İbrahim

This article is about the biblical Abraham. 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, Sacrifice of Isaac, 1635
Personal
Born Abram
1948 AM[1]
Mesopotamia
Died 2123 AM (aged 175)
Canaan
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 Sarah
Hagar
Keturah
Children Ishmael
Isaac
Zimran
Jokshan
Medan
Midian
Ishbak
Shuah

Abraham (Genesis 25:1–10)

Abraham plays a role in three world religions: in Judaism, as the founder of the special covenant relationship between the Jewish people and God; for Christians, his faith made him the prototype of all believers; and for Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, Abraham's belief separated "Islam", submission to God, from the Jewish Torah.[4]

The Bible's internal chronology places Abraham around 2000 BCE,[5] but the stories in Genesis cannot be definitively related to the known history of that time.[6]

Narrative in Genesis

The story of Abraham is related in Hebrew Bible.


Abram's origins and calling

Genesis 12:4–6)


Abram and Sarai

There was a severe famine in the land of Canaan, so that Abram and Lot and their households, travelled south to Genesis 12:18–20)


Abram and Lot separate

When they came back to the Bethel and Hai area, Abram's and Lot's sizeable numbers of livestock occupied the same pastures ("and the Genesis 13:1–18)

Abram and Chedorlaomer

Main article: Battle of the Vale of Siddim


During the rebellion of the 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 elite 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 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, Genesis 14:17–24)


Abrahamic covenant

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


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, Genesis 16:4–16)

Abraham and Sarah

Thirteen years later, when Abram was ninety-nine years of age, God declared Abram's new name: "Abraham" – "a father of many nations" (Genesis 17:22–27)

Abraham's three visitors


Not long afterward, during the heat of the day, Abraham had been sitting at the entrance of his tent by the 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

Main articles: Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot (Biblical)


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 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 19:12–13)

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

Abraham settled between 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 20:8–18)

After living for some time in the land of the Philistines, Genesis 21:22–34)

Birth of Isaac

As had been prophesied in Mamre the previous year (Genesis 21:8-13)

Abraham and Ishmael

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 Genesis 21:14–21)

Abraham and Isaac

Main article: Binding of Isaac

At some point in Genesis 22:1–19)

Later years

Sarah died, and Abraham buried her in the Genesis 25:7–10)

Critical views of the Abraham narrative

Historicity

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.[7] 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'".[8]

Origins of the narrative

The patriarchal stories most likely had a substantial oral prehistory.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] The mechanisms by which this came about remain unknown,[12] but there are currently two important hypotheses.[13] 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.[13]

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.


Abraham in religious traditions

Abraham
Abraham and the Angels
First Patriarch
Honored in Judaism
Christianity
Islam
Baha'i Faith
Feast October 9 – Roman Catholicism

Overview

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 Mohammad 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 Mohammad, 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 Mohammad), undercut Jewish claims to an exclusive relationship with God and the Covenant.[17]

Judaism

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.[18] 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

Abraham 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.[19] 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[20]

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. He is the patron saint of those in the hospitality industry.[21] 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

Main article: Abraham in Islam

Islam focuses on Abraham more than either Judaism or Christianity, but with an important difference: 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 (‘Īd al-’Aḍḥá - عيد الأضحى) once a year Muslims around the world slaughter a sheep to follow the path of Ibrāhīm (Abraham) that is called Qurbani (sacrifice).[26]

Baha'i Faith

Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet of the Baha'i Faith, affirms the highest religious station for Abraham and generally for prophets mentioned among the other Abrahamic religions,[27] and has claimed a lineage of descent from Abraham through Keturah and Sarah.[28][29][30] Additionally Bahá'u'lláh actually did lose a son, Mírzá Mihdí.[31] Bahá'u'lláh, then in prison, eulogized his son and connected the subsequent easing of restrictions to his dying prayer and also compared it to the intended sacrifice of Abraham's son.[32]

Abraham in the arts

Paintings and sculpture

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.[33] 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.[34] 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".[34] 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.[33]


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."[35] The sarcophagus was originally placed in or under Old St. Peter's Basilica, was rediscovered in 1597,[36] 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.[37]

Literature

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.[38]

Music

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"[39] 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.[40] 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

Notes

Bibliography

External links

  • "Abraham." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 29 May 2011.
  • "Abraham" in Christian Iconography
  • "Abraham" in Judaism
  • Abraham smashes the idols Accessed 24 March 2011
  • "Journey and Life of the Patriarch Abraham" is a map dating back to 1590
Preceded by
Terah
Leader of Israel Abraham Succeeded by
Isaac

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