Readers' Guide: Abraham by Bruce Feiler

Abraham- A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths

by: Bruce Feiler

Guide Created By: Harold Arnold
Discussion Leader(s): Ella Gibbons & Harold Arnold
Read our archived discussion of this book

Guide Description

Book cover for Abraham The story of three faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, interpreting their common patriarch, Abraham, each in its own way to serve its own purpose and the consequence today and for the future.

Plot Synopsis

The subject of this short 220-page book is the Patriarch Abraham and his influence today as the common ancestor of three faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.The author, Bruce Feiler, tells his story through a series of interviews with religious leaders of the three faiths, noted historians and archaeologists, and ordinary people including an old Jewish merchant in Jerusalem and his Israeli Arab taxi driver. The account that unfolds is largely a tragic one of how each of the three faiths, through the process of interpretation and reinterpretation of the ancient oral Abrahamic legends, have claimed Abraham as their own exclusive property leading to present inter-faith conditions of mistrust, violence, terrorism, and war. It is only at the end of the book after a visit to the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs that followed an interview with a Muslim leader who saw in the common ancestor, Abraham, the possible grounds for eventual reconciliation, that Feiler is able to conclude with a faint hope of a future peaceful settlement of the conflict with respectful inter-faith understanding and coexistence.

From the expressed opinions of the half dozen or more very active participants in this discussion, the greatest criticism of the book was its brevity and absence of more specific detail. Though these participants required more detail that they found from other, extra-book sources including the Internet, this defect would not be noticed by the more general reader looking for a timely brief overview of the causes and prospects for the outcome of a generally well recognized problem. The book as it stands is judged well suited for this purpose.

Biography of the Author

For biographical information about Bruce Feiler and information about his other books, the Meet the Writer site includes links to a biographical sketch, interviews, and other information about Bruce Feiler.

Bibliography of Author's works

Information on Bruce Feiler's other books is available from the Meet the Writer site above.

Critical Reviews

CNN.Com/Entertainment. Dec 20, 2002


Some pertinent questions raised by the book and considered in the discussion:

1. What are the sources showing the actual historical existence of the Patriarch Abraham?

2. Today how is the concept of the Abraham of Jews, Christians, and Muslims different?

3. Has the fact that each of the three faiths has a materially different interpretation of Abraham been a material factor affecting the development of present day conflicts?

4. Did Feiler provide sufficient factual detail in his short overview writing for readers to adequately understand the events and problems being described?

5. Did you like Feiler's writing style of introducing each phase of the subject with the chatty interviews with religious leaders, historians and archaeologists, and everyday people such as the old Jerusalem merchants and his Israeli Arab taxi driver, or could this space have been better used for more factual details?

6. After the reading of the book and the experience of the discussion are you more or less optimistic regarding the chances for a future mutually respectful acceptance and coexistence between Abraham's children- Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Interesting Information

Bible Maps: Abraham's Journey, 2000 BCE

Jewish Traditions Relating to Abraham

Sources of the Qu'ran

Holy Land Pictures

Dome of the Rock-Instrument

Dome of the Rock- Picture


Sacred Text Timeline

The Caves of Macheplah

The Desert Fathers