(Painting: "Departure of Abraham for Canaan," by Jacopo Bassano, 1510-1592, oil on canvas)
30.) Abraham as Part of the Church - With Genesis ch. 12, we move to a new interpretive context for Scripture. Here, though the authors of the text are probably still at a great chronological distance from the events portrayed, it is not so great as to favor an allegorical model over a historical one, and the tone and genre of the text seems to fit a historical reading (although with allegorical foreshadowings of Christ as part of that history) from this point on. In the story of “salvation history,” Abraham holds a distinctive place. At this point, God sets in motion a new stage in his plan—the choosing of one man, one family, one race to begin rebuilding his relationship with humanity and through them to prepare the way for Christ. God’s relationship with Abraham, on the basis of promise, covenant, and faith, is in fact a real relationship. Because of Abraham’s faith, he was looking forward to the fulfillment of the promise in Christ and was, in a rudimentary way, participating in Christ himself. This enabled the grace of God through the Christ-event to be available even in Abraham’s time, through faith in God’s promise. As such, Abraham was able to grow in relationship with God even to the point of being called “a friend of God.” Because he is part of those who believe in God by faith, and thus participated in Christ even without knowing him, he can be viewed as a part of the church. However, lacking the full knowledge of God’s self-revelation in Christ, the growth of even such a spiritual giant as Abraham was necessarily limited in his earthly life, at least when compared to the possibilities available to Christians after the Christ-event.