Thursday, January 08, 2004
Hagar, victim or villain? Three sixteenth-century views
Hagar, victim or villain? Three sixteenth-century views
John L Thompson
ALTHOUGH BARELY TWO DECADES ave passed since the world of biblical scholarship began to recognize the existence of women in the Old Testament,1 today such studies appear in an eve -increasing torrent. One particularly significant catalyst was undoubtedly t he book by Phyllis Trible published in 1984 and entitled Texts of Terror, an evocative study focused on the numbingly tragic stories of four women of the Ol Testament, one of whom was Hagar.2 To be sure, Hagar's tragic tale of servitude and surrogacy, flight and exile, had been regularly commemorated since the early nineteenth century for its striking parallel to the African-Amer can experience of slavery and abuse,3 so the more recent awakening in acad mic circles must not credited with too much originality. Nonetheless, feminist and womanist critics, by drawing inspiration from one another, have both multiplied and diversified their respective findings, so that in the past ten years Hagar's story has been read with far greater sympathy and from a variety of perspectives.4
Together, feminist and womanist critics have endeavored to reconstruct and restore our memory of Hagar, as well as to pose the uncomfortable question why we have so blithely passed over Hagar's contribution to the biblical story and the wrongs done to her. These recent investigations have called attention to a number of remarkable features that ought to signal Hagar as one of the preeminent biblical heroes. To begin with, she is the first person in the Bible to be visited by an angel (Gen 16:7), as well as the first to receive an annunciation (16:11-12). Sarah, by contrast, is spoken to by God only in rebuke (18:15). Hagar is also the only woman in all of Scripture ever to receive a promise of innumerable descendants (16:10). And perhaps most striking of all, Hagar is depicted in Gen 16:13 as boldly bestowing a name on God-"a power attributed to no one else in all the Bible."5
Unfortunately, Hagar is also among the first biblical women to experience "use, abuse, and rejection."6 Not only is Hagar marginalized by her status as a slave, she is further coerced into serving as a surrogate for the barren Sarah. But Hagar's success only alienates her mistress: she flees from Sarah's harsh treatment into the desert, where an angel of the Lord intervenes and commands Hagar: "Return to your mistress and submit to her" (16:9). A similar scenario develops after the birth of Isaac, many years later.7 Sarah, apparently fearing that Hagar and Ishmael will contrive to rob Isaac of his primogeniture, orders them banished. Spurred on by a word of divine intervention, a displeased Abraham complies (21:9-14). Hagar and Ishmael depart, woefully underprovisioned, and they escape death in the desert only when God intervenes. Hagar thus has the misfortune to be the vector of all sorts of malfeasance, neglect, and even inhumanity: Sarah envies her and despises her son, while Abraham stands waffling in the wings, eventually condemning his concubine to exile and, quite possibly, death.
But there is a more disturbing observation to be registered. It is bad enough that Hagar bears the brunt of Sarah's wrath and Abraham's cowardly indifference, but Hagar seems to have another enemy in these stories: God. It is God who rescues her, yes, but it is also God who orders her to return and submit to Sarah's enmity and mistreatment; and it is God who sanctions the plan to send Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness. The hostility of God towards an arguably innocent slave woman is what undergirds the terror and tragedy which have disturbed many readers today.8
Most of these recent critics would agree that stories such as that of Hagar both display and indict the patriarchal biases of the Bible and its interpreters.9 Indeed, feminist and womanist commentators surely bring to their craft an awareness of the role played by presuppositions and self-interest which is not to be found among earlier interpreters. But have the commentators of bygone days always been as neglectful-not to say heartless-towards Hagar as modern critics seem to presume? Has the exegetical tradition only so recently remembered Hagar? It is precisely here that the present study finds its point of departure. What, in fact, have earlier commentators thought about Hagar? Did they ignore her? Did they vilify her? We will seek answers to these questions from representatives of the three main sources for commentaries on the Bible in the sixteenth century: Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran.10
I. Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan
One of the earliest commentaries on Genesis in the Reformation era was the work of one of Martin Luther's opponents-Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan. In the last decade of his life he commented on the Psalms (1527), then on every book of the New Testament except the Apocalypse. In 1529 he turned his attention to the Old Testament. His death in 1534 found him in the early chapters of Isaiah. Cajetan's is a peculiar commentary for his day: he rarely cites any of the Fathers or medievals, he seems to ignore everything but the literal sense, and he is obsessed with capturing the nuance of the original language in his own translation, even if a literal rendition leaves the meaning obscure. For all of these features, Cajetan was often excoriated, and even censured, by his most immediate Roman Catholic contemporaries, though Luther is reported to have praised Cajetan's exegesis, and his work may have received a warm reception also in Geneva.11
Cajetan's treatment of Hagar is evenhanded, if somewhat spare, as may be illustrated by his comments on Genesis 16. Cajetan, in his own way, affirms the traditional portrait of Hagar as a runaway slave brought to sincere repentance. To be sure, Hagar is a slave, and in the history of salvation the good things which happen to her and her son are performed by God particularly for the sake of Sarah and Abraham.12 Indeed, Cajetan seems to underscore the contrast whereby "the first cause of being" condescends to exercise special care "even for a mere woman."13 But these points do not lead Cajetan to impugn the character of either Hagar or Ishmael-far from it! Hagar's repentance is staged against the backdrop of an epiphany which Cajetan likens to the setting of the Magnificat, insofar as both Hagar and the Blessed Virgin, "having been greeted by the angel, pondered the nature of that greeting.14 Hagar's joyful and repentant response, moreover, is utterly unfeigned, as Cajetan's perfectly Thomistic explanation makes clear:
Hagar, having heeded the angel joyfully, and now properly prepared for her pregnancy, contemplated who indeed was promising such things to her, surmising, at last, a divine messenger. And while the angel was silent, God was continuously at work within her, disposing Hagar's mind and will at every point while she was contemplating, so that she might merit the angel's third speech.15
Even if part of Hagar's affliction was justly inflicted by Sarah, Cajetan observes, she cried out for divine mercy. God heard her cry, for her afflictions deserved his attention. Consequently, Hagar's act of naming God (in Gen 16:13) acknowledges the benefits she received and constitutes an act of thanksgiving, as does her subsequent naming of the well in honor of "the living God who saw me."l6
At this point it is worth noting also how Cajetan deals with Hagar's son. An intriguing observation emerges at Gen 16:11, where he comments on the unusual naming of Ishmael. His remarks are deceptive, insofar as they cloak his consideration of earlier writers:
Do not fail to notice that to no one prior to Ishmael did God give a name. Indeed, he is the first among humans to receive a name from God. But from this novel and not insignificant blessing (gratia), nothing is known as to whether Ishmael was good or evil; no one should boast of having received God's freely given blessing, nor should anyone be praised, nor should anyone presume that such a person is good.17
One may properly ask why Cajetan adds this comment about Ishmael's moral character. In fact, Cajetan here demonstrates that he is not at all ignorant of earlier exegesis but is consciously rejecting it, for at the very same locus two of Cajetan's medieval predecessors-Nicolas of Lyra and Denis the Carthusian-not only note the novelty of Ishmael's naming but also report much deliberation over the question how Ishmael could have merited such a blessing in view of his supposedly evil character, in which not the least element was his "persecution" of Isaac (a la Galatians 4).18 Clearly, Cajetan is alluding to this debate, but he has declined to report the traditional, pejorative account of Ishmael in Christian sources, and especially in rabbinic sources.
