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Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths Paperback – 1 Aug 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (USA); 1st Harper Perennial Ed edition (1 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060838663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060838669
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A fascinating exploration of the story of Abraham, who is at the heart of three faiths - Jewish, Christian and Muslim --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Bruce Feiler is the author of Walking the Bible (Piatkus 2001), which the Washington Post described as "an instant classic", and became an international bestseller. He has written for the New Yorker, Washington Post, and Traveller magazine. A native of Savannah, Georgia, he lives in New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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THEY START WALKING just after dawn. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
Author Bruce Feiler again takes his readers on an enchanting journey into the Biblical past. In "Abraham: A Journey To The Heart Of Three Faiths" he studies the role of Abraham as reflected in the traditions and scriptures of the three great monotheistic faiths which claim to be his children, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The map for this journey is drawn from the Old and New Testaments as well as the Koran. For anyone with a less than a thorough immersion into these scriptures, this book will be very educational. It certainly brought new concepts to my mind. Coming from a Christian background, I had always thought that it was clear that Abraham had taken his son Isaac to sacrifice, but that, at the urging of angel, Isaac was saved. Feiler introduces the traditions that it was Ishmael who was to be sacrificed and that the one was offered was actually killed. This is just one example of the traditions brought out which broaden ones understanding of these ancient works.

Perhaps the greatest gift of this work is an enhanced appreciation of the crucial role that Abraham plays in the history of civilization. Abraham's great gift was the realization that there is only one God. This we share with our Jewish and Moslem brethren. It boggles the mind to think that this ancient wanderer has played such a role in the history of our world and in our own lives as well. I finished this journey in awe of this man. This, alone, makes the journey worthwhile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By singlereed on 25 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am still working my way through this and am enjoying it immensely. Abraham is a conundrum - only a little is actually said about him in the Bible and the three main monotheistic faiths all see him as a key person in their history. However, many stories and myths have been told about him over time which have embellished the truth, often to serve the interests of whichever group seeks to claim him for their own, on an exclusive basis. Feiler is a sympatyhetic and intelligent writer and I am looking forward to reading some of his other work.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on 9 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Author Bruce Feiler has written an excellent, concise and accessible book about a religious figure that is unique. "Abraham", is both the title and the subject of the author's exploration of the significance that three major religions place so much emphasis on. Abraham is central to the beliefs of the Muslims, Christians and the Jews. They share custodianship over critical religious sites, agree on much and unfortunately disagree on enough that the modern world uses Abraham and the various interpretations of his life and actions to justify conduct that is at times atrocious.
Mr. Feiler meets with very senior members of the three faiths that are mentioned, whether here in The United States, or in one of the more active shooting galleries of the world, Hebron. As the book begins and progresses I was left wondering at how much commonality existed and the centuries it has been in place. How could these three faiths that are daily portrayed as expressing hatred for one another have a common denominator in Abraham? Unfortunately as the book continued and the author spoke with persons closer and closer to the physical locations associated with Abraham, the thoughts of those he met very often, though not always, became familiar and accepting of violence.
The majority of the people the writer meet with share no hatred toward other faiths; they are as unlikely to become a human bomb as any other person. He does speak with a few who either live where they are routinely shit at and share beliefs that are not hard to understand, or he meets with others who clearly accept random violence as something God approves of.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on 2 Sept. 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful Sunday school book, an easy breezy amble through the origins of three great modern religions that's as comforting as a back rub and about as useful as a placebo.
Early in the book, Feiler stumbles across a relevant fact that might have produced a great book had he cared to pursue the idea; primarily, that to succeed Abraham "must leave his native land and his father's house." In other words, grow up, go out on your own, and accept personal responsibility for what happens on this earth. It's an idea expressed in Genesis XII; Abraham understands what God has told him, Feiler treats God's gift of individualism to Abraham as a Club Med travelogue.
For tribal people, before the time of Abraham and still valid for those who need the comfort of group-think, identity is defined by the clan, tribe, cult or ideology. Abraham is the first to endorse the idea of individual identity, not in terms of personal hedonism and irresponsibility but as responsible to God for the basis of a moral life. It's an idea that has yet to be widely adopted; "born again" fundamentalists of many faiths believe they can do whatever they like because they "accept" God or Jesus or Allah who forgives them all their sins. It reflects the modern attitude, "Jesus paid for our sins, so let's get our money's worth."
This contrast between mass identity and personal individualism has been often explored; a classic example is "Escape from Freedom" in which Eric Fromm says people who cannot live with freedom will invariably turn to fundamentalism of some kind. The fault with the three great religions Feiler portrays as having grown from Abraham is not their common origin, but the fundamental fanaticism of modern followers who willingly submit to totalitarian faiths.
