Abraham is undoubtedly one of the most important Biblical characters. His relevance in terms of shaping Christian thought has been significant. Beyond Christianity, Abraham finds a crucial role in two other monotheistic religions of Islam and Judaism. Notwithstanding his importance to monotheistic traditions, Abraham’s exact history and origins remains obscure. The fact that Abraham’s life and work preceded that of Christ by a few centuries has made claims on historical accuracy rather dubious. The chosen thesis will argue that, despite crucial theological merit in the conception and attributed preaching of Abraham, a study of the historicity of origins gives no valid proofs.
The main motivation for pursuing this research topic and the stated thesis is due to the fact that Abraham had profoundly influenced Christian doctrine. On a broader note, much of the debate surrounding the interpretation of the scriptures could be resolved based on the veracity of his particular history. If, for example, the legend of Abraham were proven to be a retrospective imaginative construct, then the faithful can be allowed the freedom to interpret the scripture (at least those sections pertaining to Abraham) metaphorically. If, on the other hand, there is proof beyond reasonable doubt affirming the historicity of Abraham, then a more literal reading could be warranted. It is only fitting that the figurativeness or literalness of a particular Biblical idea is equated with the hard historical facts surrounding its origins. The most important of these facts happens to be the very existence of the author(s) and the character(s) involved in the passage of the text.
Preliminary research on the debate surrounding Abraham’s historicity has thrown a few interesting leads. Liberal historians seem to take a dispassionate look into available data and present a realistic picture of Abraham’s legend. On the other hand, conservative theologians and scholars attempt to preserve the orthodox view. It is apparent from cursory investigation into their research material that the liberal historians are gaining ground. Certainly, the location of Abraham’s said life in ancient history, preceding even that of Jesus Christ, has made conclusive evidence impossible to gather. However, to the extent that rational discourse places the burden of proof on the claimant, the traditional Christian position on Abraham is on weak ground.
The thesis for the proposed essay will be supportive of the bold and fresh scholarship on the Abraham question. It is observed that recent scholarship is largely revisionist, whereas earlier ones are conformist. In this regard, a thesis contrarian to the traditional Christian view is believed to be on sound logic. This is so because research on any subject, including those falling under the domain of theology, is an ongoing and emergent. In the spirit and ethic of quality scholarship, it is imperative to give due consideration to the latest developments on a particular debate. Moreover, it is hoped that a resolution on the Abraham question will pave way for new directions in the treatment of other Biblical topics. The fact that the Bible was written in its entirety in the centuries immediately after Christ’s death lends it a quality of unity. This chronological compactness of its origins allows the researcher a degree of uniformity of analytic approach.
Works Cited (with annotations)
- Arieti, Silvano. Abraham and the Contemporary Mind. New York: Basic, 1981. Print.
This book is very useful due to its analysis of Abraham in the modern philosophical context. Though the language is difficult at places, the rigor and candor of presentation makes the arguments convincing.
- Barrick, William D. “Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel 1300-1100 B.C.E.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50.2 (2007): 377+. Print.
This work gets down to the nuts and bolts of Abraham’s historicity. Although the descriptive parts can be tedious to read, they nevertheless offer the most tangible proofs (or lack of existence) of Abraham’s existence.
- Bass, Alden. “Abraham Affirmed”, Apologetics Press. Retrieved from <http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1220>, Published in 2003. Web.
As the title clearly proclaims, this is one of the unabashed apologetics for Abraham’s historical existence. In the research is rather superfluous and unconvincing.
- A, Marvin. “The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman.” Shofar 21.2 (2003). Print.
This journal article is a review of a book by Finkelstein and Asher. It neatly highlights the major findings by the scholar team while offering a critique. The fact that the original book is a comprehensive research helps greatly in the quest for Abraham’s veracity.
- Moberly, R. W. L. The Bible, Theology, and Faith: A Study of Abraham and Jesus. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.
A very broad-based work, it eschews archaeological and historical research. Instead the focus is mainly on the theological argument.
- Rosenthal, Gilbert S. “Perspectives on Our Father Abraham.” Midstream Winter 2012: 33+. Print.
This journal article offers fresh perspectives in understanding Abraham. It reinforces the view of the faithful toward the subject. It does not offer any key insights in terms of Abraham’s historicity, but the lack thereof is in itself an evidence for the proposed thesis.