Asimov, Isaac, 1920-92, American author and scientist, b. Petrovichi, USSR, grad. Columbia Univ. (B.S., 1939; M.A., 1941; Ph.D., 1948). An astonishingly prolific author, he wrote over 400 books. He first became prominent as a writer of such science fiction as I, Robot (1950, repr. 1970), The Caves of Steel (1954), and his most famous novel, The Foundation Trilogy (1951-53), which chronicled the fall of the Galactic Empire. They were supplemented by two additional novels, Foundation's Edge (1982) and Robots and Empire (1985). He was also a great popularizer of science. His works in this field include The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (2 vol., rev. ed. 1965), The Stars in Their Courses (1971), and Did Comets Kill the Dinosaurs? (1987). In his later years he wrote on a diverse number of subjects, including guides to the Bible (1968-69) and Shakespeare (1970).

See his memoirs In Memory Yet Green (1979) and In Joy Still Felt (1981); study by J. Fiedler and J. Mele (1982).

Taylor, Isaac, 1829-1901, English clergyman, antiquarian, and author, chiefly noted for researches in philology. In 1885, Taylor became canon of York. His inclination toward controversy led to the writing of several theological pamphlets, among them The Liturgy and the Dissenters (1860). His study of Islam resulted in Leaves from an Egyptian Notebook (1888). Early philological investigations were incorporated in Words and Places (1864); Etruscan Researches (1874); and Greeks and Goths (1879), dealing with the origin of the runes. His most celebrated work, The Alphabet, was published in 1883. Taylor's Origin of the Aryans (1890) challenged the theory of Max Müller, then generally accepted, that central Asia was the cradle of the Indo-European peoples.
Oliver or Olivier, Isaac, 1556?-1617, English miniature painter. Oliver was a worthy follower of Hilliard as miniature painter to Elizabeth's court. His work, more naturalistic than Hilliard's, is to be seen in the British and the Victoria and Albert museums, London, and in the Cleveland Museum. His son and pupil, Peter Oliver, c.1594-1648?, was also an important miniaturist. He painted numerous watercolor copies of old masters, most of which are now in Windsor Castle.
Olivier, Isaac: see Oliver, Isaac.
Deutscher, Isaac, 1907-67, English writer, b. Poland. Editor (1926-32) of the Communist press in Poland, he was expelled from the party for his anti-Stalinist views. During World War II he escaped to England in 1939, and he served on the staffs of the Economist and the Observer. Deutscher made notable use of his literary and political acumen in writing a number of excellent works on Soviet topics. Outstanding are his scholarly biography of Stalin (1949) and his trilogy on Trotsky, The Prophet Armed (1954), The Prophet Unarmed (1959), and The Prophet Outcast (1963).
Ware, Isaac, d. 1766, English architect of the Georgian period. After travels in Italy he was employed in 1729 as clerk of the works at Windsor Castle. For Philip, earl of Chesterfield, he built (1749) Chesterfield House, Mayfair, of which his work The Complete Body of Architecture (1756) contains illustrations. In 1737, Ware produced a translation of Palladio. Ware designed mantelpieces, ceilings, and other details for Robert Walpole's house, Houghton, built by Thomas Ripley, and did drawings for Ripley's book on this house.
Abarbanel, Isaac: see Abravanel, Isaac.
Abravanel or Abarbanel, Isaac, 1437-1508, Jewish theologian, biblical commentator, and financier, b. Lisbon. He served as treasurer to Alfonso V of Portugal but fled that country when he was implicated (1483) in a plot. He was then employed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, until they expelled the Jews from their kingdom. He was later employed by the governments of Naples and Venice. His biblical commentaries are notable for their interpretation of the books of the Bible in terms of their various historical and social backgrounds and for their liberal quotations from Christian commentaries. Abravanel attacked the use (by Maimonides) of philosophical allegory, which he believed weakened the faith of many and thus tended to undermine the Jewish community in a precarious time. In his analyses of the Messianic prophecies he specifically denied Christian claims of Jesus as the Messiah (a dangerous position to take at that time), and looked to an impending Messianic age in which the Dispersion would end with Israel's return to the Holy Land and the reign of Messianic rule for all humanity.

