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Internal Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

Was Sarah The Sister of Abraham?

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 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!

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Was Sarah The Sister of Abraham?," in Bismika Allahuma, March 14, 2007, last accessed September 25, 2022, https://bismikaallahuma.org/bible/sister-of-abraham/
  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. []
Categories
Sources of the Bible The Bible

Paul’s Dependency on Talmudic Writings: Evidence of New Testament Borrowing

While Christians would prefer to allude to the notion that Paul, the self-acclaimed “apostle” of Jesus, was “inspired” when he wrote his epistles, the evidences we have researched states otherwise. We have seen how Paul had cited a verse from the “apocryphal books of Elijah” but claimed that he was citing from the book of Isaiah. Apparantly this citing of quotations from apocryphal or Rabbinic writings was not alien to Paul, for in the epistles of Paul, there are abundant signs that he was extremely familiar with Rabbanic material and constantly refers to them. This is not surprising since Paul himself had admitted to familiarity with Jewish traditions under the tutelage of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).

Paul’s Dependency on the Talmudic Writings: The Evidence

In 2 Timothy 3:8, we see that Paul traditionally names two of the Egyptian magicians who withstood Moses as Jannes and Jambres, respectively. He compares the both of them with his enemies, as the following verse records:

“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so do these men oppose the truth, corrupt thinkers as they are and counterfeits so far as faith is concerned.”

The names of these two Egyptian magicians are nowhere to be found in the Old Testament. The Midrash Rabbah on Exodus, however, makes mention of these two names as “Yochani” and “Mamre” respectively, and states:

Amru Yochani uMamre L’Moshe: “teben atah makhnis L’efrayim?” Amar Lahem “L’matah yarqa yarqa sh’qol.”

Yochani and Mamre said to Moshe “Would you carry straw to Afraim?” He [Moses] said to them: “carry herbs to herb-town.”1

The names of these Egyptian magicians also appears in Midrash Tanchuma (Parshat Ki Tisa) 19:19 as a Commentary on Exodus 32:

Forty thousand people had assembled to leave Egypt with the Israelites, and among them were two Egyptians named Jannes and Jambres, who had performed magical feats for Pharaoh.2

Thus it is clear that these magicians’ names came from the Rabbinic traditions and had no doubt influenced Paul considerably to include these names in his epistle.

Paul also adopted the current Jewish chronologies in Acts 13:20-21. He alludes to the notion that the Adam of Genesis 1 is the ideal or spiritual, the Adam of Gen 2 the concrete and sinful Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47, also found in Philo, De Opif. Mund i.32). The conception of the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) , of the giving of the Law at Sinai by Angels (Galatians 3:19), of Satan as the god of this world and the prince of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and of the celestial and infernal hierarchies (Ephesians 1:21, 3:10; 4:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:15) are all recurrent in Talmudic writings.

When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:10 that a women ought to have a veil on her head because of the angel, as stated in the following:

“The woman, therefore, ought to have a token of authority on her head, because of the angels”

he demonstrates a very high familiarity with the Talmudic writings, as he is apparently referring to the Rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 6:2 as follows:

Binei Elohim. B’nei ha-sarim v’ha-shoftim. Davar acher: b’nei ha-Elohim, hem ha-sarim ha-holkhim bishlichuto shel maqom, af hem hayu mitarvim bahem; kal elohim shebamiqra l’shon marut, v’zeh yokhiach: V’atah tiyeh lo lelohim, r’eh n’tatikha elohim.

THE SONS OF GOD. The sons of princes and rulers. Another explanation of B’nei Elohim is that these were princely angels who came as messengers of God, and they intermingled with the daughters of men. Wherever the word “elohim” appears in the scriptures, it signifies authority, thus the following passages: “And you shall be his master (elohim)” [Exodus 4:16] and “see, I have made you a master (elohim).” [Exodus 7:1]3

Paul obviously believed this Rabbinic tradition which states that angels have mingled with the daughters of men to have included this in his epistle. The Targum, as quoted in the epistle of Jude (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), clearly ascribe the Fall to the angels to their guilty love for earthly women.

The Jewish mind – a notion which is found over and over again in the Talmud, and which is still prevalent among Oriental Jews, is that they never let their women to be unveiled in the public lest the shedin, or evil spirits, should injure them or others. A headdress called khalbi is worn as a religious duty by Jewish women.

