The Foremothers of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity with Charlotte Gordon, Ph.D.

The war in Iraq has been called a war between the sons of Sarah and the sons of Hagar, the two wives of Abraham. Biblical scholar Charlotte Gordon has examined the story of these women in all its complexity, unraveling key elements that were lost in translations of the Old Testament. Her compelling work gives us a new perspective on Sarah’s son, Isaac, the traditional father of the Jews, and Hagar’s son, Ishmael, ancestor of Mohammad. Were their descendants destined to be eternal enemies? What does the Koran and Bible say on the matter? How can these insights inform the way we relate to the people of the Middle East today? Dr. Gordon calls on us to move beyond polarity to recognize our common ground, when she says, “So often our conflicts in the Middle East and in Afghanistan have been painted as struggles between Islam and the West. I want to shake some of my fellow Americans, and say that Abraham and the Bible that you revere and love actually originated in the land you often describe as being the land of your enemies. That’s not a useful viewpoint.” She urges us to explore the true message of the Old Testament to discover, “a language that is far more complicated, rich, and filled with love and peace as opposed to hatred.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)

Charlotte Gordon, Ph.D. received her doctorate at Boston University, and taught as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Theology. She is the author of several books, including The Woman Who Named God: Abraham’s Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths (Little, Brown & Company 2009). To learn more about the work of Charlotte Gordon go to

Topics Explored in this Dialogue:

  • How the Biblical story of Abraham and his two wives is relevant to us today
  • What evidence the Bible gives us for harmony and reconciliation between Muslims and Jews
  • How Muslims view stories of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar
  • Which bible story gives us an archetype for the dysfunctional family
  • What single element has kept Jewish tradition alive across continents and millennia