Midrash (plural midrashim) designates a genre of rabbinic literature that dates roughly from 400–1550 C.E. The term refers to a nonliteral elaboration of a biblical text, often for homiletic purposes.



Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.12.1.


See the discussion in Geza Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 1961), pp. 206–208, 213; Erwin R. Good enough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, 13 vols. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1953–69), vol. 4, p. 173; Philip R. Davies and Bruce Chilton, “The Aqedah: A Revised Tradition History,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40 (1978), pp. 534–535; and Shalom Spiegel, The Last Trail, transl. and introduction by Judah Goldin (New York: Behrman House, 1967), pp. 471–547. According to Judah Goldin (Last Trial introduction, p. xix), the noun form of the Hebrew word akedah never occurs in scripture and the verbal root only occurs seven times in the Bible some form (six times as a passive participle). The verb as active—wayaakod, meaning “and he bound”—occurs only once in the Bible, the story of Abraham’s “binding” of Isaac (Genesis 22:9).


See Spiegel, The Last Trial. The essay originally appeared in the Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950).


Genesis Rabbah 56.4–8


See Jerusalem Talmud, Ta’anit 4.5; also Pesiqta Rabbati 39.


See the Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 16a; Jerusalem Talmud, Ta’anit 2.1 (on the ashes); Mekhilta of R. Simeon ben Yohai, on Exodus 16.2 (on the blood); Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1909–38), vol. 1, p. 281f., and vol. 251, recounts the tradition that Isaac was also the name of the ram. See also the discussion in Hans Joachim Schoeps, “The Sacrifice of Isaac in Paul’s Theology,” Journal of Biblical Literature 65 (1946), p. 389; and Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, vol. 4, pp. 183–184.


See discussions of dating and textual tradition in Davies and Chilton, “The Aqedah,” pp. 537–546; and Spiegel, The Last Trial, pp. 28–49 Spiegel also cites late midrash on the Shemoneh Esreh prayer that describes Isaac’s revival and asserts that it draws upon earlier aggadah concerning the burning and resurrection of Isaac.


Spiegel, The Last Trail, pp. 35–37


See also Galatians 3:16, 4:28; Romans 9:7, as well as discussions in Nils Alstrup Dahl, Jesus the Christ (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991), pp. 138–140; and Robert J. Daly, “The Soteriological Significance of Sacrifice of Isaac,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39 (1977), pp. 45–75.


Epistle of Barnabas 7.3.


See Davies and Chilton, “The Aqedah,” p. 538, citing L. W. Barnard, “Is the Epistle of Barnabas a Paschal Homily?” in Studies in the Apostolic Fathers and Their Background (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966), p. 74.


Melito of Sardis, Excerptorum Libri Sex 1–2, trans. in Isabel Speyert van Woerden, “The Iconography of the Sacrifice of Abraham,” Vigiliae Christianae 15 (1961), p. 216.


Tertullian, Adversus Judaeos 10, 6 (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina (CCSL) 2.2, 1376). See also Adversus Judaeos 13.20–22 (CCSL 2.2, 1388–1389) in which Tertullian also refers to the bramble in which the ram was caught by the horns as a sign of the crown of thorns. See Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 4.10.1.


See Ambrose, De Abraham 1.8; John Chrysostom, Homiliae in Genesin 47.3; Theodoret, Quaestiones in Genesin 74; and Augustine, De Civitate Dei 16.32.


See John Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels, (Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips, 1981), p. 253f.; and Thomas Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year (New York: Pueblo, 1986), p. 47f. Egeria does not give details of the vigil readings when she was in Jerusalem, but liturgical scholars have argued that it is reasonably safe to assume the readings outlined in the Armenian lectionaries reflect a late-fourth-century tradition in Jerusalem. The readings include the Genesis stories of creation and sacrifice of Isaac.

Talley argues that Egeria omitted the Easter vigil readings in Jerusalem because they were the ones she already knew and took for granted. Talley includes a table that shows fifth- to eighth-century documents that contain Easter vigil readings from Genesis 22.


Piacenza pilgrim, Antonini Placentini Itinerarium 19. See John Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims (Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips, 1977), p. 83. For other pilgrim accounts that place Abraham’s altar on Calvary, see the discussion by Archer St. Clair, “The Iconography of the Great Berlin Pyxis,” Jahrbuch Berliner Museum 20 (1978), p. 23f.


Cited and dated by Spiegel, The Last Trail, p. 83, n. 26; also in Davies and Chilton, “The Aqedah,” p.539.


This enumeration is based on a brief survey of the materials in the Index of Christian Art at Princeton Univ., Princeton, NJ, as well as tables at the end of van Woerden’s article, “The Iconography of the Sacrifice of Abraham,” p. 243f. I should note here that I have found several mistakes and omissions in van Woerden’s accounting, however. Other significant articles that analyze the Christian image of Abraham’s sacrifice include Graydon Snyder, Ante Pacem (Macon, GA: Mercer Univ. Press, 1985), pp. 51–52 and Elizabeth S. Malbon, The Iconography of the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990), p. 44f.


See Joseph Gutmann, “Programmatic Painting in the Dura Synagogue,” in The Dura-Europos Synagogue, ed. Gutmann (Missoula, MT: American Academy of Religion, 1973), pp. 147–150.


See Spiegel, The Last Trial, pp. 34–40, in which he discusses midrash on the Shemoneh Esreh prayer concerning the burning up and resurrection of Isaac.