Pride of Life (The Word of God Encyclopedia Book 8)

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Abram returned to Canaan with Lot and Sarai, but Lot and Abram had a dispute over grazing land for their herds. Breaking with tradition, Abram allowed Lot—the younger of the two—to chose the land he would take. Lot chose the fertile plain to the east, and Abram took the hills to the west. Lot's land included the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. After Abram was again settled, God came to Abram and renewed his promise; that Abram would inherit for his descendants all the land he could see in every direction.

Lot moved to Sodom and was captured when local tribes attacked the city. Abram—who had grown wealthy and distinguished—armed his men and pursued Lot's kidnappers, regaining Lot and his possessions. Again God affirmed his promises to Abram, Abram now being well advanced in years and without offspring. God reaffirmed that He would give the land from the Nile to the Euphrates to Abram's descendants, but only after they had spent years as slaves.

With God having more than once affirmed his promise of numerous progeny to Abram, Sarai made a suggestion. In the ancient world, it was a custom to offer a substitute to bear a child to ensure the continuation of the family. Sarai offered her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, to Abram to bear them a child. Abram consented, and at the age of 86 Hagar bore him a son, Ishmael. Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, God once again appeared to Abram and renewed His covenant with Abram through the sign of circumcision and even expanded the promises: if Abram would "walk before [the LORD] and be upright" then God would make Abram the "father of a multitude of nations.

Abraham laughed at this seemingly absurd promise, because Abraham was 99 at the time and Sarah was When Abraham laughed, God said the boy's name would be Isaac, which means "he laughs. God came again to speak to Abraham, in the guise of a traveler with companions who were two angels. They were on their way to Sodom to destroy the city for its wickedness. Abraham boldly bargained with God on behalf of Lot, and because of Abraham's favor, God relented: if there were just ten righteous people in Sodom, God would not destroy it.

During God's and the angels' visit, Abraham served them Bedouin hospitality: a goat, water, and other food. Later, God could not find even ten righteous in Sodom, but spared Lot's family by warning them to leave before he destroyed the city. Lot's wife was turned to a pillar of salt when she turned to view Sodom as she fled. A year later, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Sarah grew increasingly jealous of Hagar and Ishmael, and Abraham relented to allow Sarah to send them out into the wilderness.

God saved Hagar and Ishmael and promised Ishmael would also father a great nation through 12 sons, assumed by tradition to be the 12 Arab tribes. According to Christian and Jewish scripture, God stipulated, though, that the covenant would flow through Isaac's line. In Talmudic tradition, Ishmael was later down-played, cast as a bully to younger brother Isaac. According to the Koran, Hagar and Ishmael made a journey to Mecca where they build a home and Abraham often visited them. According to Judaism and Christianity, Isaac is the son whom the offering story is about.

According to Islamic interpretation, Ishmael is the son in the story. Either way, Abraham was asked in a test of faith by God to take one of his sons onto Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. At the time, children were often sacrificed as burnt offerings to a variety of deities. Abraham submitted, despite the fact that he "loved" his son. He took the son up on the mountain and prepared to sacrifice him. At the last moment, God told him to stay his hand and a ram appeared in the bushes.

Abraham and his son slayed the ram as an offering, instead. God reiterated His promises to Abraham again, at this point, and made the covenant binding.

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Because Abraham had faith in the One God, God showed Himself different from other gods who desired human sacrifice and started His history with a people: the Jews or the Muslims. Christianity also lays claim to this story as the fore-shadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

After Sarah died, two things happened. The Koran tells the story of Abraham and Ishmael making a journey to retrieve the Kaaba—Islam's great shrine—from the sands. Also, Abraham sent a servant to find a suitable wife for Isaac among Abraham's relatives. The Jewish covenant would pass down through Jacob, who would have twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel. Likewise, Jacob's sons would include Joseph and Judah, and the birthright would continue through Joseph and the scepter through Judah, which is important for the establishing of Jesus Christ in the line of the covenant. Abraham married Keturah and had six more sons.

Abraham died at years old and was buried in a cave in Hebron with Sarah, before he could inherit the land of Canaan. Both Isaac and Ishmael attended the funeral. The five repetitions of daily Muslim prayer begin and end with reference to Abraham. Several rituals during the hajj—the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca—throw back to Abraham's life. Christian children around the world sing "Father Abraham had many sons…. And I am one of them and so are you. There has been a trend in the s and s to use Abraham as a figure and tool for reconciliation.

Interfaith activists have scheduled Abraham lectures, Abraham speeches, and Abraham "salons" worldwide. David Van Biema in Time notes, "It is a staple premise of the interfaith movement, which has been picking at the problem since the late s, that if Muslims, Christians, and Jews are ever to respect and understand one another, a key road leads through Abraham. The Israeli settler movement is largely fueled by the concept that Abraham's covenant with God grants the Jewish people the Holy Land.

Meanwhile, Christians misused passages on Abraham written by Paul in the New Testament to encourage anti-Semitism and possibly the Crusades. There are also discrepancies about which of his sons did what. The Muslims and Jews have two totally different stories on which son was exalted and inherited the birthright. The Koran also claims that Abraham was the first Muslim, not a Jewish prophet. Biema says, "His story constitutes a kind of multifaith scandal, a case study for monotheism's darker side.

He is most famously thought of as the father of monotheism…. The stories do, however, describe his hospitality and peaceableness and, most important, his faith and obedience to God. House, Paul R. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. June 29, Retrieved June 29, from Encyclopedia.

Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Abraham [according to the Book of Genesis, Heb. As the founder of Judaism , he is said to have instituted the rite of circumcision as a sign of the covenant between God and the Jews, who are descended from Isaac , son of Abraham's old age. Abraham also received the promise of Canaan for his people.

