Abraham 



LogoThe unlettered Arabian prophet pulls out his ace in the hole in his ongoing dispute with the Christians and the Jews. Let them follow their religion, but as for him, he is going to follow the religion of Abraham: "SAY: As for me, my Lord hath guided me into a straight path; a true religion, the creed of Abraham, the sound in faith; for he was not of those who join gods with God." (Koran Sura 6:162). This, in theory, is the Muslim religion: "SAY: God speaketh truth. Follow, therefore, the religion of Abraham, the sound in faith, who was not one of those who joined other gods to God." (Koran Sura 3:89):



  • "O people of the Book! Why dispute about Abraham, when the Law and the Evangel were not sent down till after him? Do ye not then understand? . . .
  • "Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian; but he was sound in the faith, a Muslim; and not of those who add gods to God. They among men, who are nearest of kin to Abraham, are surely those who follow him, and this prophet Muhammad, and they who believe on him. And God is the protector of the faithful."
  • (Sura 3:58-61).




LogoAbraham, called by God, went out from his home as a sojourner:

“Now the Lord had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” (Genesis 12:1-4).

Is it true that Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian? What do we know, from the Bible, which is the only reliable source that tells us anything about Abraham, about Abraham's faith?:


Circle of Acquaintance They Ate Food
No Distinction Binding of Isaac
Paul Three Hundred Eighteen


Thriceholy Radio


LogoCircle of Acquaintance

We are told he was not a Christian, yet we do know that he personally interviewed Christ. We heard about this conversation from the other party to it:



  • “Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.
  • “Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.
  • “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
  • “Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
  • (Gospel of John 8:54-59).


LogoHis interlocutors challenge Him with having seen Abraham and He does not deny it. If Abraham did not believe in Him, although the two were personally acquainted, I wonder how he broke it to Him? It must have been disappointing. 'Hey man, I love you like a brother. . .but I just can't see following your religion.'

The Son of God eternally pre-existed His incarnation. On what occasions might Abraham have interacted with Him?:


Manoah and His Wife Gideon
Moses at the Burning Bush Definition
Sacrifice of Isaac Hagar
Jacob the Wrestler Captain of the Lord's Host
Covenant Maker Wilderness Trek
Jesus the Sent One



LogoThey Ate Food

Mohammed points out that Jesus (and His mother!) both ate food, which he considers the last word as to debunking any deity claims:



  • “Infidels now are they who say, 'God is the Messiah, Son of Mary;' for the Messiah said, 'O children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord.' Whoever shall join other gods with God, God shall forbid him the Garden, and his abode shall be the Fire; and the wicked shall have no helpers. They surely are Infidels who say, 'God is the third of three:' for there is no God but one God: and if they refrain not from what they say, a grievous chastisement shall light on such of them as are Infidels. Will they not, therefore, be turned unto God, and ask pardon of Him? since God is Forgiving, Merciful! The Messiah, Son of Mary, is but an Apostle; other Apostles have flourished before him; and his mother was a just person: they both ate food. Behold! how we make clear to them the signs! then behold how they turn aside!”
  • (Sura 5:76-79).



Logo Is Mohammed's test the definitive one? When did God visit man, and eat food?:



  • "When at last we are at home with Him, we shall see Him to be the One who, unseen, often communed with us, as He did with Abraham His friend, who wrestled with us as with Jacob——and with like ennobling touch, and who sought not to consume but to irradiate with His beauty, as in the bush which Moses saw. We shall see Him as the One who gave victory over the foe, as He gave it to Joshua, and who succored us in depths of discouragement, as He succored Elijah under the juniper tree. . .We shall know Him as the One who walked with us in our fiercest trial, as He did with the three Hebrews, and whose revelation was the consummation of life, as it was with Daniel. Then we will find that it was no mirage of earth that comforted us but the sight of 'Jesus at God's right hand,' as Stephen saw Him; that it was 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' which was the treasure we carried in earthen vessels, as in Paul's experience."
  • (H. C. Hewlett, The Companion of the Way, pp. 14-15).





LogoAbraham saw three and addressed one. He is indeed a pioneer of our faith, and we should follow his example:

"And who hath a better religion than he who resigneth himself to God, who doth what is good, and followeth the faith of Abraham in all sincerity? And God took Abraham for his friend." (Sura 4:124).

