Abraham, Isaac, And The Jewish Tradition: An Ethical Reappraisal

Journal of Religious Ethics 10 (1):1-21 (1982)
Would the Jewish tradition agree with Søren Kierkegaard's claim that the biblical episode of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac represents a fearful "teleological suspension of the ethical"? After surveying a variety of classical Jewish sources, the author concludes that Kierkegaard's interpretation has almost no resonance within the Jewish tradition. Rather than involving a suspension of the ethical, this episode is viewed by Jewish writers as involving a moment of supreme moral responsibility on the part of both God and man. This treatment of the biblical episode points up a central fact about the Jewish tradition: although Judaism is unquestionably an ethical tradition based on the divine command, it is also a tradition of human autonomy and reason. If Jews have regarded God's commands as absolute, they have also found it unthinkable that these commands should ultimately defy our human sense of right and wrong
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