In 2014 the Islamic State destroyed the Mosul mosque in Iraq reputed to contain the tomb of the prophet Yunus, whom Christians know as Jonah. Some Westerners saw this act as a blow against any surviving vestige of Chris­tianity in the region, but of course Jonah is also venerated by Jews and Muslims. Like many other patriarchs and proph­ets, he is part of the common heritage of all three faiths, although these figures are imagined differently.

Even when holy men and women are portrayed in sacred scriptures, the texts are subject to constant commentary and interpretation, which subtly or not so subtly changes the significance of the various characters. In turn, these fluid interpretations have a profound effect on popular belief and devotion, and commonly on artistic representations. Com­mentaries, then, are no mere appendices or optional extras, but rather an integral part of the wider story of faith, and of faiths.

The patristic scholar Robert C. Gregg illustrates the role of biblical interpretation by tracing five scriptural stories as they were later understood by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim commentators: the stories of Cain and Abel, Sarah and Hagar, Jonah, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, and the Virgin Mary. Although any number of examples could have been chosen, this collection has the virtue of including three stories focused chiefly or substantially on female characters.