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Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths Paperback – August 2, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 170 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At a time when conflicts among three of the world's major religions--Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--are in the global spotlight, Bruce Feiler offers a stunning biography of the one man who unites all three religions: Abraham. "The most mesmerizing story of Abraham's life--his offering a son to God--plays a pivotal role in the holiest week of the Christian year, at Easter," writes Feiler. "The story is recited at the start of the holiest fortnight in Judaism, on Rosh Hashanah. The episode inspires the holiest day in Islam, 'Id al-Adha,' the Feast of the Sacrifice, at the climax of the Pilgrimage. And yet the religions can't even agree on which son he tried to kill." Herein lies the irony and perfection of Feiler's timing. As we struggle to find a path to peace among these three religions, all warring in Jerusalem, near the stone where Abraham brought his son for sacrifice, this captivating biography speaks to Abraham as the metaphor he is: the historically elusive man who embodies three religions, a character who has shape-shifted over the millennia to serve the clashing goals and dogma of each religion.

Anyone seeking to understand the roots of tension in the Middle East need look no further than the final half of this book, where Feiler interprets the meaning of Abraham as seen through the prism of each religion. Surprisingly, the book is as entertaining as it is thoughtful: Feiler is a masterful writer with a warm, humorous voice, a dazzling way with metaphors, and an underlying intelligence that comes through in every passage. Abraham deserves the highest of recommendations. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Feiler, who penned last year's bestseller Walking the Bible, once again offers a winning combination of history, travel and spiritual memoir. Arguing that Abraham, the purported "father" of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, "holds the breadth of the past and perhaps the dimensions of the future in his life story," Feiler sets out to recover Abraham as he is portrayed in all three religions. The book's first half addresses what the Bible and Koran say about Abraham, his call to monotheism, and his sons Isaac and Ishmael. Particularly fascinating are Feiler's discussions of how the three religious traditions invented stories about Abraham to supplement the rather skeletal canonical version and even borrowed these stories from one another, as when Muslim traditions about Abraham and Ishmael began appearing in eighth-century Jewish commentaries. The second half very poignantly delves into each faith tradition and discusses how the Abraham narratives relate to contemporary religious and political conflicts. No one writes description quite like Feiler. His claim, for example, that "the Holy Sepulcher is to a church what Picasso is to a portrait a cubist vision of fractured beauty" is an arresting and perfectly imagined analogy, and he mellifluously depicts the Arabic language as "flowing, evolved, [and] sculpted, like a dune." More important than Feiler's masterful wordsmithing is his passionate engagement of the subject matter. Italics are everywhere, yet they don't feel overused; Feiler has a keen sense of what is at stake when these three religions claim Abraham as their father. This is a joy to read.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060838663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060838669
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom VINE VOICE on January 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After having enjoyed Bruce Feiler's previous book, "Walking the Bible," I was a bit skeptical when I heard about this one. He had already covered the journey of Abraham in the first book, so what more could he add with a sequel? It wasn't until I heard him talk about Abraham on National Public Radio that I realized this book is not another travelogue. It's a chronicle of Feiler's own inner journey to understand the connections among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam through their common father, Abraham.
As Feiler tells us in this book, the sedrah portion he studied for his own Bar Mitzvah was "Lech lecha," the section of the Torah which deals with God's call to Abraham to leave his home and go to a place that God would show him. It is said that one's Bar Mitzvah portion is forever connected with one's personal destiny. This is certainly true in Feiler's case. His lifelong fascination with Abraham has led him to write a very interesting and thought-provoking book.
Don't expect this to be a scholarly study. It's not. In fact, there are some glaring historical inaccuracies. For example, Feiler credits the "Essene" Qumran community with "starting" the tradition of midrash (Jewish hermeneutics). Apparently he's not up on recent Dead Sea Scroll scholarship, because it is now seriously questioned whether (A) the Qumran community was Essene and (B) whether the scrolls in question came from Qumran or a Jerusalem library that was hidden at the time of the Roman siege. At any rate, midrash did not begin at Qumran. (He also confuses midrash with the Mishnah at one point...)
I'm sure that Muslim and Christian readers will find similar errors -- but that's not the point of the book.
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Format: Paperback
How do you write a 226-page book covering someone whom we have very little historical knowledge about? Put a lot of space between the lines, and fill in the gaps with long, superfluous descriptions of what the weather was like the day you were doing your research, and you can stretch it out to 226 pages. Yes, the content of this book is quite thin, stretched out to needless length. But fortunately, it's an easy read, so it goes fast even though you do have to wade through some of those verbose setting-the-mood descriptions.

I ended up reading this book through a book group discussion. I work at a Fortune 500 company that has a diversity committee, like most big corporations, but usually such groups tend to focus only on race, gender, and sexual orientation issues. At my company, they also include other types of diversity, such as generational differences and religion. This book was a perfect choice for such an environment because Abraham is an important figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, so people of all three of these major world religions could find something in the book for them.

I found it quite interesting how the three religions have developed views of Abraham that are quite divergent, even though they all have the same historical writing about just a few incidents in his life. The most surprising view to me was the Jewish interpretation of Abraham in the Middle Ages, which according to this author, had become similar to Christ: "Abraham had become a savior, a celestial figure who embodies divinity on earth, represents humans in the afterlife, and contains, in the deeds of his life, the scripture of God's intention.
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Format: Hardcover
With the current political climate continuing to build up heat and tension, religion is playing a significant role in the politics of the world today. In an ironic twist, that some would say proves the existence of a God with a sense of irony, three of the world's major religions (and the 3 most involved in the middle east tensions of today) all claim some fountainhead with one man - Abraham. The interesting part of the story is how three worlds could work with the same man and his family, and mold that into the image that would best suit each religion's needs and agenda. This is what I found most interesting about the book - how a sketchy story in the distant past could be used and interpreted to certain ends in order to help religion develop. Some other reviewers have quibbled with Feiler's interpretations of interpretations, but overall he does a credible job in exploring the stories and the major faiths involved. He approaches each of the faith with a skeptical eye, looking to understand how and why such interpretations worked out. He even turns the questioning eye to his own Jewish faith and the development of Abraham into the father figure he is. Like in his "Walking the Bible," Feiler starts off in Israel, looking to find the pieces of the Bible that he can see, and touch. But quickly he realizes that instead of physical locations and objects, for the most part the story of Abraham resides not in the land but in the stories, and the hearts of the faithful. He is engaging in less of a journey through history as he is a journey through the hearts and minds of those who came before. Hardly the last word on the topic of Abraham, but a good introduction and exploration of the issues involved. An interesting and very accessible book.
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