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The Bible Internal Contradictions Of The Bible

Was Sarah The Sis­ter Of Abraham ?

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Ibn Hazm (994CE-1064CE) was a Mus­lim schol­ar of great repute in Cor­do­ba dur­ing the Mus­lim Spain era and is wide­ly regard­ed as the Father of Com­par­a­tive Reli­gion”. In his cel­e­brat­ed mag­num opus enti­tled Kitab al-Fasl fi al- Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal, he pre­dat­ed mod­ern Bib­li­cal tex­tu­al crit­i­cism by sev­er­al cen­turies and as Krentz admits, Ibn Hazm’s crit­i­cisms gen­er­al­ly rep­re­sents the first, albeit rudi­men­ta­ry, sys­tem­at­ic his­toric crit­i­cism of the Bible1. He had demon­strat­ed his prowess in Bib­li­cal tex­tu­al crit­i­cism by giv­ing many exam­ples of inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions of the Bible. The fol­low­ing Bible con­tra­dic­tion on the sis­ter of Abra­ham is extract­ed from Mus­lim Under­stand­ing Of Oth­er Reli­gions : A Study of Ibn Hazm’s Kitab al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal2 and insha’al­lah this will be part of an ongo­ing series to repro­duce extracts of Ibn Hazm’s crit­i­cisms of the Bible and Chris­tian­i­ty and we will make fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion on our part to refine his argu­ments and fur­ther strength­en our case against the Bible.

Was Sarah the Sis­ter of Abraham ?

Was Sarah real­ly the sis­ter of Abra­ham ? Ibn Hazm ques­tions the sta­tus of Sarah as being Abra­ham’s sis­ter as well as his wife, as accept­ing that viz., from the Bib­li­cal per­spec­tive, would result in var­i­ous dis­agree­ments with oth­er pas­sages in the Old Tes­ta­ment con­cern­ing moral and the­o­log­i­cal issues that would con­tra­dict each other. 

This is in ref­er­ence to the sto­ries of Sarah’s seizure by Pharaoh and Abime’­elech which was nar­rat­ed in Gen­e­sis 12:10 – 18 and Gen­e­sis 20, Gen­e­sis 17:17 and Gen­e­sis 20:1 – 18.

We cite the relat­ed pas­sages on the sto­ry of the seizure of Sarah as follows.

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sar’ai his wife, I know that you are a woman beau­ti­ful to behold ; and when the Egyp­tians see you, they will say, This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sis­ter, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt the Egyp­tians saw that the woman was very beau­ti­ful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was tak­en into Pharao­h’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram ; and he had sheep, oxen, he-ass­es, menser­vants, maid­ser­vants, she-ass­es, and camels. But the LORD afflict­ed Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sar’ai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this you have done to me ? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife ?3

From there Abra­ham jour­neyed toward the ter­ri­to­ry of the Negeb, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur ; and he sojourned in Ger­ar. And Abra­ham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sis­ter.” And Abim’­elech king of Ger­ar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abim’­elech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, you are a dead man, because of the woman whom you have tak­en ; for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abim’­elech had not approached her ; so he said, Lord, wilt thou slay an inno­cent peo­ple ? Did he not him­self say to me, She is my sis­ter’? And she her­self said, He is my broth­er.’ In the integri­ty of my heart and the inno­cence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, Yes, I know that you have done this in the integri­ty of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sin­ning against me ; there­fore I did not let you touch her. Now then restore the man’s wife ; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall sure­ly die, you, and all that are yours.” So Abim’­elech rose ear­ly in the morn­ing, and called all his ser­vants, and told them all these things ; and the men were very much afraid. Then Abim’­elech called Abra­ham, and said to him, What have you done to us ? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my king­dom a great sin ? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” And Abim’­elech said to Abra­ham, What were you think­ing of, that you did this thing?” Abra­ham said, I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides she is indeed my sis­ter, the daugh­ter of my father but not the daugh­ter of my moth­er ; and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wan­der from my father’s house, I said to her, This is the kind­ness you must do me : at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my broth­er.’ ” Then Abim’­elech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abra­ham, and restored Sarah his wife to him. And Abim’­elech said, Behold, my land is before you ; dwell where it pleas­es you.” To Sarah he said, Behold, I have giv­en your broth­er a thou­sand pieces of sil­ver ; it is your vin­di­ca­tion in the eyes of all who are with you ; and before every one you are right­ed.” Then Abra­ham prayed to God ; and God healed Abim’­elech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore chil­dren. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abim’­elech because of Sarah, Abra­ham’s wife.4

From the pas­sages that we have cit­ed briefly above, Ibn Hazm rais­es the fol­low­ing objec­tions which we note as follows :

