I’ve alluded to the binding of Isaac in previous posts, and I hope that what I’ve written before makes it clear how uncomfortable I am with this story. Nonetheless, it’s one of the readings in this week’s Lectionary scriptures, and there is a part of Robert Alter’s translation of this story that does stick out to me. Here’s how Alter renders Genesis 22:2:
And He said, “Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the Land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.
One of the lectionary readings for tomorrow’s service is Ezekiel 37:1-14, which I read in Robert Alter’s beautiful translation. In this passage, Ezekiel famously prophesies:
“O dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD, Thus said the Master, the LORD, to the dry bones: I am about to bring breath into you and you shall live. And I will lay sinews over you and bring up flesh over you and stretch over you skin.
Yesterday, I wrote a post on Jephthah, a figure in the book of Judges who makes a commitment that if God helps him out in battle, he’ll sacrifice the first thing that exits the door of his house when he returns home. Robert Alter notes that there’s been a lot of rabbinic and scholarly effort to make sense of this but that in “any case, it is a rash vow.” Indeed, the vow goes wrong, and Jephthah winds up in a situation where’s he believes he’s committed to offer up his daughter in sacrifice.
Some of the most troubling passages in the Christian canon have to do with the sacrifice of children in the name of God. Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac is perhaps the most obvious example of this, but there are other examples that (ought to) raise as much concern in the mind of the believer. Perhaps the most interesting (to me) story along these lines is found in Judges 11:31 (I’m using Robert Alter’s fantastic translation throughout this post), where one of the eponymous judges, a man by the name of Jephthah:
It’s a bit of a truism to say that the Book of Mormon is dependent on Biblical language, but one thing that’s been on my mind for the past few years (especially since reading Thomas Wayment’s excellent The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints) is how specifically dependent it is on the particular language of the King James Version of the Bible.
Over the past year or so, as a personal project, I’ve been toying around with what a modern-language version of the Book of Mormon would look like.