Pope Francis’s “Abrahamic Religions”
During his Iraq trip (March 5–8), Pope Francis said more than once that Abraham is at the root of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
On arriving, he told civil authorities that he was coming to that land “linked through the Patriarch Abraham and a number of the Prophets” to the religious traditions “of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”1
The Supreme Pontiff repeated the idea the next day in an interfaith meeting at the ruins of Ur, saying that he would return “to the birth of our religions. Here, where Abraham our father lived.” In the Prayer of the Children of Abraham with which he closed his speech, he said that “[a]s children of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims,” he thanked God for having given “Abraham … to be our common father in faith.”2
This conception stems from confusing passages in Vatican II documents Lumen Gentium (no. 16) and Nostra Aetate (no. 3). They imply that present-day Judaism and Islam originated with the Patriarch Abraham.
These texts show the influence of French orientalist Fr. Louis Massignon (1883–1962) and his theory on “Abrahamic religions,” which supposedly include Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.3
Abraham and Islam
The defenders of the unproven theory that Muslims descend from Abraham claim that this was through Ishmael. This notwithstanding, one must remember that the patriarch’s blessing passed on to his descendants through Isaac and Jacob, not through Ishmael, his son with Hagar. Accordingly, even if Muslims descended from Ishmael, Islam could not be called an “Abrahamic religion” in the spiritual sense.
Indeed, the book of Genesis reads:
Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live in your presence! That will be enough!” But God replied, “Yes, your wife Sarah will bear you a son whom you must name Isaac. And I shall maintain my covenant with him, a covenant in perpetuity, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. For Ishmael too I grant you your request. I hereby bless him and will make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous. He will be the father of twelve princes, and I shall make him into a great nation. But my covenant I shall maintain with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear you at this time next year” (Gen. 17:18–21).
Although Divine Revelation excludes a spiritual bond between Abraham and Muslims, does this preclude biological ones?
There is no evidence of such ancestral ties. Fr. René Dagorn made a meticulous study of Arab genealogies before Islam’s appearance (in 622 A.D.) and found that the names Abraham (Ibrahim), Ishmael, and Hagar were not used. However, if the Arabs descended from Ishmael, Fr. Dagorn concludes, they would have kept the memory of those names, using them for their children.4
Islamicist Fr. Antoine Moussali shows further that the Biblical and Koranic Abrahams have nothing in common. God’s promise to Scripture’s Abraham was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Koran presents Abraham as the defender of God’s oneness.5
Another Islamicist, Fr. François Jourdan, asks, “How can Abraham be the father of different religions? … Under what title is Abraham a father in the Faith? How is he father in our respective faiths, since they are different?” He explains that Islam is more appropriately termed an “Adamic religion” since it considers Adam to have been the first monotheistic prophet.6
Abraham and the Jews
Abraham was not the founder of a religion. God chose him as the patriarch of what would become the Chosen People, from whom the Son of God would be born according to the flesh. God’s covenant with Abraham was due to his faith, fidelity, and confidence. After the test of sacrificing his son Isaac, God blessed him, promising him enormous posterity and great power. His descendants would be blessed because of him (see Gen. 18).
However, biological heredity alone would not suffice to make “children of Abraham.” His descendants needed to participate in Abraham’s spirit and his fidelity to God’s promise. Saint John the Baptist rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees, who believed themselves saved because they descended from Abraham, saying: “Bring forth, therefore, fruit worthy of penance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt. 3:8–9).
Jesus Himself admonished the Pharisees that it was not enough to be a descendant of Abraham in the flesh. They said, “Abraham is our father. Jesus saith to them: If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39).
Spiritually, the devil was the Pharisees’ father, not Abraham, for the Savior went on to say: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do” (John 8:44).
Having abandoned the promised Redeemer, the Jews stopped being “children of Abraham” in the spiritual sense because they denied the very purpose of the promise given by God to the patriarch, namely, the coming of the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christians, the True Children of Abraham
Saint Paul teaches that those who believe in Christ are Abraham’s true children. He writes to the Galatians: “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus. … To Abraham were the promises made and to his seed. He said not, ‘And to his seeds,’ as of many: but as of one, ‘And to thy seed,’ which is Christ” (Gal. 3:14, 16).
Cornelius a Lapide, the great exegete, comments on this passage: “The promise of the Spirit. To the children of Abraham, i.e., to those who believe in Christ, Abraham’s descendant was promised the Holy Spirit to justify and sanctify us. For when God said to Abraham, ‘thee’ it was to his seed, which is Christ, that the blessing was appointed.”7
Interreligious Dialogue and Confusion
Instead of defending Faith’s orthodoxy, strengthening Catholics’ fidelity, and thus obtaining the conversion of infidels, Pope Francis is concerned only with “dialoguing” with the latter. The result is that neither infidels convert nor are Catholics confirmed in the Faith.
Confusion is constantly increasing, and apostasy with it, because of the omissions of the Church’s Supreme Pastor to confirm those baptized into the Faith (see Luke 22:32).
Like Abraham, we must have absolute trust in God and expect His intervention today, like the angel He sent in the Old Testament to prevent Isaac’s immolation.
Let us pray to Our Lady of Confidence, “Mater mea, fiducia mea,” so that she may help us in these terrible times.
- “Apostolic Journey to the Republic of Iraq: Meeting with Authorities, Civil Society and the Diplomatic Corps,” Vatican (Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis), Mar. 5, 2021, http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2021/3/5/iraq-autorita.html.
- “Interreligious Meeting – Plain of Ur – Address of His Holiness,” Vatican (Activities of the Holy Father Pope Francis), Mar. 6, 2021, http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2021/march/documents/papa-francesco_20210306_iraq-incontro-interreligioso.html.
- See Florence Ollivry-Dumairieh, “50 ans après Vatican II: La contribution de Louis Massignon au renouvellement du regard porté par l’Église sur l’islam,” Théologiques 22, no. 1 (2014): 189–217, https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/theologi/2014-v22-n1-theologi02072/1033101ar.pdf; see also Luiz Sérgio Solimeo, Islam and the Suicide of the West (Spring Grove, Penn.: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, 2018).
- René Dagorn, La geste d’Ismael d’après l’onommastique et la tradition arabes (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1981), 377.
- Antoine Moussali, C.M., La Croix et le croissant: Le Christianisme face à l’Islam (Versailles: Editions de Paris, 1998), 55.
- François Jourdan, C.M.J., Dieu des Chrétiens, Dieu des Musulmans: Des repères pour comprendre (Paris: Éditions de L’Oeuvre, 2008), 42.
- II Corinthians and Galatians vol. 8, The Great Commentary of Cornelius A Lapide, translated and edited by W. F. Cobb (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1908), 275.