THE PROPHETIC STORIES ABOUT ABRAHAM.
Many Biblical scholars claim that the data point to variant versions of the different stories about Abraham. Thus, for example, there are two accounts of his deceptions regarding Sarah, one in 12:9-13:1, and the other in 20:1-17. The oldest version of the story they believe is found in 26:1-14 and is told not of Abraham but of Isaac, whose character it fits far more consistently. Similarly there are three accounts of the covenant with Abimelech (Gen. 21:22-31, 21:25-34, and 26:15-33). The two accounts of the expulsion of Hagar and the birth of Ishmael, in Genesis 16:1-16 and 21:1-20 differ rather widely in details. In one account Hagar is expelled and Ishmael is born after the birth of Isaac, and in the other before that event. Do these variant versions indicate that they were drawn from different groups of narratives? The differences in detail are in general closely parallel to those which the New Testament student finds in the different accounts of the same events or teachings in the life of Jesus. They suggest to many that the author of the book of Genesis was eager to preserve each and every story regarding Abraham. Instead, however, of preserving intact the different groups of stories, as in the case of the Gospels, they have been combined with great skill. Sometimes, as in the case of the expulsion of Hagar, the two versions are introduced at different points in the life of the patriarch. More commonly the two or more versions are closely interwoven, giving a composite narrative that closely resembles Tatian’s Diatessaron which was one continuous narrative of the life and teachings of Jesus, based on quotations from each of the four Gospels. Fortunately, if this theory is right, the group of stories most fully quoted and therefore best preserved is the early Judean prophetic narratives. When these are separated from the later parallels they give a marvelously complete and consistent portrait of Abraham.
THE MEANING OF THE EARLY PROPHETIC STORIES ABOUT ABRAHAM.
Read the prophetic stories regarding Abraham (Hist. Bible I, 73, 74, 79-81, 84-87, 90-92). Are these stories to be regarded simply as chapters from the biography of the early ancestor of the Hebrews or, like the story of the Garden of Eden, do they have a deeper, a more universal moral and religious significance? Back of the story of Abraham’s call and settlement in Canaan clearly lies the historic fact that the ancestors of the Hebrews as nomads migrated from the land of Aram to seek for themselves and their descendants a permanent home in the land of Canaan. Abraham, whose name in Hebrew means, “Exalted Father,” or as it was later interpreted, “Father of a Multitude,” naturally represents this historic movement, but the story of his call and settlement