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The three “Abrahamic religions” are some of the largest and oldest religious groups in the history of mankind. In fact, Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, while Judaism is predominantly restricted to groups of Jewish ancestry.
The purpose of this paper is to provide an in-depth analysis of the differences and similarities between these three Abrahamic religions. This analysis argues that despite the differences in beliefs, the three Abrahamic religions share a common history, which therefore suggests that disparities might have arose due to differences in social aspects such as leadership, ethnicity, migrations and cultural collisions.
Analysis: comparing the three Abrahamic religions
When comparing the three Abrahamic religions, the initial point for consideration is the origin. First, historical evidence prove that Judaism is the oldest religion among the three, with the exact date of its foundation being unknown. Despite this, scholars agree that Abraham was the founder of Judaism, and consequently, the three groups are known as “Abrahamic” religions.
Islam and Christianity are historically derived from Judaism, with their dates of origin recorded as around 622 CE for Islam and c. 33 CE for Christianity (Frankforter and Spellman 58). Secondly, the three religions trace their origin in the Middle East, where historians assert that Abraham made a covenant with God in Canaan, a biblical region that was located in the area occupied by the modern states of Palestine and Israel. Islam traces its origin to Saudi Arabia, while Christianity began as an offshoot of Judaism after the death of Jesus in Palestine.
Moving away from statistical comparisons, some differences and similarities are evident between the three religions. These evidences perhaps provide some proof that the differences between them could be rooted within some cultural and social aspects. For instance, in contrast with other world religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, the three Abrahamic religions strictly emphasise on monotheism, with the ultimate reality placed on one God. God, in the three groups, has almost similar characteristics.
In Judaism, “Yahweh” is considered the only and supreme deity as described in the Old Testament (The New Jerusalem Bible Deuteronomy 6:4). Similarly, the Muslim God, Allah, exists as the only God (Quran 112:1). However, although Christianity is a monotheist religion, God is considered to exist in form of “the Holy Trinity” as the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit (The New Jerusalem Bible Mathew 28:19).
A major difference between Islam and the other two religions is found within the context of the scriptures. While both Christianity and Judaism consider the Bible as the “Holy Book”, Islam considers the Quran as the final revelation of Allah to mankind. Moreover, there is a slight difference between the Conservative Judaism and Christianity based on the fact that the non-messianic Judaists do not consider the New Testament as a holy book.
Scholars, however, indicate that both the bible and the Quran show significantly large similarities, especially in history and beliefs. For instance, these books consider Abraham as the founder of God’s people. They also provide a chronological line from Adam to Abraham and from Abraham through David and Solomon. They also argue that Adam was the founder of mankind, and that sins, perpetrated by the evil or Satan, destroyed, to a greater extent, the close relationship between man and God.
Although the three religions are monotheist, there is a common belief in other beings that are superior to man, but act as agents or servants of the deity. In both Christianity and Judaism, “angels” are the servants of God, while demons are the evil servants of Satan. This is similar in Islam, but the difference is only observed where Islam includes an additional group of spiritual beings, “the Jinn”, as servants of Allah alongside the angels.
The belief in Jesus Christ marks one of the major differences between the three religions. For instance, Christianity is strongly believed to have been founded after the death of Jesus in Palestine, despite the fact that Jesus himself is historically considered to have practised Judaism but only called for reforms. In Christianity, Jesus is considered as the second person of the Trinity, born of Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. In Islam, Jesus is considered as a prophet sent by Allah and born of Virgin Mary (Maria), but not a divine nor a god (Quran 5:17).
In Judaism, Jesus or Yeshua is considered an ordinary Jew and neither the Messiah nor a divine. While Judaism reject any ideology of Jesus as the Messiah or a divine with any relevant mission, both Christianity and Islam consider him as a prophet sent by God with a mission to reconcile God and Man. They argue that through crucifixion, Jesus served to sacrifice his life for mankind.
However, in Islam, Jesus’ mission on earth was “just”, but his gospel or ‘Injil’ has been corrupted by man, and therefore the Christian perceptions of Jesus are wrong. In addition, there is a significant difference between beliefs in the death of Jesus. While Jesus’ death, in Christianity, was through crucifixion as a sacrifice, Islam considers death as untrue because he ‘ascended’ to heaven during crucifixion.
The belief in prophets is a common factor among the three Abrahamic religions, although there is a strong belief in prophets in both Judaism and Islam than in Christianity.
For instance, in Judaism, the tradition of prophets is deeply rooted in the Old Testament, with each period and regime having a number of prophets as the servants or messengers of Yahweh. Christians also belief in the existence as well as the writings of all the prophets in the Old Testament, but Jesus was the last prophet. This is strongly rejected in both Judaism and Islam- Judaism does not consider Jesus as a prophet, while Islam considers Muhammad as the last of the true prophets.
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Aspects of belief in the “true god” in the three religions provide some evidence that they have a common origin, but cultural and ethnic differences may have caused the disparities with time. For example, the perception of human nature is relatively similar in the three groups. Human nature is considered to have equal ability to do both ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in Islam. Judaism considers human nature to be under the influence of two forces- the impulse do good and the impulse to do evil. Similarly, in Christianity, the ‘original sin’ committed by Adam is considered as the tendency to do evil.
Secondly, in all the three religions, there is belief in salvation- an option available for man to save himself from the wrath of God simply by doing what is good, believing in him and acting as his servant. Moreover, God plays an important role in salvation in all the three groups- the role of predestination, divine revelation and forgiveness. Finally, it is worth noting that the three Abraham religions belief in life after death as the final destination of man, where the ‘good’ people enjoy a ‘good afterlife’ while the ‘evil’ ones have to pay for their sins in hell.
From this analysis, it is worth noting that the three religions have a common origin as shown by both scriptures and history. Secondly, the aspects of belief are generally similar and show a common pattern. However, it is worth noting that the differences between the three groups could have resulted from differences in cultural, ethnic and geographical differences.
Frankforter, Daniel and William Spellman. The West: A Narrative History. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, 2009. Print.
Tahir-ul-Qadri, Muhammad. Minhaj-ul-Quran. London: Minhaj-ul-Quran, 2005. Print
The New Jerusalem Bible. Ed. Susan Jones. New York: Doubleday, 1985. Print.