Ishmael and Isaac in the Bible: A
Response to a Christian’s Objections, Part Five
This article is a continuation of our discussion with a
Christian from the IslamiCity Discussion
on the inconsistencies and contradictions of the Biblical story of Ishmael and
Isaac. In his new reply, the Christian began
by again resorting to red herrings. He asked:
“But, if so simple
then just answer the question at hand, “Was Isaac the ‘only son’ of Abraham by
his wife Sarah yes or no? By your answer or lack thereof we will see who and
what is self-contradictory and if you will dance around it some more.”
Christian keeps asking this question even though we never denied that Isaac was
Abraham’s only son through Sarah. It is
obvious that he was. But how does that
explain the Bible’s use of the phrase “only son” to refer to Isaac? We refuted the Christian’s non-sequitur in
Part 3 by pointing out that the verse in question does not say “take your son,
your only son [with Sarah]”. If it had,
then the Christian would have a point since the verse would make sense. The problem is that the verse simply says “take
your son, your only son…” without mentioning Sarah. Common sense would indicate that this verse makes
no sense since Ishmael was also Abraham’s son.
Despite many attempts and theories to explain this contradiction, the
Christian has failed thus far to offer a reasonable clarification.
Next, he stated (emphasis in the
“If the issue is so simple which I
agree with you %100 [sic], why are ONLY Muslim
scholars divided on it. If Abraham, the father of Ishmael accepted the
term ‘only son’ and Ishmael losing all his inheritance why cannot ALL
Muslims accept it? Why make allegations that cannot even be backed up by the
Koran. The Koran does not even say that Ishmael was the child of sacrifice only
Muslims. However, the Bible does say Isaac!”
the Christian again resorts to a red herring.
We already briefly discussed the issue of the disagreement among Muslim
scholars in Part 4, but since the Christian is still adamant on using this
issue as a distraction from the contradictions in the Bible, we will discuss
this issue in further detail below.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that
the Christian’s argument that Abraham “…accepted the term ‘only son’” is a
circular argument. The Christian is
using the Bible to defend the Bible! The
contradiction of referring to Isaac as the “only son” cannot be explained by
using the faulty logic that Abraham accepted the term, since we don’t have
Abraham’s actual words but the words of a later writer.
Next, the Christian stated (emphasis
in the original):
“With your allegations this time
produce reliable documents as evidence to show these statements were altered.
Show us evidence NOT fanciful allegations and unfounded accusations. You can
even use your Koran to tried to support your allegations but I doubt you’ll be
successful as you haven’t been so far.”
Christian asks for proof of the alterations of this verse even though we
already provided such proof. Besides the
logical evidence, we also referred to the paleographical evidence in Part 2,
which it appears the Christian did not read!
To repeat what we stated there:
point to the fact that even some Jews saw the difficulty with claiming that
Isaac was Abraham’s only son. In a 2006
article in the journal “Dead Sea Discoveries”, Betsy Halpern-Amaru made the following
interesting observation about a variant of the story in question in the
fragment of the Dead Scrolls known as 4Q225:
“…the author of 4Q225
develops a structure that creates a new backdrop for the narrative of the
Aqedah. Prefacing the account of the Aqedah is a summary presentation of the
promises of a son and multiple progeny in Gen 15:2–6 (2 i 3–7). Isaac’s birth
is announced immediately thereafter (2 1 8–9a) and thereby is explicitly
portrayed as the fulfillment of the preceding divine promise of a son. The
Ishmael narratives that intervene between the promises of the covenant making
in Genesis 15 and the birth of Isaac are omitted. Indeed, in 4Q225 Ishmael is never born.
Consequently, when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son (2 i 11),
Isaac is quite literally…the only son the patriarch has.””
in the case of 4Q225, the editor realized the difficulty of the phrase “only
son”, so he completely removed the account of Ishmael’s birth.
