Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam/aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam/aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages

Article excerpt

THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM: JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM. By F. E. PETERS, with a foreword by JOHN L. ESPOSITO. Princeton University Press. 312pp. $24.95.

ARISTOTLE'S CHILDREN: How CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, AND JEWS REDISCOVERED ANCIENT WISDOM AND ILLUMINATED THE MIDDLE AGES. By RICHARD E. RUBENSTEIN. Harcourt. 384pp. $15 paper.

The usual way of expressing the volatile mix that is Western Civilization is to speak of the tension between Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome (representing, respectively, Hellenic reason, monotheistic faith, and imperial drive coupled with legal uniformity). But that leaves out Islam, which is clearly intruding on the West in ever more obvious ways. Perhaps the better way to think of this volatility would be not in geographical terms of capital cities but-as these two books suggest when read in tandem with each other-as a genealogical problem: we are the children of both Abraham and Aristotle. Neither book wishes to give lessons for how to deal with the contemporary "clash of civilizations," except perhaps to stress that this clash is not so much between as within civilizations. Not that such an insight will go far in helping resolve these essentially internal tensions. Peters' book (a revision of his first book on this theme, based on twenty-five years of published work) makes especially clear how in all three monotheistic religions early moves, strategies, and interpretations proved utterly determinative for all later developments. …

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