Cajetan also defends Ishmael at two other points where his reputation traditionally suffered: Gen 21:9 and Gen 21:20. From the former text, Nicolas of Lyra (with help from the rabbis) had drawn many startling connotations which might underlie Ishmael's "play" with his half brother, including the sins of idolatry, murder, and licentiousness. But for Cajetan, Ishmael's "play" indicated simply that he had mocked Isaac and encouraged other boys to do likewise. To be sure, this is what Paul would later term "persecution," but Cajetan (speaking for Abraham) finds in Ishmael no fault deserving of so harsh a punishment as exile.19 At Gen 21:20, Cajetan, defending Ishmael, again alludes to earlier exegesis. The biblical text simply states that "God was with the lad." Cajetan takes this statement as sufficient refutation of the "nonsensical" view (nugas) that Ishmael grew up to become a brigand or highwayman-a slanderous view found, once more, in rabbinic commentaries and reported by Christian writers as well.20
Cajetan's defense of Ishmael is pertinent precisely for the way it confirms his intention to extend more charity to Hagar, too, than was then the norm. Thus, against those who think that Hagar literally "threw" her son under a tree (in Gen 21:15), Cajetan finds it "nefarious to think that so pious a mother would add affliction to her already afflicted, only-begotten son."21 Against those earlier exegetes (Rashi, though he is not named) who excoriated Hagar for returning to Egypt and idolatry and for procuring an Egyptian wife, Cajetan simply explains as a matter of course that "we are all naturally inclined to prefer our own people."22 Admittedly, Cajetan's "defensive" moves here are probably impelled largely by his commitment to the literal sense, but it is equally true that he sees the "literal" blessing of God in the lives of Ishmael and Hagar, and that he will allow neither speculation nor an ostensibly Pauline allegory or polemic to obscure these other aspects of the "literal" story line.
There is one final exegetical point in Cajetan which further favors Hagar and Ishmael. In Cajetan's comments on Genesis 21, he seems scarcely troubled by many traditional problems, such as the impropriety of Abraham's being bossed about by his wife, or how Sarah could have known God's will better than Abraham himself did. What seriously worries Cajetan, however, is whether Abraham inhumanely underprovisioned Hagar and Ishmael before sending them off. To be sure, Gen 21:14 is ambiguous: when Abraham put bread and water on Hagar's shoulders, "along with the child," does the text mean he put Ishmael-a boy usually reckoned, Cajetan observes, at about seventeen years of age!-on her shoulders too? Or did he put the supplies also on the young man? Either way, one still might stumble over the next question,
How it was fitting that Abraham, who was so wealthy, provided for his wife and son so sparingly (exigue)-or rather, so miserably (misere)!-that he should give his wife only as much bread and water as she could carry on her shoulders. The solution is that by "bread and water" is to be understood all kinds of provision (omnia victualia), and that Abraham provided copiously and quite prudently so that he would even have provided a jar to keep the water fresh (prouiderit de vase seruatiuo aquae) along the way. This indeed was fitting for a well-to-do father unwillingly having to send his son away. Also, he gave neither the provisions nor his son to Hagar to be carried; rather, to carry the supplies and his son and Hagar herself, he provided asses or other pack animals, as well as attendants. . . . Truly, it is impious (nefas est) to believe that he would have sent his wife and his young son out on foot and without provisions.23
Cajetan defends his elaborate reconstruction, insisting that all these details are not made up but are demanded by the literal reading.24 Nonetheless, the entire matter really boils down to a single premise and conclusion: to exile someone without proper supplies amounts to cruelty, if not murder; and since Abraham was a decent man, such brutality on his part is inconceivable. Even if Cajetan's primary concern here was to exonerate Abraham, for us it is Cajetan's humanity which emerges more clearly than Abraham's. Cajetan, too, is a decent man, and he cannot conceive that Hagar and her son should be treated so heartlessly. And so he takes recourse to the exegete's ultimate act of compassion: he emends the text.
II. John Calvin
Calvin, too, had much to say on these texts, but most of it is rather austere and rigorous. He is far less inclined to allow the momentum of the exegetical tradition, whereby Hagar's behavior was often given the benefit of the doubt,25 to continue unchecked. Instead, the signs of Hagar's piety or repentance traditionally found in the text are all treated by Calvin with great suspicion.
It is important to note that, for Calvin, none of the actors in this drama come away untarnished. Sarah is blamed for having instigated Abraham's polygamy,26 and her "womanly jealousy" and intemperance twice make matters at home even worse.27 Abraham displays more equanimity, but even he is upbraided by Calvin for the fickleness of his affection for Hagar.28 Calvin's treatment of Ishmael, however, is especially instructive. Early on in the saga, when God bestows a name on Ishmael, Calvin tips his hand: Ishmael's name and blessing are at most a mark of God's temporal benefits, granted as a mark of "paternal benevolence" towards the house of Abraham,29 and although Calvin makes little or nothing of the fact that Ishmael's name was divinely imposed, he is concerned to state at the outset that Ishmael was a reprobate (reprobum).30 Calvin's judgment thus conditions how he reads the later statement (Gen 21:20) that "God was with the lad." While Cajetan took this verse as a sign of God's blessing, Calvin distinguishes several modes of God's presence:
He is present with his elect, whom he governs by the special grace of his Spirit; he is also sometimes present as respects external life, not only with his elect but also with strangers (extraneis), in granting them some exceptional benediction.31
Clearly, Ishmael was not elect, but an outsider.
The enigmatic episode in which Ishmael "plays" with his younger brother offers a final illustration of Calvin's dismal expectations. The exegetical restraint for which Calvin is justly admired leads him to pass over in silence the more far-fetched interpretations of "play" found in Nicolas of Lyra and the rabbis. Thus, there is no suggestion of idolatry or lasciviousness, and Calvin explicitly denies that Ishmael assaulted his brother physically. Ishmael's offense was purely verbal, consisting merely of malignant derision, contempt, impious mockery, canine and profane laughter, and petulance.32 But this is no trivial or "playful" matter, Calvin warns,33 because what Ishmael insulted in the person of his brother was God himself, God's grace and God's word, as well as the faith of his father.34 Again, Calvin's implication is clear: Ishmael was a blasphemer.
Like son, like mother? Yes: Hagar receives scant praise from Calvin. She is not merely ungrateful but also positively unbridled, not merely "servile" but also of "indomitable ferocity."35 Having imputed these traits, Calvin appraises Hagar's flight not as the momentary lapse of one of God's saints but as the protracted and not entirely successful mollification of a thoroughly defiant woman.36 At the conclusion of her first flight, Calvin narrates that "Hagar, who had always been wild and rebellious, and who had, at length, entirely shaken off the yoke," was finally broken by affliction.37 But even here one must pause, for Calvin was quite willing to entertain that these signs of Hagar's repentance were insincere!
Moses . . . implies that Hagar, after she was admonished by the angel, changed her mind and, being thus subdued, betook herself to prayer; unless, perhaps, it is the confession of the tongue rather than a change of mind which is here denoted. I rather incline, however, to the opinion that Hagar, who had before been of a wild and intractable temper, begins now at last to acknowledge the providence of God.38
Given Calvin's general reluctance to speculate, his skepticism towards Hagar must run deep if he so freely offers this conjecture. In all probability, too, he knows very well how the story will end, namely, with Hagar's backsliding, with her fatal relapse into unbelief.39
If Hagar displays scarcely any true repentance, it is equally the case that Calvin finds little true piety. Her flight from Sarah in Genesis 16 is culpable for many reasons, Calvin states, but not least because it represents a flight from the true church of that day into apostasy.40 Similarly, when Gen 16:11 reports that "the Lord heard [Hagar's] affliction," many commentators assume she had been crying out to God. Calvin points out, however, that "we do not read that Hagar, in her difficulties, had recourse to prayer." More likely, she was stupefied by her despair, and it was sheerly by the unmerited grace of God that she was delivered despite her "sloth and stupor."41 Things are no better the second time around, either. When the water runs out in Gen 21:15, Hagar is once again paralyzed by her grief.42 Indeed, pondering why "God heard the voice of the lad," when it was Hagar who cried out, Calvin gives little credence to the view that Hagar was thereby deemed unworthy of having her prayers answered. Neither mother nor child was worthy, Calvin avers, and it is but "an uncertain conjecture" that either was brought to repentance by this experience. To the contrary, Calvin opines that neither of them prayed in faith or resorted to divine help at all.43
As a final consideration, one may put the person of Hagar out of mind and inquire simply about the justice of the banishment. Calvin is aware, to be sure, that Sarah's plan was harsh. For Abraham, sending his son away was not different from having his bowels torn out.44 And Calvin is not insensitive to the charge of inhumanity.
But with how slender a provision (tenui . . . viatico) does he endow his wife and son? He places a flagon of water and bread upon her shoulder. Why does he not load an ass, at least, with a moderate supply of food? Why does he not add one of his servants, of which his house contained plenty, as a companion?45
Abraham's answer might have been that he did not want Hagar and Ishmael to get too far away, but God's answer, Calvin tells us, is that this extreme punishment is simply the reward of pride and ingratitude. "God willed that the banishment of Ishmael should be so harsh and sorrowful (tam dura et tristis)," he says, "so that his example might strike terror into the proud, who . .. trample under foot the very grace to which they are indebted for all things. Therefore, he led them both to a miserable end."46 Calvin does not blanch before the harshness and severity of this punishment, for Hagar and Ishmael deserved what they got. Nevertheless, while one might fairly label Calvin's exegesis here as also harsh and severe, one cannot so easily characterize it as traditional.47
III. Martin Luther
Calvin, of course, was not the only Protestant to comment on Genesis. Indeed, he himself surely knew and used the massive commentary composed by Martin Luther from 1535 until shortly before his death in 1546.48 If Calvin found fault with everyone in this narrative, Luther seems to find faith and faithfulness, along with nobility tempered by suffering, wherever he turns. There are surprises for Luther's readers, too. We will begin with a brief look at Luther's comments on Genesis 16, then turn to his even more remarkable suggestions about the meaning of Genesis 21.
Many of Luther's comments on Hagar's conception and on her subsequent contempt for Sarah are not at all new. He echoes the traditional observations about the weakness of women (both Sarah and Hagar), Hagar's servile nature, and Hagar's haughtiness and pride.49 Somewhat more originally, Luther opines that Hagar's flight represented her attempt to force Abraham to declare his affection for her and his expected firstborn-a sort of countercoup to revenge herself against Sarah.50 But the plot of Hagar's story was ultimately directed by God, who brought Hagar to repentance. What Hagar had to learn was that her "affliction" (that is, her subordination to Sarah) was not a sign of God's wrath or neglect, however much it felt like that, but rather something pleasing to God. Once Hagar learned to trust God, everything changed; indeed, she became an example for us. As Luther writes, "most of us are like Hagar," not only in displaying pride towards our perceived inferiors but also insofar as we, too, have been led to faith and repentance. The confession of faith whereby Hagar "names" God is, therefore, also "the hymn of the whole church," "a hymn for the instruction of every one of us," and an act of "true worship" on the part of "saintly Hagar."51
Having registered Luther's encomium for Hagar, we may make two further observations on Genesis 16.
First, there is an intriguing relationship between the remarks of Luther and Calvin here. Summarizing the effect of Hagar's angelic visitation, Luther wrote this sentence: "After this revelation, Hagar, who had been rebellious and impatient of the yoke, has become an entirely different person."52 Luther's affirmation of Hagar's repentance here is neither unprecedented nor particularly surprising. What makes this sentence of special interest is partly that it is a rare instance in which one may detect Calvin's verbal dependence on Luther.53 Yet what is surprising is not Luther's traditional position, or even Calvin's tacit use of Luther (we know he used Luther elsewhere in his Commentary on Genesis), but rather the utter contrast between Luther's sympathetic portrait of Hagar and Calvin's far more begrudging account. Calvin clearly likes the cadence and imagery of Luther's text, but, unlike Luther, he really does not like Hagar. Luther sees Hagar's transformation as real and compelling, so his statement here could fittingly be taken as a hallmark of his overall portrait of Hagar. For Calvin, it is at best the highwater mark of his otherwise wary approach to a suspected hypocrite. Indeed, as we will have even more reason to believe in a moment, Calvin's austere approach to Hagar and Ishmael may well constitute his reaction against what he may have perceived as Luther's lapse from literal exegesis into wishful thinking.
