Abram the Evangelist?

I may not always agree with him, but James B. Jordan’s reflections on Scripture are always stimulating. Here, he suggests that Abram was doing the work of an “evangelist” as he sojurned in the land of Canaan . . .

“It is important for us to reflect in the meaning of these altars. They were not just places where Abram offered his personal worship. They were worship centers for all the faithful in the area. Abram was an evangelist. This is not immediately obvious from the English translations, but in Genesis 12:5 we should read, ‘And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the souls that the had made in Haran . . .’ The distinguished Jewish commentator Umberto Cassuto explains that the verb we have translated ‘made’ is not the correct term for acquiring servants. Rather, it indicates evangelization. These people were not purchased but converted.

Cassuto points out that the ancient Rabbinic tradition always maintained that Abram was an evangelist, calling attention also to Genesis 12:8. In this latter verse we read that Abram ‘called on the Name Yahweh.’ Cassuto writes: ‘Besides the altar that Abram built in honor of the Lord, he made proclamations concerning the religion of the Lord to the inhabitants of the land, and thus he continued in the Chosen Land the work he had already begun when he was in Haran. In view of this, local people regarded him as a ‘prince of God.’ (Gen 23:6)’

In seeking to lay claim to Canaan, Abram did not first engage in a military conquest. Rather, his first action was to establish the worship of the true God and work to change the hearts and minds of the people living there. He knew that all cultural benefits flow from worship. He sought first the kingdom of God, trusting that all other things would be given to him later on (Mat 6:33).”

James B. Jordan, Primeval Saints: Studies in the Patriarchs of Genesis (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2001), 64-65.

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About Eric Smith

Sinner saved by the grace of Jesus, husband of Candace, father of Coleman and Crockett, West Tennessean, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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