Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths

by Bruce S. Feiler

Book, 2004



Call number

008 FEI


New York : Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, c2004.


In this timely, provocative, and uplifting journey, the bestselling author of Walking the Bible searches for the man at the heart of the world's three monotheistic religions -- and today's deadliest conflicts. At a moment when the world is asking, “Can the religions get along?” one figure stands out as the shared ancestor of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. One man holds the key to our deepest fears -- and our possible reconciliation. Abraham. Bruce Feiler set out on a personal quest to better understand our common patriarch. Traveling in war zones, climbing through caves and ancient shrines, and sitting down with the world's leading religious minds, Feiler uncovers fascinating, little-known details of the man who defines faith for half the world. Both immediate and timeless, Abraham is a powerful, universal story, the first-ever interfaith portrait of the man God chose to be his partner. Thoughtful and inspiring, it offers a rare vision of hope that will redefine what we think about our neighbors, our future, and ourselves.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member dogrover
Feiler presents a well-researched, but ultimately flawed examination into the continual re-interpretation of the great patriarch.Following his desire to understand his heritage of belief, Feiler visits Jerusalem, the well-spring of monotheism, speaking with the clergy of each tradition: Judaism,
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Christianity, and Islam.His discussion of Judaism is sympathetic but aloof, as if he cannot quite reconcile the fact that generations of his ancestors took it as seriously as they did. Towards Christianity, he is hostile and bitter, though he does try to strike a conciliatory note or two. His deference towards (nearly awe of) the Islamic cleric he interviewed evokes Stockholm syndrome. While the book is exactly what it claims to be, the subjective nature of Feiler's personal journey undermines much of the straight-forward research that sometimes gives the appearance of objective journalism.Interesting, with some genuinely educational parts.
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LibraryThing member libraryclerk
Feiler helped me understand how Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are connected through Abraham and how each one perceives him through their anscetrial background.
LibraryThing member orangemami
Very thought provoking book. Makes a curious mind-more curious.
LibraryThing member StoutHearted
The world's three major religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - have many major differences that cause conflict all over the world. But the three are united in their devotion to Abraham, the folk hero of 4000 years ago who predates all the modern religions, but is claimed by each as their
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Feiler travels to the volatile Middle East to the land where Abraham once walked to get a better understanding of the influential figure. Along the way, he talks to followers of the three different religions in order to grasp a better understanding of Abraham, and ultimately to wonder if through their love of Abraham, can their ever be peace among dissenters?

There are some amazing revelations along the way. For one, Jews and Christians agree that Ishmael was the son to be sacrificed by Abraham, while Muslims insist that it is Ishmael. Also, Abraham himself was largely forgotten after his time until a revival designed to reignite the Jewish faith after the destruction of the Second Temple.

The book confronts the animosity among the different religions, but in a gingerly way, pleading for peace and understanding. Flaws in each belief are exposed, but Muslims in particular come off partcualrily harsh when the chosen representative of Islam in an interview with the author gives a defense of suicide bombers. This is explained away as the unfortunate current representation of Islam today, saying that the hope for this religion lies in its Western believers, who live in more peaceful areas. I don't know if that's patronizing or naive. That the author, and many others, can maintain a positive hope for understanding is very heartening after being confronted with some disturbing views.
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
"The great patriarch of the Hebrew Bible is also the spiritual forefather of the New Testament and the grand holy architect of the Koran. Abraham is the shared ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is the linchpin of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He is the centerpiece of the battle between
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the West and Islamic extremists. He is the father - in many cases, the purported biological father - of 12 million Jews, 2 billion Christians, and I billion Muslims around the world. He is history's first monotheist."
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LibraryThing member skinglist
an interesting book that I enjoyed reading while in Israel. Some of my favorite aspects:

*I liked the setting during the December holy days, highlighting the intersection of the three faiths in Jerusalem

*Re the Western Wall/Temple Mount/Mount of Olives - "The defining spiritual fact of Jerusalem is
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this: Any panorama, any camera angle, any genuflection that encompassses one of these holy places will necessarily inlude at least one of the others." To me that is the fabulous aspect of Jerusalem - this intersection, how it all weaves together.

