Intellectual Heritage 51
Study Guide: Genesis
Four Thursdayĺ─˘s assignment, I would like to divide the class into four groups, each taking responsibility for one portion of the work. We have a lot to do, and this will advance the activity.
Group 1 Clay Boggs through Shukura Harmon (alphabetically)
Group 2 Danielle Hart through Melissa Johnson
Group 3 John Kelly through Jessica Nahill
Group 4 Allie Naughton through Nicole Washington.
You donĺ─˘t need to work as a group. I would like everyone to read Genesis chapters 1-22, but to concentrate their effort on two topics from each half of the reading.
Whether or not one is religious. these short passages are worthwhile: the stories they tell are deeply significant in western thought. More importantly, they can be quite moving. Theyĺ─˘re also challenging. The questions below are intended to get you started on them: well build on what you find.
Students in Group 1 should concentrate on chapters 1-3. As you read the first three chapters, ask yourself in what ways God and His creation seem different in the section beginning 2:4.
Where is woman created in Ch. 1-3 (be careful!)
What signs do we get of the divinityĺ─˘s ĺ─˙personality,ĺ─¨ His attitude and frame of mind, before and after 2:4?
Students in Group 2 should consider: Who is punished more severely, Adam or Eve? Comment on this. In chapters 4-5: how many children does Adam have?
Students in Group 3 should focus on ch. 6-9: How many of each kind of animal is Noah told to take up to the arc (be very careful here)? Does God behave justly in chapter 6?
Students in Group 4 should work on the question, what is a ĺ─˙covenantĺ─¨? Find as many different covenants as you can in chapters 9-22, and ask yourself how do these various covenants differ?
Topic B: Chapters 12-22
Read chapters 12-22, especially the Sacrifice of Isaac at the end of the assignment, fairly fast. Now each group should read one of the four the attached sections from the 19th century philosopher Soren Kierkegaardĺ─˘s meditation on this scene in his book, Fear and Trembling and come to class prepared to discuss it.
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
1843; tr. Walter Lowrie, 1941
"And God tempted Abraham and said unto him, Take Isaac, thine only son, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon the mountain which I will show thee."
It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he had the asses saddled,
left his tent, and Isaac with him, but Sarah looked out of the window after
them until they had passed down the valley and she could see them no more.
They rode in silence for three days. On the morning of the fourth day Abraham said never a word, but he lifted up his eyes and saw Mount Moriah afar off. He left the young men behind and went on alone with Isaac beside him up to the mountain. But Abraham said to himself, "I will not conceal from Isaac whither this course leads him." He stood still, he laid his hand upon the head of Isaac in benediction, and Isaac bowed to receive the blessing. And Abraham's face was fatherliness, his look was mild, his speech encouraging. But Isaac was unable to understand him, his soul could not be exalted; he embraced Abraham's knees, he fell at his feet imploringly, he begged for his young life, for the fair hope of his future, he called to mind the joy in Abraham's house, he called to mind the sorrow and loneliness. Then Abraham lifted up the boy, he walked with him by his side, and his talk was full of comfort and exhortation. But Isaac could not understand him. He climbed Mount Moriah, but Isaac understood him not. Then for an instant he turned away from him, and when Isaac again saw Abraham's face it was changed, his glance was wild, his form was horror. He seized Isaac by the throat, threw him to the ground, and said, "Stupid boy, dost thou then suppose that I am thy father? I am an idolater. Dost thou suppose that this is God's bidding? No, it is my desire." Then Isaac trembled and cried out in his terror, "O God in heaven, have compassion upon me. God of Abraham, have compassion upon me. If I have no father upon earth, be Thou my father!" But Abraham in a low voice said to himself, "O Lord in heaven, I thank Thee. After all it is better for him to believe that I am a monster, rather than that he should lose faith in Thee."
When the child must be weaned, the mother blackens her breast, it would indeed be a shame that the breast should look delicious when the child must not have it. So the child believes that the breast has changed, but the mother is the same, her glance is as loving and tender as ever. Happy the person who had no need of more dreadful expedients for weaning the child!
It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he embraced Sarah, the bride of his old age, and Sarah kissed Isaac, who had taken away her reproach, who was her pride, her hope for all time. So they rode on in silence along the way, and Abraham's glance was fixed upon the ground until the fourth day when he lifted up his eyes and saw afar off Mount Moriah, but his glance turned again to the ground. Silently he laid the wood in order, he bound Isaac, in silence he drew the knife­then he saw the ram which God had prepared. Then he offered that and returned home. From that time on Abraham became old, he could not forget that God had required this of him. Isaac throve as before, but Abraham's eyes were darkened, and he knew joy no more.
When the child has grown big and must be weaned, the mother virginally hides her breast, so the child has no more a mother. Happy the child which did not in another way lose its mother.
Group 3 III
It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he kissed Sarah, the young mother, and Sarah kissed Isaac, her delight, her joy at all times. And Abraham rode pensively along the way, he thought of Hagar and of the son whom he drove out into the wilderness, he climbed Mount Moriah, he drew the knife.
It was a quiet evening when Abraham rode out alone, and he rode to Mount Moriah; he threw himself upon his face, he prayed God to forgive him his sin, that he had been willing to offer Isaac, that the father had forgotten his duty toward the son. Often he rode his lonely way, but he found no rest. He could not comprehend that it was a sin to be willing to offer to God the best thing he possessed, that for which he would many times have given his life; and if it was a sin, if he had not loved Isaac as he did, then he could not understand that it might be forgiven. For what sin could be more dreadful?
When the child must be weaned, the mother too is not without sorrow at the thought that she and the child are separated more and more, that the child which first lay under her heart and later reposed upon her breast will be so near to her no more. So they mourn together for the brief period of mourning. Happy the person who has kept the child as near and needed not to sorrow any more!
Group 4 IV
It was early in the morning, everything was prepared for the journey in Abraham's house. He bade Sarah farewell, and Eleazar, the faithful servant, followed him along the way, until he turned back. They rode together in harmony, Abraham and Isaac, until they came to Mount Moriah. But Abraham prepared everything for the sacrifice, calmly and quietly; but when he turned and drew the knife, Isaac saw that his left hand was clenched in despair, that a tremor passed through his body; but Abraham drew the knife.
Then they returned again home, and Sarah hastened to meet them, but Isaac had lost his faith. No word of this had ever been spoken in the world, and Isaac never talked to anyone about what he had seen, and Abraham did not suspect that anyone had seen it.
When the child must be weaned, the mother has stronger food in readiness, lest the child should perish. Happy the person who has stronger food in readiness!
Thus and in many like ways that man of whom we are speaking thought concerning
this event. Every time he returned home after wandering to Mount Moriah, he
sank down with weariness, he folded his hands and said, "No one is so
great as Abraham! Who is capable of understanding him?"