Abraham the iconoclast : different interpretations in the literature of the second temple period, the texts of rabbinic Judaism, and the Quran

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The Hebrew Bible does not describe how Abraham, the common patriarch of the three monotheistic faiths, came to know the one God. However, literature from the Second Temple period, texts of Rabbinic Judaism, targumim (Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible), the Quran, and other documents abound with narratives based on a common plot that recount how Abraham came to know the one God, confronted the idolatry that had continued until the generation of his father, and broke down the practice through various schemes. This paper presents translations of passages taken from the Book of Jubilees, the Apocalypse of Abraham, Genesis Rabba, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, and the Quran that relate the tradition of " Abraham the iconoclast," believed to have been highly popular at the time of the writing of the respective texts. The passages are then analyzed to extract a common plot, identify different focal points, and compare in terms of Abraham's relationship with his father, Terah. From this comparative reading, the following observations can be made: the focus is placed on the importance of knowing one God in the Book of Jubilees, and on confrontation with idolatry in the Apocalypse of Abraham; various narrative components appear evenly with similar frequency in Genesis Rabba and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, possibly to maintain conformity as exegeses; in the Quran, the focus is on Abraham's role of introducing the monotheistic notion to local residents.


  • Journal of the interdisciplinary study of monotheistic religions : JISMOR

    Journal of the interdisciplinary study of monotheistic religions : JISMOR 8, 37-58, 2012

    Doshisha University


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