Abraham is for Christians an example of faith, with an incredible story of hope in the midst of adversity. Kierkegaard, however, goes beyond just that. In what many consider to be his magnum opus, the Danish philosopher expresses his tremendous admiration for the man he calls a “knight of faith.”

One of the few extant depictions of Kierkegaard.

Fear and Trembling could not be a more accurate title to this powerful work by Søren Kierkegaard, dedicated to the most decisive episode of Abraham’s life: Isaac’s sacrifice. Kierkegaard addresses the impressive way of how Abraham deals with the trial imposed on him: for more than three days, Abraham travels with his son Isaac – the son God had promised Abraham at a very late point in his life, through whom the nation of Israel would be born – with the mission of sacrificing him. Without telling anyone of this trial that God has given him, Abraham must face alone the terrifying anguish of having to kill his very own son. Even at the mountain top, as he takes care of all the necessary preparations to sacrifice his son, Abraham does not stop loving Isaac, nor does he stop believing the promises that God will accomplish through Isaac – and yet Abraham is at all times ready to perform his duty unswervingly.

It is this contradiction, this uncanny and almost inexplicable paradox that captivates the author’s curiosity. Kierkegaard compares Abraham’s example with that of Agamemnon and Faust, exalting the biblical character above all others for his faith and for the particular nature of his trial. For the Danish philosopher, Abraham is an exceptionally rare case;  attempting to emulate his character in its plenitude – the character of a “knight of faith” – won’t achieve the same result. Nevertheless, Abraham is also a case worthy of appreciation, from which one may apprehend great life lessons applicable to any individual.

The scholastic language so frequently employed by the philosopher and the complexity of his thoughts make the reading of this work an herculean task, yet it is undoubtedly a valuable one too. This really is an incomparable study of the  example of faith Abraham is to millions and millions of believers, an example that also deeply influenced the life of one of the nineteenth century’s greatest philosophers.

About the Author:

Daniel T. Gomes is a graphic designer and content writer from Lisbon, Portugal. He currently serves as Biblion’s Assistant Editor, having played a crucial role in the magazine since its inception. He is also a self-published author and one of the hosts of the biweekly Broklahomies Podcast.