Nancy L. Calvert
Abraham Traditions in Middle Jewish Literature:Implications for the Interpretation of Galatians and Romans
In the first three sections of the thesis it is shown how the figure of Abraham
functioned in different types of Middle Jewish works. In several different contexts,Abraham functioned as the ideal Jew. The most popular traditions were that Abrahamwas the first monotheist and anti-idolater, he was obedient to the Mosaic law, and hewas hospitable.In Galatians Paul employed the first two Jewish traditions of Abraham in the
context of early Christianity to define those who are now members of the people of God.Paul argued forcefully that obedience to law was inferior to being "in Christ" (Gal 3:10-12, 17, 19, 23-26) because his Jewish Christian opponents were employing the figure of
Abraham who was obedient to the Mosaic law to persuade Gentile Christian converts toadhere to the law. The figure of Abraham as the first anti-idolater and monotheistfurther informed the interpretation of Galatians. Obedience to the law was tantamountto idolatry (Gal 4:1-11). All those who were true children of Abraham should shun thelaw, just as Abraham was known to have shunned idolatry.In Romans, Paul played upon the tradition which connected Abraham with theMosaic law (Rom 4:3). He redefined the faith of Abraham as the faith in the one Godwho gave life to the dead and who called into being the things that do not exist (Rom4:17). He explained that the faith of Abraham in the God who gave life to the dead isthe same as faith in the God who resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead for theforgiveness of sin (Rom 4:23-25). Paul reshaped the tradition of the monotheistic beliefof Abraham into faith in the God of Christ.