The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations

The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations

by Carol Bakhos


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The term "Abrahamic religions" has gained considerable currency in both scholarly and ecumenical circles as a way of referring to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In The Family of Abraham, Carol Bakhos steps back from this convention to ask a frequently overlooked question: What, in fact, is Abrahamic about these three faiths? Exploring diverse stories and interpretations relating to the portrayal of Abraham, she reveals how he is venerated in these different scriptural traditions and how scriptural narratives have been pressed into service for nonreligious purposes.

Grounding her study in a close examination of ancient Jewish textual practices, primarily midrash, as well as medieval Muslim Stories of the Prophets and the writings of the early Church Fathers, Bakhos demonstrates that ancient and early-medieval readers often embellished the image of Abraham and his family--Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac. Her analysis dismantles pernicious misrepresentations of Abraham's firstborn son, Ishmael, and provocatively challenges contemporary references to Judaism and Islam as sibling religions.

As Bakhos points out, an uncritical adoption of the term "Abrahamic religions" not only blinds us to the diverse interpretations and traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam but also artificially separates these faiths from their historical contexts. In correcting mistaken assumptions about the narrative and theological significance of Abraham, The Family of Abraham sheds new light on key figures of three world religions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674050839
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/16/2014
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Carol Bakhos is Associate Professor of Late Antique Judaism at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration ix

Introduction 1

1 Scriptures and Interpreters 15

2 The Biblical and Qur'anic Abraham 51

3 The First Monotheist 80

4 The Wives of Abraham 106

5 Sibling Rivals 137

6 Firstborn Son 154

7 The Sacrifice of Isaac and Ishmael 190

Conclusion 214

Notes 221

Acknowledgments 275

Index 277

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