Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

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Overview

"In Inheriting Abraham, one of the world's leading Bible scholars, Jon D. Levenson, has given us an incisive and deeply challenging account of the three Abrahams of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theology. It may be, he suggests, that we are divided by a common ancestry and that we need to understand our differences no less than our commonalities. A brilliant, well-argued, and much-needed work."—Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

"In this groundbreaking book, Levenson gives us a close reading of the Abraham narratives in Genesis and explores how Jews, Christians, and Muslims have construed Abraham from antiquity to today. His thought is crisp and nicely provocative, his writing is lucid, witty, and accessible to the nonspecialist. Inheriting Abraham is an eye-opening and compelling read."—R.W.L. Moberly, Durham University

"Levenson's fine book on the intertwined hermeneutics of Abraham throughout the ages among Jews, Christians, and Muslims deals elegantly with the complex relationship of texts and communities. It offers an excellent starting point for the comparative study of the three religions harking back to Abraham."—Guy G. Stroumsa, author of A New Science: The Discovery of Religion in the Age of Reason

"Well-written and beautifully argued, this book makes an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the figure of Abraham. The educated public often labors under the grave misunderstanding that the three great monotheistic faith traditions share a common ancestor in Abraham. As Levenson demonstrates in this unique and timely book, Abraham has been shaped by each of the traditions to reflect the ideas and ideals of their own theology."—Gary A. Anderson, author of Sin: A History

"Levenson provides a masterful reading of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thinking that yielded three different portraits of Abraham. He sets the record straight about the biblical patriarch."—Sidney H. Griffith, author of The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam

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Editorial Reviews

Christian Century
Levenson's book will be acutely sobering for those who favor easy accommodation between traditions. . . . And no one has been more effective than Levenson in calling Christian interpreters to a more honest self-awareness.
Jerusalem Post
[A] learned, lucid and luminous examination of the distinctive character of Abraham.
— Glenn C. Altschuler
Commentary
[E]xcellent. . . . Inheriting Abraham is informed throughout by Levenson's characteristically great learning. . . . [G]raceful and clear . . .
— Hillel Fradkin
Jewish Review of Books
Levenson's literary skill and encyclopedic grasp of the exegetical traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam makes this volume a valuable exercise in comparison. But the book also makes a strong and controversial argument about what that comparison actually reveals about the role of Abraham in the relationship between the three 'Abrahamic' religions. . . . [Levenson's] study encourages us to look unflinchingly at the limits of difference and commonality within and across religious traditions.
— Martin S. Jaffee
Jerusalem Post - Glenn C. Altschuler
[A] learned, lucid and luminous examination of the distinctive character of Abraham.
Commentary - Hillel Fradkin
[E]xcellent. . . . Inheriting Abraham is informed throughout by Levenson's characteristically great learning. . . . [G]raceful and clear . . .
Jewish Review of Books - Martin S. Jaffee
Levenson's literary skill and encyclopedic grasp of the exegetical traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam makes this volume a valuable exercise in comparison. But the book also makes a strong and controversial argument about what that comparison actually reveals about the role of Abraham in the relationship between the three 'Abrahamic' religions. . . . [Levenson's] study encourages us to look unflinchingly at the limits of difference and commonality within and across religious traditions.
Jewish Ideas Daily - D.G. Myers
The best Jewish book in each category this past year? Inheriting Abraham is the most impressive work of Jewish scholarship published during 2012. For more than three decades, Jon Levenson has been quietly developing a biblical theology that would revolutionize Jewish understanding and worship, if only more Jews were to learn of it. Inheriting Abraham is his most accessible book yet—a model of how exacting scholarship can be written for the well-educated layman.
Islam and Muslim Societies - Tauseef Ahmad Parray
Written very well, argued delightfully, with deep insights, . . . Inheriting Abraham makes a superb contribution to our understanding and perception, opinion and insight, of the figure of Prophet Abraham.
Commonweal - Donald Senior
Jon Levenson's superb book demonstrates that despite some simplistic and ill-conceived attempts to harmonize the three Abrahamic faiths, and some lingering supersessionist antagonisms, we live in a period remarkable for serious and thoughtful dialogue among these cousin religions. It is a dialogue grounded in responsible awareness of the complexity, beauty, and defining commitments of each one. Working from this awareness is our best hope of developing the vital mutual respect and harmony our divided world requires.
Choice
This well-conceived, elegantly written book traces how the figure of Abraham known from Genesis came to be understood in unique ways by the later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. While many speak of Abraham as a figure shared by these three traditions, Levenson shows how each tradition's image of Abraham reflects its own distinct theological assumptions. . . . Rather than grounding interreligious dialogue in various conceptual false cognates in hopes of finding the lowest common denominator, Levenson has led the way in showing how true interreligious understanding can be achieved only if one grasps the nuanced theological grammar of each religious tradition.
Moment Magazine - Allan Nadler
[E]asily accessible to a wide readership. . . . [Levenson's] book is a masterful corrective to the ever more popular, pat and misleading myths that have emerged under the 'Abrahamic' banner.
New York Review of Books - Adam Kirsch
[T]he figure of Abraham has more often been a battleground than a meeting place. This is the brilliantly elaborated theme of Levenson's book, which retells the Abraham story while examining the use made of Abraham in later Jewish, Christian, and (to a lesser extent) Muslim thought.
From the Publisher
"This well-conceived, elegantly written book traces how the figure of Abraham known from Genesis came to be understood in unique ways by the later Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. While many speak of Abraham as a figure shared by these three traditions, Levenson shows how each tradition's image of Abraham reflects its own distinct theological assumptions. . . . Rather than grounding interreligious dialogue in various conceptual false cognates in hopes of finding the lowest common denominator, Levenson has led the way in showing how true interreligious understanding can be achieved only if one grasps the nuanced theological grammar of each religious tradition."—Choice

"[E]asily accessible to a wide readership. . . . [Levenson's] book is a masterful corrective to the ever more popular, pat and misleading myths that have emerged under the 'Abrahamic' banner."—Allan Nadler, Moment Magazine

"A stunning achievement that is certain to provoke debate. . . . [P]robing and compelling."—World Book Industry

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691155692
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2012
  • Series: Library of Jewish Ideas
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 364,881
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon D. Levenson is the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University. His many books include "Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life", which won the National Jewish Book Award, and "Creation and the Persistence of Evil" (Princeton).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
A Note on Transliteration from Hebrew xiii
Abbreviations xv

Introduction • Who Was (and Is) Abraham? 1

Chapter One • Call and Commission 18

Chapter Two • Frustrations and Fulfillments 36

Chapter Three • The Test 66

Chapter Four • The Rediscovery of God 113

Chapter Five • Torah or Gospel? 139

Chapter Six • One Abraham or Three? 173

Notes 215
Index of Primary Sources 235
Index of Modern Authors 243

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