See study by B. Netanyahu (2d ed. 1968).

Jogues, Isaac (Saint Isaac Jogues), 1607-46, French Jesuit missionary and martyr in the New World; one of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America. He arrived in Quebec in 1636 and immediately was sent to Christianize the Huron on Georgian Bay. In 1641 he journeyed N to Sault Ste Marie, which he named. On his return from a journey to Quebec in 1642, the party was captured by the Iroquois; several were killed, and the rest were subjected to cruel tortures. Jogues was held captive until July, 1643, when he was ransomed by the Dutch and brought to New Amsterdam; from there he embarked for France. Later he returned to Canada. In Apr., 1646, he was sent among the Mohawks as an ambassador of peace. He discovered Lake George, which he named Lac du St. Sacrement. In May, 1646, he returned to Quebec to make plans for establishing a mission among the Mohawks. On his return, accompanied by Father Jean Lalande, he was met by a hostile band of Mohawks near the present Auriesville, N.Y., where both priests were murdered. Feast: Sept. 26 or (among the Jesuits) Mar. 16.

See G. D. Kittler, Saint in the Wilderness (1964).

Albéniz, Isaac, 1860-1909, Spanish pianist and composer. He made his debut as a pianist at the age of four. When still young, he ran away from home and traveled in North and South America and Spain, supporting himself by playing the piano. As a composer, he was influenced by Liszt and studied with D'Indy and Dukas, among others. He in turn influenced Debussy and Ravel in their piano compositions. Filipe Pedrell interested him in Spanish music. Although he wrote operas, songs, and many short piano pieces, he is best remembered for his later piano works (especially Iberia, 1906-9), which combine a stylized use of Spanish folk material with a brilliant pianistic idiom.
Bickerstaff, Isaac, pseudonym used by Jonathan Swift and later by Richard Steele in the Tatler.
Bickerstaffe, Isaac, c.1735-c.1812, English dramatist, b. Ireland. Included among his comedies and ballad operas are The Maid of the Mill (produced in 1765) and The Padlock (produced in 1768).
Barré, Isaac, 1726-1802, British soldier and politician. He served under Gen. James Wolfe in the French and Indian Wars and was wounded at Quebec (1759). Entering Parliament in 1761, he was adjutant general and governor of Stirling (1763-64), vice treasurer of Ireland (1764-68), treasurer of the navy in the 2d Rockingham ministry (1782), and paymaster general under Lord Shelburne (1782-83). A powerful orator, he constantly condemned the taxing and repression of the American colonists. His advocacy of their cause is commemorated in the names of Barre, Mass., and Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Barrow, Isaac, 1630-77, English mathematician and theologian. His method of finding tangents prefigured the differential calculus developed by Isaac Newton. He was professor of mathematics at Cambridge from 1663 to 1669 and was succeeded by Newton. Barrow became master of Trinity College in 1672 and vice chancellor of Cambridge in 1675. His theological works were edited by Alexander Napier (1859) and his mathematical works by William Whewell (1860).
Beeckman, Isaac, 1588-1637, Dutch physicist. An early proponent of mathematical reasoning and experimental verification in natural philosophy, he contributed to the modern conception of inertia and free fall and discovered an important hydrodynamic law concerning the rate of flow of water from a vessel. Although his recorded scientific work is largely confined to his Journael (diary) and notes, he influenced scientific development through his personal acquaintance with such famous contemporaries as René Descartes, Pierre Gassendi, and Marin Mersenne, and through his rectorship of the Latin school at Dordrecht.
Rosenberg, Isaac, 1890-1918, English poet, b. Bristol. He studied painting at the Slade School (1911-14) and had an exhibition of his work at the Whitechapel Gallery. Although he wrote on other topics, his best poems grew out of his experience as a private during World War I. He was killed in action in France. A volume of his Collected Works was published in 1937.
Allerton, Isaac, c.1586-1659, Pilgrim settler in Plymouth Colony. Possibly a London tailor, he was a merchant in Leiden before going to America on the Mayflower. From 1626 to 1631, acting as the agent of Plymouth Colony, he was often in England. While there he bought up the rights of merchants in the enterprise and in 1630 secured a new patent for the colony. The terms of the new patent, however, were opposed by William Bradford and other colonists. Allerton was at best incompetent and ran up the debt, even if he was not—as his neighbors accused him of being—dishonest. He was personally a wealthy man. He probably left Plymouth Colony in 1631 and was later at Marblehead, at New Amsterdam, and in the New Haven colony.
Sears, Isaac, c.1730-86, American Revolutionary leader, b. West Brewster, Mass. A merchant sea captain, Sears won a reputation as a daring privateer during the French and Indian War. He was a leader in the resistance to the Stamp Act in New York City, helped organize (1766) the Sons of Liberty, and remained prominent in the agitation against the British during the next decade. Arrested (1775) for anti-British activities, he was rescued at the prison door by his comrades. When news of the battle of Lexington reached New York, Sears led a mob that drove prominent loyalists from the city and seized the British arsenal. After the British capture (1776) of New York, Sears went to Boston and promoted privateering for the remainder of the war. He was later elected (1784, 1786) to the New York state assembly.
Hull, Isaac, 1773-1843, American naval officer, b. Derby, Conn. He served in the undeclared naval war with France (1798-1800) and in the Tripolitan War before being promoted to captain in 1806. In 1810 he was given command of the Constitution. Early in the War of 1812 he slipped his ship out of Chesapeake Bay and, evading seven enemy ships, succeeded in making his way through the British blockade to Boston Harbor. On Aug. 19, 1812, the Constitution met the Guerrière in one of America's great sea battles. Hull's superior seamanship forced the British vessel to surrender.

