Abraham

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This article is about the biblical Abraham. For Islam, see Abraham in Islam. For other uses, see Abraham (disambiguation).
"Abram", "Avram", and "Ibrahim" redirect here. For other uses, see Abram (disambiguation), Avram (disambiguation), and Ibrahim (disambiguation).
Abraham
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 035.jpg
Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt (1635)
Personal
Born Abram
Mesopotamia[Notes 1]
Died Canaan[Notes 1]
Resting place
Cave of Machpelah
31°31′29″N 35°06′39″E / 31.524744°N 35.110726°E / 31.524744; 35.110726
Family
Spouse
Children
The bosom of Abraham - medieval illustration from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)

Abraham (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָםAbout this sound listen ), originally Abram, is the first of the three biblical patriarchs of Israel; his story is told in chapters 11 through 25 of the Book of Genesis, with mentions in a few other places, notably the prophet Isaiah.

Abraham's story revolves around the two main themes of posterity and land. His career begins when he is called by Yahweh to leave the house of his father Terah and settle in the land which Yahweh will show him. The land is already settled by the descendants of Canaan, but God now promises it to Abraham and his posterity. (At most of the points at which this promise is repeated, it is to Abraham's posterity rather than to Abraham himself). Various candidates are put forward who might inherit the land, but all are dismissed except for Isaac, Abraham's son by his half-sister Sarah. Abraham now purchases the Cave of the Patriarchs at Hebron as his grave (the possession of a grave establishes his right to the land), where Sarah is buried on her death. Abraham's story now turns to the second generation with the marriage of his heir Isaac to a woman from his own people, thus ruling out any rights for the Canaanites to his patrimony. Abraham later marries a woman called Keturah and has six more sons, but on his death, when he is buried beside Sarah, it is Isaac who receives "all Abraham's goods", while the other sons receive only "gifts".[1]

The Bible's internal chronology places Abraham around 2000 BCE,[2] but "it is now generally recognized that there is nothing specific in the Genesis stories that can be definitively related to known history in or around Canaan in the early second millennium B.C.E. ...(and)..."it is now widely agreed that the so-called “patriarchal/an-cestral period” is a later literary construct, not a period in the actual history of the ancient world" (Professor Paula McNutt).[3]

Genesis narrative[edit]

A painting of Abraham's departure by József Molnár.

The story of Abraham is related in Genesis 11:26–25:10 of the Hebrew Bible.

Abram's origins and calling[edit]

Terah, the tenth in descent from Noah, begat three sons, Abram (later called Abraham), Nahor, and Haran. Haran begat Lot (who was thus Abram's nephew), and died in his native city, Ur of the Chaldees. Abram married Sarai, who was barren. Terah, with Abram, Sarai, and Lot, then departed for Canaan, but settled in a place named Haran, where Terah died at the age of 205. (Genesis 11:27–32) The LORD had told Abram to leave his country and kindred and go to a land that he would show him, and promised to make of him a great nation, bless him, make his name great, bless them that bless him, and curse "him" that curses him. (Genesis 12:1–3) Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and the substance and souls that they had acquired, and traveled to Shechem in Canaan. (Genesis 12:4–6)

Abram's Counsel to Sarai (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Abram and Sarai[edit]

There was a severe famine in the land of Canaan, so that Abram and Lot and their households, travelled south to Egypt. On the way, Abram told his wife Sarai to say that she was his sister, so that the Egyptians would not kill him. (Genesis 12:10–13) When they entered Egypt, the princes of the Pharaoh praised Sarai's beauty to the Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace, and Abram was given provisions: "oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she-asses, and camels". However, God afflicted Pharaoh and his household with great plagues, which he tried to find the reason for.(Genesis 12:14–17) Upon discovering that Sarai was a married woman, Pharaoh demanded that they and their household leave immediately, along with all their goods. (Genesis 12:18–20)

Abram and Lot separate[edit]

Depiction of the separation of Abraham and Lot by Wenceslaus Hollar.

