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Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered as the oldest monotheistic religions of the world being practiced today. Geographically speaking all these religions originated from what is today called, the Arab world. Abraham, whose story is found in Gen. 11:27–25:10, in the Bible, can be considered the founding father for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and together they are sometimes named Abrahamic religions. According to Molloy M. (2013), history notes the timeline of Abraham around 1800 BCE, which can be considered the starting point of all these religions. According to McFarland, I. A. (2011), ‘As the recipient of the covenant of circumcision, Abraham is regarded by Jews as the first Jew; his repudiation of idolatry for the worship of the one God means that he is sometimes described as the first Muslim in Islam (though formally most Muslims would accord this honor to Adam). While Abraham has never been popularly designated as the first Christian, his significance for the theology of Paul has given him a central role in the doctrine of justification’. In the new testament of the bible, In Galatians 3 and Romans 4, St. Paul writes about Gen. 15:6 (‘and Abraham believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness’) to argue that Abraham is the prototype of those who are justified by faith, not only by the works of the law, and makes him the forefather of the gentile Christians.
As we can see all three religions believe in the common root as well as their starting point dating back to a thousand years, but there are specific points in the history that have importance for each religion. For Judaism that historical event was the destruction of the second temple of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. That led to the end of the temple based ceremonial part of the religion and caused the widespread dispersion of the Jews to the lands far away from Israel. On the timeline, the founder of Christianity, Jesus was born around 4 BCE & lived for 33 years. He was crucified around 29 CE, resurrected from the dead & ascended to heaven forty days after. According to Molloy M. (2013), the early group in Jerusalem was almost entirely Jewish. Its members kept the Jewish holy days, prayed in the Jerusalem temple and conducted their services in Aramaic. It was weak-end by the destruction of the second temple and disappeared over the next 100 years. Meanwhile, the non-Jewish branch of Christianity, led by Paul & others began to spread. Thus the destruction of the second temple of Jerusalem played an important part in the separation of Judaism & Christianity. The important milestone in the history of Islam is the birth of Muhammad around 570 BCE. He was born in what is called Saudi Arabia today. When he was 40, during a religious retreat in a cave at Mount Hira, he received his first revelation, as recorded in Quran. He shared it with his closest friends and family, particularly his wife Khadijah, his cousin Ali, and his friend Abu Bakr. These were the first Muslims, meaning people who submit to God (Allah).
Even though Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all believe in the God of Abraham, there are similarities and differences between their understandings of the nature of God. As stated by D. Jary, & J. Jary (Eds.), Collins dictionary of sociology (4th ed.), ‘According to Max Weber, Jewish have conception of the jealous God, Yahweh – ‘Thou shall have no other gods but me’ – and the notion of the ‘chosen people’. These conceptions were a response to the vulnerability of the tribes of Israel to foreign domination, problems explained by the prophets as a supreme God punishing his people for worshipping false gods’. As mentioned in our textbook, Moses lived in an age when people believed in many gods and monotheism was not the popular belief amongst Israelites. Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten unsuccessfully tried to start the monotheism by worshiping the sun god Aten that influenced the development of monotheism in Israelites. The Hebrew Bible usually calls the deity by one of two Hebrew names: Elohim (usually translated by the English word ‘God’) and YHWH, which is replaced with the word Adonai (usually translated as ‘Lord’). Judaism puts pressure on the idea of Monotheism and rejects all ideas of trinity, duality or any other forms of God. It also denounces Idol worship in every form. It is considered blasphemy to utter God’s names, and for followers of Orthodox Judaism, pronouncing any of the above names of God outside of prayer or Torah reading is also blasphemy. Interestingly, this prohibition has crept into the practice of writing God’s name in English. Many Jews will choose to write ‘G-d’ instead of ‘God’ to avoid blasphemy. As far as the relationship with Christianity and Islam is concerned, Jews don’t believe in prophets other than Jewish prophets, which include Jesus or Mohammed. They don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah and don’t believe in the teachings of Islam. They see Quran as the corruption of the message given in their own scriptures.
Compared to Judaism, Christians believe in the Holy Trinity of God. According to Flinn, F. K. (2016), ‘The Holy Trinity is one of the most fundamental, yet complex, beliefs in Christianity. It states that God is and always has been three distinct persons – Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit-who share one divine essence or substance’. As stated in our textbook, Jesus was born Jew and believed and trusted in God the same way as Jews did. He accepted the scared authority of the Law and the Prophets (described in Jewish Scripture Torah). But while Jesus thought of God as creator and sustainer of the universe, he also thought of God in a very personal way, like his father. It is Jesus’s extremely special relationship to God that is central to Christianity. According to A. P. Iannone, in the Dictionary of world philosophy, ‘The divine attributes of the Judeo-Christian God involve, most notably, omnipotence, i.e. God is all-powerful; omniscience, i.e. God is all-knowing; Omni benevolence and absolute justice, i.e. God is absolutely benevolent and just; omnipresence, i.e. God is everywhere; personhood, i.e. God is perfect; infinity, i.e. God is infinite; eternity, i.e. God is eternal; and uniqueness, i.e. God is the only God’. Christians believe in all of these but since they also believe in Holy Trinity, they believe Jesus as the mediator between Humans and this Omnipotent God. Christians believe in The New Testament as the new covenant with God in which by the sacrifice of Jesus on Cross, the debt of the original sin has been paid off. And by accepting Jesus as the savior, salvation & everlasting life can be achieved. Christians believe in Ten Commandments so they also understand the concept of blasphemy. However, it is not as strictly applied as Jews. Christians don’t believe in Idol worship but usually do prayers in front of pictures of Jesus or the cross in His remembrance. Although Christianity originated from Judaism, Christians don’t accept Jewish laws. Ritualistic Judaism doesn’t go hand in hand with the heart of Christianity which is ‘Love thy neighbor as thy self’. Christianity has also had differences with Islam. Christians do not accept Muhammad as a prophet and the Crusades in the medieval times were an unsuccessful attempt to reverse the Islamic conquest of the Arabic world and the holy places, particularly of Jerusalem.
According to Karesh, S. E., & Hurvitz, M. M. (2016), ‘of all the world’s religions, Islam is the closest theologically to Judaism, and the two share a common ancestry and many common practices as well. Both faiths espouse radical monotheism, a belief in one God who must not be depicted in any image. Both severely denounce idolatry, mandate circumcision for males, and have strict dietary laws, prohibiting the consumption of pork’. According to the book of Genesis, Abraham had two sons, Ishmael with his servant Hagar and Isaac with his wife Sarah. Ishmael became the forefather of the Arabs, including Muhammad, and Isaac became the forefather of the Jews. The two religions thus can be considered as cousins. The God of Islam, Allah, is the same as the God of the Jewish scriptures, and the sacred scripture of Islam, the Quran, contains many of the same stories with slight variations. Muslims, however, see the Quran as purification to human errors in the Jewish scripture and New Testament. It is said that Allah has ninety-nine names, among which are ‘the merciful’, ‘the Just’, and ‘the Compassionate’. These demonstrate that Allah is not just a force but has characteristics of a personal being. These attributes are called sifat. Islam doesn’t allow any pictures or Idols of Allah or Muhammad and there are severe punishments for blasphemy.
According to Campo, J. E. (2016), ‘Muslims believe that their religion is related to that of the Jews and Christians through the holy books God has revealed in human history to his prophets. As Muslims encountered new people they also used this designation for Zoroastrians of Iran, Sabians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. In terms of the sharia, the People of the Book held special legal status under Muslim rule. As the people granted protection (ahl al-dhimma, or dhimmis), they are allowed to have their own religious authorities and follow their own religious laws, as long as they paid the jizya tax, remained loyal to the state, and did not attempt to convert Muslims or otherwise undermine the religion of the state — Islam’. In modern Islam, this concept has helped in interreligious dialogues and greater cultural and religious pluralism. Particularly after the Renaissance and protestant movement, Christianity has been the religion of Love and acceptance. In the United States, Conservative Christians show solidarity with Jews and their devotion to Israel.
To conclude the essay, due to the rise of terrorism in the last decade as well as the conflict regarding the state of Israel, there has been a tense situation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Hopefully, in the years to come, young devotees of all these religions will come to understand the core teachings and help create the world peace.
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