See his papers, ed. by G. W. Allen (1929); biographies by B. Grant (1947) and L. T. Molloy (1964).

Butt, Isaac, 1813-79, Irish politician and nationalist leader. A member of both the Irish and the English bar, he was a noted conservative lawyer and scholar and an opponent of Daniel O'Connell. After the Irish famine experience of the 1840s, however, he became increasingly liberal, defended participants in the abortive Young Ireland revolt (1848), and entered (1852) Parliament as a Liberal-Conservative. He continually urged land tenure reform, defended the Fenian leaders, and founded (1870) the Home Rule Society. By 1874 the parliamentary group, the Home Rule League, comprised 56 members under his leadership. He remained nominal leader of the Home Rule movement until his death, although effective leadership gradually passed to Charles Stewart Parnell.

See L. J. McCaffrey, Irish Federalism in the 1870's (1962); D. Thornley, Isaac Butt and Home Rule (1964).

Casaubon, Isaac, 1559-1614, English classical scholar and theologian, b. Geneva. He became professor of Greek at Geneva and at Montpellier and by his learning attracted the notice of Henry IV, who made him royal librarian. After Henry's death, he was invited to England by the archbishop of Canterbury. He joined the Church of England and in 1610 James I granted him a royal stipend. The next year Casaubon became an English subject, remaining in England the rest of his life. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Casaubon's great works are his editions of the classics, particularly Athenaeus and the Characters of Theophrastus. His diary, Ephemerides, was edited by his son, Florence Étienne Méric Casaubon, 1599-1671, who was also a classical scholar.
Shelby, Isaac, 1750-1826, American frontiersman, b. Washington co. (then part of Frederick co.), Md. Around 1773 he settled in the Holston River country in what is now E Tennessee. In the American Revolution he was one of the frontier leaders who defeated the British at Kings Mt. (1780) in the Carolina campaign. Shelby moved to Kentucky in 1783, helped secure its separation from Virginia, and was the first governor (1792-96) of the new state. During his second term (1812-16) he organized and commanded a body of volunteers under Gen. William Henry Harrison at the battle of the Thames River (Oct., 1813) in S Ontario, one of the few American land victories in the War of 1812. In 1818, with Andrew Jackson, he was a member of the special commission that purchased the remaining lands of the Chickasaw in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Stern, Isaac, 1920-2001, American violinist, b. Kremenets, in what is now Ukraine. Brought to the United States as an infant, Stern began piano lessons at the age of six and violin lessons at eight. He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory and made his debut at 11 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. After his New York debut in 1937 at Town Hall, Stern made extensive and brilliantly successful world tours. He was particularly noted for his warm, rich tone in a repertoire that ranged from the Baroque to the Romantic and the modern. He recorded widely and was an active and enthusiastic teacher, known for his spirited encouragement of young musicians. In 1960 he led a successful campaign to save Carnegie Hall, the great New York City performance space, which was threatened with demolition. He subsequently served as president of the hall, a position he held until his death. Stern is considered one of the 20th cent.'s leading virtuosos.