When they came back to the Bethel and Hai area, Abram's and Lot's sizeable numbers of livestock occupied the same pastures. This became a problem for the herdsmen who were assigned to each family's cattle. The conflicts between herdsmen had become so troublesome that Abram graciously suggested that Lot choose a separate area, either on the left hand [north] or on the right hand [south], that there be no conflict amongst brethren. But Lot chose to go east to the plain of Jordan where the land was well watered everywhere as far as Zoar, and he dwelled in the cities of the plain toward Sodom. Abram went south to Hebron and settled in the plain of Mamre, where he built another altar to worship God. (Genesis 13:1–18)

Abram and Chedorlaomer[edit]

Main article: Battle of Siddim
Meeting of Abram and Melchizedek (painting circa 1464–1467 by Dieric Bouts the Elder)

During the rebellion of the Jordan River cities against Elam, (Genesis 14:1–9) Abram's nephew, Lot, was taken prisoner along with his entire household by the invading Elamite forces. The Elamite army came to collect the spoils of war, after having just defeated the king of Sodom's armies. (Genesis 14:8–12) Lot and his family, at the time, were settled on the outskirts of the Kingdom of Sodom which made them a visible target. (Genesis 13:12)

One person that escaped capture came and told Abram what happened. Once Abram received this news, he immediately assembled 318 trained servants. Abram's force headed north in pursuit of the Elamite army, who were already worn down from the Battle of Siddim. When they caught up with them at Dan, Abram devised a battle plan by splitting his group into more than one unit, and launched a night raid. Not only were they able to free the captives, Abram's unit chased and slaughtered the Elamite King Chedorlaomer at Hobah, just north of Damascus. They freed Lot, as well as his household and possessions, and recovered all of the goods from Sodom that had been taken. (Genesis 14:13–16)

Upon Abram's return, Sodom's king came out to meet with him in the Valley of Shaveh, the "king's dale". Also, Melchizedek king of Salem (Jerusalem), a priest of God Most High, brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram and God. Abram then gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom then offered to let Abram keep all the possessions if he would merely return his people. Although he released the captives, Abram refused any reward from the king of Sodom, other than the share to which his allies were entitled. (Genesis 14:17–24)

The Vision of the Lord Directing Abram to Count the Stars (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)

Abrahamic covenant[edit]

The word of God came to Abram in a vision and repeated the promise of the land and descendants as numerous as the stars. Abram and God made a covenant ceremony, and God told of the future bondage of Israel in Egypt. God described to Abram the land that his offspring would claim: the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites. (Genesis 15:1–21)

Abram and Hagar[edit]

See also: Hagar and Hagar in Islam
Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, imagined here in a Bible illustration from 1897.

Abram and Sarai tried to make sense of how he would become a progenitor of nations since after 10 years of living in Canaan, no child had been born from Abram's seed. Sarai then offered her Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar, for Abram to consort with so that he may have a child by her, as a wife. After Hagar found she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress, Sarai. Therefore, Sarai mistreated Hagar, and Hagar fled away. En route, the angel of the Lord spoke with Hagar at the fountain on the way to Shur. He instructed her to return and that her son would be "a wild ass of a man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the face of all his brethren." She was told to call her son Ishmael. Hagar then called God who spoke to her "El-roi", ("Thou God seest me:" KJV). From that day, the well was called Beer-lahai-roi, ("The well of him that liveth and seeth me." KJV margin). She then did as she was instructed by returning to her mistress in order to have her child. Abram was eighty-six years of age when Ishmael was born. (Genesis 16:4–16)

Abraham and Sarah[edit]

Thirteen years later, when Abram was ninety-nine years of age, God declared Abram's new name: "Abraham" – "a father of many nations" (Genesis 17:5). Abraham then received the instructions for the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:10-14). Circumcision was necessary to be part of this 'great nation', whether by bloodline or inducted. Then God declared Sarai's new name: "Sarah" and blessed her and told Abraham, "I will give thee a son also of her". (Genesis 17:15-16) But Abraham laughed, and "said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?" (Genesis 17:17) Immediately after Abraham's encounter with God, he had his entire household of men, including himself (age 99) and Ishmael (age 13), circumcised. (Genesis 17:22–27)

Abraham's three visitors[edit]

Abraham and the Three Angels (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Not long afterward, during the heat of the day, Abraham had been sitting at the entrance of his tent by the terebinths of Mamre. He looked up and saw three men in the presence of God. Then he ran and bowed to the ground to welcome them. Abraham then offered to wash their feet and fetch them a morsel of bread, of which they assented. Abraham rushed to Sarah's tent to order cakes made from choice flour, then he ordered a servant-boy to prepare a choice calf. When all was prepared, he set curds, milk and the calf before them, waiting on them, under a tree, as they ate. (Genesis 18:1–8)

One of the visitors told Abraham that upon his return next year, Sarah would have a son. While at the tent entrance, Sarah overheard what was said and she laughed to herself about the prospect of having a child at their ages. The visitor inquired of Abraham why Sarah laughed at bearing a child at her age, as nothing is too hard for God. Frightened, Sarah denied laughing.

