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9 Did the Gentiles Know Who Abraham Was?

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Chapter Summary

Sometime in the second half of the second century ce, the Platonist philosopher Celsus published his Alêthês Logos. In this attack on Christianity, he also dealt very critically with the Greek Bible, including the Jewish part of it, the Septuagint. In one of his critical passages, he remarks that circumcision did not originate with the Jews because this custom had been taken over by them from the Egyptians. In his refutation the formidable Christian scholar Origen states that it is better to believe Moses "who says that Abraham was first among men to be circumcised". This chapter focuses on two questions: (1) is there independent proof that gentiles used the formula 'the God of Abraham (and Isaac and Jacob)' for magical purposes? (2) Is Origen right in saying that these gentiles had no idea who Abraham is? The answer to both questions will turn out to be a qualified yes.

Keywords: Abraham; Alêthês Logos; gentiles; Greek Bible; Origen; Septuagint



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