See his autobiography, My First 79 Years (with Chaim Potok, 1999); From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (documentary film, 1980).

Isaac [Heb.,=laughter], according to the patriarchal narratives of the Book of Genesis, Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sara. He married Rebecca, and their sons were Esau and Jacob. Ishmael was his half brother. As a supreme act of faith Abraham offered him at an early age as a sacrifice to God—a deed prevented by divine intervention. The Philistine king Abimelech gave him shelter in time of famine, and he grew rich in lands and possessions. Before his death, Rebecca, by ruse, caused him to bless Jacob in place of Esau. Isaac is also attested in the Qur'an. Scholarship generally regards the patriarchal stories of Genesis, including those concerning Isaac, as having their origin in folk memories and oral traditions of the early Hebrew pastoralist experience.
Isaac, Heinrich, c.1450-1517, Flemish composer. Isaac, a prolific and versatile composer, traveled widely in Europe, serving at the courts of Lorenzo de' Medici and Emperor Maximilian I. Among his best-known works is the collection of 99 four-part settings of the proper chants of the mass known as Choralis Constantinus, a monumental collection of Gregorian liturgical music. He also wrote many motets, masses, hymns, and secular songs.

See A. Einstein, The Italian Madrigal (3 vol., 1949, repr. 1971).

Errett, Isaac, 1820-88, American minister of the Disciples of Christ, b. New York City. After years of pastoral and evangelistic work in pioneer towns of Ohio and Michigan, he became (1866) the first editor of the Christian Standard and made it the denomination's foremost periodical.
Backus, Isaac, 1724-1806, American clergyman, leader among New England Baptists and a champion of religious freedom, b. Norwich, Conn. Converted in the Great Awakening, he joined the separatists or "New Light" faction. He became pastor in 1748 of a Congregational church in Middleboro, Mass.; after his adherence to the Baptist faith, he organized and became minister of a Baptist church there, which he served from 1756 until his death. According to his calculations, Backus traveled over 68,000 mi (109,435 km) on his evangelistic tours, mostly on horseback. His History of New England with Particular Reference to the … Baptists (3 vol., 1777-96) is a major source for the religious history of the region and the period.
Watts, Isaac, 1674-1748, English clergyman and hymn writer, b. Southampton. He was one of the most eminent Dissenting divines of his day. As a pastor in London he was known for his sermons, but beginning in 1712 poor health caused him to live in semiretirement. His several hundred hymns embody a stern Calvinism assuaged with a gentleness and sympathy. The few hymns that are included in present-day hymnals are among the finest examples of English metrical hymnody. Those beginning "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun," "When I survey the wondrous cross," "Joy to the world," and "O God, our help in ages past," appeared in his Psalms of David Imitated (1719).

According to the Hebrew Bible, Isaac (Hebrew: Yitzchak יִצְחָק, Standard Yiẓḥaq Tiberian Yiṣḥāq ; Arabic: إسحٰق, ʾIsḥāq ; "he will laugh") is the son of Abraham and Sarah, and the father of Jacob and Esau. His story is told in the Book of Genesis. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. Isaac was the longest-lived of the patriarchs, and the only biblical patriarch whose name was not changed. Isaac was the only patriarch who did not leave Canaan, although he once tried to leave and God told him not to do so. Compared to other patriarchs in the Bible, his story is less colorful, relating few incidents of his life.

The New Testament contains few references to Isaac. The Christian church views Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice Isaac as an example of faith and obedience.

