The Portrait of Isaac in Genesis 27: Between Synchronic and Diachronic Readings of Patriarch’s Character

Anna Rozonoer

Hellenic College, Boston, MA , United States
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1670-2782


Abstract

Modern critical reception characterizes patriarch Isaac as a particular character type: the schle­miel. This article provides a tour through the cumulative evidence for this comedic read, focusing on Genesis 27, the blessing of Jacob. It provides a revised narratological and literary context, arguing that Isaac’s fivefold questioning demonstrates not confusion, but awareness: he knows exactly which son is in front of him. The paper presents an alternative narratological and literary context for Isaac, framing his questions in terms of the editing process: a synchronic reading of Isaac’s acumen is corroborated by evidence from diachronic reading. The redaction history of the Isaac material in chapter 26 yields a number of points suggesting the dependence of the Abraham material on the Isaac narrative. A num­ber of features indicate a stronger, less subordinate Isaac figure based on the earlier tradition revealed by a complex transmission history than the image arising from the mainstream synchronic reading of chapter 27 seems to depict.

Keywords:

biblical interpretation, patriarchal narratives, history of reception, Isaac

Aaron, D.H., Genesis Ideology. Essays on the Uses and Meanings of Stories (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books 2017).

Anderson, J.E., Jacob and the Divine Trickster. A Theology of Deception and YHWH’s Fidelity to the Ancestral Promise in the Jacob Cycle (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns 2011).

Bledstein, A., “Binder, Trickster, Heel, and Hairy-Man: Rereading Genesis 27 as a Trickster Tale Told by a Woman,” A Feminist Companion to Genesis (ed. A. Brenner; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press 1993) II, 282–295.

Boase, E., “Life in the Shadows: The Role and Function of Isaac in Genesis: Synchronic and Diachronic Readings,” Vetus Testamentum 51/3 (2001) 312–335. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/15685330152913594.

Danta, C., “Sarah’s Laughter: Kafka’s Abraham,” Modernism/Modernity 15/2 (2008) 343–359. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/mod.2008.0048.

Hoover, N., “Who are You?” Reading and Judging Character in Genesis 26:34–28:9 (Master’s thesis; Seattle Pacific Seminary; Seattle, WA 2015).

Jackson, M., Comedy and Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. A Subversive Collaboration (Oxford Theological Monographs; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012).

Kaminsky, J.S., “Humor and the Theology of Hope: Isaac as a Humorous Figure,” Interpretation 54/4 (2000) 363–375. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/002096430005400403.

Kovacs, G. – Marshall, C.W. (eds.), Son of Classics and Comics (Oxford – New York: Oxford University Press 2015).

McCarthy, D.J., “Three Covenants in Genesis,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 26/2 (1964) 179–189.

O’Neill, B., “A Formal System for Understanding Lies and Deceit,” https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.116.4728&rep=rep1&type=pdf (revision of a paper given at the Jerusalem Conference on Biblical Economics, Hebrew University, 2000 [2003]).

Schwartz, S., “Brothers of Choice, Chosen Brothers; Rama/Bharata; Jacob/Esau,” Literature and Theology 6/1 (1992) 11–22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/litthe/6.1.11.

Wenham, G.J., Genesis 16–50 (Word Biblical Commentary 2; Waco, TX: Nelson 1994).

Westermann, C.S., Genesis 12–36. A Commentary (trans. J.J. Scullion; Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg 1985).

Whedbee, J.W., The Bible and the Comic Vision (Cambridge – New York: Cambridge University Press 1998).

Zucker, D.J., “The Deceiver Deceived: Rereading Genesis 27,” Jewish Bible Quarterly 39/1 (2011) 46–58.

Download

Published
2022-06-10


Rozonoer, A. (2022). The Portrait of Isaac in Genesis 27: Between Synchronic and Diachronic Readings of Patriarch’s Character. Verbum Vitae, 40(2), 375–385. https://doi.org/10.31743/vv.13351

Anna Rozonoer  anna.rozonoer@gmail.com
Hellenic College, Boston, MA

Dr. Anna Rozonoer, PhD in Biblical Studies, Hebrew Bible, Boston University, (2014) Independent Scholar; Adjunct Assistant Professor at Hellenic College, Brookline, MA, USA.  
Research interests: The Book of Genesis; Old Testament Wisdom Literature.    

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1670-2782



License

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:

(1) Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC license Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. 

(2) Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.

(3) Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).