In response to divine command, Abraham left Haran, taking his wife Sara and his nephew Lot to Canaan, where God promised him many descendants who would become a great nation. His devotion and trust in God and his promises are exemplified pre-eminently in Abraham's preparedness to sacrifice his son Isaac.

The Book of Joshua confesses Abraham as a one-time worshiper of other gods before he entered Canaan. Muslims believe that Arabs are descended from Abraham and Hagar through their son Ishmael. Abraham is further regarded as an ancestor of Muhammad. According to the Qur'an, Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba in Mecca and instituted pilgrimages there.

The Qur'an depicts him destroying the idols of his father and of his clan; hence, Islam is the restoration of the religion of Abraham. See also Josephus' Jewish Antiquities. Modern biblical scholarship has revealed anachronisms in Genesis that cloud attempts to place chronologically Abraham's historical existence. See T. Millard and D.

Wiseman, ed. Abraham originally named Abram. Patriarch of the Israelite people whose story is told in Genesis. In the aggadah , Abraham is seen as an ideal figure who kept the oral law even before it had been revealed. As the first to recognize God , he is the father of all proselytes. In Christianity , Abraham is an exemplar of the efficacy of faith without law Romans 4, Galatians 3.

In James 2. He was believed to have been one of the just liberated by Christ on his descent into hell. Abraham in the Bible , the Hebrew patriarch from whom all Jews trace their descent Genesis — , directed by God to leave his own country for another land. In Genesis 22 he is ordered by God to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of faith, a command later revoked. Abraham's bosom is where the righteous dead are said to lie at peace; the term comes from Luke Abraham man a former or occasional inmate of the Hospital of St.

Mary of Bethlehem in London, licensed to beg on his discharge, or a similarly licensed beggar discharged from a charitable institution perhaps in allusion to the biblical story of the beggar Lazarus in Luke The term was current in the 16th and 17th centuries. God tested his loyalty by demanding he sacrifice his son, Isaac. He is esteemed by Muslims who regard him as the ancestor, through his son Ishmael , of the Arabs. It became Brooklyn's largest department store, with six branches in metropolitan New York. Abraham's son-in-law, simon f. Another son-in-law, charles eduard blum — , was president from to and board chairman from to In walter n.

Rothschild, became A. Subsequently A. Abraham's great-grandson, and son of Walter N. Rothschild, walter n. He served as chairman of the New York Urban Coalition from to and as chairman of the National Urban Coalition from to The family participated actively through all the generations in general and Jewish philanthropies but became remote from Jewish life. The form "Abram" occurs in the Bible only in Genesis —, Nehemiah , and i Chronicles Otherwise, "Abraham" appears invariably, and the name is borne by no one else.

No certain extra-biblical parallel exists. A-ba-am-ra-ma, A-ba-ra-ma, A-ba-am-ra-am occur in 19 th -century b. Akkadian cuneiform texts. Abrm appears in Ugaritic Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook , pp. There is no evidence that Abram is a shortened form of Abiram. The meaning "exalted father" or "father is exalted," while less satisfactory, cannot be ruled out. No Hebrew derivation for Abraham exists. The main details of Abraham's life are recorded in Genesis — They do not form a continuous narrative but refer to a series of isolated incidents. His two brothers were Nahor and Haran. The family migrated from "Ur of the Chaldees" , the apparent birthplace of Abraham ; ; Neh.

At Shechem he received a further promise of national territory and built an altar before continuing his wanderings in the region between Beth-El and Ai. In this area, too, he built an altar and invoked the divine name, thereafter journeying toward the Negev —9. See Map: Abraham's Journeys. Driven by famine to Egypt, the patriarch represented his wife as his sister in order to avert personal danger. Sarah was taken to Pharaoh's palace, but released when the deception was uncovered as a result of divine visitations — Abraham returned to Canaan and resumed his peregrinations. At this time, Lot left the clan because of quarrels over pasture-lands and departed —9.

This incident was followed by a reiteration of the divine promises of nationhood and possession of the land — Abraham again built an altar, this time in Hebron The patriarch rescued his nephew and restored the booty. He refused, however, the offer by the king of Sodom of a share in the recovered spoils ch. Once again, Abraham received.

Ten years had now elapsed since the first promise of abundant offspring, but Sarah remained childless. The Bible is silent about the next 13 years. Then Scripture reports that God reaffirmed and strengthened the promise of a rich posterity. Abraham and Sarah were to beget "a multitude of nations" and kings would issue from them —8. It is at this point that their names were changed from Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, respectively , Abraham then performed circumcision on himself and on Ishmael, as well as upon all males in his household — Alongside the terebinths of Mamre three messengers appeared to the patriarch who entertained them hospitably and learned from them of the impending birth of his son and heir — Sarah was amused by these tidings as had been Abraham earlier ; cf.

He also revealed His decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded for revocation of the sentence for the sake of an innocent nucleus that might be found therein. None such could apparently be found, although Lot was saved from the subsequent destruction through the merit of Abraham — The patriarch journeyed to the Negev area and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While in Gerar, he again passed off his wife as his sister. The time of fulfillment of the divine promise was now at hand. Sarah, aged 90 , bore the year-old Abraham a son who was named Isaac —3, 5.

This event, however, proved to be a cause of domestic disharmony. Sarah demanded the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael. It was only divine intervention in favor of Sarah that persuaded the distressed Abraham to agree — At this time, at Abimelech's initiative, the patriarch concluded a pact of non-aggression, which also regulated the watering rights in the Beer-Sheba area. He subsequently spent considerable time in the land of the Philistines — Abraham obeyed unhesitatingly and his hand was stayed only at the last moment by an angel.

