But Where Is the Lamb?: Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac

Schocken Books  2013


James Goodman has taken nineteen verses from the Book of Genesis on a nearly four millennium (give or take) tour through time. And what a long, strange trip it’s been. And wonderful, too! He begins by introducing us to “G”—the name he gave the writer he imagines was contracted to write the story of the Binding of Isaac, or the Akedah. Actually, Goodman imagines that G is more of a script doctor who has been hired to help the Biblical author(s) connect Abraham’s past and future. G comes up with the Akedah; the authors ask to see the work in progress and fall in love with what G feels is an unfinished story. He is upset that they won’t let him finish it: he isn’t happy with how he cast God or Abraham. But it is out of his hands. We then follow the story as it is reread and reinterpreted throughout the subsequent millennia, and imagine how the author would react to each generation’s take on his story. We see how each generation “revised” the story, but never erased the original.

This book is a fascinating exploration of how a text can grow and mean something new when viewed through the distinct lenses of readers in different times and places. The author introduces us to Jewish, Roman, Christian, and Muslim takes on the story. We see the Akedah through the eyes of believers, exegetes, and philosophers. Goodman’s enjoyable and enriching work is written in very accessible language that speaks to both the lay person and the scholar.

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