Map of the southern Levant, c.830s BCE. Kingdom of Judah Kingdom of Israel Philistine city-states Phoenician states Kingdom of Ammon Kingdom of Edom Kingdom of Aram-Damascus Aramean tribes Assyrian Empire Kingdom of Moab Arubu tribes Nabatu tribes.
Contiuation of Abraham Article.
Others pointed out that the Lagomer of Kuder-Lagomer was an Elamite deity's name, instead of the king's actual name, which some believe referred to a king that must have preceded Hammurabi. Other misreadings of the Chedorlaomer Text were pointed out, causing them to be associated with entirely different personages known from archaeology. It seemed that the theory of Schrader, Pinches and Scheil had fallen utterly apart.
Mainstream scholarship in the course of the 20th century has given up attempts to identify Abraham and his contemporaries in Genesis with historical figures. While it is widely admitted that there is no archaeological evidence to prove the existence of Abraham, apparent parallels to Genesis in the archaeological record assure that speculations on the patriarch's historicity and on the period that would best fit the account in Genesis remain alive in religious circles. "The Herald of Christ's Kingdom" in Abraham - Father of the Faithful (2001) implies a historical Abraham by stating "At one time it was popular to connect Amraphel, king of Shinar, with Hammurabi, king of Babylon, but now it is generally conceded that Hammurabi was much later than Abraham."
A traditional chronology can be constructed from the MT as follows: If Solomon's temple was begun when most scholars put it, ca. 960-970 BC/BCE, using e.g. 966, we get 1446 for the Exodus (I Ki. 6:1). There were 400 years reportedly spent in Egypt (Ex. 12:40), and then we only need add years from Jacob's going into Egypt to Abraham. So, we can add that Jacob was supposedly 130 when he came to Egypt (Gen. 47:9), Isaac was 60 years old when he had Jacob (Gen. 25:26) and Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and we get 1446 + 400 + 130 + 60 + 100 = 2136 BC/BCE for Abram's birth.
A considerable variety of scriptural chronologies is possible. For example, unlike most modern translations, according to all the oldest Bible versions not dependent on the mediaeval rabbis -- the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Dead Sea Scrolls -- the 430 years of the sojourn is the period "in Canaan and Egypt" (probable text of Exodus 12: 42), thus reckoning from the time of Abraham. Cf Paul's belief in Gal 3:17. Therefore the figure is more than two hundred years less (1446 + 430 = 1876 BC/BCE).
Thus, if one adheres to an Early Exodus theory, then Abram is usually synchronized with Sargon I, or sometimes other figures in the Sumerian Empire. If one favors a Late Exodus theory, and then Abraham's life could overlap that of Hammurabi's empire.
Gen. 10:10 has it that Babel was the beginning of Nimrod's empire. Before the location of Sargon's capital city, Agade, was identified, it was sometimes supposed that Nimrod was Sargon I, and that Agade was Babel. But even so, there are reasons to prefer the equation of Hammurabi with Amraphel. The Nimrod of Gen. ch. 10 precedes the Amraphel of ch. 14, and Nimrod's kingdom began with "Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh, in Shinar" (Gen. 10:10). Mentions of Nimrod both precede and follow those of Abram. Furthermore, Nimrod is associated with the Tower of Babel, not the Tower of Agade, in the Bible.
Rabinic materials are full of an accounts of Abram being thrown into the furnace used for making bricks for the Tower of Babel by Nimrod, but Abram was miraculously unharmed, while the furnace spread to the rest of the city, causing the "Fire of the Chasdim". The conclusion then, based on these assertions, would be that Nimrod and Abram were more or less contemporaries. But only during the time of Hammurabi did Babylon become the beginning of an Empire in its own right.
