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Understanding Abraham

  • Sep 14, 2008
Feiler, Bruce. "Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths", Harper Perennial, 2002.

Understanding Abraham

Amos Lassen

Bruce Feiler is something of an expert on the land of the Bible. An expert, however, is not necessarily a scholar and his study of Abraham has several inaccuracies. Nevertheless it is a fascinating read and despite the title, it leans quite heavily on the Judaic interpretation of Abraham. What Feiler does add goes beyond the Biblical text and Feiler states that the depiction of the Old Testament Abraham was modified and shaped and then reshaped by members of the three major religions. Feiler regards the "akeda" (the near- sacrifice of Isaac) as the pivot around which the story of Abraham revolves. He then looks at the relationship of Abraham to Isaac who both Christians and Jews regard as the favorite son while Muslims accept Ishmael as the favored. Feiler's conclusion is that there were actually several Abrahams so that they could fit the historical, political and social situations of the times. He also shows that there is no proof whatsoever that Abraham actually ever existed. Feiler's goal seems to be to find some kind of common bond between the monotheistic religions and a way to reconcile them. Since Abraham is a central character in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, he comes across as quite unique. Feiler met with representatives of the three religious branches and he finds it interesting that each has little tolerance for the other but all three shares a common area in Abraham.
I did not approach the book as a way to answer any questions I might have but rather as a way to increase my own knowledge about the man that so many revere. I did not learn a great deal but I did have an interesting read. Feiler provides a balance and he does not hide his own feelings. It is interesting that a Jewish author is not swayed by his own background and is somewhat at home dealing with all three areas of faith.

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review by . June 16, 2003
While being the common ancestor shared by the three predominate monotheistic faiths, Abraham is revered, respected, interpreted, misinterpreted and sometimes even manipulated by theologians and the faithful who seek claim him as their own. Bruce Feiler attempts to collect the varied and sometimes conflicting stories of the man many believe to be the first to enter into a covenant with God.Universal agreement concerning Abraham does not come easily. Most Jewish, Christian or Moslems would agree that …
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Amos Lassen ()
Ranked #210
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … more
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About this book


At a time when conflicts among three of the world's major religions--Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--are in the global spotlight, Bruce Feiler offers a stunning biography of the one man who unites all three religions: Abraham. "The most mesmerizing story of Abraham's life--his offering a son to God--plays a pivotal role in the holiest week of the Christian year, at Easter," writes Feiler. "The story is recited at the start of the holiest fortnight in Judaism, on Rosh Hashanah. The episode inspires the holiest day in Islam, 'Id al-Adha,' the Feast of the Sacrifice, at the climax of the Pilgrimage. And yet the religions can't even agree on which son he tried to kill." Herein lies the irony and perfection of Feiler's timing. As we struggle to find a path to peace among these three religions, all warring in Jerusalem, near the stone where Abraham brought his son for sacrifice, this captivating biography speaks to Abraham as the metaphor he is: the historically elusive man who embodies three religions, a character who has shape-shifted over the millennia to serve the clashing goals and dogma of each religion.

Anyone seeking to understand the roots of tension in the Middle East need look no further than the final half of this book, where Feiler interprets the meaning of Abraham as seen through the prism of each religion. Surprisingly, the book is as entertaining as it is thoughtful: Feiler is a masterful writer with a warm, humorous voice, a dazzling way with metaphors, and an ...

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ISBN-10: 0380977761
ISBN-13: 978-0380977765
Author: Bruce Feiler
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: William Morrow
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