Abraham and the Birds: Comparing Qur’an 2:260, Genesis 15, and Romans 4

Qur’an 2:260 parallels the story of Abraham in Genesis 15 and its interpretation in Genesis Rabbah, where God promises Abraham that he will have children, but Abraham demands for a sign. While Abraham in the Genesis narrative requires a sign to prove he will have children, the Qur’anic narrative shows that Abraham wanted a sign to prove resurrection. Genesis 30:1 describes a person without children as dead, which is further emphasized in the Talmud. It is perhaps from this context that the Qur’an understands Abraham’s request, not as proof of a literal resurrection from the grave, but that he is like one who is dead having no children, and that resurrection is a metaphor for having children. Romans 4 associates resurrection to Genesis 15, while Genesis 15 is not explicit about it. Yet, Genesis 15 elaborates on the ritual performed by Abraham that Romans 4 does not. Therefore, what is the subtext used by Qur’an 2:260, which contains both accounts, especially when it is within the context of the Shemaʿ in Qur’an 2:255, which is evident in Romans 3, but not in the Genesis account? It might suggest that the Qur’an is engaging with either both or neither. It might be that the Qur’an understands that Romans 4 engages with Genesis 15 and so it engages and interprets both texts simultaneously. Otherwise, there could be a different text, most likely Christian, which is exegetical of Romans 4 and discusses its close relationship with Genesis 15, and this text would be the subtext used by the Qur’an. Since the Qur'anic passage seems to narrate parallel narratives from Biblical and Rabbinic texts, the resurrection of the dead implied in this Qur’anic passage appears to be metaphoric.