While the name ‘Abraham’ as compared with‘Abram’ may not be of the same order of differentiation as otherdynastic names, it is significant that, as with other such names,the name of Abraham is applied throughout the Old Testamentto the patriarch alone.
Evidence of its application to other indi-viduals is attested only after the sixth century
A D ~~
It is suggested that the foregoing aspects of the person andfunction of Abraham are in keeping with his role as a ‘great man’and worthy founding father of a nation, and need to be taken intoaccount in any assessment of the historicity of the patriarchal
(I) was linked with a resurgence of the
worship of Marduk; W. G.
in W. S. McCullough (ed.), The
Seed of Wisdom: Essays in
(Univ. of Toronto Press,
attributes thisto respect, but the matter needs further investigation in comparison with other
of the many hundreds of the names of rabbis in the Mishnah andTalmud bears the name of Abraham (or indeed of Moses, David or Solomon).
Rabbah Gen. R.
states that a man should not give his son a name‘like Pharaoh, Sisera or Sennacherib but rather Abraham, Isaac. This doesnot appear to have taken effect quickly. The widespread use of Abraham as apersonal name comes into common use in parallel with that of Ibrahim inthe Islamic world after the seventh century
(I owe this reference to Dr.
The Religion of the Patriarchs’
For well over a hundred years the religious ideas and practices ofthe patriarchs have attracted scholarly attention. In view of theplace Abraham occupies in various religious traditions this isunderstandable. What is more surprising is that in the scholarlydebate, no clear consensus about the content of his religion has
At least four factors can be pinpointed which have contributedto this uncertainty. First, Genesis itself says relatively little aboutpatriarchal religion. It tells us much about their religious experi-ences, but little about their beliefs or religious practices.Secondly, the accounts of the patriarchs as we now have themare all post-Sinaitic, that is they presuppose the innovations inbelief and practice that date from the time of Moses. Various textsallude to the differences between the religion of Moses and that ofthe patriarchs. For example Exodus
says: ‘I appeared toAbraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shaddai (God Almighty,RSV), but by my name the
I did not make myself known tothem.’ Joshua
states:‘Put away the gods your fathers servedbeyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the
Both thesetexts appear to contrast the religious ideas and practices of thefathers with the post-Mosaic period. Yet Genesis itself gives veryfew hints that the patriarchs worshipped other gods. Indeed it
usually describes the God who appears and speaks to the patriarchs
(Yahweh), i.e. the God of Moses.
essay was written at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, during sabbaticalleave there supported by a grant from the British Academy. I should also like tothank Professor F. M. Cross and Mr. A. R. Millard for advice on several points.
a thorough survey of German Protestant views in the last 100 years seeH. Weidmann,
Die Patriarchen und ihre Religion im
der Forschung seit
Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1968).