    (a) it is incon­ceiv­able that a woman of more than 90 years5 was fair and attrac­tive enough to have lured Abime’elech ;
    (b) they told a lie to both the kings, i.e., that Sarah was Abra­ham’s sis­ter, which is not accept­able for a Prophet of God to have told a lie ;
    (c) if Sarah was real­ly Abra­ham’s sis­ter as the pas­sages sug­gest, then either Abra­ham had vio­lat­ed the Mosa­ic Law which for­bids one to mar­ry one’s sis­ter or that the Torah had abro­gat­ed Abra­ham’s Shar­i’ah, hence imply­ing that there is abro­ga­tion which Jews and Chris­tians vig­or­ous­ly deny6

Thus, based on the objec­tions above point­ed out by Ibn Hazm, we thus say that this sto­ry of Sarah being Abra­ham’s sis­ter is not with­out incon­sis­ten­cy when con­ferred with the oth­er pas­sages in the Bible and thus this is an inter­nal con­tra­dic­tion of the Bible with no clear answer.

It should also be men­tioned in pass­ing that Ibn Hazm had dis­cussed the issue with a con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish schol­ar of his era named Samuel Ben Joseph, or Ibn al-Naghri­lah. The ques­tion of the sister/​wife motif still remains a puzzing and dis­turb­ing ques­tion to mod­ern Bib­li­cal schol­ars who con­sid­er it to be dif­fer­ent strands of tra­di­tions which were woven togeth­er in con­fu­sion. Ibn al-Naghri­lah had told Ibn Hazm that the word ukht (sis­ter) as used in the pas­sage means just a rel­a­tive and not nec­ces­sar­i­ly a sis­ter as under­stood by him. Ibn Hazm replied to this by cit­ing Gen­e­sis 20:12 which reads as :

Besides she is indeed my [Abra­ham’s] sis­ter, the daugh­ter of my father, but not the daugh­ter of my moth­er, and she became my wife.”

Need­less to men­tion, this answer left Ibn al-Naghri­lah con­fused and silent.7 Per­haps the today’s Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies should take a leaf from the exam­ple of Ibn al-Naghri­lah and remain silent as well.

And only God knows best !Endmark

Cite Icon Cite This As : 
  1. Edgar Krentz, The His­tor­i­cal Crit­i­cal Method (Fortress Press, 1975), p. 41[]
  2. See Ghu­lam Haider Aasi, Mus­lim Under­stand­ing Of Oth­er Reli­gions : A Study of Ibn Hazm’s Kitab al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal (Adam Pub­lish­ers, 2004), pp. 92 – 114 for extracts of Ibn Hazm’s major crit­i­cisms of the Pen­ta­teuch.[]
  3. Gen­e­sis 12:10 – 18[]
  4. Gen­e­sis 20:1 – 18[]
  5. See Gen­e­sis 17:17 which indi­cat­ed Sarah’s age : Then Abra­ham fell on his face and laughed, and said to him­self, Shall a child be born to a man who is a hun­dred years old ? Shall Sarah, who is nine­ty years old, bear a child?”[]
  6. Kitab al-Fasl, pt. 1, p. 135[]
  7. ibid.[]


  1. I won­der why every­time the sto­ry of Abra­ham and Sarah comes up, peo­ple are quick to bring up the law of Moses and I won­der why ? There was no law of Moses at that time. Mar­ry­ing ones sis­ter was not sin at that time and God did not dis­ap­prove of it at that time because of pop­u­lat­ing the earth and pre­serv­ing the the Abra­ham­ic bless­ing. Issac also mar­ried his rela­tion, same as Jacob. But when Jacob had 12 sons and Israel grew and mul­ti­plied, God now spoke against mar­ry­ing rela­tions because there was no more need to do so, Israel was now a mul­ti­tude. There is no sin if there is no law. The pres­ence of a Law is what makes you know what is wrong or right. So the prac­tice of Abra­ham’s day of mar­ry­ing ones sis­ter was not wrong. The same way Seth and Cain mar­ried their Sis­ters because there was no one else to mar­ry. Last­ly although Abra­ham said Sarah was his Sis­ter, there is no evi­dence of that in scrip­tures. Abra­ham said she was his fathers daugh­ter but not from his moth­er but there is no record of that. Abra­hams father did not call sarah his daugh­ter but his daugh­ter in law, his sons wife. God also referred to Sarah as his wife. Some have said Isc­ah is Sarah mean­ing Sarah is Lots Sis­ter, but the bible does­n’t state so. If that’s true then Abra­ham would have called Sarah his broth­ers daugh­ter and not his sis­ter. The same way he called Lot his broth­ers son. Although its pos­si­ble that Abra­ham’s father assumed the posi­tion of a father when Lots father died but Lot was still referred to as Abra­hams broth­ers son and not Abra­ham’s fathers son. In con­clu­sion It is pos­si­ble Abra­ham in fear said what he said and although it looks as if he even­tu­al­ly told the truth, he may have not because of fear for his life. Also, it is still pos­si­ble that Sarah is his Sis­ter because the birth of females were not record­ed like the birth of males were. So it’s pos­si­ble that Sarah may just be the daugh­ter of Abra­hams father from a con­cu­bine and not from his mother.

