My question is in reference to the verses of Old Testament: Genesis 22:2-8

How Abraham's sacrifice is being interpreted in Christianity in general. And as Muslims and Jews interpret and commemorate in full letter and spirit so what really makes Christian a "Christian" by interpreting it in a different way? I am asking this question as Christianity in its beginning emerged as a separate sect (disciples and followers of Jesus) of Judaism, so what makes them to interpret that biblical and historical event in a different manner(if he and his followers ever did) than the Jews and Rabbis of his days...after all Jesus said that: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17)

And the relationship of a common and modern Christian is defined with Abraham's God, the same God that Jesus talked about and whose teachings were preached throughout his life.

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    – Lesley
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 11:21
  • 6
    You ask an interesting question, but it would be very difficult for Christians to show the contrast without first understanding how Judaism and Islam view God's request to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Perhaps you could edit your question to provide additional information? Also, I don't understand what the connection is between how the text in Genesis 22:2-8 is interpreted and "what really makes a Christian a "Christian". Finally, would you please clarify your last sentence - it does not appear to be a question. Thank you.
    – Lesley
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 11:30
  • Aside from the question of Isaac vs Ishmael, why do you think there has to be a major difference in how it is interpreted?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 22:16
  • @curiousdannii the answer of the difference is in the two views of messiah. Some are looking for His first appearance. Some are looking for His second appearance.
    – SLM
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 5:01

4 Answers 4


There are basically two contrasting faiths in regards to Abraham sacrificing his son. The two views are between the Christian faith and then the similar Jewish and Muslim faiths. The second contrast is over which son was being sacrificed. We will look at the second contrast first.

Some of the Muslim faithful believe Abraham was sacrificing Ishmael, while others believe it was Isaac, as in the Christian and Jewish faiths. The source of the two different beliefs is that Ishmael was the first born, the righteous son. But for Christians, the first born of the promise was Isaac. So, it was Isaac being sacrificed. In turn, this motif plays out in Christianity in a number of ways. For example, the role of the promise and faith therein for one’s salvation is indicated.

The primary contrast in all of this, however, is the view of the sacrifice itself. For Jewish and Muslim faiths, it appears they believe the sacrifice would not happen in the end. For Christians, the sacrifice would happen.

To rephrase the contrast, was Abraham actually sacrificing his son (leaving alone the question of which one)? For the Jewish and Muslim faiths, the answer is a qualified yes. Yes, it was happening, but Abraham would not go through with it. G-d would intervene. It was only a very serious test.

The swoon theory that views Christ's sacrifice on the cross is one result of that belief structure. This theory is that the sacrifice of Christ, like with Abraham's son, only appeared to happen, but Jesus was revived in the cave, never died on the cross, and never resurrected out from the dead on the third day. They may believe he was a good man or a prophet of G-d, but not Messiah.

For the Christian faith, the answer is absolutely yes. The son was as good as dead as they traveled up the mountain to the altar. The son is on the altar, Abraham’s arm raised, and but for G-d, it was over.

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb 11:17-19

So for Christians, the sacrifice of the promised seed in Isaac was a real sacrifice. To be sure, it did not happen with Isaac, but it was a clear foreshadowing of the reality in Messiah to come who would die and be resurrected out from the dead. Even if G-d had not stayed Abraham’s hand, G-d would have raised Isaac back from the dead. That sequence of course then took place in Jesus Christ who was sacrificed as the promised righteous seed. G-d raised Him from the dead to everlasting life, as He will for all those who believe.


(My interpretation) Abraham must offer the sacrifice, in order to fulfil and satisfy God's justice (blood offered as payment for sins) then God gets back the life (the spirit of life He gave at a previous time). and Isaac represents to me, the one who should die (keep in mind that Abraham represents to me also). The animal (the ram) for the sacrifice, provided by God, in substitution of Isaac, represents Christ (the Lamb of God) who dies in substitution for me. And the ram killed by Abraham, represents Christ offered by me as a sacrifice, in other words, in order to avoid the death penalty, I have had kill Christ

