Inheriting Abrahamby JON D. LEVENSON
Jews, Christians, and Muslims supposedly share a common religious heritage in the patriarch Abraham, and the idea that he should serve only as a source of unity among the three traditions has become widespread in both scholarly and popular circles.
by Jon D. Levenson
Princeton University Press
214 pp. $29.95
Jews, Christians, and Muslims supposedly share a common religious heritage in the patriarch Abraham, and the idea that he should serve only as a source of unity among the three traditions has become widespread in both scholarly and popular circles. Inheriting Abraham boldly challenges this view, demonstrating Abraham's distinctive role in each tradition, while delineating the points of connection as well. In this sweeping and provocative book, Jon Levenson subjects the powerful story in Genesis of Abraham's calling, his experience in Canaan and Egypt, and his near-sacrifce of his beloved son Isaac to a careful literary and theological analysis. But Levenson also explores how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have given unique interpretations to these narratives, often reimagining Abraham and his life in mutually exclusive ways. Historically, the three traditions have differed sharply over what Abraham's life foreshadows, how the Abrahamic community is constituted and sustained, and what practices the patriarch's example authorizes. In these disputes, Levenson finds illuminating signs of profound and enduring theological divergences alongside the commonalities.
A stunning achievement that is certain to provoke debate, Inheriting Abraham traces how each community has come to revere Abraham as an exemplar of its own distinctive spiritual teachings and practices. His probing and compelling book also reveals how the increasingly conventional notion of the three equally "Abrahamic" religions derives from a dangerous misunderstanding of key biblical and Qur'anic texts, fails to do full justice to any of the traditions, and is often biased against Judaism in subtle and pernicious ways.
Featured in Jewish Ideas Daily's 2012: A Year in Books as the "best Jewish book in each category this past year."
Inheriting Abraham is available for purchase here.
The Library of Jewish Ideas is a book series sponsored by the Tikvah Fund in collaboration with Princeton University Press. The purpose of this multi-volume series is to present concise, engaging, and authoritative treatments of core Jewish concepts in a form that will be at once useful to students, of interest to professionals, and appealing to general readers curious about what Judaism has to say in key areas of human thought and experience.
Written by recognized scholars, the series will offer crisply comprehensive guides to the Jewish understanding of such "abstract" themes as Time, Justice, Love, and Law, and of such specifically Jewish themes as Chosenness, Sabbath, Zion, and the like.
- » Jewish Ideas Daily: Inheriting Abraham
- » Publishers Weekly: Princeton University Press Launches Library of Jewish Ideas
- » Chronicle of Higher Education: To Each, His Abraham
- » National Post: Three religions, Three Abrahams (book excerpt)
by Ruth R. Wisse
Princeton University Press
256 pp. $24.95
—Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
"Inheriting Abraham is an eye-opening and compelling read…"
—R.W.L. Moberly, Durham University
"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