Abraham's plea[edit]

Abraham Sees Sodom in Flames (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

After eating, Abraham and the three visitors got up. They walked over to the peak that overlooked the 'cities of the plain' to discuss the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah for their detestable sins that were so great, it moved God to action. Because Abraham's nephew was living in Sodom, God revealed plans to confirm and judge these cities. At this point, the two other visitors left for Sodom. Then Abraham turned to the Lord and pleaded decrementally with Him (from fifty persons to less) that "if there were at least ten righteous men found in the city, would not God spare the city?" For the sake of ten righteous people, God declared that he would not destroy the city. (Genesis 18:17–33)

When the two visitors got to Sodom to conduct their report, they planned on staying in the city square. However, Abraham's nephew, Lot, met with them and strongly insisted that these two "men" stay at his house for the night. A rally of men stood outside of Lot's home and demanded that they bring out his guests so that they may "know" (v.5) them. However, Lot objected and offered his virgin daughters who had not "known" (v.8) man to the rally of men instead. They rejected that notion and sought to break down Lot's door to get to his male guests, (Genesis 19:1–9) thus confirming that their "cry" had waxed great before the Lord, and they would be destroyed. (Genesis 19:12–13)

Early the next morning, Abraham went to the place where he stood before the Lord. He "looked out toward Sodom and Gomorrah" and saw what became of the cities of the plain, where not even "ten righteous" (v.18:32) had been found, as "the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a furnace." (Genesis 19:27–29)

Abraham and Abimelech[edit]

Abraham settled between Kadesh and Shur in the land of the Philistines. While he was living in Gerar, Abraham openly claimed that Sarah was his sister. Upon discovering this news, King Abimelech had her brought to him. God then came to Abimelech in a dream and declared that taking her would result in death because she was a man's wife. Abimelech had not laid hands on her, so he inquired if he would also slay a righteous nation, especially since Abraham had claimed that he and Sarah were siblings. In response, God told Abimelech that he did indeed have a blameless heart and that is why he continued to exist. However, should he not return the wife of Abraham back to him, God would surely destroy Abimelech and his entire household. Abimelech was informed that Abraham was a prophet who would pray for him.(Genesis 20:1–7)

Early next morning, Abimelech informed his servants of his dream and approached Abraham inquiring as to why he had brought such great guilt upon his kingdom. Abraham stated that he thought there was no fear of God in that place, and that they might kill him for his wife. Then Abraham defended what he had said as not being a lie at all: "And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife." (Genesis 20:12) Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham, and gave him gifts of sheep, oxen, and servants; and invited him to settle wherever he pleased in Abimelech's lands. Further, Abimelech gave Abraham a thousand pieces of silver to serve as Sarah's vindication before all. Abraham then prayed for Abimelech and his household, since God had stricken the women with infertility because of the taking of Sarah. (Genesis 20:8–18)

After living for some time in the land of the Philistines, Abimelech and Phicol, the chief of his troops, approached Abraham because of a dispute that resulted in a violent confrontation at a well. Abraham then reproached Abimelech due to his Philistine servant's aggressive attacks and the seizing of Abraham's well. Abimelech claimed ignorance of the incident. Then Abraham offered a pact by providing sheep and oxen to Abimelech. Further, to attest that Abraham was the one who dug the well, he also gave Abimelech seven ewes for proof. Because of this sworn oath, they called the place of this well: Beersheba. After Abimelech and Phicol headed back to Philistia, Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba and called upon "the name of the Lord, the everlasting God." (Genesis 21:22–34)

Birth of Isaac[edit]

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

As had been prophesied in Mamre the previous year (Genesis 17:21), Sarah became pregnant and bare a son to Abraham, on the first anniversary of the covenant of circumcision. Abraham was "an hundred years old", when his son whom he named Isaac was born; and he circumcised him when he was eight days old. (Genesis 21:1–5) For Sarah, the thought of giving birth and nursing a child, at such an old age, also brought her much laughter, as she declared, "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me." (Genesis 21:6–7) Isaac continued to grow and on the day he was weaned, Abraham held a great feast to honor the occasion. During the celebration, however, Sarah found Ishmael mocking; an observation that would begin to clarify the birthright of Isaac. (Genesis 21:8-13)

Abraham and Ishmael[edit]

Ishmael was fourteen years old when Abraham's son Isaac was born to a different mother, Sarah. Sarah had finally borne her own child, even though she had passed her child bearing period. When she found Ishmael teasing Isaac, Sarah told Abraham to send both Ishmael and Hagar away. She declared that Ishmael would not share in Isaac's inheritance. Abraham was greatly distressed by his wife's words and sought the advice of his God. The Lord told Abraham not to be distressed but to do as his wife commanded. God reassured Abraham that "in Isaac shall seed be called to thee." (Genesis 21:12) He also said that Ishmael would make a nation, "because he is thy seed". (Genesis 21:9–13)

Early the next morning, Abraham brought Hagar and Ishmael out together. He gave her bread and water and sent them away. The two wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba until her bottle of water was completely consumed. In a moment of despair, she burst into tears. The boy then called to God and upon hearing him, an angel of God confirmed to Hagar that he would become a great nation. A well of water then appeared so that it saved their lives. As the boy grew, he became a skilled archer living in the wilderness of Paran. Eventually his mother found a wife for Ishmael from her home country, the land of Egypt. (Genesis 21:14–21)

Abraham and Isaac[edit]

Main article: Binding of Isaac

At some point in Isaac's youth, Abraham was commanded by God to offer his son up as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah. The patriarch traveled three days until he came to the mount that God told him of. He commanded the servants to remain while he and Isaac proceeded alone into the mount. Isaac carried the wood upon which he would be sacrificed. Along the way, Isaac asked his father where the animal for the burnt offering was, to which Abraham replied, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering". Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was interrupted by the Angel of the Lord, and he saw behind him a ram caught in a thicket by its horns, which he sacrificed instead of his son. For his obedience he received another promise of numerous descendants and abundant prosperity. After this event, Abraham went to Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1–19)

Later years[edit]

Sarah died, and Abraham buried her in the Cave of the Patriarchs (the "Cave of Machpelah"), near Hebron which he had purchased along with the adjoining field from Ephron the Hittite. (Genesis 23:1–20) After the death of Sarah, Abraham took another wife, a concubine named Keturah, by whom he had six sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. (Genesis 25:1–6) Abraham lived 175 years, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah by his sons Isaac and Ishmael. (Genesis 25:7–10)

Historicity and origins[edit]

Historicity[edit]

Abraham's well at Beersheba

In the early to mid-20th century, leading scholars such as William F. Albright and Albrecht Alt believed the patriarchs and matriarchs to be either real individuals or believable composite people living in the "patriarchal age", the 2nd millennium BCE. In the 1970s, however, new conclusions about Israel's past and the biblical texts challenged this portrait. The two works largely responsible were Thomas L. Thompson's The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (1974), and John Van Seters' Abraham in History and Tradition (1975). Thompson's argument, based on archaeology and ancient texts, was that no compelling evidence pointed to the patriarchs living in the 2nd millennium and that the biblical texts reflected first millennium conditions and concerns; Van Seters, basing himself on an examination of the patriarchal stories, agreed with Thompson that their names, social milieu and messages strongly suggested that they were Iron Age creations.[4] By the beginning of the 21st century, and despite sporadic attempts by more conservative scholars such as Kenneth Kitchen to save the patriarchal narratives as history, archaeologists had "given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac or Jacob credible 'historical figures'".[5]

Origins of the narrative[edit]

