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Dissertation on Comparative Religion

This is extract from dissertation on comparative religion:

From the time when they began, religions and the differences between religions have provoked a majority of all of the conflicts that have occurred throughout history. Since 1095, when the Crusades began, until today a clash between Christianity and Islam has existed (Curry 38). And, both religions, at various points in their histories, have harbored prejudices against Judaism. It is impossible to answer why man cannot live in peace with his fellow man but it is possible to discuss the similarities and differences between these two monotheistic religions and the Jewish origin that they share. Jesus was a devout Jew and lived a Jewish lifestyle, teaching Jewish concepts. Christianity, therefore, has Judaism imbedded in it. Mohammed was raised in a city that was predominately Jewish and Christian. He adopted both sacred texts, the old and new testaments, to develop Islam. Despite the inter-religious conflicts throughout history, Christianity and Islam, through the influence of Judaism on each one’s founders, were originally derived from Judaism. These two major religions are monotheistic, incorporate Jewish texts and ideas into their own teachings, and otherwise have few fundamental differences from Judaism; they are both simply variations of it.

Judaism’s unique idea of only one God, called monotheism, echoes in the basis’s of today’s two most populous religions of the world. When Judaism began, about fifty-six thousand years ago, it was the only religion of its kind, surrounded by the polytheistic religions in Mesopotamia. Today monotheistic religions make up approximately 52% of the world’s population (Britannica 275). Christians and Muslims share this core belief in only one God. “Abraham and his monotheism was a model for Jesus and his early Christian disciples, and much later, Mohammed and his Muslim followers (“Abraham Journey of Faith” 12).” The proclamation of monotheism is contained in the central prayer of Judaism, called the Sh’ma. The Sh’ma states that “the Lord is our God, the Lord is One (Eastman 273).” Muslim’s, in their confession of faith, recite the Shahadah. Correspondingly, the Shahadah says that “there is not God but God (Eastman 403).” Similarly, Christians believe in a holy trinity in which “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” are one God to be praised. The Apostle Matthew declared that “No one can serve two masters … be devoted to the one,” only God (Matthew 24). These three religions are unique. Each polytheistic religion has a different set of Gods from any other polytheistic religion. The Gods of the Hindus are very different from those of the ancient Greeks. On the contrary, the Qur’an confirms that Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as they share a monotheistic belief, all praise the same God (Qur’an 3:3). God, Adonai, and Allah are one and the same. Followers of Christianity and Islam adhere to the second commandment, in which God says “Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20, 2).”

The Jewish sacred text, referred to as the Old Testament, is considered part of the Christian and Islamic texts. In the words of G.A. Smith: “That from which [Jesus] proved the divinity of his mission and the age long preparation for his coming must always have a principal place in his argument for him (Eiselen 10).” Accordingly, Christians cannot forsake “that which was used by the redeemer himself for sustenance of his own soul (Eiselen 10)”. Jesus’ inspirations and spiritual fulfillment lie within the writings of the Old Testament (Eiselen 10). According to Matthew, the teachings of Jesus are not meant to change or better Judaism, but rather to add to the truth of Mosaic Law (Matthew 9). Because Jesus taught and lived by the Torah, its teachings are solidly integrated into Christian philosophies. Many Christian prayers, taken from the gospels, are Jewish prayers that Jesus recites. One example of this is the Beatitudes which bears significant resemblance to the erev Shabbat prayer, Elu Divarim, both tell to visit the sick, console the bereaved, celebrate with bride and groom, etc. (Matthew 5). The Haftarah, book of prophets, contains the book of Isaiah. In this book the prophet discusses the concept of the coming of the Messiah to save the Jews. Lines from the book of Isaiah are quoted often in the gospels, proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus being the Messiah is the basis of Christianity; it has a very Jewish concept as its thesis. Jesus proclaims his mission in the gospels of Matthew, when he states, “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill and enforce the law [teachings of the Old Testament] (Matthew 5).”

