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

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

Hardback Library of Jewish Ideas

By (author) Jon D. Levenson

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 264 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 236mm x 25mm | 590g
  • Publication date: 30 September 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691155690
  • ISBN 13: 9780691155692
  • Sales rank: 298,236

Product description

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. But in Inheriting Abraham, Jon Levenson 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.

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Author information

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).

Review quote

Best Nonfiction Jewish Book of 2012, Jewish Ideas Daily.com One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013 "[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."--Adam Kirsch, New York Review of Books "Levenson, a well-known biblical studies scholar and professor of Jewish studies at Harvard, makes a contrarian argument against those who would oversimplify the differences between the three religions that claim Abraham as a seminal figure... Educated general readers interested in biblical studies may be awed by how closely Levenson reads the text."--Publishers Weekly "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."--Christian Century "[A] learned, lucid and luminous examination of the distinctive character of Abraham."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Jerusalem Post "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."--Tauseef Ahmad Parray, Islam and Muslim Societies "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, Jewish Review of Books "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."--D.G. Myers, Jewish Ideas Daily "[E]xcellent... Inheriting Abraham is informed throughout by Levenson's characteristically great learning... [G]raceful and clear ..."--Hillel Fradkin, Commentary "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."--Donald Senior, Commonweal "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

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"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" "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" "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"

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