Muslims honour Isaac as a prophet of Islam. A few of the children of Isaac appear in the Qur'an. The Qur'an views Isaac as a righteous man, servant of God and the father of Israelites. The Qur'an states that Isaac and his progeny are blessed as long as they uphold their covenant with God. Some early Muslims believed that Isaac was the son who was supposed to be sacrificed by Abraham. This view however ceased to find support among Muslim scholars in later centuries.

Some academic scholars have described Isaac as "a legendary figure" while others view him "as a figure representing tribal history, though as a historical individual" or "as a seminomadic leader, or as the founder of a cult."

Etymology and meaning

The English name Isaac is a translation of the Hebrew term Yiṣḥāq which literally means "may God smile." The term conforms to a well-known Northwest Semitic linguist type, but is not known from elsewhere. The Ugaritic texts from thirteenth century BCE refer to the benevolent smile of the Canaanite god El; the Bible (i.e. the canonical collections of sacred writings of Judaism), however, ascribes the laughter to be Isaac's mother (Sarah) rather than the Canaanite god El. The reason for Sarah's laughing, according to the Bible, was that God gave the news of the birth of Isaac to his parents. Since they were beyond the age of having children, Sarah privately laughed at the prediction.

Hebrew Bible

Isaac is mentioned by name more than 70 times in the book of Genesis but only mentioned 33 times elsewhere. The phrase "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" occurs 23 times in the Hebrew Bible. Chapters 17-28 of the book of Genesis contain the stories of Isaac. Historians and academics in the fields of linguistics and source criticism believe that the stories of Isaac largely belong to the J, or Yahwist source (See Documentary hypothesis). The beginnings of and the end from to is however believed to belong to the P, or Priestly source while and is considered to be the E, or Elohist source. The account of the life of Isaac according to the Hebrew Bible God gave the news of the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah was beyond the age of having children and privately laughed at the prediction. When the child was born, she said "God had made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me". Isaac was the only child that Abraham and Sarah had together. Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac and urged her husband to banish Hagar and her child so that Isaac would be the only heir of Abraham. Abraham was hesitant but at God's order he listened to his wife's request.

Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when the boy was eight days old. According to the book of Genesis, a great feast was held for his being weaned.

Several years later, God tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son. Abraham obeyed and took Isaac to the mount Moriah. Without murmuring, Isaac let Abraham bind him and lay him upon the altar as a sacrifice. Abraham took the knife and raised his hand to kill his son. At the last minute, an angel of the Lord prevented him from doing so. Instead of Isaac, Abraham sacrificed a ram that was trapped in a thicket nearby.

When Isaac was forty years of age, Abraham sent Eliezer, his steward, into Mesopotamia to find a wife for him, from Bethuel, his brother-in-law's family. Rebekah was sent and became the wife of Isaac. She was barren, so Isaac prayed for her and God granted her the favour of conception. She gave birth to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Isaac favoured Esau, and Rebekah Jacob.

Some years afterward, a famine obligated Abraham to move to Gerar, where Abimelech was king; and he referred to Sarah as his sister. Abimelech, having discovered that she was his wife, reproved him for the deception.

As Abraham grew very rich and his flocks multiplied, the Philistines of Gerar became so envious that they filled up all the wells which Abraham's servants had dug. At the desire of Abimelech he departed and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar where he dug new wells, but was again put to some difficulties. At length, he returned to Beersheba where he fixed his habitation. Here the LORD appeared to him, and renewed the promise of blessing him. Also Abimelech visited him to form an alliance.

Isaac grew very old and became completely blind. He called Esau, his eldest son, and directed him to procure some venison for him. But while Esau was hunting, Jacob deceptively misrepresented himself as Esau to his blind father and obtained his father's blessing, making Jacob Isaac's primary heir, and leaving Esau in an inferior position. Isaac lived some time after this, and sent Jacob into Mesopotamia to take a wife of his own family. He died at the age of 180.

Jewish traditions

In rabbinical tradition the age of Isaac at the time of binding is taken to be 37 which contrasts with common portrayals of Isaac as a child. The Rabbis also thought that the reason for the death of Sarah was the news of intended sacrifice of Isaac. The sacrifice of Isaac was cited in appeals for the mercy of God in the later Jewish traditions. The post-biblical Jewish interpretations often elaborate the role of Isaac beyond the biblical description and largely focus on Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac, called the aqedah("binding"). According to a version of these interpretations, Isaac died in the sacrifice and was revived. According to many accounts of Aggadah, unlike the Bible, it is Satan who is testing Isaac and not God. Isaac's willingness to follow God's command at the cost of his death has been a model for many Jews who preferred martyrdom to violation of the Jewish law.

