Many Jews opposed Roman law in Judea and hoped God would send a Messiah. During a time of upheaval against Roman rule, a man named Jesus of Nazareth spoke to large crowds, always attracting large followings. He began teaching the Hebrew scriptures, telling people that God would soon come to establish his kingdom. Out of fear of opposition to Roman law, he was arrested, beaten, and executed by crucifixion. According to the writings of his followers, known as Gospels, Jesus was not found in his tomb three days after his death. This rising from the death was enough to name him the “Messiah” or in Greek the “Christ.” The followers of Christ spread Christianity through Rome, Greece, Spain, Asia Minor and further.
The New Testament is the collection of writings on which Christianity is based. They contain four books known as Gospels as well as parables, and epistles or formal letters. The last book is known as Revelation and makes predictions about future events. Christianity is monotheistic but believes in the Trinity; God existing as three forms.
As Christianity spread, disagreement over organization, the use of icons, and who Jesus was began to divide the religion. The division manifested itself in Greece where an Eastern Orthodox Christianity split and became known as the “Great Schism” with patriarchs controlling the affairs of the Orthodox church. Muhammad taught a strict monotheism. The word Islam means “I submit”. Muhammad is seen by Moslems as the last prophet, some preceding prophets were Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The Koran (Quran) is the sacred book of Islam and recounts the teaching of Mohammad. In it the basic tenets of the religion, The Five Pillars, are explained as:
Faith: “I believe there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet”.
Prayer: Muslims are required by the Koran to pray five times a day while kneeling and bowing towards Mecca.
Alms: Charity is a central commandment of Islam
Fasting: There are strict dietary laws, (similar to Judaism, (the consumption of pork is forbidden) and during the month of Ramadan Muslims must fast between sunrise and sunset.
Pilgrimage (Hajj): Once in their lifetime a Muslim is expected to travel to the holy city of Mecca and pray at the Ka’aba.