What we know is that Abraham’s ancestors were from Ur of the Chaldees. This means when the Book of Genesis was written, Chaldeans lived in southern Mesopotamia. Since Abraham lived around 2000 BC, he was not a Chaldean. He could have been a Sumerian, Acadian, Amorite or Aramean. We do see in Genesis 11:27 that Har’an was the father of Lot. The family then left Ur and relocated to Har’an. Interestingly, the family left the abode of the Sumerians for Har’an, a city named similar, but not identical to, Abraham’s uncle. Could Har’an have been the actual ancestral home of Abraham’s family? If so, this places them in modern day Turkey. There was a “Chaldia” in Asia Minor on the Black Sea. What we do know is that Abraham cannot be referred to as a Jew or an Arab any more than St. Peter was an Israeli or Palestinian.
In Har’an, God spoke with Abraham. What did Abraham do to earn this honor? In Genesis 12:2-3, God made promises to Abraham. The formal covenant had not been mentioned in scripture but promises were being made. How do we account for this? In verse 7, God promises the land of Canaan to the descendents of Abraham. The conditions for the covenant were being established as Abraham was building alters, i.e., places of sacrifice that were pleasing to God.
Did Abraham win God over with his character? In verses 10-16, Abraham is purposely not truthful because he is fearful. This untruth almost leads to the Pharaoh marrying Sarai, Abraham’s wife. Despite Abraham’s shortcoming God intervenes. Although the Noachide covenant existed from 1000 years prior, the Abrahamic Covenant was being established and the giving of the Torah was still 600 years hense.
After Abraham and Lot came to an agreement to split and go separate ways, God once again promised Canaan to Abraham and his descendents who God stated are to be numerous (Gen. 13:15-16). Abraham then went to Hebron and built another alter.
In Chapter 14, we learn that Abraham is confederate with Amorites. Abraham then took over 300 of his people and attacked the King of Elam and his allies after they captured Lot. After Abraham and his men slaughtered those who took Lot, he was blessed by Melchizedek and Abraham acted equitably with the King of Sodom. In chapter 15, the Lord promised Abraham that his descendents will be like the stars in the sky. Verse 6 states that Abraham believed in the Lord and was considered righteous. After this decree the Lord told Abraham what would happen to his seed specifically the Exodus account.
It was then that God made his covenant with Abraham and his descendants were promised the land from the Nile to the Euphrates.
God promised Abraham heirs. Since they were old Sarai thought she could help by offering Hagar to Abraham. However, this union and their offspring Ishmael had consequences for the world. In Genesis 16:12, the Angel of Lord told Hagar “He (Ishmael) will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” In Genesis 17:1, 22; 18:1-2, 16-17, 22, 32-33, God appeared in human form to Abraham. During this appearing Abraham offered the Lord and his angels milk and meat together, i.e., a meal that was not kosher and the Lord and the angels ate it (Gen. 18:8). The land of Canaan was promised to Abraham’s seed as an everlasting possession. Then the Covenant was instituted with circumcision. Circumcision was to become a reminder of the covenant. The text says nothing about righteousness. The everlasting covenant was made with Sarah’s child, but Ishmael was blessed where his 12 sons would become a great nation. In verse 25, Ishmael was also circumcised. He was 13 at the time but Isaac, after he was born, was circumcised on the 8th day as prescribed by the Lord (Gen. 21:4). In chapter 20, despite what the Lord visibly did for Abraham he repeated the same sin that we saw in chapter 12. Again, a king was considering relations with Sarah because Abraham was fearful and misled the King. The Lord had not yet allowed Sarah to be impregnated with Isaac so Abraham placed God’s plan in jeopardy. For this second transgression the faith of Abraham would have to be tested and tested to the hilt.
In chapter 4 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, the topic of Abraham is addressed. The first three verses make the point that Abraham was justified before God due to his faith not his works because he was flawed. Despite this, Abraham was considered righteous long before God instituted the circumcision requirement. Still uncircumcised, Abraham was considered the Father of faith. His descendents were promised blessings before the Torah was revealed. Most importantly Abraham is the Father of faith because he really believed the promises of God. Abraham being 100 also believed that he could sire children. After bringing about Ishmael and Isaac, Abraham trusted God when he told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Through his faith, Abraham was rewarded and Isaac survived to fulfill the promise.
Islam states that Abraham, at the age of 100, travelled from Hebron to Mecca, a distance of 754 miles through forbidding desert with his son Ishmael. There they built the Kabbah and were handed the black stone by Gabriel. Abraham then set it in place. Ishaq:100-102 states that Hanifiyya was the Religion of Abraham. Surah 87 claims that Abraham had his own scriptures. Surah 37 states that Ishmael was the son who was to be sacrificed. In Ishaq:182-183, Muhammad learns that Abraham was a Muslim and according to Surah 2:135; 3:67, 3:95, Islam is the religion of Abraham. According to Ishaq:638, the Quraysh are descendent of Ishmael son of Abraham.
In conclusion, the events attributed to Abraham were written in the Torah by Moses or a scribe about 700-1000 years after Abraham’s time (1800-2000 BC). St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans was written around the year 56 AD. Paul does not give a new account of the events but rather interprets this scripture in order to get at a deeper meaning. The Jews also use what they consider Oral Torah, Talmud, and Midrash to tell the Abraham story. These traditions existed at the time of Yeshua but were not codified into texts until after the temple was destroyed in the year 70 AD. Experts place the completion of the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud from 200-400 AD. The Qur’an and other authoritative texts render a different account of Abraham. Muslims believe the Medina codex was codified into the Qur’an during the Caliphate of Uthman in 651 AD. So the Islamic version is completed at least 2500 years after Abraham.
