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Why Is Abraham So Important?

Q: In a prayer to the Archangel Michael, we ask him at the hour of our death to carry us to the bosom of Abraham. Is Abraham more important than all the saints?

A: This phrase is probably based on the story in Luke 16:19-31, where a deceased rich man sees Lazarus, once a poor man, who in death “was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham” (v.22).

Even before Jesus was born, some Jewish people believed in a place of eternal punishment for the wicked and of eternal happiness for the blessed. Since Abraham is considered the father of the Hebrew people, those who believed that the blessed would be rewarded placed Abraham among the blessed.

(Had ancient people understood human reproduction better, they would have realized that men and women contribute actively but differently to the conception of a child. The Hebrew people are descended from Abraham and Sarah!)

An older biblical tradition spoke of all the dead as going to Sheol, a shadowy existence for wicked people and virtuous people.

The expression “bosom of” shows intimacy, as in the case of the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was lying “close to the breast of Jesus” (John 13:23, Revised Standard Version).

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