Click here for sitemap
Plenary Assemblies / VI Plenary Assembly 2002 / Documents of the VI PA / Main Papers / Abraham - A Blessing for All Nations   Catholic Biblical Federation  
Sitemap    > English <  Français   Español   Deutsch 

VI Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation
Lebanon, 4 September 2002

Abraham - A Blessing for All Nations
according to the Jewish, Christian and Islamic Traditions

Adel Theodore Khoury

Jews, Christians and Moslems all lay claim to the patriarch Abraham. For different reasons, they consider themselves the legitimate heirs of Abraham, heirs of the divine covenant made with him, of the promises made by God on behalf of his descendants and of the blessing bestowed in him on all the nations of the world. But in varying degrees the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions have managed to go beyond the horizons of their particular communities to discover in their long histories the universal dimensions of the promises of salvation which God pronounced in the blessing accorded to Abraham and through him to all his descendants and to all peoples.

In the following presentation we intend to set forth the data of the three traditions concerning the blessing of Abraham, its conditions, its effects and its various dimensions. In the conclusion we will make a few comments on the role the figure of Abraham can play in the context of the relations between the three religions which are commonly referred to today as "the Abrahamic religions", namely, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Blessing of Abraham in the Jewish Tradition

The figure of Abraham plays a predominant role in Jewish tradition. At each period of the peoples? history Abraham appears as the guarantor of identity, of prosperity or, in times of crisis, of the people?s survival. Various speculations formed about his figure. These ideas, taken as a whole, oscillate between an exclusive particularism and an open universalism, in which the Jewish people, conscious of its belonging to Abraham, occupies an important position.

We cannot here expound every detail of this development. We will concentrate on the traits that concern the blessing of Abraham received on behalf of the nations. We will begin with the data of the Bible, in the Old Testament; then we will consult the texts of the late Jewish tradition and occasionally of certain Jewish thinkers down through history.

1. Data of the Old Testament

1. The texts of Genesis

The principal text is that which we read in Genesis. This passage links the blessings of God to the command he gave to Abraham to leave his country and his family to go and encounter the designs of God..

The Lord said to Abraham: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father?s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you" (Gen 12:1-3).

Nothing had prepared Abraham for the call God addresses to him or the blessing he generously bestows on him. The patriarch was living in a pagan environment; he did not yet know the law of God and had not yet shown absolute obedience to God?s commands. It becomes clear because of this that the blessing and the promises of God to Abraham are in the first place a sign of God?s free will and cannot be seen as conditioned by the faith and obedience of Abraham. Abraham?s future and that of his descendants is in the hands of God who is at work in his life by virtue of his all-powerful might and his gratuitous goodness. But God expects Abraham to respond to this divine grace through an unshakable faith and an obedience ready for sacrifice.

God promises Abraham that he will be the father of numerous descendants. "I will make of you a great people" (Gen 2:12). This promise is the foundation of the story of the Hebrew people under the direction of God.

The belonging of the Jewish people to the posterity of Abraham will signify for this people at once a privilege and a duty down through history and in its relations with other nations. Abraham?s descendants draw inspiration from what the Word of God affirms in the text cited above, namely, that God blesses those who bless Abraham?s name, and curses those who curse it. If then Abraham is the mediator of the blessing and if his descendants inherit its benefits, then they too will perform the role of mediator between the nations and the blessings of God. (We will see a little further on in what sense the tradition understood this role).

Finally, God promises to Abraham that he will be a blessing for all the nations. A new era for the history of humanity is thus inaugurated, a history of blessing with reference to Abraham. This passage which comes from the Yahwist source of Genesis is located within the history of the people, in the context of a highly successful reign of Jewish kings -- a kingdom which showed that this people had truly become a powerful nation, and that its royal rule could become a blessing and a promise of prosperity for the peoples who lived within its domain or within the remote reaches of it territory. Thus, the blessing of the Jewish people signified a blessing for all the nations. So God insists, after the story of the sacrifice of Isaac:

I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing -- all this because you obeyed my command (Gen 22:17-18).

