“Abraham the Missionary? The Call of Abraham in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” by Joel N. Lohr

Now the LORD said to Abram,

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall [be blessed/bless themselves/find a blessing].” (Genesis 12:1-3)

Probably more than any other in the Hebrew Bible (or what Christians call the Old Testament), this passage—the so-called “Call of Abraham”—is regularly used to explain not only why God chose Israel but also what God’s larger plan is for the world. I should clarify, however, that this is almost exclusively with respect to Christian interpreters, or those with an interest in Christian theology. This is a crucial point, and in some ways is the crux of my reflections in this paper: It seems to be taken for granted by many Christian interpreters that Genesis 12:1-3 is not only an important passage but a key passage, one that explains God’s election of Israel and unlocks the meaning of the rest of the Bible. Further, it needs to be underlined that this is in distinction to Jewish readers, those who usually understand the passage to be important, but for other reasons. In this short paper I will examine why this might be so and I will suggest that readings of this type can in fact be harmful for Jewish-Christian relations, inaccurate with respect to election theology, and can reveal a subtle form of supersessionism that is best avoided.

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