The story of Abraham's visitors is told in the Koran, though the author does not know who he is dealing with:

And tell them of Abraham’s guests. When they entered in unto him, and said, ‘Peace.’ ‘Verily,’ said he, ‘We fear you.’ They said, ‘Fear not, for of a sage son we bring thee tidings.’ He said, ‘Bring ye me such tidings now that old age hath come upon me? What, therefore, are your tidings really?’ They said, ‘We announce them to thee in very truth. Be not then one of the despairing.’ ‘And who,’ said he, ‘despaireth of the mercy of his Lord, but they who err?’ He said, ‘What is your business then, O ye Sent Ones?’" (Sura 15:51-57)

However, in Sura 11, we discover that they only pretended to eat!: "And when he saw that their hands touched it not, he misliked them, and grew fearful of them." (Sura 11:73). Sura 51 is tending in the same direction:

"Hath the story reached thee of Abraham's honored guests?
"When they went in unto him and said, 'Peace!' he replied, 'Peace: — they are strangers.'
"And he went apart to his family, and brought a fatted calf,
"And set it before them. He said, 'Eat ye not?'
"And he conceived a fear of them. They said to him, 'Fear not;' and announced to him a wise son." (Sura 51:24-28)

Compare the Bible narrative:

“So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, 'Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.' And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.” (Genesis 18:6-8).

This might be that rarity, a theologically motivated editorial change in the Koran. Usually, Mohammed takes whatever his sources hand him; everything is grist for his mill. He does not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, but he will happily accept stories, like the 'Clay Birds,' that were originally written to underscore the point he disputes. That Jesus ate food is, to him, an ample rebuttal to His deity. And so neither can Abraham's three visitors.

LogoNo Distinction

Mohammed began his prophetic career believing very strongly that all the prophets had delivered the very same message, and it was his message as well: that there is only one God, idolatry is vain, and there will be a judgment to come. This minimalist message was repeated over and over, he thought by the messengers God had sent to the various peoples:

"Say ye: 'We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes: and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the prophets from their Lord. No difference do we make between any of them: and to God are we resigned (Muslims).'" (Sura 2:130).
"Say: We believe in God, and in what hath been sent down to us, and what hath been sent down to Abraham, and Ismael and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses, and Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord. We make no difference between them. And to God are we resigned (Muslims)." (Sura 3:78).

But now we discover, 'Oh yes, we make a difference! It's Abraham or nothing!' Is this the same message Mohammed was delivering just a little while ago, or is it a different one?


"Moreover, to Moses gave we 'the Book,' and we raised up apostles after him; and to Jesus, son of Mary, gave we clear proofs of his mission, and strengthened him by the Holy Spirit. So oft then as an apostle cometh to you with that which your souls desire not, swell ye with pride, and treat some as imposters, and slay others?" (Sura 2:81).

"Say ye: ‘We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes: and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the prophets from their Lord. No difference do we make between any of them: and to God are we resigned (Muslims).’" (Sura 2:130).

"Some of the apostles we have endowed more highly than others: Those to whom God hath spoken, He hath raised to the loftiest grade, and to Jesus the Son of Mary we gave manifest signs, and we strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. And if God had pleased, they who came after them would not have wrangled, after the clear signs had reached them. But into disputes they fell: some of them believed, and some were infidels; yet if God had pleased, they would not have thus wrangled: but God doth what he will." (Sura 2:254).

"And when Jesus perceived unbelief on their part, He said, 'Who will be my helpers with God?' The apostles said, 'We will be God's helpers! We believe in God, and bear thou witness that we are Muslims. O our Lord! we believe in what thou has sent down, and we follow the apostle; write us up, then, with those who bear witness to him'...Remember when God said, 'O Jesus! verily I will cause thee to die, and will take thee up to myself and deliver thee from those who believe not; and I will place those who follow thee above those who believe not, until the day of resurrection. Then, to me is your return, and wherein ye differ will I decide between you.'" (Sura 3:46-48).

SAY: We believe in God, and in what hath been sent down to us, and what hath been sent down to Abraham, and Ismael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses, and Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord. We make no difference between them. And to Him are we resigned (Muslims)." (Sura 3:78)

"And in the footsteps of the prophets caused we Jesus, the son of Mary, to follow, confirming the law which was before him: and we gave him the Evangel with its guidance and light, confirmatory of the preceding Law; a guidance and warning to those who fear God..." (Sura 5:50).

