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The Unbinding of Isaac

A Phenomenological Midrash of Genesis 22

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Stephen J. Stern

In The Unbinding of Isaac, Stephen J. Stern upends traditional understandings of this controversial narrative through a phenomenological midrash or interpretation of Genesis 22 from the Dialogic and Jewish philosophies of Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and, most notably, Emmanuel Levinas. With great originality, Dr. Stern intersects Jewish studies, Biblical studies, and philosophy in a literary/midrashic style that challenges traditional Western philosophical epistemology. Through the biblical narrative of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca, Dr. Stern explains that Rosenzweig, Buber, and Levinas Judaically exercise and offer an alternative epistemic orientation to the study of ethics than that of traditional Western or Hellenic-Christian philosophy. The Unbinding of Isaac makes the works of these three thinkers accessible to those outside philosophy and Jewish studies while also introducing readers to the playfulness of how Jewish tradition midrashically addresses the Bible.

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Preface ........................................................................................................................ ix Acknowledgments ...................................................................................................xix Chapter I: A Historical and Philosophical Sketch: Rosenzweig, Buber and Levinas ...................................................................................................... 1 Franz Rosenzweig .................................................................................................. 3 Martin Buber .......................................................................................................... 9 Emmanuel Levinas ............................................................................................... 15 The Binding of Rosenzweig, Buber and Levinas ............................................... 19 A Collagical Approach ........................................................................................ 22 Concluding Remarks ........................................................................................... 23 Chapter II: Terah’s Shop of Idols And Ethics as First Philosophy ........................ 26 Terah’s Shop of Idols ........................................................................................... 29 Idolatry ................................................................................................................. 34 Ethics as First Philosophy .................................................................................... 38 Concluding Remarks ........................................................................................... 41 Chapter III: Gesticulative Mischaracertizations: When Fiction is a Bodily Fact ......................................................................................................... 44 Abram and Sarai .................................................................................................. 46 Egypt ..................................................................................................................... 46 Inside Egypt .......................................................................................................... 52 Witnessing ............................................................................................................ 55 Chapter IV: The Unbinding of Isaac ...................................................................... 59 Kierkegaard’s Notion of Faith ............................................................................. 60 Critique of Kierkegaard’s Notion of Faith .......................................................... 62 God, Abraham, and The Purpose of the Test ..................................................... 64 Taking the Test: When Peace is Announced ..................................................... 65 Isaac’s Lesson ....................................................................................................... 69 Isaac’s Liberation ................................................................................................. 71 Sarah’s Light ......................................................................................................... 72 Concluding Remarks ........................................................................................... 75 viii A The Undbinding of Isaac B Chapter V: Rebecca ................................................................................................. 78 Rebecca ................................................................................................................. 78 Chapter VI: Conclusion .......................................................................................... 94 A Collagical Method and Teleodogma ............................................................... 95 Notes ....................................................................................................................... 101 Index....................................................................................................................... 113

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