Likewise, Muslims accept both the Gospels and the Torah as true. They say that the Qur’an only confirms their truth (Qur’an 3:3). Muslims revere all of the Jewish prophets and Jesus as well as Mohammed (“The Holy Books” 52). The Qur’an incorporates many Jewish texts and ideas like in chapter, or sura, 17, entitled “Bani Israeli,” which means Children of Israel, the Ten Commandments are stated. Also Islam commands its followers to rest, study, and pray on the Sabbath day (Qur’an 62:9, 10). Judaism mandates the same, to rest, study, and pray on the Sabbath day, for God, after he created the world rested on the seventh day (Exodus 20, 27). Muslims have high regard especially for the book of Genesis, because they view Abraham as their patriarch as well (Abraham Journey of Faith 2). In fact, Abraham’s name is mentioned in 25 of the 114 suras, or chapters, in the Qur’an (Abraham Journey of Faith 10). In Genesis, Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, was from his slave girl, Hagar. Muslims believe that they are all descendants from Ishmael and have named him an apostle and a prophet (Abraham Journey of Faith 9, 10). Even in Genesis, God said to Abraham, “Through Isaac shall your seed be acclaimed. But the slave girl’s son (Ishmael), too, I will make a nation, for he is your seed (Abraham Journey of Faith 11). Other parts of Jewish texts are retold in the Qur’an like the story of Abraham almost sacrificing his son. However, Muslims believe that Ishmael was the son to be sacrificed (Qur’an 37:102-112). Both the Bible and the Qur’an include many stories and teachings from the Old Testament. Therefore, both religions incorporate their father religion into their own.

Jesus and Mohammed, as founders of their respective religions, had large amount of Jewish influence in their lives. Hence, historically these two religions evolved out of Judaism. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Israel, a city less than five miles south of Jerusalem, about two thousand years ago. In Nazareth, a town in northern Israel where Jesus was raised, he became a rabbi and taught the Jewish faith (Matthew 10). In fact, never in Jesus’ life did he intend to create a separate religion from Judaism (Eller 231). Only after his death did Paul of Tarsus create the separate entity of Christianity “based on their memories of Jesus (Eller 231). These memories became the New Testament, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Therefore, Christianity, in its origin, “must be considered a Jewish phenomenon (Eller 211).” Christianity was developed by Paul in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew; The New Testament teaches the teachings of Jesus, who taught the teachings of the Torah or Old Testament. Therefore, “[Christianity] grew out of Judaism (Eller 31).”

Separately, Mohammed was not Jewish himself, but in the early stages of his life he “was surrounded by Jewish and Christian communities (Abraham Journey of Faith 10).” Muslims believe that Mohammed gained the inspiration for Islam from the angel Gabriel in his revelations. If one casts aside the religious beliefs, from a historical point of view, Mohammed received his inspirations for the creation of Islam via the local Jews. According to Jewish educator, Leonard Lesnever, Mohammed, when he was young, ran a trading shop in Arabia. He spoke often with the Jews who were merchants that would come into his shop, as he was very intrigued by their religion. At the time Arabia was a chaotic region crime and immoralities were rampant. Mohammed tried to change that by creating a religion that implemented the peaceful and ethical teachings of the Jews (Lesnever).

Christianity and Islam have very hardly any elemental discrepancies from Judaism, the religion of their patriarch, Abraham. Of Judaism, Christianity and Islam share the belief in one God and they teach many of the same texts and concepts. Christians and Muslims accept the Old Testament as part of their own holy scriptures. Historically, the establishers of each religion, Jesus, as he was a Jew himself, and Muhammed, as he was surrounded by Judaism, had Jewish basis’s from which each constructed his own version of Judaism. The one most important, originally Jewish concept, which is shared by all three of these religions, is a famous saying of Rabbi Hillel. He, quite simply said, “What is hateful unto you, do not do unto your neighbor. The rest is just commentary (Eastman 261).”


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