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The sacrifice of Isaac in Qumran literature Author(s): Joseph A. Fitzmyer Source: Biblica, Vol. 83, No. 2 (2002), pp. 211-229

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The sacrifice of Isaac in Qumran literature

The story of Abraham's willingness to sacrificeIsaac is well known because of theaccountof itin Genesis 22. Well knowntoo is the way allusion is made to this story in some writings of theNew Testament

(e.g., Jas 2,21-23; Heb 6,13-14; 11,17-19; possibly Rom 8,32). Even morewell knownis the understanding ofthataccountin therabbinical

tradition among theJewish people, whereit is knownas the

Yishaq, 'Binding of Isaac', or simply the Aqedah orAkedah. It is not surprising,then, thata Qumran text might be foundthatsheds some light on the understanding of thatfamous account in the Book of Genesis. The name Aqedah, however, is used withdifferentconnotations today, and so itis necessary tobe clear fromtheoutsetaboutthesense in which it is being used. Sometimes it is used to denote only the vicarious expiation ofthesacrificeof Isaac, i.e. the offering ofIsaac on behalfofothers (people of Israel); sometimesitmeansthe story ofthe sacrificeof Isaac as it developed in theJewishtraditionin contrastto thebare accountin Gen 22; and sometimesitconnotesthe totality of events depicted in artand literaturethatbuildson Gen 22,1-19(*). The noun mpi? does not appear in thebiblical accountof Genesis or in the



0) See J. Swetnam, JesusandIsaac. A Study ofthe Epistle totheHebrews



75. AlsoR.J. Daly, "The

inthe Light ofthe Aqedah(AnBib94;

SoteriologicalSignificance oftheSacrificeof Isaac",CBQ 39 (1977)45-75; J.

"La typologie d'Isaacdansle christianisme primitif', Bib28 (1947)

Ginzberg, The Legendsof theJews (Philadelphia, PA 1909-1938)V,

363-393; L.


218, n. 52; L. Jacobs,"Akedah",Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem1970-1971)

II,480-484; R. Le Déaut, "La

sotériologiepaulinienne", StudiorumPaulinorum congre ssus internationalis


Opferung christlich gedeutet. Eine auslegungsgeschichtlicheUntersuchung(BHT

présentationtargumique dusacrificed'Isaacetla

(AnBib 17-18; Rome 1963) II, 563-574; D. Lerch, Isaaks


12;Tübingen1950)40-42; I. LÉvi, "Le sacrificed'Isaacetla mortde


Testament (SPIB 42; Rome 1923)264-265; RA. Rosenberg,"Jesus, Isaac and

the 'SufferingServant'",JBL84 (1965)381-388; H.-J. Schoeps, "TheSacrifice


Spiegel, TheLastTrial:

on the

Sacrifice. TheAkedah.Translatedfromthe Hebrew, withan introduction by

JudahGoldin (New York 1967); J.E. Wood, Testament",NTS14 (1967-1968) 583-589.

"Isaac Typology in theNew

(1912) 161-184; A. Médeb ielle, U Expiation dansl'Ancienetle Nouveau

Theology", JBL65 (1946)385-392; S.

Legends and Lore of


Offer Isaac as a

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Joseph A. Fitzmyer

Qumran texttobe discussed.Itfirst appears in therabbinictraditionof thethird-fourth century oftheChristianera. For thisreasonI shall not

use it again untilI come to discuss thattradition.I shallbe speaking of the sacrificeof Isaac in a sense thatmediates between the firstand second senses just mentioned, because I am concernedto determine

how much of

traditionthat develops out of Gen 22,1-19 in the pre-Christian PalestinianJewishtradition prior to theNew Testament. My furtherremarkswill be made under four headings: (1) the Genesis account in its original Hebrew formand in the Old Greek version;(2) the understanding of theaccountin theBook of Jubilees;

(3) the Qumran textthat interpretsit; and (4) later developments ofthe understanding of thesacrificeof Isaac.

the first meaning can really be found in the Jewish

I. The Genesis Accountin Its Original Hebrew Form and in theOld GreekVersion

The HebrewnarrativeofthesacrificeofIsaac is recountedin Gen 22,1-19, whichcan be summarizedthus:

1 AftertheseeventsGod put Abrahamtothetest 2









youronly son Isaac, whom youlove,

offerhimthereas a burnt offering ononeofthemountainsthatI shall

point outto you'.