A second observation also underscores Luther's fundamental sympathy for Hagar. Luther could not have foreseen how Calvin would use his words, but he assuredly saw how St. Paul might be used to denigrate Hagar after the fact. Luther's response was unyielding:
I certainly conclude that Hagar should be counted among the saintly women. The fact that Paul compares her to Sarah and calls her a maid who has no place in the home is in no wise a hindrance, for in Scripture even the saints frequently symbolize the ungodly.... Thus Hagar, justified and sanctified by the Word of God, symbolizes the ungodly without detriment to herself.54
Luther hereby initiates a rescue effort on behalf of Hagar and Ishmael for which few precedents can be found, and it is all the more marvelous that he rescues them from no less a canonical threat than the Apostle himself.ss Never mind what Paul says, argues Luther: in her own person, Hagar belongs to God.
Luther's account of Hagar's exile in Genesis 21 also begins with some familiar moves: Hagar sinned through pride; Hagar incited Ishmael to covet the primogeniture; Ishmael's mockery was no trivial matter; Abraham bore a misplaced loyalty to Ishmael; Ishmael deserved to be driven out. These are all traditional observations, though for Luther they are merely prolegomena to the point he began to make in chap. 16, namely, that what seems like tragedy and divine abandonment is in fact God's way of teaching people to trust in God alone. This is Luther's well-known doctrine of the Deus absconditus-the God whose presence is far nearer than we expect, albeit revealed only under a humble guise. Accordingly, one may expect Hagar and Ishmael to learn valuable lessons about faith and trust and humility through their exile, and so they do.
What one does not expect, however-at least, not in light of exegetical tradition-is that Luther's sympathy for Hagar could possibly run as deep as it does. His comments take this unexpected turn when he comes to describe the actual eviction of Hagar at Gen 21:14. There Luther introduces a degree of pathos and poignancy which is simply astonishing, and he rings the changes on this theme for nearly twenty pages of the Weimar edition.
This is surely a sad story if you consider it carefully, although Moses relates it very briefly. After Abraham is sure about God's will, he hastens to obey.... He simply sends away his very dear wife, who was the first to make him a father, along with his firstborn son, and gives them nothing but ein sack mit brott, und ein krug mit wasser.... But does it not seem to be cruelty for a mother who is burdened with a child to be sent away so wretchedly, and to an unfamiliar place at that-yes, into a vast and arid desert?56
Luther does not shirk from describing just how barbarous Abraham appears here: "If someone wanted to rant against Abraham at this point, he could make him the murderer of his son and wife.... Who would believe this if Moses had not recorded it?"57 But Abraham is actually no less anguished than Hagar here; within a few pages Luther has everyone in the narrative weeping, and the readers of the text as well.
It is surely a piteous description, which I can hardly read with dry eyes, that the mother and her son bear their expulsion with such patience and go away into exile. Therefore, Father Abraham either stood there with tears in his eyes and followed them with his blessings and prayers as they went away, or he hid himself somewhere in a nook, where he wept in solitude over his own misfortune and that of the exiles.58
"Trial follows upon trial, and tears force out other tears." Nonetheless, Abraham and Sarah are acting not according to their natural feelings but in obedience to the divine command in vv 12-13. And so Abraham and Sarah urged Hagar and Ishmael "to bear this expulsion patiently; for, as they said, it was God's will expressed by a definite word that Ishmael should leave home and . . . wait for God's blessing in another place."59
All this sadness, then, is not without purpose. Hagar and Ishmael were guilty not only of pride but also of presumption-the presumption that Ishmael's being born first automatically gave him sole rights to what God promised Abraham. The purpose of Ishmael's exile, Luther writes, "is to let him know that the kingdom of God is not owed to him by reason of a natural right but comes out of pure grace.... Ishmael and his mother must learn this lesson, since both wanted to proceed against Isaac on the strength of a right."60 Fortunately, Luther thinks, Hagar and Ishmael did learn this lesson, and, having done so, they were changed and rewarded. Indeed, as Luther's commentary proceeds, it seems as though he could not find enough loose ends to tie up by way of recompense to Hagar, her husband, and her son. With respect to her son, Luther argues that "the expulsion does not mean that Ishmael should be utterly excluded from the kingdom of God."61 Indeed, so well did the contrite Ishmael learn to forsake self-reliance that Luther calls him "a true son of the promise."62 More astonishing still, he
undoubtedly developed into a well-informed and learned preacher who, after he had been taught by his own example, preached that God is the God of those who have been humbled.... After Ishmael had become a husband, he [brought] ... his wife and her relatives and parents to the knowledge of God. Among the uncircumcised heathen he established a church like Abraham's church.... God caused him to become great. . . in the word and spiritual gifts; for, says Moses, God was with him.63
Finally, that Ishmael settled nearby, in Paran (21:21), further indicates to Luther "that Ishmael was reconciled with his father Abraham and his church, although his descendants, as usually happens, gradually deteriorated."
Once again, like mother, like son. Here is how Luther describes the transformation of Hagar in Genesis 21:
Because the Word of God is never proclaimed in vain, Hagar, too, is first awakened from death, as it were, by the angel's voice. Then she is enlightened with . . . the Holy Spirit, and from a slave woman she also becomes a mother of the church, who later on instructed her descendants and warned them by her own example not to act proudly.65
But Luther is still not finished. He thinks that after Hagar's chastisement she returned to live not merely near Abraham but with him, "for the opinion of the Jews that Keturah is Hagar pleases me."66 Embracing this bit of rabbinic speculation here means not only that Luther thinks Hagar bore Abraham another six sons (cf. Gen 25:1-2) but also that he wants so much to read a happy ending that he is willing to credit precisely those exegetes on whom he had previously lavished so much contempt.67
All the same, no degree of happiness ceded to Hagar by way of denouement can possibly arrest the attention of the modern reader nearly as much as Luther's account of one other dimension of the trial endured (albeit in somewhat different ways) by both Abraham and Hagar. If it is true that the ending of this story is happier than one would expect, it is equally true for Luther that the trials which preceded the ending were harsher, and the stakes far higher. Luther's depiction of the exile steps beyond the accounts of his predecessors and anticipates a particularly modern anxiety. That Hagar should have to forsake her pride and presumption is understandable, but that she should be driven away from Abraham also suggests for Luther a terror, a trial, and a temptation far more horrible. To leave Abraham was, for Hagar, to leave the church of her day, indeed, to leave the kingdom of God. What else could this mean but that God was abandoning her unto reprobation? In short, why should Hagar not believe that God hated her?68
Having raised this problem, Luther faces it head-on. Truly, it was God's intention to kill Hagar, spiritually, that he might raise her up.69 But here Luther sees Satan at work, too; Satan typically stirs up lies and "very sad thoughts" in the afflicted, and Hagar wandered aimlessly in the desert, having fallen into a deep stupor.70 Consequently, to comfort and correct Hagar a divine remedy was required, namely, an angelic visitation. "And here," writes Luther,
we are also warned about the purpose: it is not because God hates Ishmael and Hagar that he allows them to be cast out so pitifully. That phony explanation is the fabrication of the devil! God's plan is that they should be humbled and should learn to trust in God's grace alone, not in merits or some carnal prestige.71
God did not hate Hagar, Luther proclaims, but all those who have had their faith tested will understand perfectly why she might have thought he did.72
Luther treats Hagar at length, but he is far less concerned with producing technical or literal exegesis than he is with psychologizing the story.73 Luther even seems a bit self-conscious about his prolixity, for when he mentions how sad or tragic or horrible this story is, as he often does, he feels compelled to concede that "the words are few."74 Finally Luther exclaims, perhaps defensively, "I am not inventing these things, but the very situation and Moses' earlier narrative clearly suggest these circumstances."75 The reader cannot avoid the suspicion that Luther's exegesis here is led more by a warm and tender heart than by a calm and cool detachment. Luther's willingness to psychologize and speculate in this story may also be one reason why Calvin's patience wore thin, not only with Luther but with Hagar as well.