According to the Jewish tradition Isaac instituted the afternoon prayer. This tradition is based on ("Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide")

Isaac was the only patriarch who stayed in Canaan during his whole life and though once he tried to leave, God told him not to do so(). Rabinnic tradition gave the explanation that Isaac was almost sacrificed and anything dedicated as a sacrifice may not leave the Land of Israel. Isaac is the longest-lived of the patriarchs, and the only biblical patriarch whose name was not changed.

Rabbinic literature also linked Isaac's blindness in old age as stated in the Bible to the sacrificial binding: Isaac's eyes went blind because the tears of angels present at the time of his sacrifice fell on Isaac's eyes.

New Testament

The New Testament contains few references to Isaac. There are references to Isaac having been "offered up" by his father, and to his blessing his sons. Paul contrasted Isaac (symbolizing Christianity) with the rejected older son Ishmael (symbolizing Judaism); (see Galatians 4:21-30). In Galatians 4:28-31, Hagar is associated with the Sinai covenant, while Sarah is associated with the covenant of grace (into which her son Isaac enters). James 2:21-24 argues that the sacrifice of Isaac shows that justification requires both faith and works.

In the early Christian church, Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice Isaac was used as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:17) and of obedience (James 2:21). While the epistle to the Hebrews views the release of Isaac from sacrifice as analogous to the resurrection of Jesus, the idea of the sacrifice of Isaac being a prefigure of sacrifice of Jesus on the cross dates back to the end of first Christian century. It first appeared in the apocryphal epistle of Barnabas and later became an important theme for many renowned artists.


Isaac is a prophet in Islam, mentioned in 15 Qur'anic passages. Like many other Hebrew prophets, the Qur'anic references to Isaac assume the audience is already familiar with him and his stories. There is little narrative of Isaac in the Qur'an.

The Qur'an recalls that Isaac was given to Sarah, when she and her husband Abraham were both old. God gave Abraham the good news of the birth of Isaac "a prophet, one of the Righteous, via messengers sent against the people of Lut. Sarah, however, is said to have laughed at the glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob.

Several other verses of the Qur'an talking about Isaac and Jacob being given to Abraham, and that God “made prophethood and the Book to be among his offspring”. The formula "We gave Abraham Isaac and Jacob" has been "thought by some scholars to demonstrate that in the early revelations Jacob was considered to be a son of Abraham and not his grandson." In some instances, the Qur'an joins together Isaac and Ishmael and "Abraham praises God for giving him the two although he was old. In other instances Isaac's names occurs in the lists Isaac is also mentioned alongside the twelve asbat (meaning tribes), who were the descendants of Isaac from Jacob.

The Qur'an states that Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. The son is not however named in the Qur'an and in early Islam, there was a dispute over the identity of the son. However, Muslim scholars came to endorse that it was Ishmael. The argument of those early scholars who believed in Isaac rather than Ishmael (notably Ibn Ḳutayba, and al-Ṭabarī) was that "God's perfecting his mercy on Abraham and Isaac (in) referred to his making Abraham his friend and saving him from the burning bush and to his rescuing Isaac. The other party held that the promise to Sarah of son Isaac and grandson Jacob excluded the possibility of a premature death of Isaac. The early dispute was more concerned with Persian rather than Jewish rivalry with Arabs, since the Persians claimed to be of descendants of Isaac. Al-Masudi for example reports a Persian poet (902 CE) who claimed superiority over Arabs through descent from Isaac.

Academic view

Some scholars have described Isaac as "a legendary figure" while others view him "as a figure representing tribal history, though as a historical individual" or "as a seminomadic leader, or as the founder of a cult."