donkey, andtookwithhimtwoofhisservantsandhissonIsaac.He cut

woodfortheburnt offering andsetoutto

hadtoldhim. 4 On thethird day Abrahamraisedhis


put inonhissonIsaac's shoulders; hehimselfcarriedthefireandthe

together. 7 Isaac saidtohisfather

Abraham, 'Father!'Abraham answered,'Yes, my son?'He continued,

knife; andthetwoofthemwenton

Abrahamrose early thenext morning, saddledhis


tothe place ofwhichGod



Abrahamtookthewoodfortheburnt offering and


son'. Thenthetwoofthemwenton


arranged thewood (uponit);

thenhe bound



As Abraham


offering?' 8 Abraham answered, 'Godhimselfwill provide thelambfor

theburnt offering,my

9When they cametothe place ofwhichGod hadtold him, Abraham

builttherean altarand

("ipjn) hissonIsaac and placed him upon thealtaron top ofthewood.

hisson. 11 The

butwhereis thelambfortheburnt


anything to him, becauseI nowknowthat you area

you havenotwithheldfromme


angel oftheLordcriedouttohimfrom heaven,'Abraham, Abraham!'

He answered him, 'Yes?' 12 'Do not layyour handonthe boy; donotdo

God-fearer, since


eyes, Abraham went, tookthe

insteadofhisson. 14 Abrahamcalledthat place 'Yahweh-Yir'eh'.So it

is calledtothis day: 'On themountoftheLorditwillbe provided'.

yourson,youronly son'.


he saw a ram

its hornsin thethicket.

ram, and offeredit up as a burnt offering

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The sacrificeof Isaac in Qumran literature


The striking details in the Genesis account are the age of Isaac, who is no longer a mere infantbut a youth who understandswhat sacrificeis and can carrywood, and the place fromwhichAbraham startsand to whichhe returns, viz. Beer-sheba. Only two noteworthy

differencesare foundin the Septuagint versionof thisaccount. First,

the way ittranslatesHebrew mon as

high land', in v. 2; and second, how tit,

Abraham's son, as àyaítrixóç,'beloved', in vv. 2, 12, 16. Elsewherein

the Septuagint tit is sometimesrenderedas

MS B [2]; also

Chr 3,1, as the place where Solomon built the Temple, the site in

Genesis is usually regarded

narrative emphasizes

eiç tt|vyfjvtt|vij'|/r|Xiív, 'to the

'only', the description of

|o.ovoyevrjç(Judg 1 1,34 in

Ps 22,21). Although 'Moriah' turns up again only in 2

as otherwiseunknown. Moreover, this

that Isaac is Abraham's 'only' son (MT) or

'beloved' son (LXX), because Abraham has already abandoned and

sentoffto thewildernessof Beer-shebabothIshmael and his mother

Hagar (Gen 21,8-21), so thatIshmael no longer counts as a son. In Genesis itself, one eventually learns thatAbraham had six other

children by Keturah (25,2), but

Isaac, who is Abraham's 'only' son and heir (3). The testto which

Abrahamis subjected: thechildbornto himaftera long delay, who is

to be thelinkto the

to be


no rolein thisnarrativeabout

promised numerous progeny(Gen 15,4-6), is now

request as a sacrifice.

givenup at God's

II. The Understanding of theAccountin theBook ofJubilees

The narrativeof thesacrificeofIsaac was reproduced in theBook of Jubilees, and itrevealshow theGenesis story was being understood

PalestinianJudaism. Although

the details of the narrativeremain basically the same, five important

in thesecond pre-Christiancentury in

(2) InMS A

(3) See furtherG. von

onefinds ixovoyevfiçáYCMtíiTÓç as thetranslation.

Rad, Genesis.A

Commentary(London1966) 232-


240;id.,Das Opfer desAbraham (KT 6; Munich 1971); H. Grafvon

Opfere deinenSohn.Eine Auslegung vonGenesis22 (BSt53;




Commentary(Minneapolis, MN 1985)

351-365;G.W. Coats, "Abraham'sSacrificeofFaith:A Form-Critical Study of

Genesis 22", Int27 (1973)389-400;L. Kundert,Die Opferung/Bindung Isaaks

(WMANT78; Neukirchen- Vluyn1998)I, 95-107; G. Steins,



Studien 20; Freiburg imB. 1999); R.

(Genesis22,1-19)", TTZ110 (2001) 1-19.

1968); C. Westermann,Genesis12-36.A

im Kanon (Gen 22). Grundlagen und

Programm einerkanonisch-

Spezialbibliographie zu Gen22 (Herdersbiblische

Brandscheidt,"Das Opfer desAbrahams

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Joseph A. Fitzmyer

elements were introducedinto it as it became part of Jub 17,15-


The firstis the role of 'prince Mastemah'. Whereas God's

command given toAbrahamin Gen 22 to offerhis son is

without any reasonforitotherthanthatGod would 'tesť

Abraham, in

Jubilees prince Mastemah is used to supply themotivationforit. He

functionsin the heavenly court as Satan does in Job 1-2, for he challenges God to put Abrahamto thetest:

simply stated


prince Abrahamloves his son Isaac and is more


altarandsee whetherhewill carry outthisorder.Then you willknow whetherhe is faithfulin every testto which you subject him' (Jub