Further evidence of editing can also be seen in the differences
between the Masoretic text and other versions of the Tanakh, such as the
Septuagint. In the latter case, the phrase
“only son” is not present! As Halpern-Amaru
“MT Genesis 22 reads “your only one”…in
each passage; the LXX, OL, EthGen reading in Gen. 22:2, 12, 16 is consistently “your
beloved one” […]. All three passages
appear in the Jubilees account, but in none of them is Isaac described as “your
only son.” God refers to Isaac as “your beloved one” ( fequraka) in His command
to Abraham (Jub. 18:2); the restraining angel calls Isaac bakwraka…(Jub.
18:11); and God repeats the first-born designation, bakwraka, in the renewal of
covenant promises (Jub. 18:15) at the close of the narrative.”
we now have proven conclusively that the Genesis narrative has been altered, will
the Christian admit that he is mistaken?
We shall see.
Next, the Christian asked the same irrelevant
question he asked before:
“So, again “Was Isaac the ‘only son’ of
Abraham by his wife Sarah as Genesis stated, its either yes or no?”
answer is of course “yes”. We never
denied that Isaac was not Abraham’s only son with Sarah. But will the Christian admit that this
argument is irrelevant and does not explain the contradiction, as we showed
above? Will he also admit that the story
has been altered, as we showed above in response to his demand for “evidence”? He asked for proof and he received it.
Finally, before finishing his reply,
the Christian once again resorted to changing the subject by referring to the
disagreement among Muslim scholars regarding the identity of the child of
sacrifice. He states (emphasis in the original):
this may help you decide:
Muslim scholar, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf of the Zaytuna Institute, candidly admits
that: ... This was the child that Abraham was given, and there is a difference
of opinion about who that child was. The majority of the later scholars say it
was Ismail, many of the early scholars said it was Ishaq. The
word of God says Isaac in several places.
account naming Isaac comes down to us through Abu Kurayb - Zayd b. al-Hubab -
al-Hasan b. Dinar - 'Ali b. Zayd b. Jud'an - al-Hasan - al-Ahnaf b. Qays -
al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib - THE PROPHET in a conversation in which he said,
"Then we ransomed him with a tremendous victim." And he also said, he
to Abu Kurayb - Ibn Yaman-Mubarak - al-Hasan-al-Ahnaf b. Qays-al - 'Abbas b.
'Abd al-Muttalib: The quote, "Then We ransomed him with a tremendous
victim," refers to Isaac.
to al-Husayn b. Yazid al-Tahhan - Ibn Idris - Dawud b. Abi Hind - 'Ikrimah -
Ibn 'Abbas: The one whom Abraham was ordered to sacrifice was Isaac.
to Ya'qub - Ibn 'Ulayyah - Dawud - 'Ikrimah - Ibn 'Abbas: The victim was Isaac.
to Ibn al-Muthanna - Muhammad b. Ja'far - Shu'bah - Abu Ishaq - Abu al-Ahwas: A
certain man boasted to Ibn Mas'ud, "I am so-and-so son of so-and-so, son
of the noble elders." And 'Abdallah said,"This is Joseph b. Jacob,
son of Isaac the victim of God, son of Abraham the Friend of God."”
So again, the Christian resorted to shameless plagiarism to
promote his view. Let us now refute
these deceptive claims. First, even if
there was disagreement among Muslim scholars (which there definitely was), the
logical question is how does this promote the Biblical view? More importantly, how does it explain the
Biblical contradictions? The answer is
it does not! The Christian is resorting
to non-sequiturs and red herrings to promote his a priori assumptions.
the Christian had actually done some honest research on the subject, he would
have realized that many of the scholars mentioned above also said that Ishmael
was the son of sacrifice. As Ebrahim Saifuddin
explains in his excellent refutation of the pseudo-scholars at “Answering-Islam”:
they been honest and quoted the arguments for Ishmael, the readers would have
noticed that one name is quoted in one place to be talking about Isaac being
the sacrificial son and in the other place of the same source that same name is
quoted advocating that Ishmael was the sacrificial son. This alone would be
sufficient to ring a bell in any readers mind. Why are the same people in one
tradition quoting one name and in another quoting the other name?”