Having passed the supreme test of faith, the patriarch now received, for the last time, the divine blessing — the promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; they would seize the gates of their foes; all the nations of the earth would bless themselves by his progeny — Abraham's subsequent acts were concerned with winding up his affairs. Then, Abraham commissioned his senior servant to travel to Haran to find a wife for Isaac, the idea of a local Canaanite daughter-in-law being thoroughly repugnant to him ch.

After Isaac's marriage to Rebekah, Abraham himself remarried. Several children were born of this marriage to Keturah, like Isaac and Ishmael the eponyms of nations. Thus was fulfilled the promise Gen that Abraham would be the father of many nations. However, he willed all his possessions to Isaac, gave his other sons gifts and sent them away to the land of the East. Abraham died at the age of and was buried in the cave of Machpelah by Isaac and Ishmael — Mention of Abraham in the rest of the Bible is overwhelmingly in connection with the divine promises, and usually there is simultaneous reference to all three patriarchs.

The few points of contact with the Abrahamic biography are mainly confined to the Book of Genesis ; ; , though the exodus from Ur and the change of name are mentioned in the late books Neh. A cryptic reference to Abraham's idolatrous ancestry is to be found in Joshua , while Isaiah seems to cite some widely known tradition not otherwise recorded in the Bible.

Abraham is called God's "servant" Gen. Surprisingly, "God of Abraham" as a generalized divine epithet appears only this once. Otherwise, Abraham is invariably associated with the other patriarchs in divine appellations. The picture that emerges from the biblical texts suggests a wealthy head of a large establishment, a semi-nomadic tent dweller Gen. He possesses flocks, silver and gold, slaves ibid.

He makes military alliances , has dealings with kings ff. Abraham is peace loving —9 , magnanimous and principled in victory ff. He is the very symbol of the God-fearing man and the man of supreme faith ; 22; Neh. He is privy to divine decisions Gen. Amos and is also termed "a prophet" Gen. The disconnected and fragmentary nature of the narrative, as well as stylistic considerations, seem to point to a composition based on various oral traditions and written sources.

Among followers of the documentary theory, there is a broad measure of agreement in respect of source division among je and p, but little consensus as to the age and historic value of the material used by these sources. No external records have been found as yet that refer by name to Abraham or to any personage directly connected with him. The attempts in the mid th century to marshal sociological and onomastic evidence from archeological discoveries at Nuzi, Mari, and elsewhere to provide a historical setting for Abraham in the second millennium b.

Most alleged parallels between the Abrahamic stories have been shown to be faulty e. Contemporary scholarship tends to see Abraham as a fictitious symbolic model of faith, as a figure who legitimates the claims of Israel to its land, and whose actions foreshadow the deeds of his children. Whatever the age and source of the individual units, it is quite clear that in its present form the cycle of Abrahamic traditions is a unified and symmetrical historiographic composition.

These traditions are encased within a framework of genealogies — the first listing the patriarch's ancestors Gen. The action opens and closes in a Mesopotamian setting —4; ff. The first utterance of Abraham to God is an expression of doubt —8 ; his last is one of supreme confidence in the workings of divine providence Finally, both the first and last communications from God to Abraham involve agonizing decisions and tests of faith, and they are cast in a strikingly similar literary mold: almost identical language is used in the case of both calls ; ; the exact destination is withheld in both cases; the motif of father parting with son is shared by each narrative; the tension of the drama is heightened by the accumulation of descriptive epithets ibid.

In aggadic literature Abraham is regarded as having observed all the commandments Yoma 28b; Kid. He acted in strict conformity with the Oral Law: "No one occupied himself so much with the divine commandments as did Abraham" Ned. He even muzzled his animals that they should not graze in the fields of others Gen. Abraham instituted the morning prayer Ber.

Abraham's principal virtue was that he was the first to recognize God, which is variously stated to have taken place when he was one, three, ten, or 48 years old Gen. His recognition of God sprang from the notion that every citadel must have a leader ibid. Abraham waged a strenuous battle in the cause of spreading the idea of monotheism and won over many converts. Abraham became a priest Gen. He was one of the great prophets, with whom God spoke not in dreams or visions but while he was in full possession of his normal cognitive faculties.

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Through coins bearing his image Abraham's fame spread Gen. Around his neck was hung a precious stone which brought masses flocking to him, for whoever looked on it was healed bb 16b, et al. Lekh Lekha 5 , and his blessing spread upon all who came into contact with him Gen. Renowned for his hospitality to strangers, he had open doors to his house on all four sides Gen. Because of his proselytizing activities, he is regarded as the father of all proselytes, who are given the patronymic Abraham.

Abraham was circumcised on the Day of Atonement by Shem the son of Noah, "and every year the Holy One, blessed be He, looks upon the blood of the covenant of our patriarch Abraham's circumcision and forgives all our sins" pdre Circumcision was one of the ten trials wherewith Abraham was tried see later and by virtue of it he sits at the gate of hell and does not permit the circumcised to enter Gen.

The phrase, "entry into the covenant of Abraham our father," used to this day for the ceremony of circumcision, is already found in the Damascus Document ed. Rabin, Zadokite Documents 2 , 60— According to an early tradition Abraham underwent ten trials Avot of which different lists are given in the Midrashim arn ; Mid. In answer to the sectarians who sought thus to prove the weakness of Abraham's faith, the sages emphasized that it is only the righteous, who are certain to pass the test, who are tried Gen. Buber, Ex. The dramatic description of Abraham's appeal to save the people of Sodom Gen.

According to this Abraham employed a "cleaner" language than did Job ibid. In this connection the Midrash emphasizes the extreme contrast between the basic hospitality of Abraham and the spurious "hospitality" of the people of Sodom Ag. It is of interest to note that the Akedah is regarded as more of a trial of Abraham than of Isaac. In a desire to compare the trial of Abraham with that of Job, the aggadah assigns to Satan a role in the drama of Abraham as well Sanh. The disciples of Abraham have "a benign eye, a humble spirit and a lowly soul" Avot Abraham however is not regarded as beyond criticism.

