and that is what is now Islam. He knew that the covenant with the once favoured Israelites will be finished and given to a new people with new language and a new book after the final hebrew Prophet JESUS was rejected, and that is MOHAMMAD & ISLAM.

    The Bible does prophesis Maaca / Baaca, the yearly Haj pilgrimage standing, shoulder to shouder, & the new prophet for the people of KEDAR ( Ishmael`s son ). The Bible states that Hajar represent God. The ten commandements came in ARABIA on mt Sier.

    Jews used to call their first sons Ishmael till the problems with Muslims, cause they know the truth and are hiding it, while Christians just follow

  28. VIXI, from your comments, you appear to be Muslim, or at least quite educated about Islam. Do you have any reservations in the story that Allah would really command Abraham to perform human sacrifice? That is the biggest ethical dilemma in the story, and even if we assume Abraham attempted to sacrifice Ishmael, this God-given commandment to kill one’s own son raises some MAJOR ethical problems. I know we all try to follow Abraham’s example, but I don’t believe that Muslims believe God would command them to sacrifice their own son. Certainly Christians would expect such a command to originate from the devil if someone today claimed God told someone to kill his son.

    Most Christians never question the Abrahamic sacrifice, because I don’t think very many really ponder this seemingly contradictory command. I suspect few Muslims really consider the ethical contradiction in this story. Do you know if any Muslim scholars question whether this was an Allah-given command? Given that child sacrifice was a common practice during Abraham’s lifetime, it seems to me that Abraham’s imagination could have led him astray; but Jews, Muslims, and Christians generally use this story for purposes that God was involved and intervened at the appropriate time. Yet it seems to me that theologians neglect the historical context of the story.

    I must say that I am fascinated with the Muslim interpretation of this story, but I find the same ethical problems exist: why would God command Abraham to sacrifice his own child? The command seems incongruent with a God who commands us not to kill. Does Islam attempt to answer this apparent paradox?

  29. […] Bible claims that God told Abraham to kill his son Isaac (or Ishmael, if you’re Muslim.)  I’ve previously expressed my concern with the story of Abraham and Isaac.  I just don’t believe that God asked for Isaac’s life, and I am much more comfortable […]

  30. […] then the repulsion…are we deficient in ethics if we could?) Is this the sign that we should leap to […]

  31. More Thoughts on Abraham and Isaac « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  32. […] Bible claims that God told Abraham to kill his son Isaac (or Ishmael, if you’re Muslim.)  I’ve previously expressed my concern with the story of Abraham and Isaac.  I just don’t believe that God asked for Isaac’s life, and I am much more comfortable […]

  33. Mormon Heretic | Abraham: Breaking the Cycle of Child Abuse

  34. […] is an interesting story for me on several levels.  In the past, I’ve talked about different academic perspectives of him, my personal discomfort with how he mistreated his wife Hagar, and I have also compared the Book of […]

  35. to explain to my daughter.  Even harder to explain was the attempted sacrifice of Isaac.  I have previously discussed how I believe God didn’t command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  I found it just extremely hard to tell the traditional narrative to my […]

  36. […] is an interesting story for me on several levels.  In the past, I’ve talked about different academic perspectives of him, my personal discomfort with how he mistreated his wife Hagar, and I have also compared the Book of […]

  37. […] switch to an unorthodox interpretation of this tale (as I blogged about in a post 5 years ago.)  Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi of Spain in the early 14th century wrote that Abraham’s […]

  38. […] switch to an unorthodox interpretation of this tale (as I blogged about in a post 5 years ago.)  Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi of Spain in the early 14th century wrote that Abraham’s […]

  39. […] Tara and I have been discussing several topics, such as the Priesthood Ban, Polygamy, and Abraham, and the story of Balaam always seems to come up.  She takes the position that Balaam is a fallen […]

  40. […] genocide on God, and I have a post about Joshua’s Unholy War. I take exception to the idea that God commanded circumcision in Abraham’s day. Circumcision was a pagan practiced adopted by Abraham as godly. I don’t think God had anything […]

  41. […] that background, this gives a new meaning to the story of Abraham.  Walter Zanger makes a case that Abraham was not a true monotheist. He […]

  42. […] that background, this gives a new meaning to the story of Abraham.  Walter Zanger makes a case that Abraham was not a true monotheist. He […]

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