If one insists that Gen. Ch. 14 reads as a testament of historical authenticity, then the Old Babylonian Empire, like Nimrod's, extended into the Trans-Jordan, but only during the reign of Hammurabi's son; whereas the Sumerian Empire by contrast did not. The city of Babel was not only the beginning of the Old Babylonian Empire, it was its capitol. After the end of the Old Babylonian Empire with the defeat of Hammurabi's son by the Elamites, there was not another empire ruled from the city of Babel until the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which was much too late to be synchronized with Abraham.
There are no archaeological correlates for the life of Abram, whereas the Exodus can be correlated with traces of a Semitic presence in Egypt, as per Bietak, as well as numerous transitions in Palestine from Egypto-Canaanite material culture to proto-Israelite. An Early Exodus would preclude synchronizing Abram with Hammurabi's empire, pushing him back to Sumerian times.
Speculations on Hindu connections
In the 18th and 19th centuries, there were isolated speculations about an identity of Abraham and Brahma, or of Abraham and Rama. This was based on the similarities of the names (Abraham is a near anagram of Brahma). Voltaire summarised such speculations:
This name Bram, Abram, was famous in India and Persia: some learned men even allege that he was the same legislator as the one the Greeks called Zoroaster. Others say that he was the Brahma of the Indians.
Such arguments were taken up by later religious synchretists such as Godfrey Higgins, who argued in 1834 that "The Arabian historians contend that Brahma and Abraham, their ancestor, are the same person. The Persians generally called Abraham Ibrahim Zeradust. Cyrus considered the religion of the Jews the same as his own. The Hindus must have come from Abraham, or the Israelites from Brahma..."
The argument has been used by Biblical literalists to prove that Brahma is a corrupted memory of Abraham and by certain Hindu nationalists to suggest the converse.
The argument has been used by Muslim missionaries to prove that Brahma is a corrupted memory of Abraham. They also have claimed that other characters in Hindu scripture are actually people mentioned in the Quran. A. D. Pusalker, whose essay "Traditional History From the Earliest Times" appeared in The Vedic Age, claims a historical Rama dated to 1950 BC/BCE.
- ^ JewishEncyclopedia.com states, "The form 'Abraham' yields no sense in Hebrew". Many interpretations were offered, including an analysis of a first element abr- "chief", which however yields a meaningless second element.
- ^ David Rosenberg, Abraham, the First Historical Biography 23 (2006) (reading "But she is also my sister my father's daughter yet not my mother's and she became my wife.")
- ^ *Holweck, F. G. A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.
- ^ a b Ibrahim, Encyclopedia of Islam
- ^ Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, 12:4
- ^ Antiquities of the Jews, book 1, 12:2
- ^ The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), Volume I, translated by professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Fareed [Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, South Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, 1998], pp. 50-52;
- ^ The Encyclopedia Britannica article on "Amraphel" has: "Scholars of previous generations tried to identify these names with important historical figures-e.g., Amraphel with Hammurabi of Babylon-but little remains today of these suppositions."
- ^ Voltaire's article
- ^ Higgins, G., Anacalypsis; Vol. I, p. 396.
- ^ [http://www.hinduunity.org/articles/bharathistory/vedicpast1.html The Vedic Past of Pre-Islamic Arabia - Part 1]
- ^ http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/prophhs.html#brahma1
- ^ Gene D. Matlock. Who Was Abraham?. Viewzone.com.
- 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Rosenberg, David. Abraham: The First Historical Biography. Basic Books/Perseus Books Group, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2006. ISBN 0-465-07094-9.
- Holweck, F. G. A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.
- Latter-day Saint Bible Dictionary
- Nibley, Hugh W. Abraham's Temple Drama
- Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism
- Beer, Leben Abraham's
- Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, trans. Henrietta Szold (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909)
- Book of Abraham LDS scripture Pearl of Great Price
- Bloch, Israel und die Völker (Berlin: Harz, 1922)
- Torcszyner, "The Riddle in the Bible," Hebrew Union College Annual 1 (1924)
- Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews
- Kohler, "The Pre-Talmudic Haggada," Jewish Quarterly Review 7 (July 1895): 587.