The Talmud states that "Abraham our father was punished and his descendants enslaved in Egypt" because he pressed scholars into military service based on Gen. Moreover, Abraham hesitated to circumcise himself, whereupon Mamre rebuked and encouraged him Gen. In a biting comment, Rava denied Abraham the right to intercede on behalf of his people: In time to come Israel will ask of God: "To whom shall we go — to Abraham to whom Thou didst say, 'Know of a surety that thy seed be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them…' and yet he did not plead for mercy for us?

The prevailing Hellenistic outlook influenced the description of Abraham in the Apocrypha. He is the founder of a city and a legislator, the two principal functions of a great leader according to the Hellenistic concept, and his wisdom is described in extravagant terms. According to the Apocrypha his recognition of God stemmed from his knowledge of astronomy which he taught to the great men of his generation. Hence there developed the idea that Abraham was an expert in many and varied spheres.

The Book of Jubilees even declares that he instructed men in the art of improved plowing, so as to conceal the seeds from the ravens 18— His Babylonian origin is emphasized in conformity with the contemporary outlook which regarded that country as the cradle of mysticism. On the basis of Genesis Abraham was deemed to be the progenitor of the Spartans too i Macc.

Philo deals with him in his De Migratione Abrahami , while extracts from Hellenistic Jewish writers about him have been preserved by Eusebius. In iv Macc. The background of this description of Abraham was the persecution of the Jews of Alexandria at that time. In addition to this biblical image of Abraham, Jewish philosophers found in rabbinic Midrashim views of Abraham according to which he smashed the prevalent idols and came to believe in the one God Gen.

Targum Onkelos and Rashi to Gen. Eventually two paradigms evolved, in which the image of Abraham came to reflect two basic approaches to Jewish philosophy. According to the first school of thought, in which religion was understood rationally, Abraham was seen as a philosopher whose faith in God was the conclusion of scientific reasoning. According to the other school of thought, Abraham was seen as a believer whose faith and experience of divine revelation transcended his earlier philosophical or scientific speculation. The first view of Abraham as a philosopher is found in Hellenistic Jewish literature.

Philo interpreted Abraham's wanderings and wars allegorically as a process of coming to know God De Abrahamo This view of Abraham as a philosopher is also found in medieval Jewish thought. Blau, It should be noted that, in Maimonides' view, prophecy itself was understood to be a thoroughly rational phenomenon Commentary on Mishnah, Introduction to Sanhedrin ch. Nevertheless, Maimonides states that Abraham and Moses prophetically grasped the supranatural understanding of creation ex nihilo and thus differed from the Aristotelian philosophic belief in the world's eternity Guide , 17, The Hellenistic and medieval Jewish view of Abraham as philosopher is also found in modern Jewish thought.

Halevi thus partially accepts the rationalist view of Abraham as a philosopher, but it was as a prophet, receiving divine revelation, and not as a natural philosopher, that Abraham attained his spiritual greatness. In the 20 th century, Joseph Soloveitchik 's Lonely Man of Faith presents a view of Abraham as dissatisfied with his early Mesopotamian contemplation of remote and alienating skies, which had led him to conclude that there is one God.

As he progressed, Abraham needed personal revelation. In contrast with the view of Halevi and Arama, according to which Abraham passed from an earlier philosophic or scientific contemplative stage to prophetic receiving of divine revelation, or Soloveitchik's understanding of Abraham as undergoing a personal experience of revelation, Yeshayahu Leibowitz describes Abraham as reaching his faith as a result of a voluntary, religious decision and not as the conclusion of rational contemplation.

Abraham, in Leibowitz's view, represents "faith for its own sake," namely an unreasoned obedience to the divine commandment, without any human benefit or expectation of reward. Several Jewish thinkers have also dealt with Abraham's personality, including judging his questionable behavior in Egypt Gen.

Abraham's sin resulted from his insufficient trust in God's assistance. Isaac Arama's presentation discussed above of Abraham's gradual spiritual progress and the development of his personality attributed his behavior in these incidents to an early stage, when Abraham had not yet attained perfect faith in divine providence and utter trust in divine assistance Binding of Isaac Next to Moses, Abraham is the Old Testament figure most frequently referred to in the New Testament , being mentioned 72 times.

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According to Paul Rom. Hence all Christians, through their faith in the Messiah, are the children of Abraham to the extent that Abraham's righteousness because of his faith and not because of his belief in the Law is imparted to all believers in Jesus Rom. They emphasize his obedience to God in leaving his homeland Ambrose , thus prefiguring the Apostles' following of Jesus Augustine. Kierkegaard, Abraham figures as the paradigm of the man of faith whose total commitment to God is based not on reason but on pure faith. This indicates that Abraham was known to Muhammad as one of the fathers of the monotheistic belief from the beginning of the latter's career; however, Muhammad must have learned that Abraham did not promulgate a book.

When Muhammad began to fill his suras with stories of the prophets, Abraham received a large share, mainly on the basis of material drawn from talmudic legends.


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Abraham, by his own reasoning, recognized that his Creator was God and not a shining star, the moon, or the sun. He smashed the idols of his father, was thrown into a furnace, was miraculously saved, and migrated to the Holy Land. Though long childless, he believed in God's promise of a son and, when a son was born to him, he was prepared to sacrifice him at God's command. It is remarkable that Ishmael, later so prominent in the Koran, does not appear in any connection with his father during the middle Meccan period, e.

During this period, Ishmael is not treated as an individual in a story, but is merely mentioned as a name in a series of prophets and saints, together with such biblical personalities as Aaron, Job, or Elisha, i. Just as there is no connection between Abraham and Ishmael, so there is none between Abraham and the building of the Kaaba, the sanctuary of Muhammad's native city, until late in Muhammad's prophetic career e.

