Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Akeidat Yitzchak as the story of Isaac's resurrection

Christians, almost from the beginning, understood the story of the Akeidat Yitzchak as the story of Isaac's resurrection which they understood as a prefiguring of the crucifiction. 

St. Ephraem: c300s
In the ram, which was hanging from the tree and was sacrificed in place of Abraham's son was prefigured the time of Jesus, who was hung from a tree llike the ram and tasted death for the sake of the whole wor

Epistle to the Hebrews
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Now for the interesting questions:

Was this idea of Isaac's resurrection an original Christian idea, or was it borrowed from older Jewish sources? Did we also once think Isaac has been killed at the Akeida, and then restored to life?

Evidence in favor of the resurrection of Isaac as a Jewish idea that Christian's co-opted, and we later forgot includes:

1) Pirqe de Rabbi Elazer 

Rabbi Jehudah said : When the blade touched his neck, the soul of Isaac fled and departed, (but) when he heard His voice from between the two Cherubim, saying (to Abraham)," Lay not thine hand upon the lad " (Gen. xxii. 12), his soul returned to liis body, and (Abraham) set him free, and Isaac stood upon his feet. And Isaac knew « that in this manner the dead in the future will be quickened. He opened (his mouth), and said : Blessed art thou, O Lord, who quickeneth the dead

2) The Haftarah reading assigned to Parshas Vayerah is 2 Kings 4:1-36 which tells of Elisha's resurrection of the Shunamite's son (however, other Vayerah parallels are there, too, such as Elisha's promise that the woman would bear a son) 

3) Zevchim 52a  
[When the generations that returned from the Babylonian exile began to build the second temple,] “How did they know what to do with the altar? Said R. Eleazar: They beheld the altar all built and Michael, the Great Prince, stood by it sacrificing on it. But R. Isaac Napha said: They beheld Isaac’s ashes, that these lay on that spot.

4) Rashi on Leviticus 26:52
And why is the expression “remembering” not used with Isaac? [Because] Isaac’s ashes Bereishith Rabbah 56:9; Tanchuma Shelach 14) [always] appear before Me, gathered up and placed upon the altar“ [and therefore, God does not have to ”remember" Isaac, for Isaac is never forgotten].

5) Rabbinic commentary on Genesis 27:27, the verse that tells us the Issac caught the scent of Jacob's clothing prior to blessing him, and was reassured, saying: Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field, which the Lord has blessed!

The midrash Tanchuma says that Isaac is, in fact, referring to the scent of Gan Eden. Can a man recognize the odor of a place he's never visited?

6) The pyutim we say on the High Holydays: 
The Mogen Avraham blessing is associated with Abraham; as a result high holiday piyutim that celebrate Abraham are said before Mogen Avraham. The next set of piyutim are about Isaac and they are associated with Mechayeh Maysim

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