Sacrifice of Isaac & "OT God" Interpretation?


#1

Hey all,

I was listening a couple years ago to a deacon who was speaking to a group of parishioners about the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. His argument was that Abraham was never tested by God and never actually attempted to sacrifice Isaac, but that it was only a story. He argued that the story was made up to tell other regions/religions that the God of Abraham did not ask anyone to sacrifice their children to Him (as other religions’ gods had asked of their people).

He argued that this “story”, while fiction, was told to tell a real truth (God does not make you sacrifice your children). This story would be not unlike the fiction parables told by Jesus and other stories in the early OT such as the Story of Creation.

This seems like it makes sense to me. Especially because of the very few things that I know about God, one of them being that God can not ask of us to do anything evil (like sacrifice a human) but He can only test us in times of temptation to do the good.

This being said, assuming that the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac is a fictitious story told to tell a real truth (not asserting that this is truly the case, but only speculation), Jesus still used the truth of this story for us to better understand the truth of divine revelation that Logos (the Word, Jesus), the only Son of God was given up as a sacrifice by His heavenly Father.

Now, going from this presumption there is a lot of mystery about the “Old Testament God”, like “how can He order the death of so many people?” or “why is it that He talks so much to these people in the Old Testament yet after Christ nobody can hear a word from Him?”

Without refuting the authenticity of the Scriptures, is it possible to assume that the orders of God given to His chosen people of Israel (whether they be to slaughter mass numbers of people, conquer cities, how to dress, how to decorate the tabernacle, or any other custom) were not truly ordered by God, but were believed to be so by the people from their religious leaders, and that God still used the nuggets of truth, which were “made up” by the Israelites, to reveal His Divine Truth in His incarnation in Christ Jesus and still fulfill the everything in the Old Testament?

I am in no way asserting that any of this is fact, but a theory or a speculation that is very interesting. This is something I have thought about for a while, but haven’t done any extensive research on. It could answer why the “God of the Old Testament” seems to be very different from the “God of the New Testament”.

Your thoughts?


#2

God does not change, but our understandings do.

Why would God speak audibly after his greatest Word became a human being??

ICXC NIKA


#3

I hope this deacon is not an instructor at the college (Benedictine) you’re attending.
It has certainly not been the teaching of the Church over the centuries that the above story about Abraham and Isaac is fictional.

Also, God did not “make” anyone sacrifice their child. He intervened miraculously to prevent such a thing happening with Abraham and his son.

…for us to better understand the truth of divine revelation that Logos (the Word, Jesus), the only Son of God was given up as a sacrifice by His heavenly Father.

The Abraham/Isaac incident has long been recognized as a “type” of that. Perhaps that is why God requested that particular action as a test for Abraham – so it could serve as a type of Jesus’ sacrifice. Such “types” help one recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant - as the promised Messiah.

Now, going from this presumption there is a lot of mystery about the “Old Testament God”, like “how can He order the death of so many people?”

Those commands were for a short periods in Jewish history: primarily when they were to come in and conquer the land God was giving them. In other words, during times of war; they were rules of war - so to speak - for the Jewish nation.

or “why is it that He talks so much to these people in the Old Testament yet after Christ nobody can hear a word from Him?”

I suggest you read the lives of some of the saints (eg. Dialog of St. Catherine of Siena; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque; are 2 that come to mind). Just because the canon of Scripture has been closed, and therefore their words are not contained in the Bible, doesn’t mean God has not spoken to others since the time of Jesus.
Throughout the Christian era, God uses the Pope and Magisterium to communicate His truths to us.

Without refuting the authenticity of the Scriptures, is it possible to assume that the orders of God given to His chosen people of Israel (whether they be to slaughter mass numbers of people, conquer cities, how to dress, how to decorate the tabernacle, or any other custom) were not truly ordered by God, but were believed to be so by the people from their religious leaders, and that God still used the nuggets of truth, which were “made up” by the Israelites, to reveal His Divine Truth in His incarnation in Christ Jesus and still fulfill the everything in the Old Testament?

No, I do not believe such an assumption is allowed. How can the Scriptures be authentic if the words are not true, but “made up”.


#4

#5

#6

Christ sent God the Holy Spirit on the Church at Pentacost. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism and again in the sacrament of confession if we have had the misfortune of losing Him by mortal sin. In the gospel for today’s Mass, St John the Baptist says “He [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” And Jesus says of the Holy Spirit that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Do we ever listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us on a daily basis? St Paul says “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3: 16).

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles and those gathered with them at Pentecost, Peter quoted the words of the prophet Joel when he spoke to the people:
‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says,
‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2: 17).

There have been many mystics in the Church who have seen visions of Christ who spoke to them such as St Faustina Kowalska, St Teresa of Avila, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St Gertrude the Great, St Catherine of Sienna, St Padre Pio, to name just a few. St John Bosco had numerous supernatural dreams. The prophecy of Joel is being literally fulfilled in the Church. There have been numerous apparitions of our Blessed Mother Mary; St Catherine of Laboure and the Miraculous Medal, St Bernadette and Lourdes, the children at Fatima, to name just a few.

Such mystics and their supernatural visions on which are founded solid devotions approved by the Church such as the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus given to St Margaret Mary of Alacoque are in a way a continuation of the prophetic spirit of the Old Testament and a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. Now, the Church does not require us to believe in private revelations nor is our faith founded upon them but when the Church gives its stamp of approval on such revelations, then it would be ridiculous and unreasonable in my view to not believe that such revelations to such mystics did not come from God. Some of these mystics are doctors of the Church such as St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, and St Catherine of Sienna.

Jesus is the Word of God and through Jesus, the Son and Word of God, the Father has spoke to us everything there is to say. So the Church teaches that the Son who established the new and eternal covenant is the Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further revelation after Him (cf. CCC#73). Jesus entrusted his word and the good news to the apostles whom he sent to preach the gospel to all nations. The gospel of Jesus Christ was handed on by the apostles in two ways, namely, orally and written (cf. CCC#76). So the Church teaches that the sacred deposit of the faith is contained in Sacred Tradition and Holy Scripture. “Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries” (CCC#66). Concerning private revelations, confer CCC#67.

Without refuting the authenticity of the Scriptures, is it possible to assume that the orders of God given to His chosen people of Israel (whether they be to slaughter mass numbers of people, conquer cities, how to dress, how to decorate the tabernacle, or any other custom) were not truly ordered by God, but were believed to be so by the people from their religious leaders, and that God still used the nuggets of truth, which were “made up” by the Israelites, to reveal His Divine Truth in His incarnation in Christ Jesus and still fulfill the everything in the Old Testament?

Holy Scripture is divine revelation, God revealing himself to mankind. Most of the things you mention above are prefaced with “And God told Moses, speak to the Isrealites” or “God commanded Moses” or God speaking to the Patriarchs or the Prophets, in a word, its divine revelation and the principle author of Holy Scripture is the Holy Spirit. So I think to assume that when Scripture says that God told the Israelites to do this or that or make the tabernacle a certain way, etc., is something made up by the Israelites is to discredit Holy Scripture as the word of God and divine revelation and its inspiration and principle author who is the Holy Spirit. The Israelite people, the chosen people of God, of which the majority of the Old Testament is about is fundamentally God’s historical revelation to them. Jesus himself said “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside (John 10: 34-35). And Jesus also said "“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. (Matt. 5: 17-18).

And St Paul says "And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

And "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness (1 Tim. 2: 16).


#7

Your explanation my friend is Heb.1:1-2- “God, who at sundry times and in drivers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son…”
God is still speaking to us all the time. We are just not listening.
God still gives us prophets today.


#8

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son because he believed that God would raise him from the dead.

God promised Abraham, “Your descendants will be as numerous as the sand in the sea” and then God told him to kill his only son.

***By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. *(Hebrews 11:17-18)

Abraham trusted God’s promise of future generations and reasoned that God would raise Isaac from the dead.

-Tim-


#9

Even with all of the opinions and answers above, could someone please clarify the difference between Abraham following God’s command and ‘crazy’ people in this day and age that think God tells them to kill their children. We’ve all heard the news headlines on occasion that tell the story of a person that has done this. Maybe Abraham was a little crazy too?


#10

I never heard of crazy people who claim that God told them to kill their children. Even so, it was Abraham’s trust that was tested. God wanted to know if Abraham trusted him.

Abraham was told by God that his offspring would be more numerous than the sand in the sea. Then God told Abraham to kill his only son.

***By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. *(Hebrews 11:17-19)

God promised that Abraham would have numerous descendants and so when God told Abraham to kill his son, Abraham reasoned that God would simply raise his son from the dead.

Abraham trusted God. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise.

-Tim-


#11

Hi!
…did that deacon believed in personal interpretation as the correct format for understanding Scriptures?

If so, how does he understand St. Matthew 4:1? Let’s start here:

7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God: for he is bountiful to forgive. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:7-9)

It is interesting to me that people (today) keep claiming so much love and compassion for those poor people who died in the Old Testament… could it be masking an excuse to not Believe?

Scriptures speak of specifics reasons for Yahweh God to Command His people. And there are very specific reasons why He Commands the things He does.

Abraham did not sacrifice his son to Yahweh God. God’s Command that Abraham sacrifice his son (Isaac was the son of the Promise) served two purposes:

  1. Test Abraham
  2. Provide a Type for Yahweh’s Sacrifice of His Son for mankind.

So, since God Commands His people to not sacrifice their children (as the pagans around them do), something that happened many years later (Moses), does that means that Abraham was not called to sacrifice his son, that it was only a teaching tool? No!

It means that Yahweh God wanted to allow that episode to assist in His Revelations.

Now, going from this presumption there is a lot of mystery about the “Old Testament God”, like “how can He order the death of so many people?” or “why is it that He talks so much to these people in the Old Testament yet after Christ nobody can hear a word from Him?”

…there is no “Old Testament God!” Yahweh means I Am (or as some would argument: I Am Who Am…):

26 It is decreed by me, that in all my empire and my kingdom all men dread and fear the God of Daniel. For he is the living and eternal God for ever: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his power shall be for ever. (Daniel 6:26)

6 For I am the Lord, and I change not: (Malachi 3:6a)

Without refuting the authenticity of the Scriptures, is it possible to assume that the orders of God given to His chosen people of Israel (whether they be to slaughter mass numbers of people, conquer cities, how to dress, how to decorate the tabernacle, or any other custom) were not truly ordered by God, but were believed to be so by the people from their religious leaders, and that God still used the nuggets of truth, which were “made up” by the Israelites, to reveal His Divine Truth in His incarnation in Christ Jesus and still fulfill the everything in the Old Testament?

I am in no way asserting that any of this is fact, but a theory or a speculation that is very interesting. This is something I have thought about for a while, but haven’t done any extensive research on. It could answer why the “God of the Old Testament” seems to be very different from the “God of the New Testament”.

Your thoughts?

…there’s no extensive research that can be done on God and His Way. Speculation, “what ifs,” and “bleeding heart” view of Scriptures will get us just that: speculative iffy discombobulated conclusions.

There are things in Scriptures (specially the Old Testament) that can include seeming incomprehensible issues. Warring Israel–back when when a nation/people/clan determined so they would move to exterminate others (…wait, isn’t that happening right now?) so how would fledging Israel be secured amongst all those people who would want to eradicate them (oh, that is still happening right now)? Demonstration of power.

True, there’s that “what of the people that died in the Old Testament times, before Jesus?”… well here’s what Scriptures say:

18 Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God… 19 In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison: 20 Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe…but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 22 Who is on the right hand of God, swallowing down death, that we might be made heirs of life everlasting: (1 St. Peter 3:18-22)

God did not forget those who came prior to the Incarnation of the Word–nor the millions that were put to death after Christ:

25 Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live: 26 And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. (St. John 11:25-26a)

Maran atha!

Angel


#12

Hi!
Here’s the difference…

If I say to you that God told me that you must give me everything you own and that you should get two jobs so that you can supply me with money… (or something to that effect) you would know that I “must be crazy.”

You would clearly see that there’s no reason and that there’s no further accomplishment other than depriving you of wealth and health for my personal benefit.

While Abraham proceeded to fulfil God’s Command (something that most people refuse to do) God impeded the completion of the Command. Abraham’s Faith was proven and Scriptures would record a Type for Christ (Yahweh God’s True Sacrifice of His Son for our Salvation).

The claim of the “crazies,” as you’ve mentioned, is void since God required and accepted only One Sacrifice:

11 But Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation: 12 Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.

26 For then he ought to have suffered often from the beginning of the world: but now once at the end of ages, he hath appeared for the destruction of sin, by the sacrifice of himself.
27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: 28 So also Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; (Hebrews 9:11-12, 26-28a)

Introspectively, you can see that those who claim to have a command by God to kill their children usually have ulterior motives–facilitated, at times, by the culture (ever heard of people in impoverished nations suffering from postpartum depression, even though some of these mothers have had upwards of seven children?).

Maran atha!

Angel


#13

Abraham’s story could only happen once, to prefigure the sacrifice of Christ.

I believe that God still speaks to people in this age, but if I heard a voice telling me to kill someone, even if it claimed to be God, I would get to a shrink immediately.

Abraham knew God’s voice. People with mental illness are not hearing God, they need help. I do not think Abraham was in the least crazy. He knew who was speaking to him, and had faith to trust God.

.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.