There is also little doubt that, in one form or another, he heard the story of Abraham as the founder of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, as told in the Book of Jubilees —4. The story goes back to ii Chronicles , according to which Solomon built the Temple on the same Mount of Moriah on which Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac Gen. The Book of Jubilees elaborates the story and lets Abraham say that he has built this house in order to put his name on it in the country which God has given to him and to his posterity, and that it will be given to him Jacob and to his posterity forever.

With the aid of the new material Muhammad constructed the ingenious theory that Abraham built the Kaaba together with his son Ishmael , father of the Arabs, and thus founded the religion of Islam, which he, Muhammad, promulgated among his own people. The very word Islam and the idea contained in it, namely that of complete dedication to God, is connected with the story of Abraham, e. Goldziher, in: M. Steinschneider, Polemische und apologetische Literatur in arabischer Sprache , , n. The koranic story of Abraham, which contains many rabbinical legends, is fully covered by H. Speyer in Die biblischen Erzaehlungen im Qoran , pp.

The enormous expansion of these stories in Islamic religious, historical, and narrative literature has been researched by four generations of Jewish scholars, beginning with A. Heller especially in ej, and in eis 2 , s. These researches show that the legends had been spread in Arabia in very early times.

The various legends about Abraham scattered in midrashic literature formed the basis from which medieval Hebrew writers tried to construct a coherent story of his birth, his youth, and his recognition of the one God. The medieval story was written in a few versions. Three stories, published by A. Abraham's recognition of the existence of only one God, which made him the first monotheist, and Abraham as a martyr, are the two principal recurring motifs.

In the narratives centered around the first motif, Abraham was left in a cave immediately after birth because Nimrod, the god-king of Babylonia, who had had an astrological warning that a child would be born that year who would dethrone him, decreed that all male children be killed.

Upon his return to his father's house, he began to spread monotheistic belief. In one of the stories about Abraham known in the Middle Ages the earliest version is found in 12 th -century sources , Abraham in his youth went to study with Shem, the son of Noah. Together they made a golem , that is, a person out of earth and water who miraculously came to life.

To medieval philosophers and mystics, Abraham had been not only a person, but also a symbol. In the controversy that raged around the study of philosophy in Spain and in Provence at the beginning of the 14 th century, the philosophers were accused of interpreting the story of Abraham and Sarah allegorically, through seeing the figures of Abraham and Sarah as personifications of the relationship between matter and form according to Aristotelian philosophy.

The outstanding Renaissance work on the theme is one of a series of Italian religious dramas, the Rappresentazione de Abram e di Sara sua moglie Based on midrashic sources, this play, dramatically insubstantial though it is, is significant by reason of its being one of the earliest plays to be written in Hebrew. The story of Abraham has inspired greater creative endeavor in the pictorial arts. Scenes from the patriarch's life have been illustrated in paintings, sculpture, manuscript illuminations, and mosaics. Usually represented as a white-bearded old man, armed with a knife, Abraham was a favorite subject not only for Christian artists as a prefiguration of Jesus , but also for Moslems.

Two rare examples of cyclic treatment are the 12 th -century mosaics in the cathedral of San Marco, Venice, and a set of 16 th -century Flemish tapestries by Bernard van Orley. Varying combinations of important episodes are found in fifth-century mosaics in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome; in the sixth-century manuscript known as the Vienna Genesis; in the sixth-century mosaics in Ravenna; in the bronze doors of San Zeno, Verona, the altar of Verdun, and the frescoes of Saint-Savin, Poitou all 12 th century ; and in Ghiberti's bronze doors at the Florence baptistry 15 th century.

Episodes particularly favored by Christian artists were Abraham's encounter with Melchizedek, the visit of the three angels, and the Akedah. In the first, stress was laid on the dual significance of the scene, Abraham's offering of tithes to the priest-king symbolizing the presentation of gifts to the infant Jesus by the three Magi, and Melchizedek's offering of bread and wine to Abraham prefiguring the Eucharist. The Melchizedek episode appears in the works at Rome, Ravenna, and Poitou referred to above and in the 13 th -century portal of Amiens cathedral, and it inspired Tintoretto's painting for the Scuola di San Rocco, Venice 16 th century.

Melchizedek is usually depicted wearing a crown and bearing a chalice, while Abraham is often shown as a knight in armor. The visit of the angels has been variously interpreted by Christian artists. In the eastern church the angels were seen as a prediction of the Trinity and there are many icons on this theme, notably the delicate painting by Andrei Rublev , now in Moscow.

In western countries, their announcement of the impending birth of Isaac was thought to prefigure the Annunciation, and this traditional medieval reading inspires the Rome mosaics, the Verdun altar, the doors of San Zeno, and the 12 th -century Psalter of Saint Louis Paris. The dismissal of Hagar — whom the Church took to prefigure the superseded "Old Law," Sarah symbolizing the New — was popular in the 17 th century particularly with Dutch artists, mainly because it offered opportunities for domestic and emotionally dramatic scenes.

A French artist of a later period who treated the same subject was Corot. A parable in the Gospel of Luke was responsible for a quaint treatment of Abraham in representations of the Last Judgment on Gothic cathedrals such as Paris, Rheims, Bourges, and Bamberg. Here the saved souls are shown being gathered into "Abraham's bosom. The most popular representation of Abraham in Jewish art was that showing the Akedah. Other popular themes were the appearance of the three angels to Abraham and his condemnation to death through fire by Nimrod. An outstanding example of the latter is found in a British Museum illuminated manuscript Ms.

