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Patriarch, Prophet, and Progenitor of prophets

Monotheism as we know it, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, began formally with Abraham even though he did not claim there are no other gods but God. He did claim that God is supreme. Abraham also exemplified something else, obedience. His son was involved in that one, being obediently ready, at God's command, to be sacrificed by knife at the hand of his father.

Nevermind what kind of god (in man's image?) would issue such a command.

Jews celebrate Abraham as their most ancient Prophet and ancestor by lineage through Ishmael and by covenant through Isaac. God's words to Abraham, from the Torah: "Go forth from your native land.. And from your father's house... And I will make you a great nation... And I will bless those who bless you... And curse him that curses you... And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you."

Muslims believe it was his other son Ishmael to be sacrificed instead, and that Mohammed descended from Ishmael. Other than Abraham, the Muslims claim no kinship with the Jews. The Qur'an is explicit on the point of sacrifice as well; upon learning of God's command to his father, Ishmael replies: "O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast." The Qur'an noted, "They had both surrendered [to Allah]." This parable lies at the root of the Muslim tradition of submission to Allah. It is not much of a stretch to see parallels of obedience between the covenant through Isaac and the modern suicide bombers.

Christians have still a different take. Abraham appears in the book of Genesis and finds interpretation in the book of Romans as prophesying the Resurrection. The Apostle Paul went much further. Paul argued that redemption would come through the Christ, not Jewish law, and also not through tribal inheritance. While the Jews followed Abraham's teaching of circumcision, Paul rejected that necessity. According to Paul, baptism in the faith would more than suffice for redemption.

Abraham thus appears in three historic versions. If you are whimsical, there are many more. Bruce Feiler, in his "Abraham, A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths" concludes that Abraham "is as much a model for fanaticism as he is for moderation."

There are many who believe Abraham, being a common kernel for the three faiths, can provide a bridge for dialogue to resolve the Palestinian wars and terrorism alike. One can only hope so. The trichotomy Feiler notes will provide the landscape.

Abraham – The Catholic Encyclopedia, Robert Appleton Company.
The Land of Israel – "promised to the descendants of Isaac by God through the prophet Abraham."
Trialog Series – Rabbi Langer, Asst. Prof. Rabbi Ruth Langer (Theology)-Meetings focused mainly on stories of the prophet Abraham. "To understand the others' readings of these stories is a step toward understanding the others." Boston College Chronicle.
What was the religion of Abraham? – Summary of a dialogue between a Christian and a Muslim;


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