And the text sees all of this as linked to the original promise of God to bless Abraham in his direct descendants and in all the nations of the earth.

The role of Abraham as a blessing for the nations reveals itself in the story of the destruction of the sinful towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the introduction to the story of the destruction of Sodom the text features the scene of Abraham?s intercession on behalf of the inhabitants of that town. This intercession is expressly linked by the Bible to the blessing of Abraham for the nations:

The Lord reflected: "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, now that he is to become a great and populous nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him?..." (Gen 18:17).

Abraham receives the blessing from God for himself, for his immediate descendants, and for the people who will constitute his posterity. This blessing is granted to him through a free act of divine initiative, but Abraham proved capable of receiving it, in view of his faith and his obedience to the will and to the designs of God. And so we read: "Abraham put his faith in God, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness" (Gen 15:6).

The texts cited here already reveal the tension between two poles: Abraham-Israel and Abraham-the nations. The consequences of this tension will manifest themselves throughout the history of the Jewish tradition, as we will demonstrate shortly.

2. Various Old Testament texts

The posterity of Abraham is occasionally seen as identical with belonging to the Jewish people. Psalm 47:10 names the Jews "the people of the God of Abraham".

This posterity assumes the function of mediating the blessings of God for the nations and at the same time it acquires a very extensive dominion.

For this reason, God promised him (Abraham) with an oath that in his descendants the nations would be blessed; that he would make him numerous as the grains of dust and exalt his posterity like the stars; that he would give them an inheritance from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth (Sirach 44:21).

It is in this perspective that one should place the vision of deutero-Isaiah (60:3-7), which describes the pilgrimage of the nations to Jerusalem, come to worship the God of Israel:

Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: Your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses...

If the terms "your sons" and "your daughters" are taken as referring to members of the various peoples mentioned in the text, one can conclude that the passage has in view the non-Israelites, who belong to the posterity of Abraham no less than do his other descendants, those gathered in Jerusalem.

Moreover, one finds in Isaiah a passage in which two foreign nations, Egypt and Assyria, are mentioned as receiving the blessing of God together with Israel (Is 19:24-25).

Finally, the story of the prophet Jonah, sent to Niniveh to convert its non-Jewish inhabitants, shows that alongside the Jewish people another people is sometimes the object of God?s mercy and salvation.

3. Data of the Jewish tradition

The Jewish tradition oscillates between two poles. Sometimes it accentuates the close, particular - and exclusive - relationship between Abraham and the Jewish people, and sometimes it emphasizes rather the universalist relationship between Abraham and the nations of the earth.

The particularist line

The struggle of the Maccabees against the rule of the Seleucids (from the middle of the second century before Christ) and against the temptation to assimilate to pagan culture illustrates the particularist line. The same can be said, at another level, of the ideology of the Qumran community, which withdraws from the contaminated society and seeks to preserve the identity of the Jewish people against the attraction of Greek culture. In the Book of Jubilees (chapter 18:16), the importance of Abraham for the other nations is mentioned, but the concern of the work is entirely directed toward the exclusivity of the blessings granted by God to Abraham and transmitted exclusively to Jacob.

After the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., the Jewish tradition becomes concretized in an ever more exclusivist way in the Rabbinic tradition, which focuses on the Torah and the law. In this tradition Abraham appears as the almost exclusive property of the Jewish people. His legitimate descendants, heirs of the divine covenant and of the blessings of God are the descendants of Jacob and of the tribes, to the exclusion of other children and descendants of Abraham.

The universalist line

Abraham is considered by Philo of Alexandria, for example, as the model of all converts. This, because he acknowledged the Creator and followed his commandments. This way is open to all non-Jews in the world. The Prophet Isaiah had already announced concerning Jacob and his posterity: "I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (49:6).

Abraham "the first convert" is viewed as the spiritual father of all men of good will who are in search of the one God. Salvation is therefore possible to non-Jews, because all human beings are creatures of the one God. In the vision of God?s messianic rule, his word addressed to the Jewish people is the same as that which is addressed to all peoples (Is 2:2-5; Micah 4:1-2).