An elderly bearded male with outstretched arms is seen in the foreground, while in the background is an angel with clearly defined wings. It is improbable that both these figures represent angels as they appear of different age and complexion. The older figure may therefore represent God, a fact which would suggest a Christian illuminator. The story of Abraham provided the basis for several musical compositions from the late 18 th century onward. Of the few works on the sojourn in Egypt, the oratorio Sara in Egitto probably holds the record among "pasticcios" — works in which several composers collaborated or were used — since the setting of the libretto was entrusted to no fewer than 24 composers.

Schubert's first song, written in March , was " Hagars Klage. Prominent among the more specifically Jewish compositions are the Ladino Judeo-Spanish romances, Cuando el Rey Nimrod, Abram Abinu , and En primero alabaremos , which reflect the legend of Abraham's birth found in the Sefer ha-Yashar ; some also mention the Akedah. Noth, Personennamen, 52, Clements, Abraham and David ; T. Muffs, in: jjs, 33 , 81—; A. Knauf, in: bz, 29 , 97—; N. Millard, "Abraham," in: abd, —41; S. Sperling, The Original Torah , 75— Halevy, Sha'arei ha-Aggadah , 72—82; G. Box, Apocrypha of Abraham ; A.

Petuchowski, ibid. Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism , 67— Hallamish, H. Kasher, and Y. Silman eds. Sermoneta Memorial Volume , Hastings ed. Sprenger, Leben und Lehre des Mohammad , 2 , ff. Snouk Hurgronje, Het Mekkaansche Feest , 30 ff. Heller, in: rej, 85 , , ; 98 , 1—18; J. Ankel, in: huca, 12—13 , —; Y. Moubarac, Abraham dans le Coran , includes bibliography; S.

Jellinek, Beit ha-Midrash , 1 2 , 18—19; 5 2 , 40—41; G. Scholem, Kabbalah and its Mysticism , — Leveen, The Hebrew Bible in Art , index. The ancestors of Israel are portrayed in the Bible as living a nomadic or pastoral life among the older population of Palestine before the time of the Israelite settlement c. With the great increase in knowledge about the ancient Near East during the past century, scholars have attempted to fit Abraham and his family into the background of Near Eastern culture in the second millennium bce.

Comparisons are made with the personal names of the ancestors; the names of peoples and places; social customs having to do with marriage, childbearing, and inheritance rights; and types of nomadism in the various stories in order to establish the background and social milieu out of which the ancestors came. The effort to place the patriarchs in the second millennium bce has been unsuccessful, however, because all of the features in the stories can be attested to in sources of the first millennium bce, and some of the items in the stories, such as the domestication of the camel or reference to Philistines, Arameans, and Arabs, belong to a much later time.

The special effort to fit the war between Abraham and the kings of the east Gn. The four eastern kingdoms, Elam, Babylonia, Assyria, and that of the Hittites, referred to cryptically in this text, never formed an alliance, nor did they ever control Palestine either collectively or individually during the second millennium bce. The whole account is historically impossible, and the story is very likely a late addition to Genesis. Another method of approaching the Abraham stories is through tradition-history, which attempts to identify the individual stories as legends "sagas" and to regard them as separate units of tradition with their original setting in the nomadic life of the tribes during their earliest contacts with the indigenous population.

The common concern of a number of the stories is the quest for land and progeny, which reflects the urge of the land-hungry nomads to gain a foothold in the land where they had temporary pasturage. The stories thus portray a process of gradual peaceful settlement by separate groups, each represented by a different patriarch. The combination of the traditions reflects the subsequent amalgamation of the groups with their traditions, which led to the creation of the genealogical chain of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This whole process of tradition development is viewed as taking place at the oral tradition stage, before it reached the written form.

This approach has not gone unchallenged Van Seters, The degree to which the stories of Abraham reflect a long process of oral tradition is debatable. For instance, the tradition of Beersheba as a cult place cannot belong to the premonarchy period because the excavations carried out under the direction of Yohanan Aharoni show that the city was a new foundation of the Judean monarchy.

While some of the individual stories may reflect traditions of varying degrees of antiquity, the process of collecting and arranging the stories is still best explained as reflecting literary activity. The traditio-historical approach to the patriarchal stories has led to the view that the tradition reflects a nomadic form of personal religion in which the "god of the fathers" is the patron god of the clan. He is associated with a specific person, such as Abraham, who experiences a theophany and receives the divine promises of land and progeny.

Also belonging to this "primitive" level of Israelite religion are the references to sacred trees and stones and the setting up of numerous altars. The frequent references to El in the patriarchal stories reflect either the encounter of the nomadic religion with the Canaanite religion of the land, with its high god El, or the original identity of the "god of the fathers. The problem with these reconstructions of Israel's early religion is that the emphasis upon Yahveh as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the identifying of Yahveh with El are attested only in exilic sources.

Furthermore, the themes of the divine promise of land and numerous progeny cannot be shown in a single instance to belong to the oral stage of the tradition's development. One must conclude therefore that the religion of Abraham is the religion of the authors of the present form of the tradition. Scholars have long recognized that the story of Abraham is not a unity but combines the works of more than one author. The literary analysis of the Pentateuch, established by Julius Wellhausen and others in the nineteenth century, recognizes three independent sources.

The earliest of these, the Yahvist J , is dated to the united monarchy c. The Elohist E in Genesis 20 — 22 is dated to the time of the prophets c. The Priestly P source is of postexilic date c. While this literary analysis has long held sway, some scholars have begun to dispute the dates given to the sources and to understand their relationship to each other in quite a different way. In this view some of the early J stories Gn.

The P writer made a few additions to this tradition in the postexilic period, while the story about the kings of the east in Genesis 14 was the latest addition in the Hellenistic period. A distinctive feature of the Abraham tradition is that it contains a number of short stories that are not linked in a continuous narrative. This has fostered the view that they reflect a stage of oral tradition before their collection into a literary work. Furthermore, the fact that a number of stories appear as doublets has suggested that tradition variants found their way into separate literary sources.

