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Inheriting Abraham:
The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Jon D. Levenson

Best Nonfiction Jewish Book of 2012, Jewish Ideas
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013

Paperback | 2014 | $19.95 | ($13.97) / £13.95 | (£9.77) | ISBN: 9780691163550
Hardcover | 2012 | $29.95 | ($20.97) / £19.95 | (£13.97) | ISBN: 9780691155692
264 pp. | 6 x 9
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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.

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).


"[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

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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

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Jon D. Levenson:


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Cosponsored by the Tikvah Fund

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