Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teaser ~ love in the Bible

While reading The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels by Thomas Cahill (1998), I was surprised by the sentence about Abraham and Isaac (p. 84).
Indeed, the first time the Bible uses the word love is in this very episode:
Pray take your son,
your only-one,
whom you love,
Yitzhak . . .
Cahill uses Everett Fox's translation (from The Five Books of Moses, 1983), which uses a more Hebrew spelling of names.  Yitzhak is Isaac in most English translations of the Bible.  The NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) of the Bible says:
"Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love..." (Genesis 22:2).
But back to my surprise and the question it raised for me:  Is this really the first time the word love is used in the Bible?  I did a search and discovered it's true.

Are you familiar with the story about Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac?  Abraham had an older son, but Isaac was his only son by Sarah, his wife.  Ishmael, his first son, was by Hagar, a concubine or slave belonging to Sarah.

(If we want to get technical, Abraham could not really claim an "only" son except for his first one, and that's why it makes sense that the Qur'an says the son Abraham almost sacrificed was Ishmael.  They only other way I can imagine Isaac as Abraham's only son would be if he considered him the "only son left" once Hagar and Ishmael had been sent away after the birth of Isaac.  The descendents of the two sons are still at odds four thousand years later Isaac's side of Abraham's family became the Jews, and Ishmael's side the Arabs.)


Ginnie said...

That's an interesting bit of trivia. As a non student of the Bible I would have thought the word "love" would be in practically every page.
PS: I think you posted a much better rendition of "Up" than mine!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Since I am not a literalist, I am open to being surprised by the "new" things I notice in the Bible. Sometimes it may be just a new way of thinking metaphorically about something. Maybe I should do a study of how the word "love" is actually used there.