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-sacrifice of his beloved son Isaac to a careful literary and theological analysis. But Levenson also explores how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have given unique distinctive 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. This 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.
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
"[E]xcellent. . . . Inheriting Abraham is informed throughout by Levenson's characteristically great learning. . . . [G]raceful and clear . . ."--Hillel Fradkin, Commentary
"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
Table of Contents:
A Note on Transliteration from Hebrew xiii
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
Index of Primary Sources 235
Index of Modern Authors 243
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Jon D. Levenson:
Cosponsored by the Tikvah Fund