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Abraham’s Belief in the Resurrection…A Necessary Inference.

April 25th, 2012 · 8 Comments · Bible, Christianity, Church, Church of Christ, Resurrection

Before I get started, this post really has nothing to do with the concept of necessary inference or its adequacy or use in biblical interpretation. What I do know is that Abraham had been told two things by God:

  1. Your son Isaac is the son of the promise. You will have a great number of descendants through his lineage.
  2. Kill your son

Abraham believed God. Abraham wanted to obey God’s commands and yet these two things seem contradictory. Abraham reconciled those two things by reasoning that God could raise the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). That would be courageous enough if Abraham had 1000 pages of scripture at his disposal to inform his view on that. What makes this all the more remarkable is that all Abraham had to base this on were his personal conversations with God. Nothing more. Nothing less. Based on that alone he came to the conclusion that Isaac could be both the lineage of his descendants but could die before having his first child by God raising him back to life!

What is clear is that Abraham had a relationship with God that was strong and he knew God was faithful. His belief in God and God’s faithfulness was so strong that he was all in. Today we have 1000 pages of witness about God, Christ, salvation and all the rest…would we be as faithful as Abraham given all we know about God today?


8 Comments so far ↓

  • Jerry Starling

    This is a good example of a “necessary inference.” The “inferences” that have been so pernicious in causing factions to erupt within the body of Christ are more inference than necessary. In fact, they are often built upon other inferences that are taken as proven facts – and depend on unacknowledged assumptions.

  • joey

    Well…..Maybe he had more to go on than just the conversations (not making light of the conversations and not trying to take away from your point – which is a good one). You see, the text goes out of its way to point out to us that Abraham had an “as good as dead body.” The implication is that there was more going on than the fact that he was old. There was something wrong with his body. (He didn’t live as long as his ancestors.) In addition, Sarah was barren. That little bit of information is slipped in at the end of chapter 11, creating some tension. Yet, out of this “good as dead body” and Sarah’s barren womb came the Child of Promise. This was a (type of) resurrection and it is intended that we see it as such. Abraham certainly did. Abraham had first hand experience of God’s resurrection powers. (BTW, Israel was also supposed to see themselves in the story of Isaac.)

    • mattdabbs

      Genesis doesn’t tell us his body was as good as dead. We learn that in Hebrews 11. The emphasis seems to me to be more on Sarah than Abraham. The point in saying he was “as good as dead” doesn’t say his body was as good as dead (he was able to have Ishmael, battle kings and win, etc) but that in regard to having descendants the fulfill God’s promises through Sarah he was as good as dead because she was barren and without God’s intervention there would be no offspring in their lineage together. He and a dead man were going to have the same result when it came to having children via Sarah (don’t mean to sound gross there) so it is obvious God was involved in the process of making Sarah fertile even though she was both barren and very old.

      Is that resurrection? Not exactly. Resurrection literally means to raise something up. Making Sarah fertile to be able to conceive/initiate conception and resurrecting someone who was already alive but died back to life aren’t really the same thing. I do see some similarity. I can also see how that whole situation of Isaac’s birth might have played in Abraham’s mind in thinking God could raise him since he was begotten by God’s mercy where there was no life in the first place. So I think in some ways you may be onto something but I don’t think I would take it quite as far or imply some of the things you have about Abraham or say it is just flat out obvious from reading the text. Just my 2 cents. I appreciate you sharing your insights.

  • joey

    Sure, my point about there being something wrong with Abraham’s body apart from his age is debatable. However, in Romans 4, Paul is explicitly referring to Abraham’s body when he says that it was “as good as dead,” (Greek – “having been put to death”). He then, separately, speaks of the “deadness” of Sarah. Isaac IS a form of resurrection. That is Paul’s point. Paul is making the case that Abraham is the father of all who believe. Abraham believed that God “gives life to the dead” (and Paul specifically has Isaac’s birth in mind) and so do we. We share the faith of Abraham and are his offspring. Resurrection is a theme throughout this section.

    • mattdabbs

      I totally get what you are saying. I guess for me though there is still a difference between conceiving where all seemed dead and reviving someone who had died. Resurrection in Greek (egero) literally means to raise up. This is just me in all my logical thinking trying to get it. I am quite sure they could have understood it as you are saying. Not sure that they did but it is a possibility. I guess I am just seeing a difference between finding life where there seemed to be death and taking someone actually dead and raising them. I know that is picking at straws and I don’t mean to belittle what you are saying. I am really enjoying reading your comments and really thinking about this. You may change my mind here 🙂

  • Joey

    Oh I don’t think you’re belittling my comments. Even if you were, that’d be okay. This is a discussion between brothers.
    For sure the correspondence is not exact – but that’s okay. It’s the narrative that matters. And it’s all over the place once we start to look for it: Adam (and the human race) can’t go on (CANNOT continue=death) unless a helper is found. God puts Adam “to sleep” (death) and brings about Eve. Noah. Joseph. The Exodus. These are the types of things, I believe, that are in view when Luke says of Jesus, “…and beginning with Moses and all of the prophets….” he told the two on the road to Emmaus (sp?)…It wasn’t a few “proof texts” that Jesus told them about (as I’m sure you know). This is precisely why we need to learn Israel’s Story. Our people, on the whole, have no sense of the continuity of the Story.

    BTW, I believed what I presented concerning Isaac before I read Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God, but he says this same thing there. You may have already read it but forgot it was there.

  • Endar

    1. Learn Hebrew.
    2. The hebrew text of the sacrifice of issac never says yahweh told avraham to kill issac. It says “ha elohim”. Ha in hebrew is our English equivalent to the word “the”. Elohim in plural, but the verbs in hebrew dictate whether the noun is singular or plural. In this case the verb indicates plurality of elohim thus it’s render as the gods.
    3. Elohim doesn’t actually mean god or gods. It’s a word that’s used to refer to god or gods, but it actually means mighty one. Since god is the mightiest of all the word it used to refer to god, but it doesn’t actually mean god. Translate it as it’s intended hence ha elohim = the mighty ones.
    4. The only time yahweh appears in the text in the account of the sacrifice of issac is when he stops avraham. Read the hebrew text to prove this.

    So you are wrong along with so many people who just rely on the English translations.

    • Matt Dabbs

      I have learned Hebrew…that’s all well and good but all we need is Hebrews 11:17-19 to tell us this is true. Maybe you didn’t look that up but it says that this is what Abraham believed. So I will go with Hebrews.

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