As part of my final assignment in the course on entertainment, history and religion in the Medieval Muslim Middle East, I’m working on Abraham as he appears in Jewish sources, and how they are reflected in Islamic sources later on.
Right now I’m writing on the rewritten Bible literature, just finished the part of Josephus, which I thought I wanted to present you for. It is not going to be exactly like this in my assignment, that would take way too much space and focus, but it’s serving as a base for my later presentation of background literature.
I have used the Kindle Edition of “Josephus, Flavius; Antiquities of the Jews – a history of the Jewish people” by Mark Oxford as source material.
Let me hear your thoughts.
In his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus deals with the account of Terah as well as the first encounter between G-D and Abraham. But there are differences between the Biblical account and the one of Josephus, both where Josephus attempts to fill the gaps, but also where he should not have felt the need. One interesting difference in the two versions, is the generations, where Terah – according to the Biblical text – is the father of Abraham, Nahor and Haran (Genesis 11:26-27), but according to Josephus, Terah is only the father to Abraham, whereas Nahor is the father to Haran (Antiquities Chapter 6, fifth paragraph). Nevertheless, a little further on Josephus does state that Abraham had two brothers, Nahor and Haran, but it is not clear why he didn’t mentioned this in the first case, leaving the impression that Terah and and Haran were brothers, but it might be cause by confusion from his side. Also according to Josephus does Haran die in Ur Casdim, but here his death plays a crucial role in Terah’s, and hence Abraham’s , leaving of Ur. According to Josephus Haran had a monument raised, which can be “seen to this day” (Antiquities, chapter 6, fifth paragraph). How he died is not explained by Josephus, but somehow it left Terah with hate to the Chaldean, which is the reason he left Ur (Antiquities, chapter 6, fifth paragraph), hence answering why Terah left the city in the first place. Josephus ends the sixth chapter by recounting the generations of Nahor down to Rebecca and Laban.
Why did Lot follow Abraham? Why the inconsistence between Genesis 11:31 and Genesis 12:1? It seems like Josephus had these two questions in mind, when he introduced the seventh chapter in his Antiquities, at least he answers them. Lot was adopted by Abraham, since he himself did not have any sons and Lot’s father already dead (Antiquities chapter 7, first paragraph). Thereafter Abraham took his adopted son and his wife, and left the land of the Chaldeans (Antiquities, chapter 7, first paragraph), differing between city and land of the Chaldeans, so according to Josephus, even though Abraham indeed did leave Ur of the Chaldeans with his father, he was still living in the land of the Chaldean. That explains the inconsistency of the Biblical accounts, but creates a new. If Terah had to leave Ur because of his hatred to the Chaldeans – and what happened with Haran, since he hated them so much – then why did he still choose to stay in their land? These new questions are not answered.
Also according to Josephus is Abraham commanded to go to Canaan, but Josephus attempts to answer why G-D suddenly chose him. Abraham was “a person of great sagacity, both for understanding all things and persuading his hearers, and not mistaken in his opinions; for which reason he began to have higher notions of virtue than others had…” (Antiquities, chapter 7, first paragraph). That is, Abraham had an insight and understanding that no one else could show. And even did what no one had done before him, he “…ventured to publish this notion, That there was but one God, the Creator of the universe; and that, as to other [gods], if they contributed anything to the happiness of men, that each of them afforded it only according to his appointment, and not by their own power” (Antiquities, chapter 7, first paragraph). He then continues by giving an account on how Abraham ended with the knowledge of one G-D, explaining how he first derived his opinions “from the irregular phenomena that were visible both at land and sea, as well as those that happen to the sun, and moon, and all the heavenly bodies…” (Antiquities, chapter 7, first paragraph), and then letting Abraham himself explain how it would be logical that if these bodies indeed were gods, then they would correct their own irregularities, before dealing with men (Antiquities, chapter 7, first paragraph). By stating this, Chaldeans and other people in Mesopotamia raised against Abraham, leading to Abraham’s decision of leaving the land of the Chaldeans, and thus being commanded to settle in Canaan by G-D. Hence the order of initiative is changed from Abraham being ordered to leave his land, his place of birth, by G-D, Who discovered Abraham before Abraham discovered Him, to Abraham making a logical deduction that there can be only one G-D, stating it publicly which lead to an outcry against him, and by that forcing him to leave his land, where after G-D appears, and orders him to enter Canaan. Where G-D discovers Abraham in the Biblical account, Abraham discovers G-D in Josephus’ account.
 Terah’s father was also called Nahor, but it it still not clear why Josephus mentions Haran (or a Haran) as Nahor’s son, since nothing in the Biblical account leaves room for this.