Customer Reviews: The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths
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on July 25, 2009
This is an absolutely wonderfully researched historical study book. It is not a historical fiction story. It is written in a thesis/dissertation manner with careful references to how the 3 different religions have viewed the relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. I discovered many things that I didn't realize about them and by "humanizing" them, Ms Gordon has brought to mind many emotional points that makes one ponder. Like, how did Sarai really feel about being offered to the Pharaoh. Was Hagar a member of Pharaoh's family or an Egyptian serving girl? Did Sarah ever regret sending Hagar out of the camp? Did Abraham? How have the different religions treated the relevence of God's prophecy during the night of the animal sacrifice. She has studied the different books of the Bible, Torah, and Koran as well as the many articles that have become part of the religions over the centuries. I found it well written, thought provoking, and being a woman, I was also pleased that someone took the time to investigate their relationship from a woman's point of view. Although it is about Sarah and Hagar and their relationship with Abraham, there are also chapters devoted to only Abraham and how his actions and experiences helped or hindered his relationship with his family and followers. Because it left me wanting to go off and explore some of the points for myself, I give this 4 stars.
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on July 28, 2009
Charlotte Gordon has performed a great service with this remarkable scholarly analysis of the tragic love story at the heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Her sensitivity to what the figures of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar mean to believers in these great faiths is matched with her fearless scholarship. Ms. Gordon makes the ancient scriptural tale of Hagar and Ishmael's exile into the desert gripping and real for modern readers. And her willingness to go back to original sources to challenge dogmatic views of this sacred story is refreshing and sorely needed at a time when faith is too often mixed with fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism. As a practicing Muslim, I was delighted by her fair and compassionate portrayal of Hagar, the ancestral matriarch of Islam, and was grateful to see how respectful she was of the example that Hagar provides for modern times, both as a strong woman and as a symbol of human freedom and dignity. And Ms. Gordon's analysis of the deeply complex personalities of Abraham and Sarah make these holy figures accessible and believable to modern readers. She takes away the "idolatry of perfection" that has often veiled these scriptural figures from believers and makes them flesh-and-blood human beings who share our passions, flaws, fears and hopes. Abraham and his wives and children become living examples for us today, rather than plastic saints with no relevance to our personal moral struggles in our daily lives. "The Woman Who Named God" provides a much-needed examination of an archetypal story which defines the identities of billions of human beings, and I hope the both believers and non-believers will read this book and learn why the story of Abraham and his family still matters today.
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on July 29, 2009
If you're interested by the history of religion and what's behind it, this is your book. What's amazing about this book is that it's made a lot of theological and historical scholarship really fascinating and compelling, a story that I couldn't stop reading. There's also a wonderful women's perspective on what's often been an all-male story. I'd recommend this book to anyone, and I already have. I feel like I know the situation of the present-day Middle East better because I read this.
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on April 23, 2012
This is a very academic review of the story of Sarai/Sarah, Abram/Abraham, and Hagar. The author does not draw her own conclusions about the story or fictionalize it - rather she discusses the story arch by mentioning the various ways that each event is viewed according to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish texts. Very thorough research. The only thing that misled me was that this story is presented as being about the story of Hagar, but spends very little time discussing her life outside of the Bible story. I was interested in discovering more about her life before and after she lived with Abram/Abraham, but this was not discusses at length.

What this book is not:
1. A fictionalized, light-weight story: Rather, the author discusses different possibilities for how those involved might have felt. She also brings together well-known and obscure texts to give the reader an idea of what may have occurred.
2. Focused primarily on Hager: This book devotes only a few chapters to Hagar - the majority of the book discusses Abram and Sarai.
3. A definitive, final answer on the truth: The author presents various opinions and the reasons why these opinions have developed. She does not discuss why one might be more accurate than another.

What this is:
1. An extremely interesting read: The writing is very good and does not distract at all from the pleasure of reading. It is academic, but it written in an easy-to-read manner.
2. Very informative: This book gives a good background on how these figures play into the three religions that branched off from their story: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Also, as I mentioned, the book often discusses more obscure texts and stories so that the reader is really able to try to figure out for themselves what may have happened.
3. Very well researched: I feel that the author did a significant amount of research and was very familiar with the topic.
4. A great starting point: This author made me want to explore some of the stories and ideas she presented.

I highly recommend this book to understand this important story from various points of view.
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on December 30, 2009
The beginning of the book alone is worth the price of admission!
I have been reading the Bible and teaching Sunday School for many years and found the research and interpretation to be excellent. This is a crucial time and set of stories in the history of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Oral and written traditions from all three faiths are carefully explained, then combined to render thoughtful and fascinating interpretations of individual words and stories that make up the similarities and subtle differences between the faiths. All this may sound very "heavy," but the stories and reflections are done so well that the book is very readable and enjoyable. I recommend it highly and hope it will make you think about religion and the Bible in new ways.
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on August 19, 2009
As a Christian and as a teacher who has taught about the semitic religions, I thought I knew the story of Hagar and her legacy in her son Ishmael, however, I realized after reading this book that my knowledge was only surface. This is a fantastic read for anyone interested in reading not just about women of the bible, but of women in history. The author has done a wonderful job gathering her information and telling the story of Hagar's life that will leave you wondering why this book hadn't been written before this.
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on August 13, 2009
Charlotte Gordon brings the biblical history of Abraham, into modern-day language that we can all understand. She shows how the three great faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam had their beginning from the loins of Abraham. I met strong-willed women within the pages, who seemed to have God's ear, far more than a weak-willed and indecisive Abram/Abraham. The book contains stories within stories, written succinctly and with clever insight. She pulls back a veil as over a murky mirror, to reveal the clarity of the passions and emotions hidden behind the stark and musty words of the tales as told in the Bible.
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VINE VOICEon December 20, 2009
Summary: A close reading of the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and the sons who would go on to found two great peoples.

I knew the basic story of Abraham (chosen man of God, fathers a child with Hagar and then finally fathers Isaac with his wife Sarah despite their advanced ages; Hagar and Ishmael are sent out into the desert; God calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but then spares him; Isaac continues the line with Jacob and God's chosen people) but this book adds so much more.

First it examines the story from the perspectives of scholars from all three major monotheistic faiths as they all trace their lineage back to Abraham. This shows the different interpretations and implications on each religion and highlights in particular the struggle between Jews and Muslims. I also appreciated the overall message which is striving for peace among the three faiths through the examination of commonalities and how God seemed to set out particular places for each and there is no need for argument.

Unfortunately sometimes I felt it dragged a bit as EVERY part of the story is examined thoroughly. I've felt that way during extended Bible Study times so this is nothing new for me but some parts were really exciting while others were less so. I think it would depend on your interests.

Overall: 3.5/5 Sometimes dry, but still interesting for me and has a good message.
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on December 8, 2011
This book completes my library of books about Hagar and Sarai. It is a great resource, and one I will turn to in-depth study of the times, and peoples of the earliest women from the Book of Genesis. I recommend it for those who love well researched study aids...
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on August 16, 2014
Now this is worth reading. A close examination of the complexities of family life and servanthood in ancient times. The comparison and use of additional scripture from other sources is revealing and enlightening.
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