The Family of Abraham: An Exploration of Familial Relationships and Ethical Dilemmas in the Biblical Story of Abraham.

Plan Author

  • Michael McIvor, 2014

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: What Will Suffice: American Literature in the 20th Century
  • Course: Early Modern Political Thought
  • Course: Introduction to the Comparative Study of Religion
  • Tutorial: Abraham in Latin

Project Description

A paper exploring perspectives on Abraham’s story with special emphasis on Rabbinic writings.

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

    • Nathan Margalit, Mount Holyoke College


This Plan is an exploration of familial relationships and ethical dilemmas in the biblical story of Abraham, including a translation of Genesis from the Latin Vulgate Bible into English—from the birth of Abraham to his death. It includes a paper on the family of Abraham and another in the inter-religious interpretation of his story in contemporary literature. The former paper is an effort to understand Abraham and the source of his lasting influence. It engages the numerous, perplexing ethical problems imbedded within each verse of the Biblical story, by exploring existing, well established perspectives as well as developing personal perspectives on these same questions. It asks: if there are lessons to be gleaned from these ethical problems—and conventional wisdom within all the religions of Semitic Monotheism suggests that there are—what are they?


“Many of the moral problems posed within the Abraham myths are massive, ethical dilemmas, often grounded in less than admirable human behavior, and discouraging of emulation. They are problems which at first reading, and in the absence of dedicated and devoted scrutiny, can easily appear to be in direct conflict with traditional religious interpretations of what constitutes right, or proper, moral behavior; and which frankly, often serve to make Abraham look like a cruel and cowardly man, and hardly a likely figurehead around which to build three hugely influential religions.”

“For Jews and Christians, Abraham’s story begins in Genesis, Chapter 11. This is the same chapter of the Bible which records the story of the Tower of Babel, where God confounds the language of mankind, and ‘the Lord did scatter them abroad upon the face of the Earth.’ Every effort should be made to seek a long-term solution to the conflicts which exist between cultures and religions of all kinds, not just those between the religions of Semitic monotheism—it is all-right for them to be different, and to seek their paths to God in their own ways. Perhaps that’s the message of the Tower of Babel. Should Klinghoffer, Feiler, or Levenson aspire to write any more books about Abraham’s inter-faith role in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, they might consider consulting sura 3:64 in the Qur’an first: Say, ‘People of the Book, let us arrive at a statement that is common to us all: we worship God alone, we ascribe no partner to Him, and none of us takes others than God as lords.'”


What I remember most is sleeping in Woodard building. While I realized that I was probably biting off more than I could chew, that made me happy. Because I knew that I had been given a great but finite opportunity here, and that if I left feeling like I had left very much on the table, I would regret not having bitten off more.