The patriarchal stories most likely had a substantial oral prehistory.[6] Abraham's name is apparently very ancient, as the tradition found in Genesis no longer understands its original meaning, probably "Father is exalted" - the meaning offered in Genesis 17:5, "Father of a multitude", is a popular etymology.[7] At some stage in Israel's history the oral traditions became part of the written tradition of the Pentateuch; a majority of scholars believes this stage belongs to the Persian period, roughly 520–320 BCE.[8] The mechanisms by which this came about remain unknown,[9] but there are currently two important hypotheses.[10] The first is Persian Imperial authorisation, the idea that the post-Exilic community needed a legal basis on which to function within the Persian Imperial system; the second relates to the community of citizens organised around the Temple, with the Pentateuch providing the criteria for who would belong to it (the narratives and genealogies in Genesis) and establishing the power structures and relative positions of its various groups.[10]

Nevertheless, the completion of the Torah and its elevation to the centre of post-Exilic Judaism was as much or more about combining older texts as writing new ones - the final Pentateuch was based on existing traditions.[11] In Ezekiel 33:24, written during the Exile (i.e., in the first half of the 6th century BCE), Ezekiel, an exile in Babylon, tells how those who remained in Judah are claiming ownership of the land based on inheritance from Abraham; but the prophet tells them they have no claim because they don't observe Torah.[12] Isaiah 63:16 similarly testifies of tension between the people of Judah and the returning post-Exilic Jews (the "gôlâ"), stating that God is the father of Israel and that Israel's history begins with the Exodus and not with Abraham.[13] The conclusion to be inferred from this and similar evidence (e.g., Ezra-Nehemiah), is that the figure of Abraham must have been preeminent among the great landowners of Judah at the time of the Exile and after, serving to support their claims to the land in opposition to those of the returning exiles.[13]

Abraham in religious traditions[edit]

Abraham
Aert de Gelder 009.jpg
Abraham and the Angels by Aert de Gelder (c. 1680–85)
First Patriarch
Honored in
Feast October 9 – Roman Catholicism

Overview[edit]

Abraham is given a high position of respect in three major world faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In Judaism he is the founding father of the Covenant, the special relationship between the Jewish people and God – a belief which gives the Jews a unique position as the Chosen People of God. Christianity and Islam in their beginnings challenged this special relationship, both Paul and Muhammad claiming Abraham for themselves as a "believer before the fact." In both cases the fact was the Mosaic law or its symbol, circumcision. For Paul, Abraham's faith in God made him the prototype of all believers, circumcised and uncircumcised; for Muhammad, Abraham's belief separated islam, submission to God, from the Torah. Thus Abraham, by his faith (according to Paul) or by his submission (according to Muhammad), undercut Jewish claims to an exclusive relationship with God and the Covenant.[14]

Judaism[edit]

In Jewish tradition, Abraham is called Avraham Avinu (אברהם אבינו), "our father Abraham," signifying that he is both the biological progenitor of the Jews (including converts, according to Jewish tradition), and the father of Judaism, the first Jew.[15] His life can be read in the weekly Torah reading portions, predominantly in the parashot: Lech-Lecha (לֶךְ-לְךָ), Vayeira (וַיֵּרָא), Chayei Sarah (חַיֵּי שָׂרָה), and Toledot (תּוֹלְדֹת).

Christianity[edit]

Abraham (Abram) does not loom so large in Christianity as he does in Judaism and Islam – it is Jesus as the Messiah who is central to Christianity, and the idea of the supernatural Christ is what separates Christianity from the other two religions.[16] However, in the New Testament, Abraham does play a role in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.[17] In Romans 4, Abraham's merit is less his obedience to the divine will than his faith in God's ultimate grace; this faith provides him the merit for God's having chosen him for the covenant, and the covenant becomes one of faith, not obedience.[18] I

The Roman Catholic Church calls Abraham "our father in Faith" in the Eucharistic prayer of the Roman Canon, recited during the Mass (see Abraham in the Catholic liturgy). He is also commemorated in the calendars of saints of several denominations: on 20 August by the Maronite Church, 28 August in the Coptic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East (with the full office for the latter), and on 9 October by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. In the introduction to his 15th-century translation of the Golden Legend's account of Abraham, William Caxton noted that this patriarch's life was read in church on Quinquagesima Sunday.[19] He is the patron saint of those in the hospitality industry.[20] The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates him as the "Righteous Forefather Abraham", with two feast days in its liturgical calendar. The first time is on 9 October (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 9 October falls on 22 October of the modern Gregorian Calendar), where he is commemorated together with his nephew "Righteous Lot". The other is on the "Sunday of the Forefathers" (two Sundays before Christmas), when he is commemorated together with other ancestors of Jesus. Abraham is also mentioned in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, just before the Anaphora, and Abraham and Sarah are invoked in the prayers said by the priest over a newly married couple.

