Gregg, Robert C. “Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims”, Oxford University Press, 2015.
As I opened the package that contained this book I read the cover and wondered why no one had thought of this before. What a brilliant idea to take stories that are basically common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, religions that are considered kindred and that have ancestral heritages and monotheistic belief in common and show how the same basic story is told in each. Writer Gregg explores the early exchanges of Jews, Christians, and Muslims and tells us that their interactions “were dominated by debates over the meanings of certain stories sacred to all three communities”.
Here we see how Jewish, Christian, and Muslim interpreters (artists as well as authors) developed their own unique and particular understandings of narratives present in the two Bibles (the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible) and the Qur’an. Gregg focuses on five stories: “Cain and Abel”, “Sarah and Hagar”, “Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife”, “Jonah and the Whale”, and “Mary the Mother of Jesus”. We are then guided through the various and intentional variations of the five stories as Gregg shares the
major issues under contention and the social-intellectual through the various spirited, and sometimes combative, exchanges among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We get understanding and insight into the stories and the historical periods that affected their writing and their telling. What I really like here is that we are also privy to the artwork about as well as the writing of the stories and the moments in history that held implications for the three religions. We therefore look at the dynamics of “competition” between the religions and the current social and religious context in which they are understood.
The book provides us with extensive guides to many texts but does son in accessible ways. We get in-depth historical contexts to the differences and divides between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
The three religions each have sacred stories and some of them overlap while others compete. Gregg looks at the stories from the Abrahamic sagas with seriousness and honesty and we get the benefit of his research.
We are all aware of the conflicts between religions today and this is what really makes this study so special. This is an honest and open study and it is wonderful that we can bring together differing perspectives. This is a fascinating and provocative read and we walk away from the book feeling that we have really learned something here. Below is the
table of contents:
Part I: Cain and Abel/Qabil and Habil
Preview: Chapters 1-3 The first murder
Chapter 1: Cain’s fratricide: rabbis and other early Jewish writers judge the case
Chapter 2: Cain and Abel in Early Christian Writings and Art
Chapter 3: Muslims on “…the story of the two sons of Adam”
Comparative Summary: Cain and Abel/Qabil and Habil
Part II: Sarah and Hagar: Mothers to Three Families
Preview: Chapters 4-6 Abraham’s rival wives
Chapter 4: Sarah and Hagar: Jewish portrayals
Chapter 5: Sarah and Hagar in Christian interpretations
Chapter 6: Hagar and Ishmael, Ibrahim’s family in Mecca
Comparative Summary: Sarah and Hagar: Mothers to three families
Part III: Joseph’s Temptation by his Egyptian Master’s Wife
Preview: Chapters 7-9 Joseph/Yusuf and the Temptress
Chapter 7: Joseph and Potiphar’s wife–Jewish interpretations
Chapter 8: Joseph put to the test–Christian sermons and art
Chapter 9: Yusuf with Zulaykha
Comparative Summary: Joseph’s temptation by his Egyptian master’s wife
Part IV: Jonah the Angry Prophet
Preview: Chapters 10-12 “The one of the fish”
Chapter 10: Jonah, Nineveh, the Great Fish, and God: Jews ponder the story
Chapter 11: Jonah and Jesus: In One Story, Two.
Chapter 12: Islam’s Yunus: from anger to praise
Comparative Summary: Jonah the angry prophet
Part V: Mary, Miriam, Maryam
Preview: Chapters 13-15 Mary through three religions’ eyes
Chapter 13: Mary’s Story in Christian imagination: from Jewish maiden to ever-Virgin to Heavenly Advocate
Chapter 14: Miriam, mother of Yeshu the false messiah: Jewish counter-stories
Chapter 15: Islam’s Maryam: “chosen…above the women of the worlds”
Comparative Summary: Mary, Miriam, Maryam