I'm largely unfamiliar with the Old Testament so most of this was new to me. Some of it touched on things I'd recently seen - the Dead Sea Scrolls in NYC, and a drive near Qumran en route to MAsada and the Dead Sea. While I enjoyed this situational read, I don't think it was as good as some of Feiler's other works.
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LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
In this short work, Feiler reviews the Biblical story of Abraham and then describes how the myth of Abraham has changed over time and between the Abrahamic religions. It is well-written and interesting, and its length is well-suited for the amount of information Feiler wishes to convey. (There were
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no lengthy speculations in order to add bulk!) I enjoyed it and learned a little bit, too!
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LibraryThing member foreyer
I found this book interesting because it gets down to where the three major faiths around 'God' (Jewish, Islam, and Christianity) split. I always thought that the 2 brother Isaac (Jewish faith) and Ishmael (Islam) should be serving the same God and know why the went their separate ways according to
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God. But it is interesting to see how people from these 3 faiths try to work it out. One says that Isaac was the favored son and the other says Ishmael is the favored son. Of course Christians went the way of Isaac because Jesus came from that lineage. I'm 3/4 done with the book.
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LibraryThing member maryreinert
This is certainly an interesting read and an easy one. I thought the author did an excellent job of providing three points of view from the three major faiths that each claim Abraham. More importantly, he provided an insight to the factthat Abraham is a different person to each of the faiths, or
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that he is a composite of many individuals, or questions if he actually existed at all. The end notes, questions, and readings provided at the end were helpful.

The only reason I didn't give this a 5 star was a note of flippancy that I detected some time. Spending paragraph space on why Hollywood hasn't depicted Abraham, referring to the average individual as "joe sixpack", and some what I would call "cute" phrasing seemed to take away from the significance of the book. This is definitely not a reference for someone working on a doctorate in theology, but it does provide a good overview for those of us who just want to "get an idea" of who Abraham was and the often conflicting views of his story.

Lastly, the appeal for understanding between the faiths is commendable, but it seems to provide a feel of "grasping at straws." Sadly, however, that may be about all we have to even begin to bring an end to the huge chasm between the three faiths.
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LibraryThing member trav
Feiler does a good job of stacking up opposing beliefs in this book. I was amazed at how many warring people around the world read the exact same stories, about the exact same people, doing the exact same things, but intreoret the stories differently. As in "night and day" difference.

You probably
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are familiar with all of the subject matter in the book, but Feiler presents a refreshing voice and view of the topics.
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LibraryThing member mattaponimammy
Didn't hold my interest as much as Walking the Bible, but interesting take on Abraham's influence on 3 faiths.
LibraryThing member justine
A good book about an interfaith journey, but not as interesting as Walking the Bible or as inspiring as Where God Was Born
LibraryThing member raizel
Some quotes:
"The silent one [Abraham] finally speaks, and his first words to God are words of desperation, even doubt." (p. 63, about being still childless)

"Sarah 'afflicts' Hagar, the text says, using the same words later invoked to describe how the Israelites are treated by the pharaohs in Egypt,
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and Hagar responds the same way, by fleeing into the desert The place Hagar goes---the wilderness of Shur---is the exact same place the Israelites go immediately after crossing the Red Sea. Again the Bible is sending subtle message. All God's children are afflicted in some way. And when they are, God looks after them." (p. 65)

Hanan Eschel (spelled Eshel on Wikipedia) was an archeologist who did important work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is among the many people Feiler interviewed for this book and he said, during a discussion: "If you ask me, it's a question of modesty. . . . Some people read the text and they suffer from a lack of modesty. They really believe they have all the answers. . . . If you're modest, you'll probably understand the text better, and there's much less chance that you'll do awful things in the name of God." Having just read Josephine Tey's The Singing Sands , I was struck by how similar this was to her character's theory that criminals suffer from "pathological vanity".
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LibraryThing member Sara_Cat
In this book, Feiler explores who Abraham is from the perspective of the 3 religions that trace themselves back to him: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He does by connecting his travels in the Middle East to talk with various people about Abraham to his mental journey to try and define
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Except for the very end of the book, it does not feel like a religious text, but more of an exploration to understand these religions and the impact of how they choose to define Abraham and various points in history changed how they interacted with each other as time went on. Though, especially in the second to last chapter Feiler is clear that he doesn't feel any of these religions is above the other, he has conviction that God - at least in some form - exists.
While the book is written simply - but not in a dumbed down way, but more in a way to makes it accessible to non-experts - but at the same time, it feels to be aimed about readers who already have had exposure to these religions, whether because of practiced faith or because of previous study. Also, Feiler's American view does sometimes come through and at moments feel 'American-centric.' Though, it does feel like he is trying to write to be more inclusive.
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LibraryThing member saintbedefg
This provocative book looks at the role Abraham plays in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, both as a force for unity and division. While not everyone will agree with the author's conclusions, it is a valuable study of contemporary issues JAN

Original publication date



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