THE SUBJECT OF THIS BOOK is the biblical narratives about Abraham and their appropriation into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with the major emphasis falling on the Jewish material. It is a subject on which I have lectured for more than three decades, not only in my own classrooms but also in colleges, universities, seminaries, conferences, synagogues, churches, clergy associations, and interreligious gatherings too numerous to list here. I am thankful not only to those who have hosted me but also to all those who have sharpened and expanded my thinking with their questions and suggestions. The students at Harvard who have taken the seminars I have offered on various aspects of the subject over the years have, needless to say, helped me greatly. My one regret in this connection is the number of topics addressed in those seminars (such as Abraham as apocalyptic seer and as culture hero) that could not receive proper treatment in a book with the comparative focus and limitations of length of this one.
A number of scholars read all or parts of my manuscript at various stages or otherwise responded graciously and learnedly to my inquiries. I owe special thanks to Ellen Birnbaum, Diana Lobel, Kevin Madigan, Laura Nasrallah, David Powers, Michael Pregill, Bernard Septimus, Suzanne Smith, and Andrew Teeter. I must also thank the two anonymous readers whom Princeton University Press engaged for helping me avoid some mistakes and misstatements. Needless to say, I alone am responsible for the errors that remain.
Two expert editors were also of invaluable assistance. Neal Kozodoy, the creator of the Library of Jewish Ideas, was enormously helpful to me at every stage; the beneficial effects of his renowned editorial acumen can be seen throughout the book. Fred Appel of Princeton University Press also proved consistently helpful and accommodating, as did three other individuals associated with the Press, Sarah David, Beth Clevenger, and my expert copyeditor, Cathy Slovensky.