Hagar's treatment by these commentators illumines the history of exegesis in an intriguing way, particularly the history of allegorical exegesis, of its meteoric rise and gradual decline. Of all the stories in Scripture, Hagar's alone receives an allegorical interpretation which is canonically approvedlicensed, so to speak, by St. Paul. Christian interpreters after Paul knew only one text of Genesis, and that was the one already glossed and interpreted in a way that did not flatter Hagar or her son. Consequently, to attend at all to the historical dimension of the story in Genesis would require resisting two impulses, both Pauline: first, to read that story solely in terms of its typological significance, and second, to see Hagar and Ishmael solely as villains.
Much of the earliest commentary on Hagar is, in fact, allegorical and pejorative. To be sure, the medieval history of this text discloses how Christian interpreters added to Paul's allegory in ways which favored Hagar and upstaged Galatians, but that remains a story for another time. In any case, the decline of allegory in the sixteenth century produced no automatic consensus; this fact is illustrated by the diverse conclusions reached by Cajetan, Calvin, and Luther, who, despite their many theological differences, were equally proponents of literal exegesis. It was Luther in particular who gave voice to this tension between letter and allegory, between Genesis and Galatians, between Moses and St. Paul. It was also Luther who resolved it, by deliberately setting the Pauline allegory aside simply as a truth of a different category. In other words, what Paul said Hagar symbolizes or prefigures has no bearing on what she really is or was. In theory, at least, the letter of any text of Scripture always had a certain priority over its figurative meanings, but Luther gave the historical Hagar additional and needed relief from reduction to a mere palimpsest inscribed with the words of St. Paul.
Of course, as Calvin illustrates especially well, not all agreed in their assessments of Hagar; nor, for that matter, did they agree in their estimation of Abraham or Sarah. But Calvin's vigorous dissent is a complicated matter. What were his motives for such hostility towards Hagar and her son? One might venture that his commitment to St. Paul simply overcame all else. If so, then Calvin's position was truly reactionary, insofar as he knew the traditional, ameliorating views of Hagar but chose to ignore them. Indeed, Calvin seems to go beyond Paul: Ishmael's crime was less his ridicule of Isaac than his contempt for the Word of God.'6 Is there a measure of misogynism in Calvin here? Again, the question is complicated. As noted earlier, Calvin was harder on all the figures of the Old Testament, male or female, than his contemporaries were, and he offered no particular distinction between Ishmael's flaws and those of his mother. Moreover, in other contexts Calvin may be seen as marginally more progressive than many of his contemporaries with respect to women.77
In my judgment, anyone attempting to uncover Calvin's agenda for Hagar would do better to attend to the subtle ways in which he reproved the fanciful speculations of his predecessors by invoking the simplicity and austerity of the letter. Admittedly, Calvin was aware not only of conjectures such as Cajetan's and Luther's, which (he thought) exaggerated Hagar's repentance, but also of rabbinic speculations which exaggerated her criminality.'8 However, it seems likely that Calvin was far more threatened, or perhaps simply embarrassed, by the excesses of those such as Luther whom he considered his colleagues in a Reformation ostensibly founded not on midrash but on sola scriptura.
It will be obvious to today's readers that none of these premodern commentators undertakes a systematic critique of androcentrism or of patriarchal exegesis, or shows much awareness of the constraints imposed by social location, or has a mechanism fostering self-criticism at the level of textual commentary. But it is not to be overlooked that these commentators do indwell an ideology (for want of a better term) imbued with a commitment to human dignity, irrespective of gender. To be sure, their commentaries are full of patronizing comments like the commonplace slurs against Hagar's "servile" and "womanish" behavior, but with Cajetan, Luther, and many others, these slurs inevitably gave way to expression of more fundamental human values which might be voiced as astonishment at Abraham's apparent stinginess or as compassion for a mother's tears. Clearly, no matter how strongly the stereotypes of gender, class, race, and religion-as well as the allegorical stereotypes-tended to reduce Hagar to a cipher or a scapegoat, few interpreters were so thoroughly "made of stone" that they were unmoved by her personal sufferings. Luther may be in a class by himself here, but "saintly Hagar" was a model of piety, faith, and endurance for many others as well.
One need not be an avowed feminist to care about Hagar and how she was treated. (One also needs no historical expertise to do so!) What is essential, however, is that one have the ability to empathize and to see oneself in her. As Luther said, "Most of us are like Hagar." Patriarchy may well be oppressive and tiresome, but it is not necessarily a bar to compassion or humanity.79
At the same time, one must observe that no matter how well commentators such as Cajetan and Luther could see themselves in Hagar, and no matter how willing they were to criticize the behavior of Abraham, they did not see themselves in a position to find fault with God. True, they did recognize Abraham's apparent cruelty and Hagar's consequent suffering as deeply serious matters, and they did not minimize the implications for the divine character, but they had no eyes for seeing Scripture as the product or advocate of a covert ideology. They approached Scripture not with suspicion but with charity; far from doubting providence, they gave providence the benefit of any doubt. This is one rift between premodern commentators and today's critics which is not easily bridged, and in the story of Hagar many today find God characterized as the tyrant who sanctioned Hagar's mistreatment and who is as abusive, therefore, as Abraham seemed.
In all fairness, these earlier exegetes must be given credit for at least perceiving the problem, albeit on their own terms. Luther argued that real faith is routinely tested by trials which seem to be exactly like divinely sanctioned abuse. A similar point was made by many others, both Christians and Jews, who saw their own trials of faith in Hagar. But for these commentators, however scandalous God's acts might seem, God remained God. Far better that Hagar should suffer-and, given similar circumstances, far better that we should suffer as faithfully as she did-than that she should join in rebellion against the Deus absconditus. In our own day, of course, we have learned how such words can be preached so as to anesthetize the oppressed, but Luther and his colleagues were almost certainly preaching to themselves, for they asked of Hagar no obedience or submission, however painful, that they themselves did not also pledge.