Mastemahcame and said in

God's presence,'Look, withhimthan


commandhimto offerhimas a burnt offering on an


Second, the account in Jubilees gives a list of tests to which


of Isaac. God's answerto Mastemah's


God prior to the great testof thesacrifice

challenge runsas follows:

The Lord knewthatAbrahamwas faithfulin all his afflictions,

becausehe hadtestedhimwitha commandtoleavehis

with famine; hetestedhimwiththewealthof kings, andhetestedhim


circumcision; and he had testedhimwithIshmaeland

country, and

withhis wife, whenshe was taken away from him; andwith


sentthem away. In every testto whichtheLord

Abrahamhad beenfoundfaithful.His soul was not


slave-girl, whenhe


impatient, orslowtoact.Forhewas faithfulandlovedtheLord (Jub


In this passage we learn about six teststo which Abraham was subjected by God (5): (a) the command to leave his country(= Gen 12,1); (b) thefaminein Canaan thatmakes him go down to Egypt to

Gen 12,10); (c) the wealth of booty retrievedfromthe

get grain(=

defeatoftheeastern kings thatAbrahamdid not keep fromthe king of Sodom (= Gen 14,21-23); (d) the abductionof Sarah by Pharaoh (= Gen 12,14-15); (e) thecommandtocircumcisehimselfand all his men as a sign of thecovenant (= Gen 17,10-12); and (f) the sendingaway of Hagar and his son Ishmael (= Gen 21,9-14).

J.C.VanderKam, TheBook of Jubilees (Guides to Apocrypha and

Pseudepigrapha; Sheffield 2001) 52-53.

Thelaterrabbinictraditionnumberedthetestsas ten, but only sixare

mentionedinJub 17,17. Thetentestsarelistedin Pirqe deRabbiEli'ezer26-31;

see also Jub 19,8, andJ.Bowker, The Targums andRabbinicLiterature.An

IntroductiontoJewish Interpretations

(4) See



Scripture(Cambridge1969) 228-229.

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The sacrificeof Isaac in Qumran literature


afterthesix tests, Jubileesrecountsthe story ofthesacrifice

of Isaac, the great testin Abraham's life (18,1-16). The storyrepeats

the details of the account in Gen 22 rather closely, but it again

As Abrahamis about

to use theknifeto slay Isaac, itrecords:'I was standing in theLord's

presence, and the prince Mastemah was theretoo. And theLord said,

"Tell himnotto lay his handon thechild

it records, after God

to shame' (18,11). Thereupon

ram.In this way, whatthe 'the angel of theLord' does in theGenesis

accountbecomes one of thetasksof Mastemah. Fourth, Jubilees may connectthesacrificeof Isaac with Passover,


twelfth day ofthefirstmonth (17,15), and thereaderis leftto add the

three days thatthetext mentions, whenitnotesthatAbrahamand Isaac approach the mountainof theirdestination'on thethird day' (18,3). That would have been the fifteenth day, when Passover was being celebrated (6). Finally, Jubileesidentifies'themount'called in HebrewYahweh- Yir'eh as MountZion (18,13), i.e. Jerusalem.

but onlyindirectly. It dates the approach of Mastemah to God on

Mastemah was put


has found Abraham faithful: 'The prince

introducesthe prince Mastemahattwo



.'" (Jub18,9). (b) Later on



III. The Qumran TextThat Interprets theAccount

Among the manyfragmentary textsretrievedfrom Qumran Cave 4, which rewrite the Hebrew Scriptures, one in particular is noteworthy,4Q225 or 4QPseudo-Jubileesa(7). It is noteworthy, because it reveals thatthe sacrificeof Isaac was not passed over in silence among the Essene Jews at Qumran, as has been thought at times (8). The textis extantin only three fragments, and its account

(6) See furtherJ.C. VanderKam,"The Aqedah,Jubilees,and


Jubilees",The Questfor Contextand Meaning. StudiesinBiblical Intertextuality

in Honorof JamesA. Sanders (ed. C.A.

Interpretation Series 28; Leiden 1997)241-261,esp.245-248; alsoP.R. Davies, "Passoverandthe Dating ofthe Aqedah",JJS30 (1979)59-67.

Evans - S. Talmon) (Biblical


al.) (DJD13;Oxford

(7) See J.C.VanderKam - J.T. Milik,"225.

Cave4. VIII.Parabiblical Texts,Part1 (ed. H. Attridgeet

1994) 141-155. (8) See R. Le Déaut,La NuitPascale (AnBib22; Rome


esttrès remarquablequ'étant donnéela

soit passé

Judaïsme ancien, il

littérature qumrânienne' .