"When He shall say: O Jesus! Son of Mary! call to mind my favor upon thee and upon thy mother, when I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, that thou shouldest speak to men alike in the cradle, and when grown up; — And when I taught thee the Scripture, and Wisdom, and the Law, and the Evangel: and thou didst create of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by my leave, and didst breathe into it, and by my leave it became a bird; and thou didst heal the blind and the leper, by my leave; and when, by my leave, thou didst bring forth the dead; and when I withheld the children of Israel from thee, when thou hadst come to them with clear tokens: and such of them as believed not said, 'This is nought but plain sorcery...Remember when the Apostles said — 'O Jesus, Son of Mary! is thy Lord able to send down a furnished Table to us out of Heaven!' He said — 'Fear God if ye be believers.'" (Sura 5:109-112).

"Verily we have revealed to thee as we revealed to Noah and the Prophets after him, and as we revealed to Abraham, and Ismael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and Jesus, and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron, and Solomon; and to David gave we Psalms." (Sura 4:161).

"This is our reasoning with which we furnished Abraham against his people: We uplift to grades of wisdom whom we will; Verily thy Lord is Wise, Knowing. And we gave him Isaac and Jacob, and guided both aright; and we had before guided Noah; and among the descendants of Abraham, David and Solomon, and Job and Joseph, and Moses and Aaron: Thus do we recompense the righteous: And Zachariah, John, Jesus, and Elias; all were just persons..." (Sura 6:83-85).

"And remember that we have entered into covenant with the Prophets, and with thee, and with Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus, Son of Mary: and we formed with them a strict covenant..." (Sura 33:7).



Logo You can watch a videotape of the carafe breaking and the milk streaming onto the ground, but you will never see a videotape of the milk streaming back up into a carafe healing, growing intact. The time line runs in one direction. If, as Mohammed is now saying, revelation is progressive and Abraham's religion was, in fact, much simpler and more basic than the religions of the Christians and the Jews, built upon later revelation, then can you simply by willing go back to an earlier point on the time line? The law came down at Sinai. It is from God. Christians don't deny it, they believe the law is a genuine revelation of God's will and character. Mohammed straddled the fence on this issue. Muslims do not observe the bulk of the dietary restrictions of the law. But, don't eat pork!

Mohammed, who at first claimed and he and his followers made no distinction between the prophets, ends with this, "For the wickedness of certain Jews, and because they turn many from the way of God, we have forbidden them goodly viands which had been before allowed them." (Sura 4:158). Notice, he finds something defective in the Mosaic covenant: "goodly viands" are forbidden, for no other reason than as a chastisement. How is this making no distinction? Now we are making distinctions aplenty. Now we discover that the earlier revelation is by no means the same as the later, as had been previously represented, but is both available and preferable. Why did he not start by saying this?

There are difficult problems to resolve in weighing the contributions of the various prophets whom God has, indeed, legitimately, sent to man. Moses delivered the law. Is it universally binding upon all people at all times? Christians believe that certain aspects of the law were intended to point to Christ, and once His mission was accomplished, they had attained their fullest fruition:




LogoThe Binding of Isaac

God laid down, in the law of Moses, requirements for various animal sacrifices. In no way was this a distinctive behavior of a peculiar people: the pagans also sacrificed to their gods. It is a natural and seemingly near-universal human hope that a substitute will be accepted. Although Islam is one of the few religions left which still practice animal sacrifice, Muslim apologists just don't seem to get it. The logic of animal sacrifice is much like the logic of the cross: a substitute pays the penalty we owe.

Abraham, strong in faith, foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Christians speak of man as made in the image of God. Imaging or mirroring God, Abraham prepared to offer His beloved son, but was held back. God was never held back:



Harold Copping, Abraham and Isaac


Mount Moriah Problems
Mount Calvary Only Begotten
Traditional Jewish Interpretation Detractors



LogoPaul

It is striking to notice the way Muslims go where Christians have gone before, though apparently without realizing it. For instance, looking for an unfulfilled prophecy, a slot into which Mohammed, the seal of the prophets, might be inserted, they hit upon Deuteronomy 18:15:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’” (Deuteronomy 18:15-16).

