But Really, What’s Up with Abraham Almost Sacrificing Isaac? (Aaron Koller on Unbinding Isaac)

The story of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (also known as the Akedah) in Genesis 22 is one of the most challenging passages in Scripture. Only 19 verses long, it gives few details and even fewer explanations. Questions that we might naturally ask about this passage are not always the questions the author actually answers.

Dr. Aaron Koller, Professor of Near Eastern and Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University, has tackles this story in his recent book Unbinding Isaac. In this episode, he walks Dr. Dru Johnson through a close reading of the text and some of its historical context, asking how it might be viewed in the ancient Near East, medieval Jewish thought, and following the Holocaust. Additionally, he discusses Kierkegaard’s interpretation of the story and why he finds its monopoly on modern Jewish thought to be harmful. He concludes by presenting his own interpretation of the story, continuing the tradition of wrestling with this text.

Show notes:

  • 0:00 The sacrifice of Isaac
  • 5:17 Child sacrifice in the ancient Near East
  • 9:33 A close reading of the Akedah
  • 15:53 The binding of Isaac
  • 20:52 Jewish martyrdom
  • 28:00 Kierkegaard, ethics, and faith
  • 34:06 The influence of the Holocaust on interpreting the story
  • 36:36 The value of children

Learn more about Dr. Aaron Koller and his work.

Show notes by Micah Long.

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