1963)184, n. 134:

popularité dusacrificed'Isaacdansle

soussilencedansce que nousconnaissonsde la

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Joseph A. Fitzmyer

resemblesthatof Jubilees. Although its vocabulary and phraseology are similarto thatof Jubilees, it differs clearly enough so thatone

cannotcall it simply a copy of Jubilees; hence Pseudo-Jubilees.This fragmentary texttells of an heirto be bornof Abraham, thebirthof

and God's rewardof Abrahamfor being willing to spare this


only son. Fragment2, columnsi and ii are important forthis discussion, and thetextofcol. i runsas follows:


np-rc aorrrn Df-nji^a ornan] 8

noQ[o]on no Kim pno- ioo n« mp-i□[mató] 9

D'm^R*?«] 10




p[ n]n« p


nom pnera orna«n» nwi

[io» ro]Trr ri« pno'

ns nan na np on [nas



□'[man]onnn in« bo ròiab^ mbrm nn[an«nn«] 12

Di]p'i na1? [im« -kok] 13

] 14


8 be[lieved]God, and righteousness was reckonedto him(9). A son wasborn af[ter] this

9 [toAbraha]m, andhenamedhimIsaac. Butthe princeMa[s]temah came

[min i]n ba rm«an |G n» [on-i]aKnœri[

And [Abraham]

10 [toG]od,


andhe lodged a complaintagainst AbrahamaboutIsaac.


11 [toAbra]ham, 'Take your son Isaac, [your]onlyone,[whom]

12 [youlo]ve, andofferhimtomeas a burnt offering on one ofthe

[hig]h mountains,

13 [which I shall pointout]


you'. He aro[se and w]en[t] fromthe

wells (10)up to Mo[untMoriah].

14 [

]AndAb[raham] raised

Column ii continuesthetextof col. i directly:

[nrr la'n m

prar ba d'sot n«]]n["]i teanam i]"3[-iJ] 1



pric -m ft 'Dsbo 5

via ntc 6



[non rrworsrmoan nn ra«] orna«

[non nunsT





ns' tiis


pne f* nma« -namrbsh




naton ]bv D'aia o'iquj

nano]on otftoi p«n ]D



Foran interpretation ofthis part ofthe text, see J.A.Fitzmyer, "The

ofGenesis15,6: Abraham'sFaithand Righteousness

ina Qumran

In Gen22,19 Beer-sheba (ratoita) is

given as the dwelling-place of


Text" (forthcoming).

Abraham.Theauthorofthistextseemstohave interpreted thenametomean

'sevenwells',as itwasunderstoodsometimeslateron (see T. Nöldeke,"Sieben

Brunnen",ARW7 [1904]340-344).

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The sacrificeof Isaac in Qumran literature


[or normennœnor nr 'Ton]! •ntriedjjonoimdttúü 7 [«-ip-1 ovrfrtf? ama]« pw rcarvò dmbtd rcar 8

-on arra« nn-QR 9



-dtot nn]j> -on

rn^ ta pnjzr na mm*?« "pm an« mm

"i]ri ^ na


pro rm (v^cflř)


mVn mpjnmpjr 11

"]-f7) mpmprron arra» "ir 12


roctn nûiû[0]on -KB14

1 [hisey]es,[and therewas a] fire; andhe pu[t thewoodon hisson

[ ©ipn OtfjQ Dn^]l? TIOK

[ nocHDDn -HB] *?«

Isaac, and

they went together.]

2 Isaac saidto Abraham,[hisfather, 'Herearethefireandthe wood,

butwhereis the lamb]

3 fortheburnt offering?' Abrahamsaid to [his son Isaac, 'God


provide the lamb'.]

4 Isaac saidtohis

5 Holyangels were standing,weeping overthe [altar

6 hissonsfromtheearth.The

7 rejoicing and saying, PrinceMastemahwas

8 hewouldbe found feeble, orwhether A[braham] wouldbe found


father,'B[ind mefast



angels of Mas[temah


'Now he will

perish'. And [in all thisthe

unfaithful [to God.He

cried out,]

9 'Abraham, Abraham!'Andhe

said, 'Yes?' So He said,'N[ow I

knowthat ]

10 hewillnotbe loving'. TheLordGodblessed Is[aac allthe days of hislife.He becamethefather of]

11 Jacob (n), and Jacob became the fatherof Levi, [a third]



generation(12).(vacai) All]

the days of Abraham,Isaac,Jacob, and Lev[i were The

angels were


prince Mastemah

boundon ac[count of them. Holy

listenedto [the prince

14 The

prince Ma[s]temah, and Belial

Mastemah (?) (13) ]

Unfortunately, thetextis fragmentaryjust at the points whereone

e.g. thereactionof the angels

ofheaventoAbraham's willingness to sacrificeIsaac. In anycase, six

findsthedifferentdistinctive elements,

pointsmay be singled

out as


(1) In 2 i 9-10, 'The PrinceMastemah came to God and

lodged a

complaint against Abraham about Isaac'. Here we find an

figurelivingup to his name, since riosmnis a feminineabstractnoun


(n) Fortherestorationoftheendofline 10,see


7,2-3, which overlaps withtheendofline10andthe beginningofline11.