Conclusion: The Jewish tradition thus views Abraham as a blessing for all peoples, but above all for the Jewish people who are the direct heirs of the covenant and of the promises of God. Descent from Abraham according to the flesh and in the line of Jacob plays a decisive role.

The Blessing of Abraham in the Christian Tradition

1. Fundamental Data

Christian reflection centers around two main points: Who is the true descendant of Abraham, heir of his blessing. And what makes it possible for the pagan nations to receive this blessing?

1. The true posterity of Abraham

Searching through the texts of the Bible, the Apostle Paul discovers the indispensable condition that accounts for the predestination of the Jews and, by the same token, transforms pagans, too, into members of Abraham?s posterity.

Descent according to the flesh is not decisive. It is the faith of Abraham which was credited to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6; Gal 3:6). So, it is faith which is the foundation of the true belonging to the posterity of Abraham.

So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In thee shall all the nations be blessed." So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith (Gal 3:7-9).

This faith of Abraham is manifested in his works, in his obedience to God?s commands even when he is in the dark concerning God?s designs for him and for his future. The Epistle to the Hebrews enumerates Abraham?s acts of obedience: his departure for an unknown country; -- the birth of Isaac ; -- the sacrifice of Isaac (11:8-19).

It is not sufficient then to claim carnal descent from Abraham, in the way that the Jews make this their boast. John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came out to be baptized by him: "Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ?We have Abraham as our father?; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham (Matt 3:8-9; cf. Lk 3:8). -- And Jesus in his turn, when confronted with Jews who refused to believe and who would confidently assert: "Abraham is our father", reproached them with the words: "If you were Abraham?s children, you would do what Abraham did" (Jn 8:39).

Saint Paul argues on this point that Abraham received the blessing in view of his faith and before circumcision, that is to say, before he received the covenantal promise of God that made him in particular the father of the Jewish people. For this reason, Abraham became the father of the uncircumcised, pagan peoples in view of his faith (Rom 4:9-12).

2. The Jewish people are not excluded, but they no longer have exclusive privileges

Belonging to the Jewish people, whose father is Abraham, confers on its members the right granted by God to participate in his salvation.

Even the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, however, are in danger of possible exclusion from the blessing of Abraham, if they do not fulfill the conditions for receiving this blessing. In the passage of Saint John, cited above, Jesus responds to his adversaries, who were boasting of having Abraham for their father, that this did not prevent them from becoming children of the devil, because they are willing to fulfill his desires (cf. Jn 8:44).

Still more severe is the warning directed against Jews who are sluggish in faith: After the healing of a Roman centurion?s servant, Jesus proclaims: "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness..." (Matt 8:10-12).

3. Universal salvation through Jesus Christ

The Christian witness centers around the person of Jesus Christ the Lord. All the promises of God once given to Abraham and to the Fathers are realized in him; the new and eternal covenant is sealed in his blood and confirmed by his resurrection from the dead; the blessings of Abraham for the Jewish people and for all the nations of the earth now rest on a direct or indirect belonging to Jesus Christ.

One can thus read in the Epistle to the Galatians:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to his offsprings," referring to many; but, referring to one, "And to your offspring," which is Christ (Gal 3:16).

And again, shortly before this passage: "that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal 3:14).

The whole of Abraham?s hope is realized in Jesus Christ.

All who have been baptized in the name of Christ are one in Christ. There is no difference between Jews and Greeks, between men and women, slaves and free. "For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ?s, then you are Abraham?s offspring, heirs according to promise" (Gal 3:28-29).

2. Consequences

Under the direction of the Holy Spirit the Christian community learned not only that God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim 2:4), but also that the ways God chooses to effect this salvation harbor many surprises. Although the Jewish Christians were insisting that pagans would first have to become Jews in order to be able to become Christians and so to take part in the salvation of Christ, God showed them that his free will does not allow itself to be bound by human constraints and that Israel is no longer, as some thought, the necessary mediator of the salvation of the pagans. The story of the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius shows this in an extraordinarily instructive way. The Acts of the Apostles describes the event in chapter 10, and concludes:

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles... Then Peter declared: "Can anyone forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:44-48).

