Religious traditions are classified into major groups in comparative religion. This classification is based on historical origin and understanding of their impact. Abrahamic religions are among the three major groups in comparative religion.
The other two include Indian religions and East Asian religions. Abrahamic religions originated from Middle East, Indian religions in India and East Asia religions in East Asia. Abrahamic religions identify with “the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with Abraham” (Brigstock Part 1).
There are three main Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam respectively according to the sequence of emergence. Currently, there are many followers of Abrahamic religions all over the world.
There are significant areas of continuity among the three Abrahamic religions, one being that they believe in only one God. The Christians believe that the one God is a trinity that at times brings confusion but this is not an expression of polytheism but rather a way of expressing the Divine Being (Anon Para 4).
Jews and Christians emphasize very much on the oneness and unity of God; they share the scripture of the Old Testament (Hebrew bible) in addition to others based on their doctrines. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe in God as the maker and origin of everything that exists. They describe God as merciful, caring about creation, just and who wants wellbeing for all. For the three religions, human beings are God chosen creatures on earth created by God’s own hands and in his image and they are the descendants of Abraham.
For Muslims, Abraham is a prophet whom Allah gave revelations, father of Isma’il who is his first son, and Ibrahim (Abraham) is the first in a lineage for Muhammad and considered the ‘first Muslim’. For Christians, Abraham is a spiritual forebear, “a role model of faith and his obedience to God by offering Isaac is compared with God’s offering of his son Jesus” (Brigstock Part 1).
Due to the special nature of creation, they believe there is room for continuing creation as humankind and as individuals. Humans were given free will, thus they are able to be both evil and good, whereby evil doing goes against God’s will; however, with God’s assistance, humans can resist sin, seek repentance and be better morally. When they do well, they fulfill God’s purpose and they are obliged to commit to God, to obey and worship him.
The three religions are positive about the future. They believe in obedience to God as the ultimate virtue that enhances eternal Gods favour based on the final Judgement upon ones’ deeds while on earth. The three religions believe that, God’s communication to His people is made through prophets as illustrated in the holy books for the three religions, with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam believing in holy bible, Torah and Qur’an respectively.
They emphasize their followers to read or listen to God’s Scriptures, pray, practice God’s commandments, and praise Him. They also attach some religious importance to Jerusalem such that, for Judaism, “Jerusalem became Judaism’s holiest city in 1005 BCE when David established it as the capital of Israel, and his son Solomon built the First Temple on Mount Moriah” (Brigstock Part 1).
For Christianity, it is the city of major events in the ministry of Jesus, i.e. the presentation of child Jesus in the temple and feast of Passover. For Islam, Jerusalem, the city of David and Isa, is a holy place to Muslims, like Mecca and Medina, and it is the city of the Prophet Muhammad’s ascension to heaven.
There are significant ways in which these three religions differ from each other. Considering that the three religions are monotheistic faiths, share a common ancestor, many beliefs, and practice, they are supposed to coexist in mutual unity; however, they seem to foster hostility among themselves.
Below are some of the differences that led to their separation. Firstly, the three have been proselytizing religions. During Christian era, Judaism abandoned proselytizing but due to the nearness of these religions, there was fuelled competitiveness. Each religion felt it held some vital truths of God that keeps it closer to God than the other does, for instance, the beginning of Christianity was in 33 CE in Palestine by Jesus (ReligiousFacts, Para. 7).
Christians felt that Judaism did not accept revelations that modify and improve the original teachings. Judaism felt that Christians wanted to change the teachings that keep them closer to God, while at the same time condemning Christianity as idolatry in the teachings that God had a son (Jesus) through Virgin Mary who was a form of God in human form. Judaism understood ‘salvation’ to be for the nation of Israel only while Christians preach ‘salvation, for all. These differences led split of Judaism and Christianity from the early beginning.
Christianity and Judaism argued that God had not made special revelation to Muhammad, thus both dismissed Islam from inception. Both Islam and Judaism understood Christianity as idolatry through the teachings of Jesus birth and the trinity belief. The Islam joined Christianity in the conviction that Judaism was refusing to accept revelations to modify and update the teachings.
With this competition on who is right, these religions also sought government support brewing room for more competition that eventually led to armed campaigns (crusades, holy wars). With these, the three major Abrahamic religions maintained separate identities. In addition, in the pursuit of who holds the truth, there are splits in each of the three religions.
Anon. “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Similarities.” Los Angeles Chinese Learning Center. Web.
Brigstock, Marcus. Abrahamic Religions. Web.
ReligiousFacts. Comparison of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. 2007. Web.
Abrahamic Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam