University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
A God Divided: Understanding the Differences Between Islam, Christianity and Judaism
Christianity, Islam and Judaism, are the world’s greatest monotheist faiths. These faiths have some similarities and differences. In this paper analysis of what is common amongst Islam, Judaism and Christianity is analyzed at an in-depth level. Islam is the world’s largest religion after Christianity. It is a monotheistic faith that traces its roots in the Middle East. Many of its practices and beliefs are similarity with Christianity and Judaism. Judaism, Islam and Christianity, are referred collectively as “Abrahamic religion” since their history could be traced to God’s covenant with Abraham in the Hebrews Bible. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad met Christians and Jews in his lifetime and as such Islam has come into contact with similar monotheistic religions throughout its history (Paterson 216). The following paragraphs give the differences and similarities between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. It gives a detailed analysis of statistics, history, religious beliefs and origin of the greatest monotheistic faiths.
The adherents of Christianity, Judaism and Islam respectively are 2billion Christians, 14 million Jews and over one billion Muslims. Compared to other faiths in the world, Christianity is the largest faith, then Islam and Judaism ranks 12 amongst world faiths. The major concentration of Islam is South East Asia and Middle East. Judaism concentration is in America, Europe and Israel. Christianity has a fast growth in Africa, Europe, North and South America. Islam’s sacred text is the Koran, for the Jews it is the bible and the Christians it is the Jewish bible and the New Testament. Other written authorities by these faiths are: hadith for the Muslims, Midrash, Talmud and Responsa for the Jews. The Christians consider especially the Catholics consider church councils, papal decrees, church fathers as having written authority. The three religions both have religious law (Catherwood 192). For the Christians, it is the Canon law, for Muslim it is the sharia law, for Jews it is the Halakhah. Another similarity amongst the three faiths is the presence of the clergy. For the Muslims the clergy is made up of imams, the Jews have rabbis and the Christian’s clergy comprises of the priests, ministers, bishops and pastors. The three faiths both have a house of worship. The Jews worship at the synagogue, the Muslims at the mosque and Christians at the church, cathedral or chapel. Christianity, Islam and Judaism also have a similarity in the sense that they have a specific day of worship. Christians worship on Sunday, Muslim on Friday and Jews on Saturday. For church and state, Islam the religion is integrated to the state while, for Christianity and Judaism, it is separate.
For the origin and history of these faiths, Islam was founded in 622 CE, Christianity in c. 33 CE and the dates for beginning of Judaism are still unknown. Judaism and Christianity were founded in Palestine while Islam was founded in Saudi Arabia. Both faiths had founders. The founder of Christianity is Jesus, for Islam it is Muhammad and for Judaism it is Moses or Abraham. Both faiths have an original language. The original language of Islam was Arabic, for Judaism it was Hebrew and for Christianity, it was Aramaic and Greek. Both faiths had an early expansion plan. For Islam, in 12 years, the entire Arabic Peninsula had Islam and in a century, Islamism stretched throughout the Atlantic to China.
Judaism had small expansion that was limited to the Palestine regions only. In 60 years, Christianity had expanded and had churches in cities in Turkey, Rome, Palestine and Greek; by the 4th century their expansion was throughout the entire Roman Empire. Another similarity amongst the three faiths is the major splits aspects. In Islam, the split was in 650 CE amongst the Shia and Sunni. For Judaism, in the 1800s CE the split was amongst the Reform and Orthodox. Amongst the Christians, the splits were two in1054 CE amongst the catholic and orthodox and in1500s CE amongst the catholic and Protestants.
Similarity could also be made on the religious beliefs amongst Christians, Islam and Judaism. For Islam and Judaism, they are strictly monotheist while Christians are Trinitarian monotheist (David 37). Another common characteristic in the belief system of the three faiths is the ultimate reality where Christianity, Judaism and Islam have one God. The three faiths have names for God. Muslims refer to Him as Allah which is Arabic for God. Jews refer to Him as Yahweh and Elohim while Christians refer to him as the holy trinity and Yahweh.
The three faiths both believe in other spiritual beings like for the Islam, they have demons, angels and jinn. The Jews and Christians have demons and angels. Another common characteristic of the three faiths religious beliefs are the revered humans. The Shia Muslims have prophets and imams while the Jews have prophets. The Christians have saints and church fathers. The religious views of the three faiths on the Jesus Christ’s identity are different and similar in some way. The Muslim believes that He is God’s true prophet whose message has been corrupted. The Jews consider him a false prophet while the Christians believe he is the son of God, the world’s savior and God incarnate.
The Christians and Muslims believe the birth of Jesus was a virgin birth while the Jew believes it was just a normal birth. The Christians and Jews believe that Jesus died by crucifixion on the cross while the Muslims believe He did not die but ascended into heaven during crucifixion. On the resurrection of Jesus, the Muslims and Jews denied it while the Christians affirm it. On the second coming of Jesus, the Muslims and Christians affirmed it while the Jews deny it. The three faiths also have a similarity in terms of divine revelation where the Muslims believe it is through Muhammad as written in the Quran. The Jews believe through prophets as written in the bible and the Christians through prophets and Jesus as written in the bible. Another similarity of the three faiths in religious beliefs is their views on the sacred text.