It should be noted that the gift of the Holy Spirit was granted to Cornelius and to his family before they were baptized, and that the baptism in this case served only to confirm what God had already effected in the lives of these new converts.

Salvation in Christ is not linked to biology, to a descent according to the flesh (Matt 3:9), nor to a geography, that is to say, to particular holy places. Jesus states this with great clarity in his conversation with the Samaritan woman: "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father...But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him" (Jn 4:21, 23).

Salvation is definitively linked to faith, at least in its fundamental form, as the Epistle to the Hebrews formulates it: "And without faith it is impossible to please God. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb 11:6).

Salvation is also linked to good works. In the narrative of the conversion of Cornelius, Peter declares: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:35).

Hence the necessity for a new orientation in relations with non-Christians.

3. Tension between particularism and universalism

1. Overcoming of particularism

In the first phase of the development of the Christian community we find the effort to transcend Jewish particularism. A number of texts and hymns witness to this universal orientation and to the awareness of the cosmic role of Jesus Christ. We cite here a few examples of this.

After the descent of the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost, the Apostle Peter declares before the groups of people gathered in Jerusalem: "The promise is for you, and for your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39).

In the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus himself declares: "I have other sheep who are not of this flock; them also must I lead; they will hear my voice; and there will be one sheepfold, one shepherd" (Jn 10:16-17).

Saint Peter defends himself in Jerusalem against the criticisms of the advocates of Jewish Christian particularism. He describes the experience he had at the time of the conversion of Cornelius: "If then God granted them the same gift as he gave to us who have believed in the Lord, Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in the way of God?" (Acts 11:17).

A similar witness was given before the assembly of the Apostles in Jerusalem, such that the door of salvation was opened wide to the pagans without imposing burdens on them which would have bound them to the Jewish Law (cf. Acts 15:4-19).

2. The Cosmic Christ

The universalism of salvation and reconciliation in Christ acquired a cosmic dimension, such that not only Jews and pagans are called to participate directly in Christ?s salvation, but the entire universe, too, is included in the mystery of Christ.

One reads in the hymn that serves as the overture to the Epistle to the Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God, the First Born of every creature, for it is in him that all things were created in heaven and on the earth... Everything was created by him and for him. He is before all things and all things hold together in him.

For God was pleased to make the whole fulness dwell in him and through him to reconcile all things for him, on earth as well as in heaven, making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1:15-20).

3. The only mediator of salvation is Jesus Christ

We find in the New Testament texts which clearly show that the Church of the first generations was convinced that salvation is accomplished in Christ and in him alone. We could cite a few of these texts:

Jesus affirms clearly in the Gospel of Saint John: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6).

Saint Peter declares solemnly before the Sanhedrin: "There is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Finally, we read in Paul?s first Letter to Timothy: "For God is one, one also is the mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, himself a man" (1 Tim 2:5).

4. Necessity of the Church for salvation?

With time, one notes that the Church began to understand itself as the extension of Jesus Christ, as the place where the salvific mediation of Christ is accomplished. This gives rise to the insistence on the necessity of belonging to the Church in order to be able to participate in the salvation of Christ. This is likewise the origin of the formula: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus; no salvation outside the Church. By interpreting this formula in an absolute way, certain theologians began to deny to non-Christians the possibility of taking part in the salvation of Christ, since they were not baptized and so integrated into the Christian community.

Christian faith affirmed: Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation. Now the statement arises: the Church is absolutely necessary for salvation.

Today people commonly interpret the formula cited above (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus) in the following way: where the salvation of Christ is accomplished - and this in the manner in which God wills it and according to his own ways - there the Church is also present.

Thus the way is open to investigate the means God uses to accomplish his salvation, even among non-Christians. This is why Vatican II encourages Christians to seek to uncover among the non-Christian religions the elements of truth and holiness which they contain, to acknowledge and to promote these elements, because they constitute rays of Christ?s truth and are an effect of the action of the Holy Spirit in the story of humanity.

