The Faith of Abraham

 Hebrews 11:9-10

Patriarch Abraham

By faith Abraham dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 

The faith and faithfulness of Abraham was noted by ancient Jews and Christians alike.

“Third century Christian writer Origin, commenting on Abraham’s faith which caused him to obey to the extreme, noted that remaining faithful to God is easier for Christians than for Abraham—we have knowledge of Christ and the resurrection.

Origin aligns Abraham’s temptation with that of the Christian facing possible martyrdom.  The Christian has faith not only in the future resurrection of Isaac but also in the (past) resurrection of Christ; he or she should have it easier than Abraham did.  Is it possible, Origin implies, that Abraham’s faith is greater than our own, for we (he notes later in the homily) not only are reluctant to follow Christ’s injunction not to value family ties over the gospel, but also grieve when our children die, despite our faith?  Origin the homilist brilliantly evokes the Christian hearer’s own experience as a locus for understanding the text, and for letting the text, in the person of Abraham’s faith, challenge the hearer.  He will later note, commenting on God’s concluding words in the story (For now I know you fear God, “ Gen 22”12):  ‘But these things are written on account of you, because you too indeed have believed in God, but unless you shall fulfill “the works of faith” (2Thess 1:11)you will not know that you fear God nor will it be said of you:  “Now I know that you fear God.”‘”     (Blowes, P M, Christman, A R, Hunter, D G, Young, R D, IN DOMINICO ELOQUIO/IN LORDLY ELOQUENCE, p 41)

4 thoughts on “The Faith of Abraham

  1. Nicole

    Dear Fr Ted: If Christ could weep for Lazarus knowing with certainty that his death would result imminently in restoration to life, can you help me understand why Origen would dismiss grief due to love and compassion as valuing family over God?

  2. Fr. Ted

    Origen is endeavoring to make a very strong point (whether he does it well or wisely is another matter). He is marvelling at Abraham who knew nothing of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, life after death, and yet he completely trusted that though his son Isaac was the promised child through whom the world would be blessed, if God wanted his son dead, he would obey God and let God figure out how to fulfill the promise. I don’t think his intention is to deny the pain of grief, but rather making an exhortation to believers to overcome the pain through faith. His contrast is between Abraham who had none of the advantages that we have (we know Jesus was raised from the dead, we know death’s power is being destroyed, we celebrate our movement from death to life and earth to heaven). We have so many advantages over Abraham, and so Origen points to Abraham’s faith and is telling us we can do much better. Origen lived at a time when Christians around him were still being martyred (he himself was tortured and thought to have died a few years later as a result of the injuries suffered) – he was calling his fellow Christians to absolute faith and not to fear death should they be threatened with martyrdom.

    Does that make sense?

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