(12) Fortherestoration here,see 4Q226 (4QPseudo-Jubileesb)7,3-4, which

overlaps withthisline.

(I3) See 4Q226(4QPseudo-Jubileesb)7,7.

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Joseph A. Fitzmyer


translatenotoconn©as 'the Princeof the Mastemah', as VanderKam and Milik take it in the editio princeps, or as a name, 'Prince Mastemah', as it often appears in Jubilees (e.g., 17,16; 18,9). The

name denotes 'opposition' of a legal or judicial nature, and the verb

□taois used in the juridical sense of lodging a complaint witha higher authority or in a courtof law. Hence just as )oto, 'Satan', in Job 1,6

comes into God's heavenly court and lives

'Adversary', as he lodges a complaintagainst 'blamelessand righteous

Job' (1,1), so too nooco, '(judicial) Opposition', is depicted as

Abraham's court-roomrival or prosecutore4). Whereas the only

angelic figure that appears

Lord' (vv. 11, 15), who at times cannot be distinguished fromGod Himself, this Qumranrewriting ofthebiblical accounthas introduced

a further heavenlyfigure, as did Jubilees. (2) In 2 ii 1, Abraham'raised his eyes, and therewas a fire'.This detailaboutthefireremains unexplained in the Qumrantext, butitis probably meantto markthe high mountainto which Abraham was


(3) In 2 ii 4, in a saying thathas no counterpart in eitherGen 22 or

It is difficultto determinewhetherone should


to his name,

in Gen 22 is mrr



of the

Jub 18, Isaac surprisinglybegs his father,'B[ind me fast]'. That might seem like a gratuitous reconstructionof the fragmentarytext, but VanderKamand Milik notethatthewordsthat precede theinitial kaph of thelast extantwordof theline matchthe developed paraphrase of

Gen 22,10 in TargumPseudo-Jonathan, whichreads:

'■Qtò pna- loen pmpa tòioBnor«ntòarnsau'?'mai'»an toss p cms]tòTtw rr ran

AndIsaac saidtohis father, 'BindmewellthatI

the agony of my

blemishbe foundin youroffering'(l6).

may not struggle in

soulandbe pitched intothe pit ofdestructionanda

04) Theverbalrootgiicis actually relatedto pto(the rootof 'Satan'), since

bothofthemmean 'oppose', 'be

adversaryof, anddiffer only inthefinal liquid

consonant. (") The paraphrase ofGen22,4 inthelater Targum Pseudo-Jonathan may

explainit,whichreads:tnnobv "ropK~p'Rpa


Pirqe deRabbiEli'ezer105isevenmore explicit initsversionofthesacrifice:'He

sawa pillar offire (rising) fromearthtoheaven'.

glorysmoking onthemountain', i.e.themountaintowardwhichhewas

'andhe sawthecloudof



VanderKamand Milikrestoretheline in theeditto princeps thus:

[ns" Tils rre]D, butG. Vermes, "New Light ontheSacrificeofIsaacfrom 4Q225",

JJSAl [1996]140-146,esp.142, n. 12,

considerstherestoration, "Tn«msD,'bind

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The sacrificeof Isaac in Qumran literature


SimilarlyTargumNeofiti I and the FragmentaryTargum 7), and also Genesis Rabbah 56,8. This Qumran additionto the biblical account

thusbecomes important forthe

revealsan aspect of Isaac's cooperation withhis own sacrificialdeath

that figures oftenin Jewish writings of a laterdate.

'holyangels were standing,weeping

over the [altar] -

Qumran addition thus introduces other

notooQ"iü. They are ttnp 'Ofcòù,'holyangels',

of the Lord' of Genesis. Their

not merely a substitutefor 'the

standing and weeping are again unexplained because of the fragmentary stateof the text(18).


attendantsof narro n to, are depicted 'rejoicing and saying,

will perish', i.e. gloating overthe coming deathofIsaac. These angels

thus stand in contrastto the 'holy angels' of line 5. Their rejoicing becomes part of the testing of Abrahamto see whetherhe would be foundfeebleor strong and faithful.

(5) In 2 ii 6, 'the angels of Mastemah', who are probably

developing Jewish tradition, because it

(4) In 2 ii 5, itis recordedthat

or possibly 'over


[Isaac's coming death]'. This

heavenly figures beyond and

beingplural,they are

'Now he

(6) Finally, in 2 ii

13 the prince Mastemahis said to be 'bound on

ac[count of them]'(19). Because of the fragmentary stateof the text, it

is hard to explain the detail, but it could referto the binding of Mastemahmentionedlaterin Jub 48,15.

myhands', tobemore likely,referring tothe 'Targums'. Whereashisrestoration

does agree withthe FragmentaryTargum P of Gen 22,10, whichreads

m«""NT rnED, 'bind my hands well', VanderKamandMilik'srestorationisfound

not only in

therestorationmustbe right, evenifnsDis a rareHebrew word, not appearing in BiblicalHebrewor otherwise, it seems, in Qumran Hebrew texts; itoccursoften inlaterTalmudictextsandrabbinic writings.

