Abraham’s Empty Altars


  • Samuel Lebens University of Haifa




 In this paper I examine the ritual life of Abraham as it is presented in the book of Genesis. Paying close attention to the language of the narrative, I try to reconstruct the evolving philosophical theology that seems to underlie the modes of worship that Abraham develops over time. Read in this light, the life of Abraham can help us to rethink the extent to which theistic religiosity requires a personal God, and the extent to which it can survive in the face of a more austere impersonal theology.


Campbell, John. 2009. “Consciousness and Reference”. In The Oxford handbook of philosophy of mind, edited by Brian P. McLaughlin, Ansgar Beckermann and Sven Walter, 648–62. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Kripke, Saul A. 1980. Naming and necessity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Lebens, Samuel. 2020. The Principles of Judaism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

— . 2021. “Is God a person? Maimonides, Crescas, and beyond”. Religious Studies: 1–27. doi:10.1017/S0034412521000299.

Mill, John S. 2002. System of Logic: Ratiocinative and Inductive. Honolulu, Hawaii: Univ. Press of the Pacific.

Mullins, Ryan T. 2020. God and Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Putnam, Hilary. 1997. “On Negative Theology”. Faith and Philosophy 14, no. 4: 407–22. doi:10.5840/faithphil199714442.

Russell, Bertrand. 1998. Problems of Philosophy. Oxford, New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Sacks, Jonathan. 2009. Covenant & Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible: Genesis: The Book of Beginnings. Jerusalem: Maggid Books.

Sarna, Nahum M. 1989. The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis. Philadelphia: JPS.

Scrutton, Anastasia. 2011. Thinking Through Feeling: God, Emotion and Passibility. New York, London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Soloveitchik, Joseph. 1997. The Lonely Man of Faith. Lanham: Jason Aronson Press.

Stump, Eleonore. 2010. Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

— . 2016. The God of the Philosophers and the God of the Bible. Milwaukee: Marquette Univ. Press.



How to Cite

Lebens, Samuel. 2021. “Abraham’s Empty Altars”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 13 (4). https://doi.org/10.24204/ejpr.2021.3730.



Research Articles