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Abraham

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Thank you, God for telling me not to kill the son you told me to kill.
Light iron-age reading
The Bible
Icon bible.svg
Gabbin' with God
Analysis
Woo
Figures
But if the voices in your head
Say to sacrifice your kid
To satiate your loving God's
Fetish for dead baby blood
It's simple faith, the Book demands
So raise that knife up in your hand!
Tim MinchinWikipedia's W.svg, The Good Book[1]

Abraham (אַבְרָהָם (Avraham) in Hebrew, and ابراهي (Ibrahim) in Arabic) is a psychologically disturbed character fictionalised in the Tanakh, Bible, and Qur'an. He is a central figure in the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His name is synonymous with religious faith as he heard God's arbitrary demand to kill his son and then went ahead and tried it. Abraham's choice to listen to the voices in his head and murder an innocent vulnerable human being, are central themes of faith and virtue of Judaism, Christianity and Islam which is why they are known as the Abrahamic religions. There are no sources on Abraham apart from an ancient and unverifiable book and copycat texts that followed. Abraham was considered a hero of his time for his attempted infanticide. If he existed today he would be accurately labelled a schizophrenic animal herder who took the voices in his head seriously instead of seeking psychological help. In the 21st century we have many effective treatments for mental breakdowns and ideally his problem would never have elevated to murder. Despite the fact that his actions are now crimes today and considered reprehensible even by the religious, people of the Abrahamic religions still worship Abraham as the ultimate virtuous God believer. He is the kind of Jew/Christian/Muslim most worshipers wish they could be if they weren't so concerned with incarceration and being committed to mental institutes. The consequences of this story has doomed the earth for several thousand years and still does in the 21st century.

The traditional narrative[edit]

His sons, and subsequent bloodlust involving said sons[edit]

He had a son, Ishmael, with his Egyptian slave Hagar. Then God told Abraham to father a son by his own wife, Sarah, and Isaac was born. Clearly the family of Abraham is the perfect snapshot of a dysfunctional family if there ever was one.

Then God told Abraham to get rid of his slave and her son Ishmael. Islamic sources cast Hagar and her son Ishmael as favoured by Allah and the ancestors of all Arabs.

According to the story in the Qur'an, Hagar and Ishmael were wandering in the desert, almost dying of thirst, until they found a well in Mecca. Later, Ishmael and Abraham built the Kaaba in Mecca.

According to the Abramhamic religions, God said to Abraham "kill me a son." Abe said: "Man, you must be puttin' me on." God said, "No," and Abe said "What?" God said: "You can do what you want Abe, but, the next time you see me comin' you better run." Abe said: "Where do you want this killin' done?" God said: "Out on Highway 61,"[2] Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son (held by Christians and Jews to be Isaac, whereas Muslims believe that Ishmael was to be sacrificed). Abraham accepts the command and prepares to slaughter his own child, but at the moment of the actual killing, he is stopped by an angel who chucks him a ram to be sacrificed instead. If Abraham lived today he would be incarcerated for trying to murder his child and would probably be given psychological treatment.

As if this biblical story wasn't disturbing enough, the modern philosopher Soren Kierkegaard uses Abraham as an example of a Knight of Faith. He praises Abraham's willingness to carry out God's command and his unshakeable belief that things would work out as they should.[3]

Historicity[edit]

For much of the 20th century, the scholarly consensus reflected the arguments of figures such as William F. Albright that Abraham was a real person, living some time in the second millennium BCE; this chronology was based on knowledge of customs, proper names and other details of that time. However, this was challenged by a later wave of scholarship: in 1975 came two works by north American biblical scholars, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives: The Quest for the Historical Abraham by Thomas L. Thompson, and John Van Seters' Abraham in History and Tradition, who both concluded that there was no actual evidence for the existence of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In particular, Thompson concluded that many of the facets of the Abrahamic narrative were reflective of the Iron Age, leading Thompson to conclude that the Abrahamic narrative was concocted up sometime between the fifth and second centuries BCE.[4]

There have been attempts to match the Biblical narrative to real places, with Abraham's supposed birthplace of Ur of the ChaldeesWikipedia's W.svg identified with various historical sites, most notably Leonard Woolley'sWikipedia's W.svg excavations at Nasiriyah, and his later residence at Haran is usually matched to HarranWikipedia's W.svg in modern-day Turkey.

Even among those who believe in the historical existence, the dominant theory of Biblical authorship holds that the stories of Abraham and the patriarchs in the Book of Genesis were probably written around the Babylonian exile of 6th century BCE. This means that there must have been many hundred years of transmission of oral tradition before it was put into writing.[5][6][notes 1] Almost any oral tradition could be transformed over 500-1000 years, and could have been coloured by later traditions or modified to fit in with past or present names and customs. Short of a time machine, it's unlikely there will ever be real evidence that Abraham existed or any factual information about him.

Notes[edit]

  1. It is likely that these oral traditions were put to writing sometime between the seventh to fourth centuries BCE, as per Ska (2009)

References[edit]