This is an interesting book that looks at the common patriarch of the 3 major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity & Islam. First Feiler goes through and talks about Abraham, what we know, what we don’t, then he starts talking about “all the different Abrahams” that we have. Put another way, each religion, and indeed, each time period, tends to ascribe different characteristics to Abraham and apporpriate him for various things. He spends a lot of time talking about the relationship between Isaac and Ishmael and Abraham, and how that’s viewed through the different lenses, as well as the divide between Hagar (Ishmael’s mother) and Sarah (Isaac’s). The most interesting comparisons for me were of the story in which God calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac — how in some readings, it’s viewed as God’s test of Abraham’s faith, in other’s it’s viewed as Abraham testing God, and in yet others, the reading is that Abraham actually did kill Isaac, but Isaac came back to life.
I found this book much easier to read than Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, but of course not as deep. I found intersting his focus on how we all interpret historical figures in general, and on how Abraham is an almost perfect vessel for this.
Good book. I’ll try to read Armstrong’s The Battle for God next, although I’m having some trouble with the form and substance of her writing these days. (Just too esoteric & contextualized.)