Islam[edit]

Main article: Abraham in Islam

Islam focuses on Abraham (Arabic: إبراهيم‎ʾIbrāhīm) more than either Judaism or Christianity. Authentic muslim sources assert that Muhammad is a descendant of Abraham through Ishmael.[21] There is, nevertheless an important difference with the other abrahamic faiths: where Judaism holds that one becomes a descendant of Abraham through birth, and Christianity that one becomes a descendant through faith, Islam holds that descent is unimportant – Abraham, in other words, is not the father of the believing community, but a link in the chain of prophets that begins with Adam and culminates in Mohammad.[22]

Ibrāhīm is mentioned in 35 chapters of the Quran, more often than any other biblical personage apart from Moses.[23] He is called both a hanif (monotheist) and muslim (one who surrenders to God),[24] and Muslims regard him as a prophet and patriarch, the archetype of the perfect Muslim, and the revered reformer of the Kaaba in Mecca.[25]

Islamic traditions consider Ibrāhīm (Abraham) the first Pioneer of Islam (which is also called millat Ibrahim, the "religion of Abraham"), and that his purpose and mission throughout his life was to proclaim the Oneness of God. In Islam, he is referred to as "Ibrahim El Khalil" (إبراهيم الخليل), meaning "Abraham the Friend [of Allah]". When Ibrahim (Abraham) was asked for sacrifice, he took Ismā'īl (Ishmael) to sacrifice. When he was about to use the knife, God placed a sheep under his hand. From that day onward, every Eid al-Adha (عيد الأضحى ‘Īd al-’Aḍḥá) once a year Muslims around the world slaughter a sheep to follow the path of Ibrāhīm (Abraham) that is called Qurban ("sacrifice").[26]

Abraham in the arts[edit]

Painting and sculpture[edit]

Paintings on the life of Abraham tend to focus on only a few incidents: the sacrifice of Isaac; meeting Melchizedek; entertaining the three angels; Hagar in the desert; and a few others.[27] Additionally, Martin O'Kane, a professor of Biblical Studies, writes that the parable of Lazarus resting in the "Bosom of Abraham", as described in the Gospel of Luke, became an iconic image in Christian works.[28] According to O'Kane, artists often chose to divert from the common literary portrayal of Lazarus sitting next to Abraham at a banquet in Heaven and instead focus on the "somewhat incongruous notion of Abraham, the most venerated of patriarchs, holding a naked and vulnerable child in his bosom".[28] Several artists have been inspired by the life of Abraham, including Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Caravaggio (1573–1610), Donatello, Raphael, Philip van Dyck (Dutch painter, 1680–1753), and Claude Lorrain (French painter, 1600–1682). Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) created at least seven works on Abraham, Petrus-Paulus Rubens (1577–1640) did several, Marc Chagall did at least five on Abraham, Gustave Doré (French illustrator, 1832–1883) did six, and James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French painter and illustrator, 1836–1902) did over twenty works on the subject.[27]

Cast of the Sacrifice of Isaac. The hand of God originally came down to hold Abraham's knife (both are now missing).

The Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus depicts a set of biblical stories, including Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac. These sculpted scenes are on the outside of a marble Early Christian sarcophagus used for the burial of Junius Bassus. He died in 359. This sarcophagus has been described as "probably the single most famous piece of early Christian relief sculpture."[29] The sarcophagus was originally placed in or under Old St. Peter's Basilica, was rediscovered in 1597,[30] and is now below the modern basilica in the Museo Storico del Tesoro della Basilica di San Pietro (Museum of Saint Peter's Basilica) in the Vatican. The base is approximately 4 × 8 × 4 feet. The Old Testament scenes depicted were chosen as precursors of Christ's sacrifice in the New Testament, in an early form of typology. Just to the right of the middle is Daniel in the lion's den and on the left is Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac.

