Item description for The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac As a Sacrifice : The Akedah 1899-1984 (Jewish Lights Classic Reprint) by Shalom Spiegel & Judah Goldin...
Overview An eminent Jewish scholar examines the total body of texts, legends, and traditions referring to the Binding of Isaac, and provides the paradigm for showing how legend and history interact, how the past may be made comprehensible by present events, and the present may be understood as a renewal of revelation.
We find that the story of Abraham and Isaac rises almost spontaneously in the mind of one generation after another.... Constantly past and present react to and upon each other, and life is given an order, a coherence, by the themes which govern the Holy Scriptures and the reinterpretations of those themes. from the Introduction by Judah Goldin
Shalom Spiegel s classic examines the total body of texts, legends, and traditions referring to the Binding of Isaac and weaves them together into a definitive study of the Akedah as one of the central events in all of human history.
Spiegel here provides the model for showing how legend and history interact, how the past may be made comprehensible by present events, and how the present may be understood as a renewal of revelation.
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac As a Sacrifice : The Akedah 1899-1984 (Jewish Lights Classic Reprint)?
good for what it is, but . . . Nov 23, 2003
I concur with the other reviewers, but only want to emphasize that this is a very dry, hard to read book - good for the scholar writing a Ph.D thesis, not so good for the average reader who just wants to brush up on the Akedah before the story is read in shul a few days later.
Isaac was killed? May 22, 2002
Resurrected? The ram was in the Garden of Eden before it appeared in the thicket?
These are all stories derived from the Akedah throughout Jewish history, some older than others, some really stretching the text of the Bible. The process of midrash, answering those nagging questions about puzzling texts, filling in the spaces of various Biblical stories, has a long history, much of it written down in the various writings of the Rabbis after the fall of the Temple in 70 CE. One of the prominent stories which had taken on a life of its own after the writings of the Hebrew Bible had ceased (c. 165 BCE or so) was that of the sacrifice of Isaac.
If anyone is interested in the 'Jewish legends' (to borrow Ginzberg's title) and the lost art of story telling this is a wonderful addition to your library. Shalom Spiegel does a remarkable job in summarizing these stories as the pertain to the Akedah in great detail and at great length for such a small book.
Spiegel dives into the various threads of the traditions associated with the Akedah. Geza Vermes tapped into this a bit in his Scripture and Tradition in Judaism but Spiegel broadens the scope a bit. It is remarkable how many variants on this story are to be found throughout Jewish history, some of it still followed, some of it much more obscure.
This book reveals, to a degree, just how the development of this particular story led to the interpretation by the Christian movement and, though it is not discussed in this book, that of Islam. The stories found in these two religious traditions find their roots much more in the traditions than is commonly understood (or admitted).
The word of God is not static and is not confined to text. It lives and breathes and in this little book reveals proof of such life. A wonderful little gem.
Fascinating study of the Akedah (Binding of Isaac) Sep 9, 2001
In this fascinating book, Spiegel traces rabbinic interpretations of the Akedah (the Binding of Isaac) from the earliest sources through the Middle Ages. He begins at the end, with the remarkable fact that during the Middle Ages, European Jews looked to Isaac as a martyr, the prototypical sacrifice and an inspiration to those Jews who killed themselves rather than convert to Christianity under the threat of the Crusaders. Despite the plain language of Scripture -- in which God ultimately tells Abraham *not* to sacrifice (or even harm) Isaac -- many aggadic interpretations suggested that Isaac was actually sacrificed and then brought back to life. In the 12th century rabbinic poem that inspired this book, Isaac is actually killed (and resurrected) *twice.* Spiegel asks how medieval interpretation of the Akedah could have strayed so far from the plain meaning of Scripture, and in particular whether the theme of the redemptive sacrifice of the first born should be traced to Christian influence. Spiegel looks to rabbinic, Christian and pagan sources to try to answer these questions.
This is a scholarly work and assumes familiarity with classical rabbinic literature. Some arguments are hard to follow if you do not know the generations of the Tannaim; and if you've never read any midrash, you will find the style very hard going at first. Even so, as a non-scholar with only a beginner's knowledge of rabbinic literature, I felt that I got a lot out of the book, particularly in terms of the history of ideas and the contrasts between Jewish, Christian and pagan notions of sacrifice, redemption and ancestral merit.