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The Abrahamic Traditions: A Story of Braided Histories

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Upper House

365 East Campus Mall

Suite 200

Madison, WI 53715

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Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were born through one man—Abraham. Knowing these traditions’ linked histories will help us better understand our fraught world.

In the book of Genesis, Abram discovers the one true God, with whom he enters into a covenant. God gives him a new name: Abraham, father of many nations. Abraham’s storied faith would become the foundation of three of the world's major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Connected by their mutual—if often exclusive—veneration of the One God that Abraham proclaimed, these traditions share much in terms of religious sentiment, but the ways that adherents construct their identity around the figure of Abraham has been a cause of misunderstanding, division, and war.

Charles L. Cohen, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will guide us into a deeper understanding of the complex past and vibrant present of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Drawing from his new entry for Oxford University Press’s celebrated Very Short Introduction series, Cohen will explore the long and braided histories of these traditions, from the emergence of Christianity and Islam, to the violence of the Crusades and the cultural exchanges of medieval Iberia, to movements of reform that have captured each.

In an age of both increasing interreligious cooperation and religious violence, exploring the linked histories of the Abrahamic traditions is essential to understanding our religiously pluralistic world. Join us for a program that will inform and, ultimately, equip us to better engage our diverse neighbors.

This event is hosted in partnership with the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry (UW-Madison), whose mission is to increase UW-Madison students’ religious literacy and their facility for communicating across boundaries of faith so that they may function effectively as citizens of a religiously diverse world.


Dr. Charles L. Cohen is E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions, Emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where he taught for 34 years. He also served as the founding director of the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions. His award-winning scholarship has included work on Puritanism, Mormonism, and various aspects of interreligious relationships. He sits on the Religious Practices Advisory Committee, Department of Corrections, State of Wisconsin.

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Upper House

365 East Campus Mall

Suite 200

Madison, WI 53715

View Map

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