The Christians and the Muslims believe that the sacred text is inspired, and it is the literal word of God and some believe inerrant in original languages. For Judaism, the views vary. The three faiths also have a similarity on human nature. The Jews and Muslims believe on the equal ability for humans to do right or evil while the Christians believe on the original sin from Adam on the tendency towards evil.
Another outstanding similarity amongst the three faiths is the religious belief on means of salvation. They all believe that means to salvation is the through righteous deeds. However, some Christians believe in sacraments while the Protestants believe the means to salvation is through faith only (David 307). They also have a similarity on God’s role in salvation. The Muslims and Christians believe it is the predestination while the Jews believe it is the divine revelation and forgiveness. The religious belief of Christians and Muslims on the good afterlife is similar as they believe in eternal paradise while the Jews views vary as it is either no afterlife or heaven. On bad afterlife, Christians and Muslim believe in eternal hell. For Catholics, they believe in temporary purgatory. The views of Jews on the bad afterlife vary from, reincarnation, eternal Gehenna or no afterlife. The view of the three faiths on fellow Abrahamic religions is similar and positive. The Muslims believe that Christians and Jews are people of the book and are respected but have partial revelations and wrong beliefs. The Jews believe that Christianity and Islam are false interpretation of Judaism. Christians, on the other hand, believe that Islamism is a false religion and Judaism has false interpretation but is a true religion.
Both Christians and Muslims believe in the presence of the clergy. The Muslim clergy is made up of imams while that of Christians comprises of bishops, ministers, priests and pastors. Both religions have a house of worship. Muslims worship at the mosque while Christians worship in a church, chapel or cathedral. Both Muslims and Christians have a specific day set aside for worship (Novak, 2001). Most Christians worship on Sunday or Saturday, while the Islamic day of worship is Friday. The Islamic religion is integrated to the state while that of Christianity is separate. Muhammad is believed to be the founder of the Islamic religion while the founder of Christianity is Jesus. The original language used by Muslims was Arabic and that of Christians was Aramaic and Greek. The two religions concur on the perspective of human nature whereby Muslims believe in the equal ability for humans to do right or evil while the Christians believe on the original sin from Adam on the trend towards evil.
Islam and Christianity have specific religious beliefs that are different. Muslims are strictly monotheist while Christians are Trinitarian monotheist. The two religions have a common feature in the belief system as evidenced by their ultimate reality and worship for one supernatural being-God. The only difference is the name they use for God. The Muslim name for God is Allah which is Arabic for God and that of Christians is the Holy Trinity or Yahweh. Another similarity of the two religions in religious beliefs is their views on the sacred text. The Christians and the Muslims believe that the sacred text is inspired, and it is the truthful word of God and some believe inerrant in original languages
Another outstanding similarity amongst the Christians, Muslims and Jews is rituals. All the three faiths conduct rituals to fit in their faiths. In Christianity, amongst the Catholics, there is the sacrament, which includes the Holy Eucharist and Baptism. In Roman Catholicism, other rituals are included like: Confirmation, Penance, Holy Orders, Marriages and Anointment of the sick. Prayer is a part of the faith too. In Islamism, there are five fundamental rituals considered as the pillars of Islam. They include the Shaddah which is the faith profession, salat which is five times daily prayer, zakat which is alms giving, sawm which is fasting in Ramadan and hajj that is the pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Jewish rituals include the circumcision of new born males, bar mitzvah that is a ceremony celebrating the adulthood of Jewish boys and shabat which is Sabbath observation. The religious views of the three faiths on the Jesus Christ’s identity are different and similar in some way. The Muslim believes that He is God’s true prophet whose message has been corrupted (Catherwood 192). The Jews consider him a false prophet while the Christians believe he is the son of God, the world’s savior and God incarnate. The Christians and Muslims believe the birth of Jesus was a virgin birth while the Jew believes it was just a normal birth. The Christians and Jews believe that Jesus died by crucifixion on the cross while the Muslims believe He did not die but ascended into heaven during crucifixion. On the resurrection of Jesus, the Muslims and Jews denied it while the Christians affirm it. On the second coming of Jesus, the Muslims and Christians affirmed it while the Jews deny it. The three faiths also have a similarity in terms of divine revelation where the Muslims believe it is through Muhammad as written in the Quran. The Jews believe through prophets as written in the bible and the Christians through prophets and Jesus as written in the bible. In conclusion, most believers in the current world still have no precise basis for their beliefs. It is important for both Muslims and Christians to have sound knowledge and perspectives in their beliefs. This is because there have been many attempts to redefine religion to fit in the current social agendas.
Catherwood, Christopher. A God Divided: Understanding the Differences Between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Eastbourne: David C Cook, 2007.
Liepert, David. Muslim, Christian, and Jew: Finding a Path to Peace Our Faiths Can Share. Nottingham: Faith of Life Publishing, 2010.
Paterson, Andrea C. Three Monotheistic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam: An Analysis and Brief History. New York: AuthorHouse, 2009.