  2. Stum­bled upon this and wow there was much thought into it.

    (a) it is incon­ceiv­able that a woman of more than 90 years5 was fair and attrac­tive enough to have lured Abime’elech ;

    Are you kid­ding ? This is one of your objec­tions ? Maybe he liked old­er women, it hap­pens all the time today.

    (b) they told a lie to both the kings, i.e., that Sarah was Abraham’s sis­ter, which is not accept­able for a Prophet of God to have told a lie ;

    Prophets sin ? So how is it not accept­able ? Did Muham­mad sin ?

    (c) if Sarah was real­ly Abraham’s sis­ter as the pas­sages sug­gest, then either Abra­ham had vio­lat­ed the Mosa­ic Law which for­bids one to mar­ry one’s sis­ter or that the Torah had abro­gat­ed Abraham’s Shari’ah, hence imply­ing that there is abro­ga­tion which Jews and Chris­tians vig­or­ous­ly deny6

    The Mosa­ic law wasn’t intro­duced until 500 years lat­er. Are you kidding ?

  3. عبد الهادي Reply

    Abram want­ed to save him­self by say­ing that his wife is his sis­ter and in same time she is actu­al­ly his sister !
    Abra­ham has three lies, as Sun­na aprove, more like Maarid” معاريض, mean­ing that it look like lies but it’s not, claim­ing that his wife is his sis­ter because she share the same faith with him, ie she is his sis­ter in faith, but those idiot scribes to explain this con­tro­ver­sy they fab­ri­cat­ed this sto­ry of daugh­ter of my father not of my moth­er, because per­haps Jews give more impor­tance to the womb than the father.
    والله أعلم

  4. Qur’an does not endorse Abra­ham ever had two wives. The lady Haji­ra remained his sin­gle wife who got the good news of Issac at old age. Quran 11:71,
    وَامْرَأَتُهُ قَائِمَةٌ فَضَحِكَتْ فَبَشَّرْنَاهَا بِإِسْحَاقَ وَمِن وَرَاءِ إِسْحَاقَ يَعْقُوبَ ﴿٧١﴾
    And his wife, stand­ing by laughed when We gave her good tid­ings (of the birth) of Isaac, and, after Isaac, of Jacob. (11:71)
    The con­fu­sion in Bible is due to a big­ger issue where­by Bani Ibrahim are Mixed with Bani Israel. Bani Israel has no rela­tion­ship with Bani Israel except before Ibrahim and after Noah. Bani Israel has been repeat­ed­ly told in the Quran as being raised from noth­ing and were grant­ed spe­cial sta­tus that they even lead Bani Ibrahim.

  5. Why do our respons­es have to be mod­er­at­ed ? It looks like some peo­ple have some­thing to hide…

    [Admin : Because we want to instill prop­er deco­rum and delete offen­sive com­ments, that’s why.]

  6. Hmmm… if, accord­ing to Mus­lim tra­di­tion, Allah gave the Torah to Moses and Allah is all-pow­er­ful, then what­ev­er changes that the Jews might have made to the Torah must have been made accord­ing the will of Allah. If the Jews had made changes to the Torah with­out those changes being sanc­tioned by Allah, well, then Allah isn’t all-pow­er­ful, is He ?

    It seems to me that if an author hands a book to a pub­lish­er and the pub­lish­er changes some of the words because the author com­mands the pub­lish­er to do so, what ends up in the hand of the read­er is still the word and will of the author.

    To posit that Allah gave his holi­est teach­ing to a peo­ple who changed and twist­ed it against his will is to posit that Allah is not all-pow­er­ful. To believe what the Qur’an and the Hadiths say about the Torah is to deny that Allah is all-pow­er­ful. There­fore, to be a Mus­lim is to deny the omnipo­tence of Allah.

  7. shadowofears Reply

    Sor­ry it is real­ly sick.I dont believe that Sarah was Abra­ham’s sisc­ter so thats why i dont believe Bible to be God’s word inst­ed i believe it to be Paul’s word.

  8. First, each cul­ture has their own stan­dard of beau­ty and it may be in total oppo­si­tion to what you or I think ; there­fore, what is incon­ceiv­able to you or I is irrel­e­vant. Sec­ond­ly, read Gen­e­sis 20:12 – Sarah is indeed Abraham’s sis­ter – Same father dif­fer­ent moth­ers. So they did not lie. Third, Moses does­n’t even come on the scene until well after Abra­ham died ; there­fore, there was no Mosa­ic Law or Torah to break. Moses is born dur­ing the time the Israelites lived in Egypt, a time when famine forced them to go there. Abraham’s great grand­son, Joseph had become a great ruler there and died before Moses was even born. Gen­e­sis 50 : 26 – Exo­dus 2. Based on God’s Word, there is no contradiction.

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