Judaism is an ancient and the oldest religion, and it is believed that, it is the mother of Christianity and Islam. The three religions share the some few common roots and numerous common elements based on the so-called Abrahamic religious heritage. They are monotheistic, in that they believe there is only one Supreme Being. However, Jews and Muslims always place emphasis on the oneness of God as well as unity. The unity of God in Christianity is misunderstood in some cases, based on the that one God is triune (Holy Trinity) (Nwigwe para 7). The holy trinity in Christianity is comprised of three parts, which are father, son and Holy Spirit presenting the complexity of the holy trinity and not a denial of monotheism, the existence of only one God.
In all the three religions, their description and relationship with God is similar, but there is various distinct believes in each religion’s view of God. Additionally, there are various core religious features that make each religion different from each other based on various practices in each religion. For example, each religion has its own believe system and different holy book and each religion does not agree with those differing from their faith. The three religions also observe different holy festivals and rituals and worship in distinct places of worship (Catherwood 54). This paper seeks to explore each of the three religions believe system exploring the similarities and differences displayed are distinguished features of these religions.
Based on the fact that these three religions share some common aspect of their origin, there are various significant similarities among them. However, there are numerous significant differences that substantially differentiate each from the other. Based on their origin, they are collectively known as Abrahamic religions since their history is traced back on the covenant made by God to Abraham in the Hebrew Bible.
Similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam
These religions share the same background and origin in the Hebrew Bible and hence their reference as Abrahamic religions. Therefore, there is a significant relationship in the similarities of their practices, believe system and common roots. The three religions are monotheistic religions, but they their theism differ significantly especially Christianity theism. Both Judaism and Islam practice strict theism believing in oneness and unity of God while Christians practice Trinitarian theism. However, the ultimate reality in all the three religions is that there is only one God (Byrne 67). In all the three religions, there is a belief that there are other spiritual beings such as angels and demons.
The three religions also share a common believe that God is the source and origin of everything that exists in the world. Therefore, the three religions share a common believe in that God is the creator of the world and all that is within the world. Additionally, there is a common belief in the three religions that God is a caring God, and he desires the well being of the people he created. God is also perceived and believed to be just and the source of guidance providing the rules ensuring that people remain righteous and good according to his intention. In the three religions, God is believed to be merciful and provides grace, which give people strength to be more of what they ought to be in God’s eyes (Paterson 76).
In the three religions, there is a common belief and understanding about human beings as the highest creatures of God’s creation. They share a common believe in a common root as the children of Abraham. According to the three religions, human beings were created full of mystery, which means that human beings have potential of growth beyond measure. In this mystery, human beings have been both good and evil. However, when human beings persist in good actions, righteousness and love they become more of what God wanted them to be. If human beings use their freedom and to cause harm to others and the environment, they go against God’s plans (Nwigwe para 6). As children of Abraham, the three religions believe that God helps people to turn from evil obey, glorify and devote to God.
The three Abrahamic religions believe in human beings divine encounter, which enables human beings to communicate with God, as well as each other. There are various ways in which God communicates with people, but the most profound in the three religions is through the prophets using revelations. The holy books in the three religions record the revelations of the prophets, but the scriptures in the three religions differ. In each of the three religions, they do not lay emphasis on a single set of writing and key scripture in Judaism is the Torah, Christianity is based on the Bible and Islam on Quran (Bunzl 87). The people supposed to read and listen to God’s Holy word and in response pray, praise and accept God’s commandments based on their lifestyles.
God is the source guidance providing the basic rules of life guiding people’s behavior and people should apply their rationality in applying these rules in every day’s life. For example, they abhor murder and arbitrary killing of innocent people, ensure justice and enforce what is right and true. Therefore, the three religions believe in the dignity of all people especially those of people, not in a position to help themselves like widows, orphans and the poor. Therefore, people should submit themselves into the will of God, foster modesty and moderation while promoting honesty (Catherwood 16). In all the three religions, there is a good manifestation of how people should present themselves living a dignified life and being of service to others.The three religions are descendants of prophet Abraham and follow the basic ten commandments.
They also practice similar ritual worships such as fasting, praying and alms although each of the three practice these rituals differently. They believe in life after death and a resurrection day where people will be accorded a second life, which will be eternal. They share a common belief in the patriarchs of the Hebrew Bible such as Abraham and Moses. Although they share different prophets, it is essential to note that these prophets call to the worship of the same God and full submission to the supreme being. In all the three religions, there are revered humans, who oversee the teaching of the word of God, but their title differs in each (Byrne 33). For example, in Islam there are prophets and Imams especially in Shia Islams, in Judaism there prophets while, in Christianity, there are saints and reverends.
It is worth noting that there are some cases where two religions share a common belief and practice but is disputed by the other religion. For example, the belief about Jesus is an important aspect in both Christianity and Islam, but he was not relevant in Judaism. For example, Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, but his message has been corrupted and Christians believe that Jesus was a son of God and came to save the world. On the other hand, Jews perceive Jesus as a false prophet and do not believe that he was born of a virgin while Islam and Christianity acknowledge that he was born of a virgin. Muslims and Christians also believe in the second coming of Jesus while Jews disputed and denied the second coming of Jesus (Paterson 43). However, they share a common believe of after life eternal hell, although the views of Jews in reference to after life differ. Therefore, one conclusively state that the three religions are highly interrelated with numerous similarities in terms of the beliefs, practices and common root. Based on the fact that they share a common root hence reference as Abrahamic religions they have numerous common features as stated and illustrated.
