Religions can get complicated. The various holidays, rules, and rituals, as well as worship and/or meditation serve to provide a framework that guides one's life. But sometimes, it's best to take a step back in order to understand the big picture. How did this begin? Some religions share common threads, and a person that shows up a lot is Abram, also known as Abraham, or Ibrahim.
Thousands of years ago, in the city of Ur, Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran, the latter of which fathered Lot. Haran died in his father's presence there– more on that later. Terah took Abram, Lot, and Abram's wife Sarai to the land of Canaan, where they settled in the city of Haran, where Terah died. According to Joshua 24:2, Terah and his sons served other gods.
The Death of Haran
The above account from Genesis 11:27-32 skims over the first 75 years of Abram's life. Midrashic sources go into more detail: While in Ur of the Chaldeans. Terah had a shop where he sold idols. After Terah had Abram take care of the business while he was gone, Abram discouraged people from buying them, saying stuff like howit was futile to worship what was built just that day. One time, Abram destroyed every statue except the biggest one, putting the weapon. When Terah arrived, he asked Abram what happen, to which he claimed the large statue destroyed the others. Terah told him that it was unable to do so. Abram tricked his father into admitting that the statues were powerless.
Terah sent him to king Nimrod, who sentenced Abram to be burned. Abram didn't burn, and left the fire unscathed! His brother Haran, initially unsure of who to side with, sided with Abram. Terah burned Haran, and he didn't survive. And with that, Haran's death has been explained.
New Testament Mentions of Abraham
In Romans 4, Paul argues that Abraham was already justified in faith rather than works, and that circumcision was a "seal of righteousness" of the faith he had prior.
What did Abraham believe?
Abraham believed that, rather than multiple deities controlling certain aspects of nature, it was God who controlled it all, though it's unclear when in his life he adopted this view, most likely before he went to Canaan. Prior to Abram, few individuals proclaimed this message. After Adam, and later, after Noah, the creator of heaven and earth was considered too far or too transcendent to communicate with mortals, and imbued certain objects, such as stars or planets, with powers. Some even built places of worship, where priests could attain spiritual and mystical powers. Some priests would even claim to people that a god or goddess talked to them, commanding how to worship them. These errors became worse, as the rulers and priests found the system easy to abuse. Eventually, people made depictions of the "deities". And then they would worship the depictions, as though the image itself was a god. Idolatry was a major problem, and Abram recognized it as such.
Lineage by major prophets:
- Moses: Judaism
- Jesus: Christianity
- Mormonism: Joseph Smith
- Muhammad: Islam