It is beyond question that feminist and womanist biblical criticism has done well to draw attention to the overlooked characters in the biblical narrative. As a result, modern readers have discovered new dimensions of these stories and have been forced to grapple with the meaning of the text -and with the sadness of the text-in a new way. Moreover, we have been reminded, in the words of Renita Weems, that "women. . . are not an afterthought to salvation."80 Granted that commentators such as Cajetan, Calvin, and Luther often committed the sin of treating women as an afterthought, these writers also show some encouraging inconsistencies which ought to be welcomed as both helpful and challenging. When Luther proclaims Hagar to be a "mother of the church," he offers but one example among many of the way in which premodern and allegedly precritical interpreters may provide significant precedents for a more compassionate and less androcentric reading of stories such as Hagar's.81
1 The date, of course, is both arguable a d arbitrary, but I am taking Phyllis Bird's essay ("Images of Women in the Old Testament," Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions [ed. Rosemary Radford Ruether; New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974] 41-88) as a milestone of sorts.
2 Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror: Literary -Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (OBT 18; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984); see also ead m, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (OBT 2; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978). In a recent cove story, Cullen Murphy ("Women and the Bible," The Atlantic Monthly, August 1993, 48) under ored Trible's influence, observing that these two books "would appear in anyone's canon of fe inist biblical studies." 3 Delores S. Williams (Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk [Maryknoll: Orbis, 1993] 245 n. 2) lists a dozen examples of Hagar's use as a positive exemplar in African-American art and literature. Hagar 's role in other modern literature is summarized
by David Lyle Jeffrey in A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), s.v. "Hagar."
4 The significance of Hagar for feminist and womanist criticism is widely discussed. See, for example, Alice Ogden Bellis, Helpmates, Harlots, and Heroes: Women's Stories in the Hebrew Bible (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox,1994) 74-79; Katheryn Pfisterer Darr, Far More Precious than Jewels: Perspectives on Biblical Women (Gender and the Biblical Tradition; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991) 132-63; J. Cheryl Exum, Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)versions of Biblical Narratives (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity International, 1993) esp. 130-47; Cynthia Gordon, "Hagar: A Throw-away Character among the Matriarchs?" SBI,SP 1985, 271-77; Jo Ann Hackett, "Rehabilitating Hagar: Fragments of an Epic Pattern," Gender and Difference in Ancient Israel (ed. Peggy L. Day; Philadelphia: Fortress,1989) 12-27; Sharon Pace Jeansonne, The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphar's Wife (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) 43-52; Alice L. Laffey, An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 33-41; Susan Niditch, "Genesis," The Women's Bible Commentary (ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992) 17-18; Elsa Tamez, "The Woman Who Complicated the History of Salvation," New Eyes for Reading: Biblical and Theological Reflections by Women from the Third World (ed. John S. Pobee and Barbel von Wartenberg-Potter; Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1986) 5-17; Savina J. Teubal, Hagar the Egyptian: The Lost Tradition of the Matriarchs (New York: HarperCollins, 1990); John W Waters, "Who Was Hagar?" Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation (ed. Cain Hope Felder; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 187-205; Renita J. Weems, "A Mistress, a Maid, and No Mercy: Hagar and Sarah," Just a Sister Away: A Womanist Vision of Women's Relationships in the Bible (San Diego: LuraMedia, 1988) 1-19; Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 1-33. See also Alicia Suskin Ostriker, The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994) 67-74; Elie Wiesel, "Ishmael and Hagar," The Life of Covenant: The Challenge of Contemporary Judaism (Festschrift Herman E. Schaalman; ed. Joseph A. Edelheit; Chicago: Spertus College of Judaica Press, 1986) 235-49.
5 These observations are all drawn from Trible, Texts of Terror, 14-18. 6 Ibid., 9.
7 Some scholars see Hagar's story as a doublet, that is, as two versions of a single event; see, for example, John Skinner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1930) 285.
8 This viewpoint is often noted. See, for example, Bellis, Helpmates, 76-77; Darr, Far More Precious than Jewels, 139; Trible, Texts of Terror, 8, 22, 28; Waters, "Who Was Hagar?" 190, 200; and Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 29. Tamez ("Woman Who Complicated," 14) offers a feminista countertreatment.
9 This indictment is made both generally, as in Jeansonne's opening lines (Women of Genesis, 1), but also specifically, as in the apparent irritation of Darr (Far More Precious than Jewels, 140) with Gerhard von Rad's favoring of Ishmael against his mother, or in Trible's observation (Texts of Terror, 31 n. 19) of similar bias in Bruce Vawter's treatment of Abraham and Sarah.
'a These particular representatives of the three traditions are only three of many commentators whom I have studied on Hagar. I intend to show elsewhere some of the remarkable antecedents of Reformation exegesis which are to be found not only in Christian sources from the patristic period and the Middle Ages but also in Philo and in medieval rabbinic literature. " For Cajetan's method, see A. F von Gunten, "La contribution des 'H6breux' a l'oeuvre exegetique de Caj6tan," Histoire de l'exegese au X VIe siecle (Etudes de philologie et d'histoire 34; ed. Olivier Fatio; Geneva: Droz, 1978) 46-83; Thomas Aquinas Collins, "Cardinal Cajetan's Fundamental Biblical Principles," CBQ 17 (1953) 363-78. On the opposition to Cajetan's exegesis, see Thomas Aquinas Collins, "The Cajetan Controversy," AER 128 (1953) 90-100. Luther's passing remark was that "Cajetan, in his later days, has become Lutheran" (WA Tischreden 2. 596.14, cited by Jared Wicks, Cajetan Responds: A Reader in Reformation Controversy [Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1978] 36). For the Genevan point of view, see Alexandre Ganoczy, La Bibliotheque de ! Academie de Calvin: Le catalogue de 1572 et ses enseignements (Etudes de philologie et d'histoire 13; Geneva: Droz, 1969) 95-97, 184-86. 2 These comments emerge in the course of Cajetan's treatment of Gen 16:8 and Gen 21:15; see his Commentarii illustres . . in Quinque Mosaicos libros, henceforth: Comm. Gen. (Paris: Guillaume Bossozel, 1539) 80, 99.
3 Cajetan, Comm. Gen. 16:7 (p. 80): "curam etiam mulierculae exerce." 4 Ibid., 16:10 (p. 80). is Ibid., 16:11 (p. 81). 16 Ibid., 16:11,13 (p. 81).
" Ibid., 16:11 (p. 81). The last sentence reads, in part, "ut ex diuina gratia gratis data nullus glorietur, nullus laudetur, nullus speretur bonus."