Targum Pseudo- Jonathan, butalsoin TargumNeofiti I. Ineither case,

Neophyti 1. Targumpalestinense Ms de la

estudios 7; Madrid 1968) 127.

(17) See A. Díez Macho,


AlsoM.L. Klein,

ExtantSources (AnBib76; Rome

Génesis (Textosy

The Fragment-Targumsof thePentateuch According toTheir

1980)I,54; II, 16.


Their presence attheevent may be similartothatrecordedinthelater

pniri "inn piwr -nr-m ]^non nrratn "irr,

Ps.-J.Gen. 22,10). The

weeping ofthe

notmentionedinthe targum, butitatleastrecordstheir presence. See

7 (2000) 263-291.

the passiveparticiple,

Tg. Ps.-J.:kqi-id'Dtibnb

'the eyes ofAbrahamwere gazing atthe eyes of Isaac, butIsaac's eyes were

gazing atthe angels ofthe Heights'(Tg.

angels is

furtherM.J. Bernstein,"Angels atthe Aqedah: A Study inthe Development of

a Midrashic Motif',DSD

(19) AsVanderKam notes, "no«couldbereadas ' asur ,

'bound',butalsoas yãsôr , the imperative, 'bind!'

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Joseph A. Fitzmyer

These are the main differences brought to the account of the sacrificeof Isaac in this Qumran text, which reveals new ways in whichthebasic biblical accountwas alreadybeing developed within theJewishtraditionin pre-Christian PalestinianJudaism. Beforewe pass on to otherancientformsofthe account, we should takenoteof how this Qumran texthas been interpreted in additionto the editio princeps. I have cited already another article of J.C.

VanderKam, in which he discusses further aspects of the text, especially itsrelationto Passover (20). Geza Vermeshas also interpreted this Qumrantext, and I have to commenton his treatment. Beforethe Qumran textwas published, Vermeshad writtenearlier

on the Aqedah, "Redemption

and theSacrificeof Jesus" (2I). Therehe analyzed theJewishtradition

that grew out of Gen 22 and foundits simplestdevelopment in the oldest Palestinian targumic tradition (found in the Fragmentary Targurn and TargumNeofitiI). The mainfeaturesofthat development he maintainedto be the following:

AbrahamtellsIsaac abouthisroleas a sacrificialvictim.

and Genesis xxn: The


of Isaac







Isaac gives hisconsent.

Isaac askstobe boundso thathissacrifice may be perfect.

Isaac is accordeda

Abraham prays God to rememberhisownobedienceandIsaac's

willingness onbehalfofIsaac's descendants.

His prayer is answered (22).

heavenly visionof angels.

Vermesalso notedan expanded formof thistraditionin whathe called 'TannaiticandAmoraic sources', whichdo notconcernus now. More important, however, is the way in whichVermes interprets the when he sees it as a refutationof


thethesisof P.R. Davies and B. Chilton (23).They restrictedtheterm Aqedah to the first meaning mentioned at the beginning of my

introductoryremarks, viz. the sense of thevicarious expiation

of the

sacrificeofIsaac. Theysought to ascribethe'invention'ofthe Aqedah

in thissense to 'theRabbis'

(mostlyAmoraic), who 'wentso faras to

(-") See J.C.VanderKam, "The

Aqedah"(in n.6 above).

Light", 143.

(2I)Chapter 8 inG. Vermes,Scripture andTraditioninJudaism. Haggadic studies (Studia Post-biblica4; Leiden1961;repr.1973) 193-227.

(") See Vermes,Scripture and Tradition,195-197. They areformulateda

little differently inhisarticle,id., "New


p.R.Davies - B. Chilton, "The Aqedah: A RevisedTradition History",

CBQ 40 (1978) 514-546.