The official Jewish version includes extra-Biblical material. It tells the following story: Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said, “The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones.” His father said, “Don’t be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can’t do anything.” Abram replied, “Then why do you worship them?”
So it is in what Abraham did that earned him the privilege of being visited by God. It is in the promises made to Abraham that his descendents are granted their status as chosen. To be accurate Abraham is the father of Isaac who is the father of Jacob. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel and his descendents were known as Israelites. The term Jew and Abraham really does not fit since the Jews were descendents of Israel’s son Judah who occupied Judea with the Levites and tribe of Benjamin in the Kingdom of Judah after the splintering of Israel by Solomon’s son’s Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The timeframe is 900 BC, or 1100 years after Abraham. The term Jew is not displayed in scripture until the Book of Ezra after the Babylonian captivity around the year 500 BC, or 1500 years after Abraham. From the Jewish perspective, they are living proof of the promises made to Abraham. Rabbinical Judaism is a works-based religion that works on a balance of good and bad deeds, with the option of reducing/disqualifying some of the latter through prayer, fasting, and charity — the post Temple alternatives to the Levitical sacrifices. The precedent for this was the practices of the Jews during their 70-year Babylonian captivity.
The Jewish believers in Yeshua largely rejected the Jewish oral tradition except for some known as Judiazers. In this the Apostle Paul displayed through the Torah that Abraham was a sinner like all other men who was only granted God’s favor through his faith. He displayed that Abraham though flawed was considered righteous before God before the covenant and circumcision were enacted. Since faith not ritual or works justified Abraham before God, faith in God’s word, not good deeds is the prerequisite for righteousness or right standing with God. Abraham was determined righteous before the giving of the Torah.
Islamic tradition over 300 years after Muhammad states that Abraham and his son Ishmael travelled to Mecca by following a snake like spirit that coiled in Mecca where the Kabbah was to be built. Gabriel appeared to Abraham and gave him the black stone that was to be put in place by Abraham. The place of sacrifice was to be Mecca and Ishmael not Isaac was the object of sacrifice. Since the biblical account places the event on Mount Moriah (Modern Day Jerusalem) it is obvious that the Islamic story displays Ishmael as the son of the promise and Mecca not Jerusalem as the holy of holies (Surah 37). Surah 87 states that Abraham had his own scriptures. The problem here is we have no proof. If it were true, nothing has survived; therefore, it is not a fact despite what the Qur’an claims. Islamic scripture also claims Abraham was a Muslim and practiced Islam (Sura 2, 3). This depends upon the Tarikh which was written almost 3000 years after Abraham in the 10th century AD. Could, or would, Abraham at the age of 100 travel over 700 miles through the most desolate desert on earth to a barren isolated spot in Arabia? If so, why did he make Hebron his home and place of burial just as the Bible claims? The Qur’an does not incorporate the Biblical narrative about the Caves of Makhpelah being bought by Abraham to bury Sarah and then being used as a family crypt subsequently.
In the Sirah, a friend of Muhammad said that the Hanif religion was the religion of Abraham. Later, in Ishaq:278, Muhammad states that Islam is the religion of Abraham. In this discourse, his Hanif friend scolded Muhammad and told him that he added things to Islam (aspects of Quraysh polytheism like Al-lah worship vice Ar-Rahman, circumambulation of the Kabbah and the Hajj) and that Islam was Muhammad’s invention.
Since the Hebrew Scriptures regarding Abraham were written 1600-1900 years before the Qur’an and other Islamic sources and since we do not have proof that the Books of Moses were altered despite Qur’anic claims; analysis would strongly suggest that the Biblical account is a more accurate account of the life of Abraham. Since the Oral Torah Talmud and Midrash were not fully developed until after the time of Yeshua and since these accounts were rejected by not only the Messianic Jews (Jewish believers in Yeshua) but by the Sadducees as well, we cannot conclude that these accounts are as authentic as the written words of Moses. The Sadducees not only rejected everything beyond the Torah, they also did not view the Torah as Law, but as custom. They were secularized and comfortable collaborating with the Romans as their predecessors had been collaborating with the Greeks. The Kerai’ites — a small sect that survived in the Near and Middle East until the modern era, were much more committed to obedience to the Torah while rejecting the Prophets, Talmud, etc.
The Apostle Paul makes the case that faith leads to righteousness and righteousness to salvation. A person has no special standing before God if they are a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or Abraham, Ishmael, and Kedar since all men are sinners, like Abraham. The real significance of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is that their descendants are in the lineage of Yeshua who lived as a Jew, died a death he did not deserve, and left us with an empty tomb. Yeshua possessed the faith of Abraham but did not sin. Muhammad is the descendent of Abraham, Ishmael, and Kedar but the Bible places the everlasting covenant with Isaac and Jacob not Ishmael and his son Kedar. Since the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 proved that the Bible has not changed as far back as 150 BC. Qur’anic claims of biblical corruption become unsubstantiated. Since Abraham was righteous without the Torah, then the focus of the Tenakh (Old Testament) is the Messiah not the Torah since we are justified and considered righteous through faith in the Messiah. Shalom, Joe