Jesus Christ remains the center and the connecting point of the whole history of the salvation of humanity. But it is not always clear to our human eyes how the links are formed that bind together the saved of all nations, those who participate in the blessing and the promise of Abraham, who are somehow united to Jesus Christ, who has saved them and reconciled them in the blood of his cross and the glory of his resurrection.

Abraham in the Islamic Tradition

The data of the Islamic tradition on the role of Abraham in the thought and religious practices of men and nations - above all in the Koran - unfold along lines parallel to those we have already traced in the Jewish and Christian traditions.

1. Abraham, the perfect believer and the perfect obedient servant

Abraham bears in the Koran (4:125) and in Islamic tradition the honorary title "friend of God" (khalil Allah). In view of his election, of his blessing and of the covenant of God, Abraham is a servant full of God?s grace, a servant who, despite all obstacles in the eyes of men, marched forward on the path God had pointed out to him; and he proved faithful in spite of the great trials he had to endure. By virtue of his unshakable fidelity to faith in God Abraham is an example for Moslems.

Abraham is also the model of the person who is perfectly open to the calling of God. For he was endowed with a "pure heart" (37:84), capable of opening himself to the knowledge of God. And God led him to faith, in virtue of the particular knowledge that his father had not received (19:43). Then he was able to detach himself from the error of his fathers to turn to the One God.

And God did in fact guide him, granted him revelation (2:136; 4:163), and even a holy scripture, "the books of Abraham", cited alongside the Book of Moses (53:36-37; 87:19).

2. Abraham the Moslem

The Koran calls Abraham the first Moslem, the model of the believer who surrenders himself in all confidence to God. His fidelity to the commandments of God led him to observe the religious duties of a devout Moslem: he professed the monotheistic faith; he performed the required prayers; he gave the alms imposed by law (21:73); he fulfilled the pilgrimage obligation, including the entrance into the sacred state, the completion of the tours and the offering (22:26-29); and he also performed good works (21:73).

Finally, Abraham received from God the promise of a blessed posterity: Isaac, Jacob and the long line that extends to Jesus Christ, a posterity chosen by God and guided by him along a right path (6:84-87; cf. 19:49; 21:72; 29:27; 37:112). And God gave this "family of Abraham" "the book and Wisdom", and he granted it "an immense kingdom" (4:54).

In view of these gifts and the blessing with which God filled Abraham, he became the father of the followers of the true religion. And it is the Koran that gives the order to Mohammed: "Follow the faith of saintly Abraham" (16:123); and also to Moslems: "Allah has declared the truth. Follow the faith of Abraham. He was an upright man, no idolater" (3:95; cf. 4:125; 6:161).

3. Importance of Abraham for Islam

Belonging to the posterity of Abraham gained decisive importance for Islam when the latter undertook to define its identity vis-?-vis Judaism and Christianity. After the emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622, Mohammed, who was conscious of his links with the biblical tradition, attempted in vain to gain the alliance of the Jews in favor of his cause and of his interests against his Meccan adversaries. When his attempts remained unsuccessful, in 624 he made two moves that would assure Islam its religious independence and that would allow it to gain access to a properly political patrimony.

The first move is of a religious nature. Beyond the exclusive claims of Jews and Christians to be the heirs of Abraham and to possess the only saving faith, Mohammed claimed Abraham father of all believers for himself in a direct and definitive way. The faith of Abraham, he argues, was there before the arrival of Judaism and Christianity. Thus was sealed the independence of Islam with respect to Judaism and Christianity.

The second move is of a politico-religious nature. It was to underscore direct legitimate descent from Abraham and the Arab character of the Koranic revelation. The Koran proclaims that Kaaba, the central sanctuary of Arabia, was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, and that it is therefore not a pagan temple, but a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of the one God (2:142-150). This is why the Koran from this time on orders Moslems to pray no longer facing Jerusalem, as they had hitherto done, but facing Kaaba. This helped to confirm the religious independence of Islam and at the same time its belonging to the biblical tradition that stemmed from Abraham. Moreover, Kaaba becomes the place of gathering of all the Arab tribes and the symbol of the religious and political unity of Islam.