Differences between Judaism Christianity and Islam
Although the three religions share numerous common beliefs practices and common root, there are numerous differences, which explains the hostility in these religions. Additionally, there has been an increased proselytization in these religions although the practice was abandoned by Jews early during the Christian era. However, their closeness has made them bitterly competitive. Each of the religions holds some belief that it has some essential truth about God, the world and other religions have failed to recognize these truths. For example, there is a common belief among Muslims and Christians that Judaism has failed to and stubbornly refused to acknowledge later revelations that modify and update initial truths. On the other hand, Muslims and Jews accuse Christians of practicing idolatry in their claim that God’s son in the form of God walked in human form on earth (Bunzl 28).
In refuting Islam, both Christianity and Judaism argue that prophet Muhammad was not given any special and final revelation by God. Therefore, despite numerous commonalities between each of these religions there exists deep fundamental heresies. This has led to hostilities between these religions, and the splits in each have caused their followers to turn against each other. For example, there has been numerous cases where Muslims have turned against Christians and vice versa (Nwigwe para 10). Some of these religions in different regions enforce the truth of their religions through the use of force. However, this has been most prevalent in the mainstream religions mostly Christianity and Islam.
Additionally, there has been increased politicization of religion as the development of each religion depended on political support. Therefore, the truths of each religion were reinforced by power. The differences in these religions are based on different platforms such as origin and practices. For example, the name Christianity originated from a Greek word Christos, which means anointed and was used to refer to Jesus Christ. Islam stems from an Arabic meaning submission also related to word Salaam, which means peace in Arabic while Judaism is from a Hebrew word Judah. Each of the religions has different groups sharing common beliefs on different platforms with differing practices. For example, in Christianity there are three divisions, which include Orthodox, Protestants and the Roman Catholic. Islam has two divisions, which are Sunni and Shia, which were based on the division that occurred in the succession fights of the prophet Muhammad (Byrne 67). However, there is a mystical movement in Islam referred to as Sufi. Judaism has various divisions, which include Hasidic, conservative and reform Judaism.
While Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ, Islam was founded by the prophet Muhammad and Judaism was founded by Abraham. Although each of the religions has holy books they differ where the Christians use the Bible, whose authors were inspired by God. The Muslims holy book is the holy Quran or Koran, which Muslims believe is a recitation received by prophet Muhammad. They also believe that it was the final revelation given by Allah to mankind (Paterson 44). The Hebrews have several holy books, but the basic book is the Tanakh, which is similar to the old testament in the Christian bible and the Torah comprising of Hebrew laws and prophets’ writings.
Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God and came to reconcile man with God through his crucifixion. Christians believe that Jesus was crucified as a sacrifice for the sins of humankind. Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet sent by Allah to proclaim the gospel, but the gospel has been altered and corrupted by human beings over the cause of history. On the other hand, Jews deny the notion of Jesus Christ and refer to him as a common Jew without any divinity. They do not believe that he was the messiah and according to them the mission of Jesus did not have any relevance. Christians believe that the crucifixion of Jesus was for the sake of their sins while Muslim belief he was jot crucified but raised to heaven by Allah (Catherwood 45). Jews believe that the crucifixion of Jesus was due to his claim of being a messiah and divine.
Although each of the religions practice rituals, they differ in each of the religions. For example, Christians have the sacraments that include baptism and holy communion. However, there are some other rituals in different divisions such as Roman Catholic rituals are different from those of the Orthodox. Islam has five major rituals, which are referred to as the pillars of Islam, which are Shahadah, the profession of faith, Salat, which are prayers held five times in a day, Zakat, Sawm fasting in the holy month and Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Meca the Holy city. Judaic rituals include the circumcision of newborn males and the Sabbath day (Paterson 81). The religions also differ on salvation Christians believing that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ while Jews and Muslims believe that salvation is achieved through good works.
In conclusion, the three mainstream global religions are highly interrelated based on their common root and elements. For example, they share a common origin hence their reference as Abrahamic religions. The three religions share common believes in the story of creation and believes in one God although Christian theism is more complex as compared to that of Judaism and Islam. They also share in the value system of humanity such as respect for life and God as the source of guidance. However, there are significant differences, which have been a source hostility among these religions. For example, the story of Jesus creates issues of contentions as each religion holds differing belief.
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Byrne, Máire. The Names of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: A Basis for Interfaith Dialogue. Maynooth: Continuum, 2011.
Catherwood, Christopher. A God Divided: Understanding the Differences Between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Sidney: David C Cook, 2007.
Nwigwe, Ify. "Understanding the Relationship between Christianity, Judaism and Islam." 20 August 2010 . 4 October 2013 <http://www.helium.com/items/565798-understanding-the-relationship-between-christianity-judaism-and-islam>.
Paterson, Andrea C. An Analysis and Brief History of the Three Great Monotheistic Faiths Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Florida: Xulon Press, 2004.