Abraham (Biblical Figure)

Abraham

Abraham [according to the Book of Genesis, Heb.,=father of many nations] or Abram (ā´brəm) [Heb.,=exalted father], in the Bible, progenitor of the Hebrews; in the Qur'an, ancestor of the Arabs. As the founder of Judaism, he is said to have instituted the rite of circumcision as a sign of the covenant between God and the Jews, who are descended from Isaac, son of Abraham's old age. Abraham also received the promise of Canaan for his people. In response to divine command, Abraham left Haran, taking his wife Sara and his nephew Lot to Canaan, where God promised him many descendants who would become a great nation. His devotion and trust in God and his promises are exemplified pre-eminently in Abraham's preparedness to sacrifice his son Isaac. The Book of Joshua confesses Abraham as a one-time worshiper of other gods before he entered Canaan.

Muslims believe that Arabs are descended from Abraham and Hagar through their son Ishmael. Abraham is further regarded as an ancestor of Muhammad. According to the Qur'an, Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba in Mecca and instituted pilgrimages there. The Qur'an depicts him destroying the idols of his father and of his clan; hence, Islam is the restoration of the religion of Abraham.

Other Abraham traditions are to be found in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, especially in the Book of Jubilees. See also Josephus' Jewish Antiquities. Modern biblical scholarship has revealed anachronisms in Genesis that cloud attempts to place chronologically Abraham's historical existence.

See T. L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (1974); J. van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (1975); A. R. Millard and D. J. Wiseman, ed., Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives (1983); J. D. Levenson, Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Bible, Theology, and Faith: A Study of Abraham and Jesus
R. W. L. Moberly.
Cambridge University Press, 2000
Abraham and the Contemporary Mind
Silvano Arieti.
Basic Books, 1981
An Ideal Marriage: Abraham and Sarah in Old English Literature
Anlezark, Daniel.
Medium Aevum, Vol. 69, No. 2, Fall 2000
Abraham as a Transformational Leader
Friedman, Hershey H.; Langbert, Mitchell.
Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring 2000
Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Jon D. Levenson.
Princeton University Press, 2012
Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible
Ronald Hendel.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Immortal Rebels: Freedom for the Individual in the Bible
Israel J. Gerber.
Jonathan David, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "Father of a Multitude"
Genesis: The Beginning of Desire
Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg.
Jewish Publication Society, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Travails of Faith" begins on p. 72
An Understanding of Judaism
John D. Rayner.
Berghahn Books, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Abraham and Soddom" begins on p. 17
The Bible Is for You: Our Biblical Heritage Reconsidered
Stuart E. Rosenberg.
Longmans, Green, 1961
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Abraham begins on p. 113
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