July 5th, 2017: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Hagar, and Ishmael – Dysfunctional Family?

We had a stimulating discussion Wednesday morning centered on the fascinating story referenced in the post title from the 21st chapter of Genesis and its relationship to current events in the Middle East.

Understanding deep spiritual meanings of such ancient stories, probably passed along orally for centuries and then written in what became, for us and for the people of Jesus’ time, Sacred Scripture, is difficult because we cannot fully understand either the culture of the people or the cultural or historical context of the stories. We not only have some trouble translating the ancient Hebrew into modern English but also tend to see everything in the context of our own culture and life experiences.

As Catholic Christians, we accept the teaching of the Catholic Church about Sacred Scripture as explained in this section of the Catechism. It is worth careful reading. Here is an excerpt pertinent to our discussion Wednesday morning:

109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.75

110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”76

111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. “Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written.”77

One additional interesting point is a quote from the footnotes in The Catholic Study Bible about the Isaac – Ishmael story in Genesis 21: “The parallel births of the two boys has influenced the Lucan birth narrratives of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1-2)”

And, only one personal opinion offered here: When the prophecy of Isaiah 66:23 is fulfilled, there will be no more war, in the Middle East or elsewhere.




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