So, the sources that the Christian’s plagiarized article
appealed to often times were quoted as referring to either Ishmael or Isaac
(peace be upon them) in different places.
Moreover, Muslim scholars have pointed out that many of the traditions
the above scholars relied on were of dubious origin and not from Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him) or his Companions.
As Saifuddin observes:
Kathir] states that all the sayings in which Isaac has been mentioned as the
sacrificial son are related through K’ab Al-Ahbar. He became a Muslim during
the time of Umar (ra) after listening to Chapter 4 Verse 47 of the Quran. He
would relate from the Jewish and Christian traditions. Other Muslims listened
to this and got confused regarding the truth with the falsehood from K’ab Al-Ahbar.”
So there we have it!
The opinions of some Muslim scholars that Isaac (peace be upon him) was the
child of sacrifice are not
based on any authentic statements of the Prophet or the Companions! Furthermore, the evidence from the Quran
plainly shows that it was Ishmael (peace be upon him), as we explained in Part
3. The Christian could not refute the
Quranic evidence and so, in his desperation, tried to use the disagreements as
an alternative. For further evidence, we
suggest the Christian read Ebrahim Saifuddin’s article.
In any case, even if it could
be proven from the Quran or authentic ahadith that Isaac (peace be upon him)
was the child of sacrifice, it would not be a big deal to Muslims, since both
Isaac and Ishmael (peace be upon them) are beloved prophets in Islam. As Saifuddin succinctly states:
is important in the story is not who was sacrificed but the moral of the story.
Whether it was Ismail or Ishaq, is not as much relevant as the missionaries
would want a layman Muslim to believe and the evidence for this exists in the
Christian argument that earlier there remained a difference of opinion among
Muslims regarding this issue. Although there was a difference, that changed not
the lesson derived from the story nor did it change the Islamic Shariah derived
from the Quran and Hadith. Additionally it certainly did not change what Islam
truly is or the fact that Islam is the true religion and Quran is the preserved
Word of God or that Prophet Muhammad (saw) is indeed a Messenger of Allah
How true! Perhaps if
the Christian would let go of his Biblical bias against Ishmael (peace be upon
him), he would realize the truth of this statement!
close, it should be pointed out again that the Christian continues to ignore
certain aspects of this discussion, which we listed in the previous reply. Here they are again with some additions:
- The meaning of the Hebrew word “hay-ye-led” is
- The status of Hagar as a legitimate wife of Abraham.
- The absence of the story of Ishmael’s birth in the Dead Sea
scroll 4Q225 (a clear attempt to eliminate the contradictory nature of the
- The promise/covenant with Isaac was made before Ishmael and
Hagar were sent out but after the “covenant of circumcision”.
- The status of Ishmael as a legitimate son of Abraham and a
member of his household even after the exile and at the time of the sacrifice.
- The Masoretic text of Genesis
22 is contradicted by the Septuagint and other translations.
- The evidence from the Quran and
authentic ahadith show that the child of sacrifice was Ishmael (peace be upon
- Muhammad (peace be upon him)
did indeed consider himself a descendant of Ibrahim and Ishmael (peace be upon
- The disagreements among Muslim
scholars are due to weak narrations which often contradict themselves and each
We invite the Christian to consider all the evidence with an
open mind and to avoid blindly accepting plagiarized material written by
deceptive missionaries. His reliance on
like-minded Christian apologetic websites is only deceiving him in the
end. We invite him to throw off the shackles
of missionary deception.
And Allah knows best!
 Halpern-Amaru, Betsy.
2006. "A Note on Isaac as First-born in Jubilees and Only Son in
4Q225." Dead Sea Discoveries 13, no. 2: 127-133. Academic Search
Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 27, 2014).
 Ironically, the
Christian plagiarized once again from the same source as before!
 Ibid. It should, however, be noted that Ka’b
Al-Ahbar was not deliberately lying. His
intentions were pure but he was relying on Jewish and Christians traditions, which obviously stated that Isaac (peace be upon him) was the child of sacrifice.