The reason why Solomon’s bed was guarded by sixty valiant men with drawn swords was because of fear in the night. (Cant iii 7, 8). This is alluded to the following story in Pesachim 112b:

“Lo yetse Y’chidi bifnei; lo b’leilei r’vi’iyot, v’lo b’leilei shabatot, mifnei she-Agrat bat Machalat, hi ushmoneh esreh ribo shel malakhei chabalah yotsin , v’kal echad v’echad yesh lo r’shut l’chaber bifnei atsmo.”

“Do not go out at night. Not on Wednesday night or on Sabbath night, because Igrath (Agrat) the daughter of Mahalath (Machalat) along with 180,000 destroying angels are out, each with permission to cause destruction independently.”4

They are called ruchin, shedin, lilin, tiharim.

Again, in Romans 4:5-12, Paul evidently accepts the tradition, also referred to by St. Stephen, that Abraham had been uncircumcised idolater when he first obeyed the call of God, and that he then received a promise – unknown to the text of the scripture – that he should be the heir of the world. (Romans 4:13, cf. Joshua 24:15). In Romans 9:9, whereby it states:

“For this is the message of the promise, ‘At about this time next year, I will come, and Sarah will have a son'”

it has been supposed, from the form of his quotation, that he is alluding to the Rabbinic notion that Isaac was created in the womb by a fiat of God. In Galatians 4:29, whereby it says

“But just as then the one born in a fleshly way persecuted the one born in accord with the Spirit, so too at present”

this is in accordance to the Haggadah tradition that Ishmael had not only laughed, but also jeered, insulted, and mistreated Isaac. Thus we find the following in Sanhedrin 89b:

“Rabbi Levi aamar: achar d’varaiv shel Yishma’el l’Yitschaq. Aamar lo Yishma’el l’Yitschaq: ‘Ani gadol mimkha b’mitsot, she-atah malta ben sh’monat yamim, v’ani ben sh’lash esreh shanah.’ Aamar lo: ‘Uvever echad atah m’ghareh bi? Im omer li ha-Qadosh, baruch Hu, z’vach atsmkha l’fanay, ani zovech.’ Miyad v’ha-Elohim nisah et Avraham.”

Rabbi Levi said: These are the words of Ishmael to Isaac. Ishmael said to Isaac: “I am greater than you in commandments, for you were circumcised at eight days old, and I when I was thirteen years old.” He [Isaac] said to him: “You tease me over one organ? If the Holy One, blessed be He, says to me ‘sacrifice yourself to me,’ I will sacrifice myself.” Immediately God tested Abraham.5

In 2 Corinthians 11:14, whereby we read that:

“…and no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”

Paul adhered to the notion that the angel who wrestled with Jacob was Satan assuming the semblance of an Angel of Light. There is a remarkable resemblance to the smitten rock in the wilderness, which in 1 Corinthians 10:4 is called

“…a spiritual following rock.”

To the Rabbis the rock, from which water flowed, was round and like a swarm of bees, and rolled itself up and went with them in their journeys. When the Tabernacle was pitched, the rock came and settled in its vestibule. Then Israel sang the following:

“Spring up, O well; sing ye to it!” (Numbers 21:17)

and it sprang up. Paul’s instant addition of the words:

“[…]which rock was Christ”

has Haggadistic elements which, in the national consciousness, had got mingled up with the great story of the wanderings in the Wilderness. Seven such current national traditions are alluded to in St. Stephen’s speech.

Conclusions

The Rabbinic teachings as recorded in the Talmudic writings was influential for Paul, and it is with these traditions in his mind that he had based his epistles on. Some of these stories have no basis in the Tanakh or the Old Testament, but only in the Talmud of the Jews. This clearly shows that Paul’s claim of being an “apostle” of Jesus and was divinely “inspired” in his writings can certainly be cast into reasonable doubt. The evidences as shown above clearly shows that Paul had resorted to heavy borrowing from the Jewish traditions as recorded in the Talmudic writings.

  1. English-Hebrew of Shemot Rabbah (Midrash Rabbah on Exodus), 7:12 []
  2. Midrash Tanchuma’s Commentary on Exodus 32, Samuel A. Berman (trans.), Midrash Tanhuma-Yelammedenu (KTAV Publishing, 1996), p. 598 []
  3. Rashi’s Commentary on B’reshit (Genesis), 6:2 []
  4. Pesahim 112b, Babylonian Talmud []
  5. Sanhedrin 89b, Babylonian Talmud []