Is See Nicolas of Lyra, Biblia Sacra cvm Glossis, Interlineari & Ordinaria, Nicolai Lyrani Postilla & Moralitatibus, Burgensis Additionibus, & Thoringi Replicis (6 vols.; Lyons: Antoine Vincent, 1545) fol. 67r, on Gen 16:7; and Denis the Carthusian, Enarratio in Genesim, Doctoris Ecstatici D. Dionysii Cartusiani Opera Omnia (42 vols.; Monstrol: Cartusiae S. M. de Pratis, 1896-1913) 1. 238, on Gen 16:11, where he also speaks of gratia gratis data. On Cajetan's use of sources, particularly of medieval Hebrew commentaries, see von Gunten, "La contribution des 'Hebreux," 64-71.
19 Cajetan, Comm. Gen. 21:11 (p. 98): "[Sarah's] command was quite evil in the eyes of Abraham on account of his son. It seemed unfair and cruel (iniquum atque crudele) to eject his son and firstborn with no compelling guilt on his son's part." 2 Ibid., 21:20 (p. 100): "Hinc apparet nugas esse quod ismahel exercuerit latrocinia. Si enim Deus quatenus iudex erat cum puero, longe erat a latrocins. 2 Ibid., 21:15 (p. 99): "Nefarium siquidem est cogitate quod tam pia mater adderet afflictionem afflicto filio proprio unigenito."
22 Ibid., 21:21 (p. 100): "Naturali amore unusquisque af&citur nationi suae." 23 Ibid., 21:14 (p. 99). Cajetan may have drawn some of the motifs here from the rabbis (e.g., Abraham Ibn Ezra or Nachmanides), or even from Rupert of Deutz, but the lengthy development seems to be all his own. On the following page, at Gen 21:20, Cajetan discovers that Abraham also had the foresight to send along a tent!
24 Ibid.: "The literal sense here is not false (fctus) but to be inferred (insinuatus), first, from the decency of Abraham; next, from the sex and condition of Hagar, who was, after all, his wife; then, from the age of his own son; and last, from the `bread,' that is, from the provisions to be carried. Indeed, all these things together indicate that pack animals and, consequently,
servants and all the other necessities were needed for these things. Surely Abraham did not treat Ishmael worse than the other sons whom he later begot from his concubine, on whom he lavished rewards." For Cajetan on Keturah, see ibid., 25:1 (p. llO). zs Among representative exegetes here are Chrysostom, Isidore, Bede, Raban Maur, the author of the Glossa Ordinaria, and several of Calvin's Reformed and Lutheran contemporaries. Calvin's own Commentary on Genesis (= Comm. Gen.) was published in 1554. I have cited the Latin text found in Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia 23 (Corpus Reformatorum 51; Brunswick: C. A. Schwetschke and Sons, 1882), henceforth: CO 23. English translations are from Commentaries on the First Book of Moses, Called Genesis, by John Calvin (tr. John King; 2 vols.; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847-50), henceforth: CTS, altered as needed. 26 Calvin, Comm. Gen. 16:4 (CO 23. 225; CTS 1. 427): "Praecipua quidem culpa penes Sarai residebat."
Ibid., 16:1; 16:6; 21:10 (CO 23. 223, 226, 301; CTS 1. 423, 430, 543). Ibid., 16:6 (CO 23. 226; CTS 1. 428-29): "sibi placet in stulta audacia." Ibid., 16:11 (CO 23. 229; CTS 1. 433).
Ibid., 21:20 (CO 23. 305; CTS 1. 551). For Cajetan, see n. 20 above. 3 All this language is found in Calvin, Comm. Gen. 21:9 (CO 23. 300-301; CTS 1. 542-43): "maligno subsannatio . . contempsit. . . impius illusor . . . canino suo risu et profano" and "petulantiam."
33 Ibid., 21:8 (CO 23. 299; CTS 1. 541): "Videtur quidem hoc primo adspectu esse frivolum.... Et certe si personas reputamus, statuemus non fuisse rem lusoriam." 34Ibid., 21:9 (CO 23. 300-301; CTS 1. 543).
35 Ibid., 16:6 (CO 23. 227; CTS 1. 430): "Servilis igitur ingen mulier, et indomitae ferocia."
36 It is not easy to tell whether, or how, Calvin considers Hagar to belong to God. In Gen 16:7, the angel's "discovery" of Hagar displays God's undeserved clemency towards "his own" (suis); but in Gen 16:11, Hagar is part of a group of "unbelievers" (incredulos; see also
n. 41 below) which is contrasted to "the Lord's own" (suorum). Cf. CO 23. 227, 229 (CTS 1. 430, 434).
37 Calvin, Comm. Gen. 16:14 (CO 23. 232; CTS 1. 438); see the Latin text in n. 53 below. 38 Ibid., 16:13 (CO 23. 230, CTS 1. 435), emphasis mine. 39 Ibid., 21:17 (CO 23. 304-5; CTS 1. 549), where Calvin remarks that "the angel reproves the ingratitude of Hagar because when she is reduced to the greatest straits, she does not reflect on God's former kindness toward her in similar danger." Modem commentators, one may recall, often see Hagar's two desert excursions as a doublet.
40 Ibid., 16:9 (CO 23. 228; CTS 1. 432): "It might also be that [the angel] censured her departure from that house which was then the earthly sanctuary of God, for she was not ignorant that God was there worshiped in a peculiar manner."
41 Ibid., 16:11 (CO 23. 229; CTS 1. 433-34), where Calvin's words are generalized: "socordes et stupidos." Later on, at 16:13 (CO 23. 231; CTS 1. 437), he further indicts her "torpor and "shameful blindness."
42 Ibid., 21:17 (CO 23. 305; CTS 1. 550).
n Ibid. (CO 23. 304; CTS 1. 549).
44 Ibid., 21:14 (CO 23. 303; CTS 1. 547): "Filium ergo ablegat, non secus ac si sua ipsius viscera avelleret."
45 Ibid. (CO 23. 304; CTS 1. 548). The passage is remarkably redolent of Cajetan (above, n. 23). Of course, both may be inspired by a rabbinic source, but the reference to "asses" is peculiar, found only in Raban Maur, then (later on) in Rabbi Obadiah ben Jacob Sfomo (14751550) and in Peter Martyr Vermigli.
" This is also my conclusion from studies of Calvin's portrayal of other patriarchs. See John L. Thompson, "Patriarchs, Polygamy, and Private Resistance: John Calvin and Others on Breaking God's Rules," Sixteenth Century Journal 25 (1994) 3-27.
' In the Weimar edition ("Weimar Ausgabe," = WA), the Latin text of Luther's In Primum Librum Mose Enarrationes (= Comm. Gen.) is found in vols. 42-44. English translations
are those of the American edition, Luther's Works 1-8: Lectures on Genesis (ed. Jaroslav Pelikan; St. Louis: Concordia, 1958-66), henceforth: LW, occasionally altered.
49 See Luther, Comm. Gen. 16:4-5 (WA 42. 582, 585-86; LW 3. 47, 52-53). Luther's memorable closing comment on v 4 is that Hagar was "as proud as a louse on a scabby head." ' Ibid., 16:6 (WA 42. 590; LW 3. 59). Luther is further remarkable in his suggestion that Abraham and Sarah, having repented of their respective contributions to Hagar's flight, "undoubtedly prayed for Hagar after she had fallen into such a serious sin.... Those who were saintly and without guilt bear the consciousness of sin." See ibid., 16:7-9 (WA 42. 591-92; LW 3. 61).
Ibid., 16:13-14 (WA 42. 599-601; LW 3. 71-74). Ibid.,16:15-16 (WA 42. 601; LW 3. 74).
53 Note the following similarities (Underlined):
Vides rebellem Hagar et impatientem iug post Agar quae semper ferox et rebellis fuerat, tunc revelationem hanc prorsus aliam factam. vero prorsus excusserat iugum, nunc alia pror(Luther, as cited in the previous note) sus apparet, postquam malis fracta fuit cordis eius durities. (Calvin, as cited in n. 37 above)
5 Luther, Comm. Gen. 16:13-14 (WA 42. 598-99; LW 3. 70); examples of such saints who "symbolize the ungodly" include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Christ, and "the entire church."
ss Luther's ability to bracket Galatians 4 is signaled also at Comm. Gen. 16:6 (WA 42. 589-90; LW 3. 58), where he notes that the verb "to humble, afflict" (Hagar) is applied to Christ in Zech 9:9 and to Moses in Num 12:3.
5 Luther, Comm. Gen. 21:14 (WA 43. 161; cf. LW 4. 36). Luther's lapse from Latin into German ("a sack of bread and a jug of water") is surely meant to emphasize the paucity of supplies.
57 Ibid., 21:15-16 (WA 43. 164; LW 4. 40-41).
58Ibid. (WA 43. 168; LW 4. 46). In Luther's comments on Gen 21:14, he variously (but expressly) names every member of the household as a person weeping; see WA 43. 161-64 (LW 4. 37-40).
59Ibid., 21:14 (WA 43. 162; LW 4. 38). 6 Ibid., 21:15-16 (WA 43. 166; LW 4. 42). 6 Ibid. (WA 43. 165; LW 4. 42). 62 Ibid., 21:17 (WA 43. 176; LW 4. 56).
6 Ibid., 21:20-21 (WA 43. 186; LW 4. 69). Cf. 21:15-16 (WA 43. 166-67; LW 4. 43-44), where Luther also addresses the faith of Ishmael's descendants as well as the conversion of the Canaanites.
s4 Ibid., 21:20-21 (WA 43. 186; LW 4. 71).
65 Ibid., 21:17 (WA 43. 177; LW 4. 58). 66Ibid 21:15-16 (WA 43. 166; LW 4. 43).
67 Luther makes many anti-Jewish asides in this context, but for those which pertain especially to exegesis, see WA 42. 594, 596-97, 599400; 43. 144 (LW 3.64,67-69, 70-73; 4.12-13). ' A similar question is raised by Trible, Texts of Terror, 25-28. 69 Or, in the words of LW 4. 59, "He wanted to crush you" ("Mortificare vos voluit," WA 43. 177.32).
70m Luther, Comm. Gen. 21:15-16 (WA 43. 169; LW 4. 47-48).
7' Ibid., 21:17 (WA 43. 178.2-7): "Atque hic etiam de finali causa admonemur, non quia Deus Ismaelem et Hagar oderit, ideo sic miserabiliter eos sinit eci. Hanc falsam causam Leviathan adfingit, Dei consilium est, ut humilientur, et discant confidere in sola Dei gratia: non in meritis aut dignitate aliqua carnali."
72 God imposed a similar course of renunciation and mortification on Abraham, and Luther explicitly likens the effect of Hagar's banishment on Abraham to the near sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22; see Comm. Gen. 21:15-16 (WA 43. 168; LW 4. 45). But it is clear that both Hagar and Ishmael also endured a crisis of faith no less dramatic than the one which Kierkegaard, in his Fear and Trembling, attributes to Abraham.
" This is not to say that Luther ignores the traditional grammatical and historical problems. Many of them are, in fact, treated in passing; others are pressed into service on behalf of his broader reading of the text. The statements in Gen 21:20-21 (discussed above) that "God was with" Ishmael, that he dwelt in Paran, and even that he obeyed his mother in choosing a wife, are all evidence of Ishmael's ultimate godliness. The problematic shift from "Hagar lifted up her voice" (21:16) to "God heard the lad" (21:17) is nicely resolved by Luther in Hagar's favor by reading the latter phrase as part of the angel's proclamation to Hagar. Thus her greatest cause for anxiety-Ishmael's impending death-is alleviated. See WA 43. 181 (LW 4. 63-64).
7 See WA 43. 161.25, 162.17, 162.31-32, 164.24-25; 167.41-42. Comm. Gen. 21:14 (WA 43. 162.31-32, LW 4. 38) is especially moving: "If Moses had wanted to record everything as it happened, he would have needed a large volume for this one account, for who could describe the tears and sighs of the mother as well as of the son?"
75 Luther, Comm. Gen. 21:14 (WA 43. 163.1-3; LW 4. 38): "Haec non adfingo ego, sed ipsae circumstantiae, et Mosi superior narratio has circumstantias clare adferunt, quam enim pius et etiam in hostes clemens et misericors fuerit Abraham, Sodomitarum historia docet One wonders whether there is a trace of Cajetan here.
76 Calvin, Comm. Gen. 21:8-9 (CO 23. 299, 301-2; CTS 1. 541, 543). 7 See Jane Dempsey Douglass, Women, Freedom, and Calvin (Annie Kinkead Warfield Lectures 1983; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985); and John L. Thompson, John Calvin and the Daughters of Sarah: Women in Regular and Exceptional Roles in the Exegesis of Calvin, His Predecessors, and His Contemporaries (Travaux d'humanisme et renaissance 259; Geneva: Droz, 1992). See also n. 47 above.
78 For a typical comment, see Calvin's remark referred to at n. 43, above. Calvin frequently cites the arguments of the "Hebrews" and the "Jews." At Gen 21:7 (CO 23. 299), he dismisses a "fable of the Jews" which is traceable to Rashi and, beyond that, to Genesis Rabbah.
' Stephen Ozment ( When Fathers Ruled: Family life in Reformation Europe [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983D has argued this case well, though not without controversy.
80 Weems, Just a Sister Away, ix. 81 Research for this essay was made possible by a grant from the Pew Evangelical Scholars Program.
JOHN L. THOMPSON Fuller Theological Seminary Pasadena, CA 91182
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