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In an attempt to reach a new understanding of the Bible I would like to suggest separating every text into three parts:
- The observable phenomenon.
- The interpretation of that phenomenon.
- Other similar phenomena not described.
Let us imagine, for the sake of explanation of this method of interpretation, that the author of the Bible is one observer who lives throughout the history of the Bible (Jewish Bible) from creation to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.
Naturally over such a long period of time there were many authors but let us say they all observed the events and characters of history through the same eyes so to speak; the same observer in each author, in every period of biblical history.
The observer has seen all the events, people, animals, plants and objects that existed throughout the biblical period but hasn't described everything. He's chosen which phenomena to describe, which not to describe and which to interpret.
As an example let us take the story of the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22
The observable phenomenon which he chooses is Abraham, at the last minute not slaughtering his son Isaac, and then slaughtering a ram. He chooses several other observable phenomena in the story, such as making Isaac carry the wood, the two servants with the ass, the building of the altar on Mt. Moriah, the conversations with Isaac. These other details are important in giving the story a solid foundation of truth.
All the other parts of the story fall into the other two categories, namely the interpretation and other similar phenomena which he doesn't describe.
In all the Bible stories the interpretation is the author's main objective and it's always that God made the phenomena happen; Abraham bound his son because God told him to do so. Abraham didn't slaughter his son because God made him not do so. Abraham went to Mt. Moriah because God told him to go there. Abraham sacrificed the ram because God showed it to him.
One can safely conclude that these interpretations help to persuade the reader to believe in God, to trust in Him, to fear Him, to be grateful to Him etc. The author has achieved his purpose in describing the phenomenon he observed of Abraham binding his son on the altar on Mt. Moriah and conveying the importance of God in our lives..
If, however we consider the phenomena which the author doesn't describe we arrive at a much higher appreciation of the greatness of Abraham and a much more profound and intellectually based respect for God than by simply being satisfied with the author's interpretations.
Of course one is only making assumptions about phenomena not described, but when we make these assumptions our appreciation of the greatness of Abraham, Isaac and God is so much enhanced that one cannot resist making them.
Let us assume that the author has seen many fathers sacrificing their sons; it's the done thing in Canaan in those days. In that case up to the moment that Abraham withheld the final act of sacrificing his son everything was normal; many fathers were on their way to Mt. Moriah, walking side by side with their beloved sons. All the sons were carrying wood for the sacrifice. Everything was "normal" until the moment that Abrahm, unlike all the other fathers, desisted from slaughtering his son.
If Abraham had done the normal thing, like everybody else does there wouldn't be any story and no lesson to be learned. But Abraham took the author by surprise. There must have been a riot among the other fathers accusing Abraham of not doing the right thing, of angering the gods and opening the country to earthquakes, floods and other catastrophes considered to be brought on by angry gods.
In fact the observer must have been astounded. He must have puzzled over Abraham's behavior for days or even years until he came to the conclusion that there must be another god that Abraham worshipped, or perhaps, Abraham himself taught the observer about the true god or perhaps Abraham himself was the author. One will never know the answer to that question and it's not important.
The important point is that Abraham's wisdom lay in discovering the nature of the true god, his heroism in standing up for Him, Perhaps it is this quality that made him the observer of that time.
The observer, whoever he is, chooses to tell this particular story because his interpretations of it are in accordance with how he sees the nature of God. The only way he can explain Abraham's unusual behavior in not sacrificing his son and sacrificing a ram instead is by explaining to himself that Abraham has discovered the belief in the true God who made Abraham do all of it.
Abraham realizes that it's wrong to sacrifice human beings to pacify God. He's the first man to realize that God isn't angry but kind and loving and keeping promises. Abraham's act of not sacrificing his son in an environment where everybody else was doing these terrible things was so great that it made the author of the Bible believe in God and want to spread the story and its interpretation to all mankind.