Universal agreement concerning Abraham does not come easily. Most Jewish, Christian or Moslems would agree that he was the first to acknowledge the existence of a single God, that he entered into a covenant with God wherein he agreed to follow God's instructions to leave his homeland for an unknown destination. Already old and childless, he and his wife Sarah were told by God that they would bear a son, and that their descendants would create a great nation. Later, God instructed Abraham to offer his son, "the son whom you love" as sacrifice to the One God. Beyond those gross generalizations, the story of Abraham morphs in various directions depending upon the beliefs of the story teller.
The instruction to take "the son whom you love" serves as a critical focus of debate for many, as Christians and Jews believe that Abraham offered his son Isaac by his wife, Sarah as the sacrifice; whereas Moslems believe that it was his older son Ishmael (born to his slave Hagar) that was placed on the sacrificial altar. Feiler discusses how the various religions interpret similar writings or incidents, and yet arrive at dramatically different conclusions.
What elevates this book beyond the realm of a comparative religion text book, is Feiler's balanced portrait of a man who exists in a singular position of relevance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Fundamentalists of any persuasion will likely take issue with some of his observations, but Feiler treats his subject with respect and awe, and a desire to place Abraham into a position that might bridge some of the passions that exist today in the Middle East. He succeeds in that regard, with interviews and discussions with Abrahamic scholars and clerics that give a glimmer of hope for all of us.
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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 ...