George Segal created figural sculptures by molding plastered gauze strips over live models in his 1987 work Abraham's Farewell to Ishmael. The human condition was central to his concerns, and Segal used the Old Testament as a source for his imagery. This sculpture depicts the dilemma faced by Abraham when Sarah demanded that he expel Hagar and Ishmael. In the sculpture, the father's tenderness, Sarah's rage, and Hagar's resigned acceptance portray a range of human emotions. The sculpture was donated to the Miami Art Museum after the artist's death in 2000.[31]

Abraham in Christian Iconography

Usually Abraham can be identified by the context of the image – the meeting with Melchizedek, the three visitors, or the sacrifice of Isaac. In solo portraits a sword or knife may be used as his attribute, as in this statue by Gian Maria Morlaiter or this painting by Lorenzo Monaco. He always wears a gray or white beard.

As early as the beginning of the 3rd century, Christian art followed Christian typology in making the sacrifice of Isaac a foreshadowing of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and its memorial in the sacrifice of the Mass. See for example this 11th-century Christian altar engraved with Abraham's and other sacrifices taken to prefigure that of Christ in the Eucharist.[32]

Some early Christian writers interpreted the three visitors as the triune God. Thus in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, a 5th-century mosaic portrays only the visitors against a gold ground and puts semitransparent copies of them in the "heavenly" space above the scene. In Eastern Orthodox art the visit is the chief means by which the Trinity is pictured (example). Some images do not include Abraham and Sarah, like Andrei Rublev's Trinity, which shows only the three visitors as beardless youths at a table.[33]

Literature[edit]

Fear and Trembling (original Danish title: Frygt og Bæven) is an influential philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de silentio (John the Silent). Kierkegaard wanted to understand the anxiety that must have been present in Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his son.[34]

Music[edit]

In 1994, Steve Reich released an opera named The Cave. The title refers to The Cave of the Patriarchs. The narrative of the opera is based on the story of Abraham and his immediate family as it is recounted in the various religious texts, and as it is understood by individual people from different cultures and religious traditions.

Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited"[35] is the title track for his 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song as number 364 in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[36] The song has five stanzas. In each stanza, someone describes an unusual problem that is ultimately resolved on Highway 61. In Stanza 1, God tells Abraham to "kill me a son". God wants the killing done on Highway 61. Abram, the original name of the biblical Abraham, is also the name of Dylan's own father.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b For Abraham's place of birth, see Genesis 11:28 and 24:4-10, Acts 7:2. For the place where he died, see Genesis 25:7-10.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ska 2009, p. 26-31.
  2. ^ Shea 2000, p. 248.
  3. ^ McNutt 1999, p. 41.
  4. ^ Moore & Kelle 2011, p. 18-19.
  5. ^ Dever 2002, p. 98 and fn.2.
  6. ^ Pitard 2001, p. 27.
  7. ^ Thompson 2002, p. 23-24.
  8. ^ Ska 2009, p. 260.
  9. ^ Enns 2012, p. 26.
  10. ^ a b Ska 2006, p. 217,227-228.
  11. ^ Carr & Conway 2010, p. 193.
  12. ^ Ska 2009, p. 43.
  13. ^ a b Ska 2009, p. 44.
  14. ^ Peters 2010, p. 170–171.
  15. ^ Levenson 2012, p. 3.
  16. ^ Peters 2010, p. 171.
  17. ^ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/090906a.htm
  18. ^ Firestone, Reuven, Encyclopedia of World History -Abraham (PDF)
  19. ^ Caxton, William. "Abraham". The Golden Legend. Internet Medieval Source Book. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  20. ^ Holweck 1924.
  21. ^ Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj. "Verily Allah granted eminence to Kinana from amongst the descendants of Isma'il and he granted eminence to the Quraish amongst Kinana and he granted eminence to the Banu Hashim amongst Quraish and he granted me eminence from the tribe of Banu Hashim.". Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Hadith 5653. 
  22. ^ Levenson 2012, p. PA8.
  23. ^ Peters 2003, p. PA9.
  24. ^ Levenson 2012, p. PA200.
  25. ^ Mecca, Martin Lings, c. 2004
  26. ^ Siddiqui, Mona (September 4, 2009). "Ibrahim - the Muslim view of Abraham". BBC. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  27. ^ a b For a very thorough online collection of links to artwork about Abraham see: Artwork Depicting Scenes from Abraham's Life Accessed 25 March 2011
  28. ^ a b Exum 2007, p. 135.
  29. ^ Journal of Early Christian Studies, Leonard Victor Rutgers, The Iconography of the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus (review of Malbon book), Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 1993, pp. 94–96; for Janson it is also the "finest Early Christian sarcophagus".
  30. ^ or 1595, see Elsner, p. 86n.
  31. ^ Abraham's Farewell to Ishmael. George Segal. Miami Art Museum. Collections: Recent Acquisitions. Accessed 10 April 2011.
  32. ^ "Abraham the Patriarch in Art – Iconography and Literature". Christian Iconography – a project of Georgia Regents University. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  33. ^ Boguslawski, Alexander. "The Holy Trinity". Rollins.edu. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  34. ^ Kierkegaard 1980, p. 155-156.
  35. ^ "Highway 61 Revisited" Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  36. ^ "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Archived from the original on 13 September 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2008. 

Bibliography[edit]

Andrews, Stephen J. (1990). "Abraham". In Mills, Watson E.; Bullard, Roger A. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-86554-373-7. 
Barr, James (2013). Bible and Interpretation: The Collected Essays of James Barr. Oxford University Press. 
Barr, James (1993). "Chronology". In Metzger, Bruce; Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford University Press. 
Carr, David M.; Conway, Colleen M. (2010). "Introduction to the Pentateuch". An Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts. John Wiley & Sons. 
Coogan, Michael (2008). The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530505-0. 
Davies, Philip R. (2008). Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History - Ancient and Modern. Westminster John Knox Press. 
Dever, William G. (2002). What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and when Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-2126-3. 
Enns, Peter (2012). The Evolution of Adam. Baker Books. 
Exum, Jo Cheryl (2007). Retellings: The Bible in Literature, Music, Art and Film. Brill Publishers. ISBN 90-04-16572-X. 
Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2338-1. 
Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. Bahá'í Publishing Trust. 
Hendel, Ronald (2005). Remembering Abraham : Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-803959-X. 
Hill, Andrew E.; Walton, John H. (2010). A Survey of the Old Testament. Zondervan. pp. 2024–2030. ISBN 978-0-310-59066-8. 
Holweck, Frederick George (1924). A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. B. Herder Book Co. 
Hubbard, David Allan; Sanford La Sor, Frederic William; Bush (1996). Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0-8028-3788-3. 
Hughes, Jeremy (1990). Secrets of the Times. Continuum. 
Kierkegaard, Søren (1980). The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02011-6. 
Levenson, Jon Douglas (2012). Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Princeton University Press. 
Ma'ani, Baharieh Rouhani (2008). Leaves of the Twin Divine Trees. Oxford, United Kingdom: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-533-2. 
May, Dann J (December 1993). "Web Published". The Bahá'í Principle of Religious Unity and the Challenge of Radical Pluralism. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. p. 102. 
McCarter, P. Kyle (2000). "Abraham". In Freedman, Noel David; Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 978-90-5356-503-2. 
McNutt, Paula M. (1999). Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-22265-9. 
Mills, Watson E. (1998). Mercer Commentary on the Bible, Volume 1; Volume 8. Mercer University Press. ISBN 0-86554-506-5. 
Moore, Megan Bishop; Kelle, Brad E. (2011). Biblical History and Israel's Past. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6260-0. 
Peters, Francis Edwards (2003). Islam, a Guide for Jews and Christians. Princeton University Press. p. 9. 
Peters, Francis Edwards (2010). The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Princeton University Press. ISBN 1-4008-2129-0. 
Pitard, Wayne T. (2001). "Before Israel". In Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-19-513937-2. 
Shea, William H. (2000). "Chronology of the Old Testament". In Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans. 
Ska, Jean Louis (2006). Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch. Eisenbrauns. 
Ska, Jean Louis (2009). The Exegesis of the Pentateuch: Exegetical Studies and Basic Questions. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 30–31,260. ISBN 978-3-16-149905-0. 
Taherzadeh, Adib (1984). "The Death of the Purest Branch". The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 3: 'Akka, The Early Years 1868–77. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-144-2. 
Thompson, Thomas L. (2002). The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International. pp. 23–24, 36. ISBN 1-56338-389-6. 
Wilson, Marvin R. (1989). Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Massachusetts: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0-8028-0423-3. 

External links[edit]