spent yesterday talking with my students about Genesis 12-24, and the experiences of my great-great x approx. 120 times great-grandfather Abraham. What did we think of him? Who did God appear to be to him? What do we make of this experience, of this one man's experience that set in motion a series of events that continues to change the course of human history? He heard and listened to a Voice. In time he came to see a figure or set of figures representing the Voice. A command, a chance at obedience. No system of theology. No inheritance of generations of religious experience and reflection to form a Tradition to draw upon. Only the most raw circumstances imaginable to draw out a gift of faith – a profound capacity for trust that had no spiritual resources to draw upon beyond itself.
It is all too easy for us to laugh this off, to pull of a cheap witticism at the expense of a man who heard a Voice, which was probably not a good sign thirty-odd centuries ago, either. Or to sneer at stories that have been passed down, obviously edited in the centuries between their origin and the rise of the manuscripts we have in the centuries before Christ, and assume in all our Enlightenment dogmatism that nothing probably really happened. But I still cannot help but suspect – especially in light of all the other things that happened later for which we have piles
of historical evidence – that there must have been something
back there to cause these shockwaves that come rumbling down through the centuries: the power of a faith so raw and bold that the great wave of Judaism – and from it Christianity, and from them Islam – should be the results, shaping and moulding history to this day.