On this new foundation, the Moslems were able henceforth to develop a sentiment of a particular belonging to Abraham and to claim him as their own in preference to Jews and Christians. On this subject the Koran expresses itself quite clearly: "Surely the men who are nearest to Abraham are those who follow him, this Prophet (Mohammed), and the true believers." (3:68).

This preferential place in the posterity of Abraham is attested once again by the fact, as the Koran puts it, that Abraham, at the time of the construction of Kaaba, prayed to God with his son Ishmael to send a prophet to his descendants, taken from among them. This prophet is identified by Islamic exegesis as Mohammed (2:127-129).

4. The Importance of Abraham for the nations

Abraham is then the model of all those who submit to God through faith and good works. It is possible then, although the Islamic tradition is less explicit on this point, to draw certain conclusions regarding the salvation of the nations and the solidarity of Moslems with non-Moslems.

1. The salvation of non-Moslems

Most Moslem theologians assert that only Moslems will have access to paradise, while non-Moslems, including Jews and Christians, are destined to hell for all eternity. But the Koran states the following: "Believers, Jews, Christians, Sabaeans - whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does what is right - shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear or to regret" (2:62; cf. 5:69). And he confirms that this is true in spite of the reluctance of Moslems and of the people of the book, Jews and Christians: "It shall not be in accordance with your wishes, nor shall it be as the People of the Book wish. He that does evil shall be requited with evil: there shall be none to protect or help him. But the believers who do good works, whether men or women, shall enter the gardens of Paradise...". (4:123-124). In view of these verses, great Moslem theologians, such as Ghazzali, Mahmud Shaltut and Muhammad ?Abdul, assert that Jews and Christians, for example, can have access to the paradise of God.

2. Solidarity of Moslems

Islam understands its mission as addressed to all peoples. This explains its universalist orientation. But this universality is linked to conversion to Islam and involves in practice no more than a partial and reluctant solidarity with certain religious communities who have a holy Scripture, such as Jews and Christians. The other non-Moslem peoples do have to be treated in accordance with the exigencies of justice, but they do not enjoy the benevolence and solidarity of the Moslems.


Membership in the posterity of Abraham can foster an open encounter between the faithful of the three Abrahamic religions. By relating to his faith and to his obedience to the commands of God, even amidst trials and tribulations, one can find in him a common point of reference which embraces all men of good will, open to faith and disposed to embrace the good. This attitude is capable of broadening the horizons of believers so as to make room for all human beings and all peoples and to make them witnesses of the blessing God granted to Abraham and that he entrusted to him for all the nations of the earth.

Rather than being an object of dispute and wrangling between the three faiths that claim him, Abraham can become the initiator and the guarantor of a serious dialogue between them and of a fruitful cooperation for the good of all humanity.

For we live today in a world which, in the context of pervasive globalization, is no longer and can no longer be the world that some individuals can confiscate for their profit at the expense of others. Our present is the present of all of us together, and our future is the future of all of us together. We must finally stop treating one other like adversaries; we must succeed in making ourselves partners of one another; and we must strive to create between us an atmosphere of trust that will render us capable of becoming - if God wills it - one another?s friends. This will lead us to practice a universal solidarity with each other and all of us together with respect to all human beings, the solidarity of all with respect to all.


Art. Abraham, in Bibel-Lexikon, ed. Herbert Haag. 3rd edition, Benziger, Z?rich-Einsiedeln-K?ln 1982.

Art. Abraham, in Vocabulaire de Th?ologie biblique, ed. Xavier L?on-Dufour, Cerf, Paris 1962.

Ludwig Hagemann, Propheten - Zeugen des Glaubens. Koranische und biblische Deutungen (Religions-wissenschaftliche Studien 2), 2nd edition, Echter, W?rzburg -- Oros, Altenberge 1993, p. 51-64.

Adel Theodor Khoury, Einf?hrung in die Grundlagen des Islams, 4th ed. Echter, W?rzburg - Oros, Altenberge 1995 (new printing 1999), p. 40-44.

Karl Josef Kuschel, Streit um Abraham. Was Juden, Christen und Muslime trennt - und was sie eint, Piper, M?nchen 1994.

© 2004-09-06 - Catholic Biblical Federation