The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity & Islam
Jon D. Levenson
Princeton University Press, $29.95, 288 pp.
For years I have served on the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, an interreligious group that addresses civic issues of common concern. The council began as a coalition of Christians and Jews, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, amid racial tensions surrounding the election of Harold Washington, the city’s first African-American mayor. Soon afterward it expanded to include the Muslim community; from then on, council membership was clearly and confidently based on, and limited to, membership in one of these three “Abrahamic” faiths. Some time back, after much debate, the council decided to open its doors to the whole spectrum of religious groups, from Bahai to Hindu to Zoroastrian. It felt like a momentous step to go beyond that tight triad of faiths into the wide, wide world of everything else.
What exactly is the special bond among the three Abrahamic faiths? This is the question addressed by Jon Levenson, professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University, in Inheriting Abraham. An observant Jew as well as an astute scholar, Levenson argues that bonds among the three faiths should not be built on the false assumption that all three view...