The doublets, however, are actually carefully composed literary modifications of the earlier stories meant to put forward the author's own point of view and religious concerns. There are two stories about how the patriarch's wife was passed off as his sister in order to protect himself in a foreign land. The first one Gn. Christ is the initiative of responsible grace.

From this perspective, Wesley's Christology is a combination of the Western and Eastern understanding of Christ. For the work of Christ, Wesley adopted the Western concept. For the nature of Christ Wesley employed the Eastern thought. To relate Christology with soteriology, it means that Wesley integrated both the juridical West and the therapeutic East dimension of salvation.

With regards to Wesley's emphasis on the divinity of Christ was an affirmation that God is the one who takes initiative of our salvation Maddox , Wesley's doctrine of salvation is three-dimensional: as pardon-salvation begun, holiness-salvation continued, heaven-salvation completed. Faith is understood to be more than mere assent. Wesley shared with the Reformation doctrine that justification is by grace through faith, which means divine pardon. The Reformation tradition understood justification as pardon to show that God's justifying grace is independent of any merit on human part.

The ground of the whole doctrine of justification is God's free grace through the redemption of Jesus Christ Wesley , Wesley's doctrine of justification by faith is tied with his doctrine of free grace and Christology. The ground of justification by faith through grace is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and it shows that justification is a divine act and not on human effort. It is never something that we merit or earn, it is a gift of God. The foremost reason in affirming justification by faith is to preserve the nature of salvation as fundamentally by grace Maddox , Salvation by grace is "co-operant" relationship.

Faith is a necessary condition of justification. Wesley made it clear that without faith as the expression of human being's cooperation there would be no justification Wesley , With regards to John Wesley's Aldersgate heart-warming experience, which culminates in the claim that Christ had "taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death," implies that he has received salvation from both the penalty and the plague of sin Maddox , Salvation emphasizes responsible grace.

God did not just pardon us and stop there. Wesley broadened salvation beyond justification. In addition to imputing righteousness in justification, God imparts righteousness to us through sanctification. Wesley has an enduring concern about and never wanted to nullify the essence of holiness in the Christian life. He integrated the doctrine of sanctification to incorporate the significance of holy living as an essential part of salvation experience. Sanctification implies human beings active participation in the transformation purpose of salvation. The relationship of justification and sanctification as interrelated is to affirm the inherent relationship of grace and human responsibility.

Our potential for growth in the likeness of God in Christ is dependent upon God's pardoning grace justification while the continuing salvific experience with God is contingent upon our responsive growth in Christ-likeness sanctification. Wesley emphasized that to "preach salvation on justification by faith only is to preach against holiness or good works. Faith is necessarily productive of good works Wesley , In Wesley's sermon, "Christian Perfection" clarified that Christian Perfection is another term for holiness.

They are two names for the same thing. Thus everyone that is perfect is holy, and everyone that is holy is, in the Scripture sense, is perfect Wesley , Perfection is the dynamic goal of the process of sanctification. Sanctification is dynamic. Perfection meant above all to be filled with the pure, perfect love of God transforming the whole person.

Perfection is the highest goal by which the fullness of love is attained becoming full of the love of God Lee in Maddox , Wesley's doctrine of sanctification was aimed to clarify to the Moravian pietists that faith and works are inseparably connected with salvation experience. He put the concept of holiness in the right perspective and good works in its proper place with regards to salvation experience.

A saved person justified by God's grace through Christ's redemption is expected to do good works. Wesley's soteriology has a lot to do with social issues. That is why Wesley emphasized that "there is no holiness but social holiness. Theology is intimately related to Christian living. Salvation is intended for "transforming purposes both individual and social relations.

Wesley's approach to theology grounded in the gospel maintained by tradition is intended to "transform life in its social, intellectual, cultural, political, ecclesial and economic conditions" Langford in Maddox , Wesley's sermon, "Circumcision of the Heart," which implies a truly transformed life, a life living in holiness is understood as a life living in perfect love of God and neighbor Wesley , Wesley states that the experience of entire sanctification, if ever obtained, is a gift from God, not a product of human effort V: At the same time, he stresses human responsibility in relation to entire sanctification.

In the first place, he considers the possibility of entire sanctification to hinge on a prior typically long period of responsible growth in grace which includes progressive victory over the sinful inclinations that remain in the life of a believer sanctification in the larger sense of the word VI: ; Lindstrom, In the second place, Wesley stresses the element of human responsibility within the state of entire sanctification itself by emphasizing the continuing need for growth in Christ-likeness even here VI: 5; VII: , the absence of which would ultimately lead to the loss of experience VI: Indeed, it is characteristic of Wesley that the first advice to those who claimed entire sanctification was to provide pride, enthusiasm, and antinomianism.

Wesley's discussion of salvation is not complete with dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Wesley's pneumatology can be traced back in its Patristic roots in Eastern Christian tradition, particularly from Macarius, a Syrian mystic. Wesley's spirituality and practical theology is focused on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

A sanctified life is sanctified through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the immediate cause of holiness. Holiness is the work of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Wesley's theme of sanctification is connected with "deification" theosis of Eastern Orthodox spirituality, which means that the life of God in the human soul is participation of the divine nature. Holiness as the work of the Holy Spirit is sanctifying and perfecting the creation. For Wesley, perfection is to be filled with the pure perfect love of god.

Perfection is the dynamic goal by which the fullness of love is attained by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The believer is "indwelt and led by the Spirit rather than possessed by the Spirit as if some irresistible force controls the believer" Lee in Maddox , To be perfect means to be perfect in love. To be perfect in love is to be perfect in God's love. We can be perfect in God's love if God works in us. God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is experienced when the believer lives the life in the life of the Spirit.

