The Abrahamic Religions

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A single prophet is considered the “father” of several religions that have more than 3.5 billion adherents just a few thousand years later. It is one of the more impressive trees ever created.

Abraham is credited with being the patriarch of several religions in the world, which are practiced by more than half of the world’s population. While three of them are considered the three major worldwide religions and are considered as having the same starting point, they have become very different from each other in specific ways. However, their general monotheistic tenets are a unifying force among them. We’ll take a quick look at the major Abrahamic religions in the world and discuss basic tenets of each one, in chronological order of their establishment.

Judaism

Started in the seventh century B.C. (it was tribal in nature among the Israelites before this), Judaism may be the religion most directly tied to Abraham, as his descendants Isaac and Jacob are considered the “fathers” of the organized orthodox Jewish faith.  Abraham was considered one of the early monotheists of the day, as the idea of only one God was a quaint but foreign theology at the time, with many societies taking on many gods or no god at all.

Adherents of the Jewish faith not only believe in a single God, but they also believe that God is the originator of moral law by which adherents are expected to live (based on the Ten Commandments in the Bible and the Torah, the Jewish holy book). Jews generally agree with Muslims that Jesus Christ was a prophet and not the son of God, and that he was resurrected.  Judaism agrees with Christianity that God’s word came to human scribes and prophets to create the various books of the Torah and Bible.

Christianity

Started in the first century A.D. by disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, Christianity was actually a branch of Judaism, as Jesus was born to Jewish parents who were descended from Abraham through his sons Isaac and Jacob (later named Israel).  Jesus was a prophet, but is also seen by Christians as the Son of God, with divine powers to heal and execute many miracles that other mortals could not. Jesus’ teachings did stray somewhat from orthodox Jewish teachings, and much of Christianity is based on the Bible, and more specifically the New Testament which covers Jesus’ ministry and the work of the apostles and disciples in the years following Jesus’ ascension.

In the Abrahamic tradition, Christianity is a direct descendant of Judaism and thus is based on a monotheistic God, though many sects think of God is being expressed through Jesus as a Holy Trinity. This is one way that Christianity differs from both Judaism and Islam. Christianity agrees with Islam in the beliefs that Jesus was a messianic figure and that they both look forward to his second coming as promised in their accounts of the apocalypse. Christianity agrees with Judaism that Jesus was crucified and died.

Islam

Established in the seventh century A.D., Islam claims its direct roots from Abraham through his illegitimate child, Ishmael, born to Hagar the servant. Ishmael is considered by many to be the father of the Arab people, and Muslims claim that as their heritage and call Abraham “the first Muslim.” The religion was started by Mohammed, who received revelations about the Word of God from the angel Gabriel, and said that the Qu’ran (the hold book which contains these revelations) was necessary because Judaism and Christianity had “corrupted” the true word of God.

While Christianity and Judaism spread through peaceful means, including preaching, teaching and healing, Islam grew at first mostly out of conquest in militaristic fashion throughout the Middle East and north Africa. While Christianity and Judaism started in the same general area (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria), Islam began on the Arabian Peninsula. Also monotheistic, Islam takes a different approach and context to some of the Torah’s and Bible’s historical events, but claims to hold to the true moral law that God sent down to prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Noah. Islam agrees with Christianity that Jesus was born to a virgin mother and executed miracles on earth, but Islam agrees with Judaism that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead after crucifixion.

While there seems to be great disagreements between adherents of the three Abrahamic religions, many of the differences are finer points on the broader terms. When it comes to monotheism, the afterlife, worship rites, belief in bodily death and eternal life of the soul, and other similar matters, these three religions have several areas of common ground from which to co-exist peacefully, which they do in some parts of the Western and Arab worlds.