The stories of Isaac, like other patriarchal stories of Genesis, are generally believed in liberal western scholarship (in contrast with conservative western scholarship, which believes the stories of Isaac, and other patriarchal stories in Genesis, to be factual) to have "their origin in folk memories and oral traditions of the early Hebrew pastoralist experience." The Cambridge Companion to the Bible makes the following comment on the Biblical stories of the patriarchs:

Yet for all that these stories maintain a distance between their world and that of their time of literary growth and composition, they reflect the political realities of the later periods. Many of the narratives deal with the relationship between the ancestors and peoples who were part of Israel’s political world at the time the stories began to be written down (eight century B.C.E.). Lot is the ancestor of the Transjordanian peoples of Ammon and Moab, and Ishmael personifies the nomadic peoples known to have inhibited north Arabia, although located in the Old Testament in the Negev. Esau personifies Edom (36:1), and Laban represents the Aramean states to Israel’s north. A persistent theme is that of difference between the ancestors and the indigenous Canaanites… In fact, the theme of the differences between Judah and Israel, as personified by the ancestors, and the neighboring peoples of the time of the monarchy is pressed effectively into theological service to articulate
the choosing by God of Judah and Israel to bring blessing to all peoples.”

According to Martin Noth, a renowned scholar of the Hebrew Bible, the narratives of Isaac date back to an older cultural stage than that of the West-Jordanian Jacob. At that era, the Israelite tribes were not yet sedentary. In the course of looking for grazing areas, they had come in contact in southern Palestine with the inhabitants of the settled countryside. The biblical historian A. Jopsen believes in the connection between the Isaac traditions and the North and in support of this theory adduces Amos 7:9 ("the high places of Isaac").

Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth hold that "The figure of Isaac was enhanced when the theme of promise, previously bound to the cults of the 'God the Fathers' was incorporated into the Israelite creed during the southern-Palestinian stage of the growth of the Pentateuch tradition." According to Martin Noth, at the southern-Palestinian stage of the growth of the Pentateuch tradition, Isaac became established as one of the biblical patriarchs, however his traditions were receded in the favor of Abraham.


The Testament of Isaac is a pseudonymous text which was most likely composed in Greek in Egypt after 100 C.E. It is also dependent on the Testament of Abraham. In this testament, God sends the angel Michael to Isaac in order to inform him of his impending death. Isaac accepts God's decree but Jacob resists. Isaac in his bed-chamber tells Jacob of the inevitability of death. Isaac has a tour to heaven and hell shortly before his death in which God's compassion to repentant sinners is emphasized. In this testament, Isaac also talks with the crowds on the subjects of priesthood, asceticism, and the moral life.

Isaac in art

The earliest Christian portrayal of Isaac is found in the Roman catacomb frescoes. Excluding the fragments, Alison Moore Smith classifies these artistic works in three categories:

"paintings showing the approach to the Sacrifice in which Abraham leads Isaac, bearing faggots, towards the altar; or Isaac approaches with the bundle of sticks, Abraham having preceded him to the place of offering...[paintings in which] Abraham is upon a pedestal and Isaac stands near at hand, both figures in orant attitude...[paintings in which] Abraham is shown about to sacrifice Isaac while the latter stands or kneels on the ground beside the altar. Sometimes Abraham grasps Isaac by the hair. Occasionally the ram is added to the scene and in the later paintings the Hand of God emerges from above"

See also



  • Browning, W.R.F (1996). A dictionary of the Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211691-6.
  • In The Columbia Encyclopedia (2000). Gale Group. ISBN 978-1593392369. .
  • In Encyclopaedia of Islam Online Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. .
  • In Encyclopedia of Christianity (2001). Eerdmans Publishing Company, and Brill. ISBN 0-8028-2414-5. .
  • In Encyclopedia of Christianity (2005). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-522393-4. .
  • In The New Encyclopedia Britannica (2005). Encyclopedia Britannica, Incorporated; Rev Ed edition. ISBN 978-1593392369. .
  • In Encyclopedia of the Qur'an (2005). Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-9004123564. .
  • In The New Encyclopedia of Judaism (2002). New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814793886. .
  • In Encyclopedia of Religion (2005). MacMillan Reference Books. ISBN 978-0028657332. .
  • Eerdmans, Wm. B. (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0802824004.

External links

Search another word or see Isaacon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature