Aqedah: name of the Biblical story about the binding of Isaac.

Marble fragment with the Aqedah (Beirut)

The Biblical book of Genesis contains a famous story in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on what appears to be some kind of High Place of Worship. Abraham obeys and binds the child – aqedah means “binding” – but at the decisive moment, heaven intervenes, the father sees a ram caught in a thicket by its horns, takes the ram, and sacrifices this animal instead.note

In the Christian tradition, this story is read as evidence of the patriarch’s willingness to sacrifice what was most dear to him. However, there are ancient Jewish traditions that emphasize Isaac’s willingness to be sacrificed and thus take away the sins of the world. “Were I not born to be offered as a sacrifice?” Isaac exclaims in a text from the early first century CE, Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical History.note

This interpretation may have originated in the second half of the second century BCE or a little later. The idea that someone could suffer for the sins of other people may have inspired early Christian interpretations of the violent death of Jesus of Nazareth (vicarious suffering).

This page was created in 2019; last modified on 12 October 2020.