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245 of 257 people found the following review helpful
More than just another sequel.... 28 Jan. 2003
By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom - Published on Amazon.com
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. Feiler is exploring how the three religions have viewed Abraham in various periods of their history, and how those perspectives have changed over the centuries. What he seeks is a way to bring the three monotheistic religions together in a productive dialogue where they can meet as equals on the common ground of sharing their origins in Father Abraham. He presents us with an Abraham that we can relate to at the beginning of the 21st century. That's the heart of the book; all the rest is commentary.
Regarding that commentary, the book is a bit lopsided when it comes to Jewish POVs. Feiler never identifies what kind of Jew he is, but I looked up his childhood synagogue, Mickve Israel in Atlanta, Georgia, and it's listed as "America's Oldest Reform congregation." Nothing wrong with that -- except that I suspect he carries a common Reform prejudice against Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. He never interviews any -- except for a token Hasidic boy who just happens to be at the Western Wall. The Jews he does interview are all academic scholars and "modernized" rabbis. On the other hand, he goes out of his way to talk to top leaders in the very traditional Christian and Muslim communities. He seems fascinated with their colorful clerical garb; perhaps the plain black clothing of the Hasidic Rebbes was not as exotic?
There is also a certain flippancy about the way Feiler describes the relationship between God and Abraham, as well as his own relationship with the stories. I realize that he is writing for the general public, and is probably giving voice to the "skeptic" POV for the benefit of his readers. Still, the fact that he is Jewish and has not included the POV of the more traditional (and respectful) branches of Judaism leaves the reader with the wrong impression that all Jews are as irreverant as he sometimes is. Muslim and Christian readers should be aware of this, i.e., that Feiler's reactions are his own, and do not represent the POVs of all Jews. Within Judaism there is a vast diversity of views, the same as with any other group.
When he can set his academic skepticism aside, Feiler's prose soars and inspires. At times it reaches the level of poetry. I get the feeling that this is the real Bruce Feiler, the sincere seeker who, like so many Reform Jews I've met, feels he must show a "scientific" face to the world but who, deep down inside, is a really a mystic on a quest. Like all such quests, it is the process of the pilgrimage that transforms the person, not the facts he encounters along the way. Read from this perspective, this book is indeed a fascinating journey.
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
An interesting quick read 2 Oct. 2006
By J Lee Harshbarger - Published on Amazon.com
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. The Jewish notion of Abraham had become remarkably similar to the Christian notion of Jesus, in which Christ is the logos, the word and the law." He also states this view of the period: "Abraham may not have died at all; worms did not destroy his body once it was placed in the ground."

Overall, the author's take is that these religions have made the meaning of Abraham's life into whatever the religions needed to make him important to their beliefs. It certainly was interesting to see how the interpretation of Abraham's life has changed throughout time and by each religion. If you'd like an easy read about three religions' views of Abraham, this book can be a good overview.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
When Faiths Collide 8 Feb. 2003
By J. J. Kwashnak - Published on Amazon.com
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.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, thought-provoking but hardly accurate 27 Jan. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the book thoroughly but was disturbed by Feiler's tendency to make sweeping statements without giving any authority for them. Certainly many of his statements about Christianity are incorrect. For example, he mentions in passing that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah. This is not true. Among many other things, Jesus purported to forgive sin (which only God can do), claimed that He has always existed and will come to judge the world at the end of time. His teachings pointed to Himself ("I am the bread of life", "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father", "I am the Light of the World," etc.) rather than away from Himself and toward God. Feiler also discribes Paul as "not formally educated." The common understanding among Christians is that Paul was highly educated, born into a family of Pharisees (the most rigorous observers of ancient Jewish law), was sent to Jerusalem at a young age to study under the great rabbi Gamaliel where he surpassed his contemporaries in religious knowledge and practice. If there is authority for the statement that Paul wasn't formally educated, Fieler doesn't give it to us.
75 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Very refined study. 22 Sept. 2002
By Mark Ellingson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
To study Abraham as such is absolutely enlightening concerning the three directions. In a completely unbiased approach I am convinced from this book Abraham would be shocked himself at the various interpretations, especially Islam and the one major holiday they celebrate over his ultimate offering God had asked him for. This is a book that you should find a quiet place to read, it is easy to read but demands complete attention as details grow. A very educational work, from the time of Abraham to current faith. A must have if you are a believer or an Atheist. I wish to recommend a book that carries on from here in a very similar theme but with Moses and Christ, title is SB: 1 or God by Karl Mark Maddox
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