James Janknegt

The patriarch Abraham prepares a meal for the three divine messengers, as shown in a colorful acrylic painting by contemporary Texas artist James Janknegt. The messengers have come to alert Abraham and his aged wife, Sarah, that they will bear a child.

According to Genesis 18, Abraham prepared a meal of calf, rolls, and curds and milk (the modern equivalent of a cheeseburger on a bun). Was the patriarch unaware of the Jewish dietary law forbidding the mixing of meat and milk? Did the law—based on the biblical prohibition of cooking a goat kid in its mother’s milk (repeated in Exodus 23:19, 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21)—not exist in his day? Or is the longstanding dietary law based on an eccentric interpretation of the prohibition?