Project Genesis

Judaism and Non-Jews


Abraham: First Jew? Convert?

Question: Was Abraham the first Jew? Was he a Convert?

Answer: You are asking a great question. In Jewish tradition, Abraham is indeed considered the very first Jew. This title is bestowed on him for he was the first person in the world to arrive, on his own, to a recognition of God as Master of the World. Although people before him acknowledged the existence of a God, their knowledge was based on external information: a tradition passed down, parent to child, since Adam. Abraham, in contrast, arrived at the knowledge of an existence of a Supreme Creator on his own, without any external information. This fact marks Abraham as unique in the history of the world.

Whether Abraham is considered a convert may get into a question of semantics. The formal laws of conversion, per se, were not concertized until the Torah was given to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. Before the giving of the Torah, becoming a Jew was a much less formal procedure, more predicated on one’s belief than a formal conversion ceremony: acceptance of God as the One Supreme Ruler of the universe sufficed to label one as a Jew. As such, Abraham could certainly be considered a convert to Judaism, but not in the same sense that we think of the conversion process today.

Be well,
Rabbi Yoel Spotts

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