Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 December 2009
Did an exegetical encounter take place in Jewish and Christian interpretations of Genesis 22.1–14 over many hundreds of years? By the term ‘exegetical encounter’ I mean that a Jewish interpretation either influenced, or was influenced by, a Christian interpretation and vice versa. The term does not imply that Jewish and Christian exegetes met to discuss their interpretations (although this might not be ruled out); rather, an exegetical encounter indicates awareness by one exegete of the exegetical tradition of another, revealed in the interpretations.
In my view, the existence (or non-existence) of an exegetical encounter sheds light on the extent of interaction between Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity. It may also have relevance for the contemporary Christian–Jewish relationship because the study of the Bible as well as Jewish and Christian biblical interpretation is becoming increasingly popular in the present dialogue between Christians and Jews.
In particular, I consider the writings of the Greek church fathers and the Palestinian rabbis before the Islamic conquest of Palestine, so chosen because writings after this period possess the additional and complicating factor of the possible influence of Islam. Although I refer to the writings of the Latin fathers as well as to the Syriac writings, and also make reference to the Babylonian Talmud, the focus is primarily on the Palestinian tradition and the works of the Greek fathers. The reason for this is that, if examples of an exegetical encounter are to be discovered, evidence will be found in these writings.