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For inquiring and open minds -- Hope

  • Jun 16, 2003
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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 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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review by . September 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 …
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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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