Abraham and Jesus: striking parallels

I had a thought the other day: there are some relatively striking parallels between the story of Abraham and the story of Jesus.

  1. both are stories about a father sacrificing his son.

  2. both are stories of ransoms.

  3. both mark the beginnings of new religions.

As for 2), it is true that the ransoms seem to work in opposite directions - in the story of Abraham, it is the ram that is the ransom for the son, whereas in the story of Jesus, the son is the ransom for man - but it is a ransom in any case.

Does anyone else find this intriguing?

That’s pretty interesting; I don’t think I’ve thought of the two sections in direct comparison before.
You are right on those basic points; makes me wonder how far those parallels run.

Thanks, that will be fun to go look over and see the parallels.

There are a lot of parallels in the Bible between the Old and New Testament. Some involve prophecies, while others bear concordances in scripture.

They are both heroes of the same tradition…

The connective tissue is that both do it out of love. Abraham out of love for God and God out of love for Man.

There is always a price to be paid for the blessings of love.

Do they? Do you think Jesus’ faith was so different from Abraham’s? Or do you think, perhaps, that Jesus was just one of the few who actually understood Abraham, how he could raise a knife over his own beloved son out of love? (Just as Jesus, out of love, willingly dies on the cross…)

Perhaps, but all I meant to say was that whereas Christianity begins with the life of Chris, Judaism begins with the life of Abraham (although I don’t know if it inhereted the name ‘judaism’ at the time).

Isn’t that the point?

God tells Abraham to kill his son for God. When Abraham tries to do this, God creates a covenant with him.

Jesus is the reverse because God kills his son for Abraham (well, the descendants of Abraham) fulfilling the old covenant and creating a new one.

Both are based on the scapegoat ritual.

That’s just a postmodern misinterpretation.

It is surprising your level of interest in Religion given the amount of problems you have with it.


Really? Plenty of Cathedrals I’ve visited seem to make similar comparisons in their stained glass artwork. The paintings too. Transposing Jesus and Abraham and all that, putting the twin sacrifices next to each other. The imagery was pretty clear.

It doesn’t seem to be a “Catholic only” thing either as an evangelical drew the same conclusion and fleshed it out. Here is another description of the parallels. A quick google seems to suggest that it is both a common comparison as well as one which is well accepted in orthodox Christianity.

It is a variety of things. My interest is primarily in Confucianism with accents of Daoism and Buddhism. A pretty standard Chinese mix-of-things, though I’ve done my best to purge the animistic/totemic aspects (which was easy since my parents pretty much did that for me). My interest in Christianity stems from the fact that I grew up in a secular, predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Then I lived in Europe where I became fascinated with Cathedrals . . . but it was all very academic and focused in history.

Then I moved to the northern tip of the American South and I was flabbergasted by the religiosity. Christians had always been a creepy “other” to me so I made a point of educating myself about them and their beliefs. I’ve come to respect many parts of their system and can see why people would believe these things even if I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to argue against elements I consider to be flawed.

Though I’m not sure that what I’m doing here is arguing against those elements. I’m just presenting an orthodox comparison. Or at least I thought I was. Is it associated with some heresy of which I am unfamiliar?

  1. Well I know you share a lot in common with Derridean interpretations etc so… perhaps not just a postmodern interpretation… there are other types too…

  2. It was interesting hearing some of your biography, it always is…

Would you say Jesus bearing the cross was ‘scapegoat’?

  1. Actually, I pretty much explicitly reject Derrida :wink: I’m more of a modern philosopher than a post-modern one. I’m aware of post-modernism only insofar as I can argue against it. We share the same opinion of it at the end of the day: nasty stuff. Though we arrive at that conclusion from different angles.

  2. Happy to share.

As for Jesus being a scapegoat. Yeah. Again, it is my understanding that his being a scapegoat is kinda the point. The Jews would sacrifice an animal which would ritually take on the sins of those engaged in the process. According to Christian theology, Jesus took on the sins of everyone and was sacrificed for them. I also think this is a perfectly orthodox understanding of the story.

I read into the negative connotations of the word ‘scapegoat’.

Probably a prejudice of mine.

For me the meaning of this particular story is centred on ‘faith’ and not of the ‘scapegoat complex’.

Sorry, I should have clarified. I didn’t mean ‘scapegoat’ as it has come to be understood in the modern parlance but rather the actual ‘scapegoat’ that was used in sacrificial rituals by the ancient Jews (speaking of: does anyone know why they stopped doing this? I’ve never heard of it being performed anymore).

As for how the ritual works, my understanding is that the scapegoat only takes on the sins of those who are engaged in the covenant. So to be engaged in the Christian covenant, one needs faith. That is how you enter into it. At least, that is my understanding.

  1. This is the generalisation my discrimination was directed towards.
  2. Indeed yes, as was the case with Abraham and ‘God’…

It might have been a result of their demythologizing phase (I forget when this change took place, but it was sometime BC - I think when Israel was still a nation). They ceased to cast blame of sins on supernatural forces like demons and evil essences and started holding the individual accountable. It would make sense that such a move would accompany the abandonment of scapegoating since the latter is highly mythical and an easy escape from self-accountability.

More to the point; you need the Temple to perform animal sacrifices, which is currently lacking.
Considering the amount of time that has gone by without doing animal sacrifices, I’m not sure if they would resume the practice if they ever get their Temple back.
I am pretty sure, however, that a very large amount of lengthy debate and hearings would be held to determine exactly this upon the advent of the Temple coming back.

Which makes me wonder, did animal sacrifices end due to the destruction of the Temple? How did that covenant between God and and the Jewish people get broken. It would be nice if someone of the Jewish faith to give their feelings of why the sacrificing of animals stopped. Is not their Temples of Worship worthy of it or is it viewed an archaic ritual?

What of Isaiah? Does he not speak quite clearly against animal sacrifice?

From my understanding, these kinds of sacrifices cannot be done anywhere but at the Temple, as this is the only place where it is believed that God resides.

I interpret the sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrifice of Abraham’s son as the idea that one sacrifices their urges, or desires at a given moment for an idea/purpose/faith that it will be for the better (in future present moments).

Sometimes certain societal and cultural expectations just feel wrong, and do indeed limit us or harm us, but remaining true to them/basing one’s actions and beliefs from them (to integrate and live with them) tends to make life “easier”/less stressful/conflicting (more “harmonious”).

I think animal sacrifice ties into this because the food is a very pure, clear aspect of desire… primitive societies knew they could consciously create (maintain and assemble certain “forms” and “verbs” of matter) due to an understanding of cause and effect, and so they assumed that (“God”) which creates (a/effects) does so for some purpose. They identify the need for food as the primary “purpose” created by their God, and so they temporary control their desires/give this up, to (though they may have not been conscious of this idea behind the process) show they understand that controlling one’s urges at a moment better enables them to live comfortably in (the) future (moments).

I think the temple is considered the only place God resides because there the focus (mindset) is God, or being conscious of one’s ignorance/misunderstanding/attempt to be “good”/secure/graceful. Most other settings in society are tainted with financial needs and more “carnal” concerns (which emphasize the “rightness” of cultural explanations that help maintain current social structure). IE the temple (at least should be) based on the individual (mind), while every other place emphasizes (the importance of) society/group meaning/needs/expectations/etc.