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The sacrificeof Isaac in Qumran literature


appropriate detailsof thePassion [of JesusfromtheNew Testament]

to heighten

uniqueness of Jesus' offering'(24). Their understanding of the Aqedah in this sense was not new, fora formof it was proposed already in

1872 by A. Geiger(25). Exaggerations in thethesisofDavies and Chiltonhave been noted

by others, which I shall not rehearse (26). The real

however, is whetherthe Qumranfragment reveals 'the pre-Christian

skeletonof the

Isaac', and whetheritrenders'the

the Aqedah at least highlyimprobable'(27).

the drama of Isaac's

Offering and to deny thereby the

question now,

Targumic-midrashicrepresentation of the sacrificeof

hypothesis of an Amoraic origin of

In his article,Vermes, after discussing certain aspects ofthe newly


publishedQumrantext, concludeswitha 'SynopticTable',

up twelve elementsthathe considers 'the reproduce thetablehere (28):

pre-Christian skeleton'. I












Fire/bright cloud









4. Isaacconsents

5. Askstobebound

6. Presenceof angels 4Q225










7. Cryingangels






GenR Mekh GenR


Temple Mount

2Chr,Jub Jos







Mekh GenR




<LevR(bar.)> Sifra GenR/y/bTaan

(24)Ibid., 516-517.

(25) See A.

Geiger,"Erbsündeund Versöhnungstod: DerenVersuchindas






(1872) 166-171.

(26) See R. Hayward,


"ThePresentStateofResearchintothe Targumic Isaac",JJS32 (1981) 127-150.

(27)Vermes, "New Light", 145.

(28) PT =

Palestinian Targums; Tan = Tannaitic Writings; Amor/Later =


Josephus; PsJ = Tg. Pseudo- Jonathan', FT =



= Pseudo-Philo, Liber antiquitatum

Jerusalem/Babylonian Talmudic tractate, Taanith.

AmoraicorLater Writings; Jos =

FragmentaryTargum; N

biblicarum' Jub = Jubilees; SifDt = Sifre Deuteronomium; Mekh = Mekhilta;

GenR = Genesis Rabbah; PRE = Pirqe de Rabbi Eli'ezer; LevR = Leviticus

Rabbah;y/bTaan =

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Joseph A. Fitzmyer

To be noted in this Table, firstof all, is the question markthat Vermesadds to 4Q225 on threeelements: 4, 5, 8. Ifone looks again at col. ii ofthe Qumranfragment, thereis nottheleast traceofa wordor

phrase about Isaac's consent (element 4), which Vermes separates

fromIsaac's request to be bound. That is, thereis nothing in the

Qumran textsimilarto whatone finds, for instance, in

receivedthesewords [of his father] with joy,declaring

thathe was not worthy to be bornat all ifhe wereto reject thedecision

of God and of his father'; or even as implied

7,14; or in Pseudo-Philo, LAB 32,2-4(29).

implied in Isaac's asking to be bound (element5), whichis foundin 4Q225 2 ii 4 (as correctly reconstructed by the editors); butthen why make a distinctelementof it in this Qumran text?Here Vermes is

reading intothe Qumran texta notionfoundinothertexts coming from thefirstChristian century at the earliest, buthow does he knowthatthe

Josephus, Ant.

1.232: 'Isaac

in 4 Macc 16,20; 13,12;

That 'consent'



'consentof Isaac' was


of 'the

pre-Christian skeleton'?

Second, thereis nota traceof the 'meritof Isaac'

in the Qumran

fragment(element8). Not even the words, 'his sons fromthe earth'

(line 6) can be said to referto such an idea, because the

textdoes not tell us whose 'sons' are meant. Being plural, the word

most likely does referto Isaac, since this embellishmentof the

Abraham story in

AbrahamfromKeturah (25,2). Yet even if they are Isaac's sons, the

phrase 'fromtheearth'is quite differentfrom any of the phraseology

ofthelatertraditionaboutIsaac's merit.So that fragmentary line6 can

hardly referto such a topic. Third,why shouldelements1 (Isaac's adult age), 9 (relation to the


even be listedin theTable? They do not appear in 4Q225, and even if

they are attestedin first-century A.D. writings(such

Pseudo-Philo,LAB), they are not part of the 'pre-Christian skeleton'. forthefirsttimein theChristianera.

They appear


Gen 22 knows nothing as yet ofthechildrenbornto

Mount), 11 (Lamb sacrifice), and 12 (Isaac's blood/ashes)

as Josephus or

of the

Fourth, even if 2 Chr 3,1 mentionsSolomon's building

house oftheLord on 'Mount Moriah, wheretheLord had appeared to

his father David', thereis notthe slightest connectionin that passage

of thatmountwiththe sacrificeof Isaac

evidence forthe 'pre-Christian skeleton'?

("'). Why is it,then,given as

(29) ContrastthemuchlaterembellishmentinGenR 56,4: 'I

acceptmy fate'.

Notealsotheformalconsent expressly deducedfromthe binding in 56,8.