That's nice but Christians were there first: For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.’” (Acts 3:22). Since Peter said it's Jesus, not many Christians perceive this verse as unfulfilled.

That's the case with Father Abraham as well. The Judaizers with whom Paul contended demanded that Christian converts from paganism abide by Moses' law. To follow the law is the only way to be pleasing to God, they explained. As Paul pointed out, Abraham was the friend of God, yet he lived hundreds of years before the law was given:


 Washington Irving 
Mohammed and
His Successors


"What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?
"For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 
"For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  
"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
"But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

    “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,     And whose sins are covered;
     Blessed
 is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

(Romans 4:1-8)



LogoAbraham is the man who was saved by faith. Faith in what? In a specific promise limited to his own personal situation? No, in Christ:

“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,”  who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Galatians 3:16-18).





LogoThree Hundred Eighteen

Confederate theologian Robert Dabney, in trying to make the case after the Civil War that the confederacy had been in the right all along, reached back behind Moses' law to the patriarchs. Moses' law does not work very well for slavery apologists: the term of servitude for a Hebrew slave is limited to a maximum six years. There are major league baseball players with longer contracts than that! There may be an exemption for foreign slaves, but this did not work very well for the confederacy either, because the importation of slaves into the United States had been banned for some years and the great majority of the slave population was native-born. What is a slave-owner to do? Go back to Abraham, who owned slaves. Who were these people, the three hundred and eighteen? According to Jewish tradition, they were proselytes:


"Each altar raised by him was a center for his activities as a missionary. As soon as he came to a place in which he desired to sojourn, he would stretch a tent first for Sarah, and next for himself, and then he would proceed at once to make proselytes and bring them under the wings of the Shekinah. Thus he accomplished his purpose of inducing all men to proclaim the Name of God."
(Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Volume 1, Kindle location 2439).

"But all these gifts did not rejoice the heart of Abraham so much as the three hundred followers that joined him and became adherents of his religion."
(Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Volume 1, Kindle location 2257).



LogoHowever, Jewish tradition has little historical value. Can we investigate their status by other facts mentioned in the narrative, like their armed defense of Abraham's cause? One notable feature of Southern slavery is that the slave-masters were careful not to let fire-arms fall into the hands of the slaves. We have a second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, safeguarding the right to bear arms, which was routinely disregarded south of the Mason-Dixon line. Slaves, or indeed African-Americans, could not own fire-arms. Why not? For fear they'd turn them on their masters. Abraham's followers, whoever they were, were armed. That undeniable fact gives us a hint as to their status.

Philo suggests also that Abraham amassed his troop, not by buying up those he happened to find on the market, or capturing the unwary, but by inviting to virtue: "Why did Abraham also circumcise strangers? The wise man is as useful as the humane man, who saves and invites to himself not only his relations and neighbors, but also strangers and men of another family, giving them a share of his own habit of patient and religious continence; for these are the foundations of constancy, which is the object of all virtue, and the point at which it rests." (Philo Judaeus, Questions and Answers in Genesis, Book 3, Question 62). We can visualize Abraham as a travelling warlord or as a teacher who gained his followers by 'inviting' them to come along. Realizing that this is a man who left his home on a religious quest, the latter possibility is not so unlikely as might at first appear. Even Mohammed ibn Abdallah, a seventh century Arabian warlord, converted the majority of his followers rather than simply impressing them into his service.




LogoIt was by means of argument and instruction, suggests Maimonides, that Abraham amassed his troop: "They guided their fellow-men by means of argument and instruction, as is implied, according to the interpretation generally received amongst us, in the words 'and the souls that they had gotten in Haran' (Gen. xii. 5)." (Moses Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 112).

Josephus magnifies the force, making the 318 into captains over an immense army: "What did Abraham our progenitor then do? Did he defend himself from this injurious person by war, although he had three hundred and eighteen captains under him, and an immense army under each of them?" (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapter 9). At this point, if not before, plainly we are getting lost in legend.

Why doesn't the law of Moses work for slavery advocates? Surely it must be true, as every atheist knows, that the Bible commends slavery. Why, then, were the Bible-based abolitionist pamphlets so difficult for people like Dabney to refute?: