Archaeology Odyssey 5:3, May/June 2002

Iphigenia & Isaac

Saved at the altar

By Theodore H. FederHershel Shanks

Iphigenia and Isaac, an unlikely pair. Yet both were almost sacrificed—one to a Greek goddess and the other to the universal Israelite God. Both Iphigenia and Isaac were innocent of any wrongdoing. In the end, both were saved when the deity relented and an animal sacrifice was substituted for the human sacrifice.

Of course, there are many differences, too. One story is known from Greek mythology, preserved largely in two plays by Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.), Iphigenia at Aulis and Iphigenia in Tauris. The other story comes from Hebrew tradition, preserved in Genesis 22.a The contexts of the two stories are also very different.

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