The Binding of Isaac in Christian History with Petra Verwijs Ph.D


“The Akedah in Christian history: Interpretation, Theology, Ethics, and Art” discussion led by Petra Verwijs Ph.D. in Religion (Hebrew Bible), Thursday, October 17th, 4:00-5:00pm via conference phone. Dr. Verwijis will offer an overview of some of the ideas surrounding the story of the Akedah (Binding of Isaac) as found in Christianity. To join in on the conference call, please dial 702-851-4044, when prompted punch in 2, then our pass code 22252#.

Selected Verses of the Weekly Torah portion, Vayeira (18:1-22:24)

1.  And [Lot’s] wife looked behind him and became a pillar of salt. (Gen.19:26)

2.  [God] said, “Take your son, your only one, the one you love, Isaac, and go forth to the land of Moriah. Offer him there as a burnt-offering, on one of the mountains that I will show you.” (Gen.22:2)

3. [The angel] then said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad; do nothing to him; for now I know that you are one who fears God, as you did not withhold your son, your only one, from Me.” (Gen.22:12)

Suggested Reading

‘Challenging the Heavens: Abraham attempts to save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah’ by Alana Alpert:

Parashat Vayera centers on a phenomenal moment in Jewish tradition: the negotiation between God and Abraham about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

By all accounts, the people of the doomed city do not have a lot going for them. Ezekiel enumerates their sins, saying “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

But Abraham fights for them, claiming that there must be some number of righteous people within the gates. He asks, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?…Far be it from you to do a thing like that!…Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:20-25).

Abraham challenges God. He advocates for the people of the city and for God’s own moral standing as a God of justice. Here Abraham demonstrates that he is iconoclastic, thwarting the traditional power dynamic between divine and devotee and bringing morality into the debate of action.

In a midrash, the rabbis characterize this remarkable interaction as prayer. Discussing the importance of kavanah mindfulness or intention–during prayer, the rabbis declare that Abraham is the highest exemplar. The midrash points to this story, saying “…And nobody had kavanah in their prayer like our father Abraham, which we see from the fact that he said: Far be it from you to do a thing like that!” (Midrash Tanhuma, Haye Sarah 1). What is it about this kind of hutzpah clappei shamayim, challenging the heavens–or what today we might call “speaking truth to power”–that the rabbis see as the ultimate spiritual expression?

Continue reading on My Jewish Learning

Petra Verwijs, who will lead the discussion, was born and raised in the Netherlands, where she attended elementary and high school. Petra completed her undergraduate education in England. In 1987 Petra moved to the U.S.A. and earned two Masters Degrees and a Ph.D. She has been involved in part-time interpretation and translation work for over twenty years. In February 2010 Petra became a full-time freelance translator. Her working languages are Dutch, English, and German, with areas of specialty in Medicine, Computer, and Religion.

Dr. Verwijis thought these links might be of interest to you:

Visual art:
From Icelandic manuscript:
Poetry about World War I:
Joan Baez:
Sufjan Stevens:
Benjamin Britten:

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