Yes, Sheelah, thank you, your synopsis does indeed help. I was attempting to read the Akedah like Girard reads one of those stories which relate a founding murder. These are stories of violent encounters. When told by mythologers, the violence is obfuscated. When told by Biblical authors, the violence is brought into focus. I correctly understood James to say that the Akedah seems to be replacing a slaughtered human with a slaughtered ram. I took this to mean James was (inadvertently) implying that the Akedah falls on the side of obfuscation, as opposed to clarification. My mistake, I see now, was to try and read the Akedah as an origin story. James never reads it as such in this lecture and, so far as I know, Girard never does so either.

Genesis 22 is not one of those stories that emanated from a founding murder; rather, it is a story about the sacrificial rituals that emanate from a founding murder. While a mythological perspective necessarily buries its head in the sand with respect to the spontaneous collective violence at its origin, those who adhere to a mythological perspective in their telling of origin stories need not have any qualms about embracing wholeheartedly the rehearsed collective violence of human sacrifice.

The idea of the archaic sacred is that God demands the shedding of blood. This is a useful lie which conceals the truth: people, having accidentally stumbled upon the benefits of temporary reconciliation through bloodshed, have begun to demand ritual bloodshed all of themselves. In the Bible, the Akedah is a case in which the death of a ram suffices “God’s” demand in an instance in which the death of a human was presumably called for. Here the substitution is not an obfuscation of some violence formerly perpetrated. Instead, the substitution suggests that a clarification to the human understanding of ritual bloodletting: the success of rituals depends less on what people believe they heard God to demand and more on whether or not all the people involved are left satisfied when it is over.