“The Binding (Aqedah) and Its Transformations in Judaism and Islam: The Lambs of God” by Mishael Maasawri Caspi and Sascha Benjamin Cohen— Unbinding the Binding

Caspi, Mishael Masawri and Sascha Benjamin Cohen. “The Binding (Aqedah) and Its Transformations in Judaism and Islam: The Lambs of God”, (Mellen Biblical Press Series), Mellen Biblical Press, 1995.

Unbinding the Binding

Amos Lassen

The story of the Binding of Isaac (the Aqedah) has long mystified scholars. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers today still search for the most significant interpretations so that they can strengthen their unique theological perceptions of the tale. Christian scholars have often focused on parallels between the binding of Isaac and the crucifixion of Jesus and serious research has been undertaken to examine the story of the binding as it appears in Jewish and Islamic traditions to see if parallel components can be found in the binding of Isaac vis a vis the binding of Ishmael. The story in the Koran does not mention a name for the one who is bound, and Muslim scholars until the 12th century disputed the missing name, some suggesting that it was Isaac, others arguing that it was Ishmael. This book gives an examination of the two traditions and analyzes the oral tradition and how it became transformed into more rigid religious doctrine. We see here the interactions and transformations of the story as it grows within the constraints and across the bounds of these two differing traditions.

This close reading of the Genesis story and the Mishna about the sacrifice of Abraham of his only son has unique reverberations in the Islamic context. The retelling of the story by the Prophet Mohammed preserved in a hadith (a description of the words and actions of the prophet Mohammed).

The two authors of this book have translated primary documents about this story and explain that traditionally an animal is substituted for the human sacrifice/ substitution. There are great ambiguities, however, in the stark trial of a father willing to kill his only son in order to obey his God.

The first chapter of this book presents a translation of the biblical narrative, followed by a compendium of the Jewish oral traditions that developed over a period of more than fifteen centuries relating to and investigating the meaning of the story of Abraham and his son, Isaac. The chapters that follow show the transition of the story from its Jewish roots into other religious thought. We look at the actual process of transition, drawing in materials related thematically across three traditions and more than five centuries. We then focus on the Islamic versions of the Binding and its narrative themes.

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