Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Ties That Bind

A scholar and priest traces the roots of religious violence to Abraham

Print Email
Detail of design drawing for s stained glass window

The story of Abraham’s binding of his son Isaac—the akedah—is one of the most powerful narratives in the Torah, filled with imagery of a man on the verge of sacrificing his own child for God. Though the threat of violence is diffused, the tale still grips our imaginations, as it has the imaginations of generations of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

In his new book, Abraham’s Curse, Bruce Chilton, a religion professor at Bard College, examines how the akedah has been interpreted within the three Abrahamic faiths, sometimes serving as justification for acts of mass violence. Examples date back to the Maccabees, but also include contemporary actors like Yigal Amir, Mohamed Atta, and Timothy McVeigh.

Chilton speaks with Nextbook about how a story describing human sacrifice thwarted became an argument for violence itself, and about how Abraham and Isaac’s encounter with God could better be understood as a call for restraint.

Photo: Detail of a design drawing by J. & R. Lamb Studios for a stained glass window showing events from Old Testament. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Lamb Design Collection. 

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Ties That Bind

A scholar and priest traces the roots of religious violence to Abraham

More on Tablet:

Wolf Blitzer Explores His Jewish Roots

By David Meir Grossman — CNN host visits Yad Vashem and Auschwitz for the network’s ‘Roots’ series