Archive for October, 2011

On the first essay

I’ve just submitted my first essay for the theology course I’m doing. I’ve never written anything like it before so I haven’t much of a clue what to expect.

The question we were given “outline an acceptable notion of sacrifice in the old testament and the contemporary world”

Which the more I think about, the more I realise how much there is to be written about it. Problem was (as I see it), most of the reading we were given was on the Aqedah (the binding of Isaac) in Genesis 22. While it does indeed concern the potential sacrifice of a son, in reality, the sacrifice does not actually happen. Indeed the New Testament doesn’t seem to read it as a story about the nature of sacrifice but more as one of obedience.

There are all kinds of takes on the Aqedah. From Boehm, who thought that Abraham gives us a model of holy and defining disobedience in Gen 22, to Gunn, who sees Abraham as the arch-bastard patriarch whose character is revealed as wholly lacking in his willingness to sacrifice his son.

After all the reading, I came to the conclusion that there’s nothing much “acceptable” about sacrifice and Gen 22.

That being said there might be a whole lot that could be said about the Hebrew people’s understanding of sacrifice when you see it in the light and context of something like Leviticus.

In terms of the contemporary world, we have lots of acceptable sacrifice; as long as it’s

a) voluntary/autonomous and basically self-sacrificing

b) for the appropriate cause – war is still top of the list here I suspect. We can accept those who sacrifice their own lives in the pursuit of peace/justice etc…

One of the (many) problems with the essay I just submitted is that I talked a lot about Gen 22 and how it wasn’t really about an acceptable notion of sacrifice and neglected the more fruitful leviticus and modern stuff. My excuse will be that none of the reading covered that but we’ll see…

For those really interested I’ve included my bibliography below:

Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics III.3. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010.

Boehm, Omri. 2007. The binding of Isaac: a religious model of disobedience. London: T&T Clark.

Douglas, Mary. Purity and danger: an analysis of concept of pollution and taboo. London: Psychology Press, 2002.

Fewell, Danna Nolan, and David M Gunn. “Tipping the Balance: Sternberg’s Reader and the Rape of Dinah.” Journal of Biblical Literature 110, No. 2 (1991): 193–211.

Girard, René. Violence and the sacred. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Gunn, David M, and Danna Nolan Fewell. Narrative in the Hebrew Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Fear and Trembling. London: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Klawans, Jonathan. Purity, sacrifice, and the temple: symbolism and supersessionism in the study of ancient Judaism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/.

LaCocque, Andre. “About the ‘Aqedah’ in Genesis 22: A Response to Laurence A. Kant.” Lexington Theological Quarterly 40 (2005): 191–201.

Moberly, R W L. The theology of the book of Genesis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Sternberg, Meir. “Biblical Poetics and Sexual Politics: From Reading to Counterreading.” Journal of Biblical Literature 111, No. 3 (1992): 463–488.

Taylor, Charles. A secular age. Cambridge: Belknap Press.

Von Rad, Gerhard. Genesis – a Commentary. Trans. John H Marks  London: S.C.M. Press, 1972.

Westermann, Claus. 1985. Genesis 12-36: a commentary. Trans. John Scullion London: SPCK, 2007.

Yang, Andrew S. “Abraham and Isaac, Child Abuse and Martin Luther.” Lutheran Quarterly 19 (2005): 153–166.


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