  • Straight to the point, and well said.
    – JDM-GBG
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 23:00
  • Personal interpretations aren't really allowed here. Can you please edit this to add some quotes or references to other Christians which teach this?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 5:03
  • How does this answer explain the difference in the three religous views (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) of the "different way" of viewing the sacrifice?
    – SLM
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 5:03

The first point of critical importance regarding this good question is that Abraham never did sacrifice any son. It is therefore misleading to speak of “Abraham’s sacrifice” with regard to his son (irrespective of whether that son was Ishmael or Isaac, because no son was actually sacrificed.) Time and again, many who ridicule Jews, Christians and Muslims attack the notion of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, as they conveniently forget to admit that God stopped Abraham sacrificing his son. It is therefore incumbent upon followers of the Abrahamic God to leave no room for ambiguity or false charges. They should never speak of “Abraham’s sacrifice”, only of his willingness to obey God, but that God provided a ram for the sacrifice instead. With that point established, I would now like to explain the importance of what God did through Abraham, from a Christian understanding.

We know that Muslims claim it was Ishmael, and not Isaac, who was laid on the altar by Abraham. As only Muslims disagree with Jews and Christians that Isaac was involved, Christians agree with Jews as to believing, literally, what the Hebrew scriptures state about the event. There is no interpretation required at this stage. Both Jews and Christians accept the written record of Genesis 22:2-8 exactly as written. Muslims have interpreted it differently and I leave it to them to offer their reasons for claiming the Hebrew scriptures should have stated Ishmael, and not Isaac.

For Christians, understanding the significance of the Abraham/Isaac event only comes after Jesus Christ has been resurrected, returned to heaven, and the Christian Greek scriptures written, with the interpretation provided therein. Then it is seen that the Abraham/Isaac event was a prophetic picture of what God would actually do with His only-begotten Son, the child of promise who would become ‘the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Jesus himself said, before dying, that the reason why he had come into the world was to be sacrificed (John 12:23-33 and vs 41 which adds, ‘Isaiah said this when he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him’). Jesus also told his followers, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

The Christian book of Hebrews, in the Bible, explains that Abraham reckoned that if he did sacrifice Isaac, God would resurrect the boy in order to keep his promise that, through Isaac, Abraham would father a nation and that all nations of the earth would be blessed through him (11:17-19). When God gave his only-begotten Son in sacrifice, that Son became the Lamb of sacrifice but was resurrected on the third day. Interestingly, the line of Jesus’ human descent goes through Isaac and Abraham (Luke 3:33). This ties in the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 about ‘the seed of the woman’ being ‘bruised in the heel’ by Satan, but then Satan being crushed in the head by him. That prophecy, and that prophetic ‘picture’ combine to give Christians their interpretation that finds supreme fulfilment in Jesus Christ.

It is not really accurate to say that going along with that interpretation “really makes a Christian a Christian,” for it is declared faith in Jesus as God’s only means of salvation that makes anybody a Christian. Thereafter, a new Christian should go on to learn how Jesus fulfilled the many Hebrew prophecies and ‘pictures,’ but not grasping all of that will not stop a person becoming a Christian or getting baptised etc. Christians should know that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets but it is not necessary for them to be able to explain that particular prophecy and prophetic ‘picture’, though I submit that their faith would be the poorer for not exploring such fulfilments in Christ.


For many Christians, the sacrifice of Isaac is significant in the same way as the rest of the Old Testament: it foreshadows the life and work of Christ. In this Christian sermon outline for example, the author found and described 18 parallels between the account of Isaac's sacrifice, and the accounts of Jesus in the gospels.

With no disrespect intended to the author of that outline, I'll note that these sorts of exercises -- looking for parallels and symbolic foreshadowing -- sometimes end up scraping the bottom of the barrel. Sometimes a Christian teacher will get caught up with trying to list as many similarities as possible, to the point where credibility and reason are stretched, or where the parallel is so trivial it doesn't really mean anything.

But that doesn't invalidate the concept. It only sets boundaries, limiting the Christian to seek those parallels that are meaningful and useful in living out his/her faith. Indeed this sort of exercise has a long history in Christianity, going all the way back to the first century and Apostle Paul. In a letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians, chapter 10), he used the events of the Exodus to offer guidance to the Christians of his own time:

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

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