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THE WOMAN WHO NAMED GOD by Charlotte Gordon


Abraham’s Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths

by Charlotte Gordon

Pub Date: July 28th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-316-11474-5
Publisher: Little, Brown

Literary study of the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.

Gordon (English/Endicott Coll.; Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America’s First Poet, 2005, etc.) makes it clear that her book is not another theological or historical excavation of ancient texts. “This book,” she writes, “proffers an exploration of the stories that have been passed down to us as stories.” Considering the texts as a set of important, intriguing stories, the author provides a refreshing viewpoint unconcerned with critical minutiae of authorship or theological reverberations. Gordon focuses on the roles of Sarah and Hagar, Abraham’s wife and concubine, and mothers to two great nations. Acknowledging the short shrift given these two remarkable women, the author provides a closer examination of their roles. Gordon moves slowly, sometimes a bit laboriously, through the brief story of Abraham’s life, beginning with his decision to leave his homeland and finishing with his death. Referencing passages from the Koran, the author provides readers with points of reference as to the importance of the story to all three monotheistic traditions. Gordon’s major contribution is the chapter on Hagar’s encounter with God in the wilderness, at which point Hagar “names” Him. The author points out that “no one had ever invented their own [name for God], and no one else ever would.” She goes on to posit that Hagar’s description of God as one “who sees me” is a major basis for the theology and morality of all three Abrahamic traditions. The author speculates at length on periods of “silence” in the text. Given the paucity of detail provided by scripture, much of this discussion borders on conjecture. Nonetheless, Gordon adds something new to an already full body of scholarship on Abraham.

Fresh take on an old topic.