Tag Archives: abraham

What I’m Reading

I try and read a lot of books, though I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. While not all of the books are related to my religion studies, a good number are and I’d like to share them with you.

Abraham, by Bruce Feiler

Dorie gave me this book as a present and I’m very glad she did. The “biography” of Abraham presented here is very well done and elaborates greatly on the way the patriarch is seen by the three faiths that revere him (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and even how those viewpoints have changed over time. What I most enjoyed was the ways that the different faiths see Abraham as a father rather than as a patriarch. In Islam, for example, he tells of stories (in the Koran?) where Abraham visits Ishmael after he is cast out, but because he can’t visit properly he has to remain on his horse the entire time. (Are there even any horses in the Torah? I can’t recall any; it seemed mostly as if everyone walked places.) Another example story, from Judaism, suggests that Isaac was actually killed by Abraham and God brought him back to life after a few days, sort of as a proto-Jesus. In all, an outstanding read, even though it makes me mourn that all of the great Abraham sites are difficult to get in to modern Israel/Palestine.

Bible: The Story of the King James Version, by Gordon Campbell

I admit that I love the first half of this book much more than the second. The origins of the KJV, starting from the politics and difficulties of the first English bibles, to the challenges in putting together the final text, and then the numerous revisions which led to the standard version we have today are really what I am interested in and this book delivers on that in spades. After that, there’s a lot of discussion on how later movements used to work, the printing history, etc. The brief notes on how the Latter-Day Saints movement patterned their own works off of the speech patterns and text in the KJV, or how some protestant movements are adopting the text of the KJV (which version? ah… don’t ask that) as itself inspired by God are nice, but I have to admit I reread the first chapters instead of finishing the book.

And finally, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, by David Klinghoffer

I haven’t finished this yet; Dorie just have it to me for Hanukkah. The first chapters though are excellent, if you can overlook the fact that the author is a little more disparaging to both Judaism and Christianity than I might like. What I am enjoying most is the great research the author has done on Judaism circa 27 AD which puts Jesus into context with his contemporaries. While I’ve heard some of that before, he puts it all together in a way that I find appealing. There’s a lot more minefields the author needs to wade through to do this topic justice and I’m looking forward to finishing it just to see if he makes it to the end without injury.

Lech-lecha – Abraham’s New Covenant (snip-snip)

We end Lech-Lecha on some really high notes. I was feeling for a while that the bible’s authors would be taking Abram down a peg, but I have clearly misremembered so far. As it stands, Genesis 17 ends with Abram’s head held high, he wins favor for his first son, a promise of a second son, and he only had to cut off the tip of his penis to get it! Sounds like a bargain to me.

Let’s think on that. This IS a bargain, isn’t it? Not in the sense that it’s inexpensive, but this is the third repetition of the Abraham covenant (from Genesis chapters 12 and 15), but the first that clearly stipulates that there is a cost associated. In Genesis 12, Abram’s condition was that he leave Haran and his father and journey to Canaan. In Genesis 15, God doesn’t require any conditions at all. (If anything, Abram is bargaining some conditions with God.)

More after the break.

Continue reading Lech-lecha – Abraham’s New Covenant (snip-snip)

Lech-Lecha – Three’s a Crowd

After spending the last several chapters lifting up Sarai and Abraham, the bible then takes a very surprising turn. Sarai is a woman that was clearly one of the most beautiful of her age. Abram is a fantastic warrior-king and strategist who goes to war against impossible odds to save his kinsmen. But we discover something new: Sarai is jealous and abusive and Abram is a whipped man.

More after the break…

Continue reading Lech-Lecha – Three’s a Crowd

Lech-Lecha – A Covenant for Land

Hidden away between the stories of Abram’s battle prowess and his home-life woes is one of the most significant passages of the Abraham story: when God grants to Abram and his descendants the territory that will become Israel. It’s a great story of doubt and renewed faith, though it does involve the ritual slaughter of numerous innocent animals.

The story goes like this:

Continue reading Lech-Lecha – A Covenant for Land

Lech-Lecha – Abram: Warrior-King of Canaan

I think I’m beginning to understand what Genesis is doing in these first few narratives about Abram: they are demonstrating that God’s decision to select his family was correct. Not only does he have an insanely beautiful wife – a woman that could clearly sail a thousand ships, if only there were ships in the deserts of Canaan – but he’s also a master warrior with a deep sense of family and clan loyalty.

The next section of the narrative depicts Abram – somewhat oddly, relative to the nomadic way that he was presented so far – as something of a masterful warrior, perhaps even a warrior king. And it does so by discussing his role in what amounted to the closest thing Genesis has to a World War.

The story goes something like this:

Continue reading Lech-Lecha – Abram: Warrior-King of Canaan

Lech-Lecha – Abram Who?

Abram may be one of the most important men in three religions, but the text of the Torah says surprisingly little about him.

We know, first of all, that he is 75 when God spoke to him and commanded him to go forth to Israel. We don’t know whether God spoke to him prior to that time; if He did, it wasn’t documented. We know that his father was Terah, a man who lived to a ripe old age of 205. We also know that it was Terah, not Abram, who started the march of his family from Ur to Canaan, but they stopped part-way, in Haran. Could it be that God also spoke to Terah and commanded him on his march? Could it be that the reason Abram received his call is because Terah gave up and didn’t complete the journey. The bible, of course, doesn’t say.

Continue reading Lech-Lecha – Abram Who?

Lech-Lecha – Go! Go! Go!

I’m now unapologetically behind: there’s just more to learn in each portion than you can possibly learn in a week. So at this point, I will continue at my own pace and see where I get. With luck, I’ll catch up to the calendar once we get out of the dense stories of Genesis and into the long legal tractates. Not very likely, but why not dream?

This portion, only the third one, is notable for the introduction of the First Family of Judaism (and the other Abrahamic religions): Abram, his wife Sarai, her maid Hagar, his nephew Lot, and his first son Ishmael. But more importantly than that, the title of this portion is the first reference to the undisputed focus of the Torah: Israel.

Continue reading Lech-Lecha – Go! Go! Go!