(30) A.F. Segal, '"He whodidnot spare hisownson ':


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The sacrificeof Isaac in Qumran literature


In Jub 18,13, 'Mount Zion' is named by Abraham as the place wherehe sacrificestheram.In Ant. 1.224, 226 Josephus recordsthat Abrahamwent'withhis son alone tothat mount, on which king David

[sic] afterwardsbuiltthe

temple', whichhas already been identifiedas

'the Morian Mount' (3I). In any case, theidentificationof Mt. Moriah

withthe Temple Mount is a minordetail and of little significance for the developing doctrineof the Aqedah. One wonders why Vermeshas introduceditintothediscussionof the Qumran text?The same has to be said aboutelement11 (relation of thesacrificeof Isaac to thelamb sacrificed in the Temple as Tamid), and element 12 (Isaac's blood/ashes). Fifth, the crucial element in the Table is the so-called meritof Isaac. Vermesclaims thatit is attestedin Pseudo-Philo, LAB. In LAB

18,5,however, thesacrificeof Isaac is said to be

'acceptable' to God,

and forthatreasonGod 'has chosen' Israel to be His people (facta est

oblatio eius in conspectu meo acceptabilis, et pro sanguine eius elegi istos)C2). The divine decision about Israel as the Chosen People is

Akedah", FromJesustoPaul.StudiesinHonourofFrancis Wright Beare (ed. P.

Richardson - J.C. Hurd)(Waterloo, Ont. 1984)169-184,esp. 173,seeking to

establishthe pre-Christian rootoftheJewish teaching about Isaac,says, 'The

history of interpretation ofthesacrificeofIsaac beginsright in theBible.In


ChroniclesMt. Moriah, sceneofthe sacrifice, is identifiedwiththe Temple Mount (2 Chron. 3,1); soan explicit connectionbetweenthe story ofthesacrifice ofIsaac andthesacrificialcultinJerusalemis established'. There may be an explicit connectionbetweenMountMoriahandtheJerusalem Temple, butthe

verseofChroniclestowhich Segal refersdoesnot say a wordaboutsacrificeor


tothesacrificeofIsaacintoa non-committalstatementaboutSolomon's building

the Temple onMt.Moriah.ThemerefactthatMt.Moriahis mentionedinthe Bible only inGen22 and2 Chr3 doesnoteo ipso meanthat2 Chroniclesis alluding tothesacrificeofIsaac.



extrapolated and anachronistically introduceda reference

(31)Thackeray notesthat'the

locality hereintendedis unknown; its

identification byJosephus(§226)


Thackeray.[Edition] in Eight Volumes.IV: Jewish Antiquities, BooksI-IV

(LCL; London - NewYork 1930) 111.

al.,Pseudo-Philon (SC 229-230; Paris 1976)I,

and by theRabbinicaltraditionwiththe temple

sustained'; see Josephus. Withan English Translation by H.St.J.

XVIII,5, iln'est pasquestion

(32) See D.J.Harringtonet


péchésopérépar le


sang d'Isaac - à la manièredeHebr. 9,22(et

T.b.Yoma 5a) sans effusion de sang il n'y a pas derémission. Ici, le sangd'Isaac,

considérécommeunvéritable sacrifice, scellel'électionetl'alliancedeDieuavec

son peuple'(ibid.,II, 126). See furtherB.N. Fisk,"Offering Isaac Again and

Again: Pseudo-Philo's Useofthe Aqedah as Intertext",CBQ

62 (2000) 481-507.

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Joseph A. Fitzmyer

quite differentfromthe expiatory value of thesacrificeof Isaac. Why is this passage cited? In LAB 32,3, Isaac does speak to his father Abraham,comparing his coming death to thatof animals to be killed because of human iniquities:

.proiniquitatibus hominum pecora constitutasuntinoccisionem

et in me annunciabuntur generationes et

quoniamdignificavit Dominusanimamhominisin sacrificium,

per me intelligentpopuli

generations will be instructed by my case and



understandbecauseofme thattheLordhas consideredthelifeof a

human beingworthy[to be offered] insacrifice.

Here Isaac concludes that his death would have a vicarious,

expiatory effect. Similarlyperhaps in LAB 40,2, the same might be

implied(quis est qui tristetur moriens, videns populum liberatum ,

who would be sorry to die, seeing a people freed'), if that liberty meansfreedomfromsins or iniquities.


This text,however, is usually

dated between A.D. 70 and 100.

Even if it does formulatethe sense of Isaac's meritoriousdeathin at

leastone passage, on what groundsmay one extrapolate thatevidence

and say thatitbuilds up the

Sixth, in theMekhiltaon Exod 12,13, the words, 'When I see the

blood' (12,13), are relatedto Gen 22,

'pre-Christian skeleton'.

I see thebloodofthesacrificeofIsaac

(priT bv nipr en). Foritis

said: 'AndAbrahamcalledthenameofthat placeAdonai-jireh'(The

lordwill see), etc. (Gen.22.14)

bloodofthesacrificeof Isaac, as itsaid: 'God Himselfwillsee the

Whatdidhebehold?He beheldthe

lamb', etc. (Gen.22.8).

Yeteven the editor, J.Z.Lauterbachadds in a notethat 'actually no


thereis in this