Living in the Spirit means life in union with the life of God, which is participation in the divine nature in the perfect love of God. There is no doubt whatsoever that Wesley received the Bible as the written word of God and regarded it as the supreme court of appeal in all matters of faith and conduct. It is clear that Wesley tended to relate Scriptural passages by spiritual association, giving little attention to questions of date and authorship, or to such matters as literary form and historical context.

For the most part, he treated the Bible as a uniform pattern of divine truth. Further, his regard for reason and tradition, though subordinate as authorities to the Scriptures, together with the stress on experience, guarded him against a static, unintelligent literalism, and gave a balanced, informed, and dynamic character to his biblical exposition. The role of reason is also important to Wesley. This is the very religion we preach; a religion evidently founded on, and every way agreeable to, eternal reason, to the essential nature of things.

He believes it to be a legitimate and necessary aid, even though limited, not only in the common affairs of life, but also in comprehending and evaluating revealed truth. Yet, he is in doubt that Christian virtue and doctrine come from revelation rather than from reason. Reason is thus conceived, not as a source of revelation, but as the logical faculty by which the evidence is ordered. Wesley regarded for the proper place of reason in religion brought a sense of coherence and to his biblical interpretation.

The place accorded to experience by Wesley is one of the most valuable to his theological understanding. At the Reformation, Catholicism took its final stand on the authority of the Church, and Protestantism took its first stand on the authority of the Bible. Methodism, without altogether realizing what it was doing, shifted the ultimate authority in religion to the last place and the right place—to religious experience Yet, the founders of Methodism discerned with a deeper perspicacity than possibly any theologian since apostolic times the indispensable, confirmatory character of experience in relation to Scriptural truth.

In this manner, Scripture as the source of authority in religion was conceived as intimately and inextricably related to the experiential appropriation of that authority in the life of the believer. Wesley never lost sight of this close relationship, carefully guarding against the extremes, on the one hand, of a formal orthodoxy that gave little place to vital, Christian experience, and on the other, of a subjectivism that virtually denied the objective revelation of Scripture by making the experiencing subject the measure of religious truth.

Put briefly, this means that all people are made in the imago Dei and through Christ, act for the salvation of others—no human person falls outside the ambit of Christian concern and responsibility grace. A poor wretch cries to me for alms: I look, and see him covered with dirt and rags. But through these I see one that has an immortal spirit, made to know, and love, and dwell with God to eternity. I see through all these rags, that he is purpled over with the blood of Christ. I love him for the sake of his Redeemer. Wesley's social situation helped explain Wesley as a practical theologian.

Wesley lived "at the beginning of economic crisis in the era of modern industrial capitalism that created severe hardships and exploitation of working classes. Wesley was aware of his oppressive social condition that eventually led him to criticize the establishment" Grassow in Maddox , This situation helped shape his political theology tied up with the doctrine of grace and practical divinity.

About the Author

Wesley lived in the context of the growing ethos of the positive anthropology of the Enlightenment. The enlightenment was a great intellectual movement in Europe represented in Great Britain by Isaac Newton, the Lockean empiricism, Hume's skepticism, Rousseau's political philosophy, and Kant's philosophy, which put religion to the limits of reason. Enlightenment mentality questions the establishment and authorities, and the intelligibility of the Christian faith.

Human beings were declared autonomous because of the power of reason. Wesley's classical doctrine of grace was set in opposition to the positive anthropology of the Enlightenment of self-sufficiency Langford , This intellectual setting had a lot to do in shaping Wesley's "practical divinity. In terms of religious setting, Wesley was a product of the long history of the Christian tradition of the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christianity, the Reformation soteriology, and his Anglican tradition including the pietistic disciplines.

Anglicanism shares a tradition of doctrine, polity, and liturgy stemming from the English Reformation of the sixteenth century. Anglicans preserved the Catholic substance of liturgy and claimed a Catholic heritage of faith and order, but classified themselves as Protestants. Wesley held his faith and theology in between the Catholic and Protestant traditions Encyclopedia of Religion , Wesley as a practical theologian can be traced from his childhood training and the reading of the religious books on practical divinity.

The approach to theology as a practical discipline was a pre-century Christian setting and remained influential until the eighteenth century.

(18-1) Introduction

Anglican tradition, the academic setting and the cultural context of the age shaped his thought as a practical theologian Maddox , Wesley believed that theology was intimately related to Christian living aimed to transform personal life and social conditions. The message of the gospel is located in the context of people's lives. Langford , There is a significant relationship of theology with particular human life situations so as to make it practical.

Scripture is the basic authority for Christian faith and life. Tradition helps enlighten and apply Scripture but in return must be tested by the Scripture. Reason is a gift of God to give light and understanding and appropriate revelation. It helps promote reasonable interpretation and application of God's gracious revelation in nature and Scripture. The appeal to experience serves primarily to test understanding of scripture; however, it must have Scriptural warrant Maddox , Bowmer, John C.

London: Epworth Press. Cell, George Croft. The Rediscovery of John Wesley. New York: H. Holt and Company. Clarke, Adam.

Seven deadly sins

Cobb, John Jr. Nashville: Abingdon Press. Cross, F. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Davis, Angela K. Wesley and Early Methodism. New York: Phillips and Hunt. Edwards, Maldwyn L. New York: Abingdon Press. Encyclopedia of Religion. Mircea Eliade, ed. London: Macmillan Company. Green, V. The Young Mr. NY: St. Heitzenrater, R. The Elusive Mr. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. Langford, Thomas A. Nashville Tennessee: Abingdon Press. Lee, Jung Hoo. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press. Lindstrom, Harald Gustaf. Lindstrom, Harald. John Wesley and Sanctification.

Maddox, Randy L.



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