Judaism, Christianity, and Islam



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Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

  1. Three major (monotheistic) religions dominate the history of Europe and the rest of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

  2. Judaism: Religion vs. Race

    1. Judaism is the oldest of the three, and forms the base for the other two

    2. Judaism is a religion, and the people most commonly associated with that religion are called Jews, Hebrews, Israelis, or Children of Israel

    3. These people are more properly thought of as a nation, because they share a common culture and heritage, but are not a single ethnic group, nor a race

    4. Jews trace lineage through the mother- all born to Jewish mother are Jews

    5. Currently, there are approximately 15 million Jews living in the world

  3. Basic Beliefs

    1. Jews have no formal dogma, but have several core principles:

      1. God exists, God is incorporeal and eternal, God is singular and unique, sharing divinity with no other(s), & prayer is to be directed (only) to God

      2. Words of the Hebrew prophets are true, & Moses was the greatest prophet

      3. Written Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) & oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses

      4. There is to be no other Torah

      5. God knows the thoughts & deeds of men & women, & God will reward the good and punish the wicked

      6. The Messiah will come, & dead will be resurrected at the end of days

    2. These beliefs are disputed by different movements of Judaism (the main ones are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform), but are widely accepted

    3. Judaism focuses a lot on the relationship of God with the Jewish people

    4. Jews, particularly Orthodox ones, also recognize some 613 "mitzvot" (commandments) that Jews should obey in order to live a just, spiritual life

    5. The singular nature of God means that God is responsible for both good and evil, and not some Devil or similarly powerful evil entity

    6. Jews feel that God, having no physicality, cannot therefore be of any given gender, & is referred to as "He" because Hebrew has no neutral gender

    7. Like Christianity and Islam, Jews believe that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, and is perfect and eternal

    8. Jews believe that there will be a messiah, who will be a great leader descended from King David, and who will be a military leader and judge for the people of Israel. This messiah will not be God, nor some sort of supernatural being; rather, he will be a human being- Jesus wasn’t him

      1. When he comes, he will lead the Jews back to their homeland, restore Jerusalem & the Temple, & establish a gov’t to rule the world

      2. This "messianic age" would see the elimination of all strife, peaceful co-existence would become the norm, & all would recognize Judaism

  4. Jewish Attitudes Towards Non-Jews

    1. Jews believe that all righteous people, whatever their faith or beliefs, will have a place in the world to come, whatever that ends up being

    2. Jews have a special status, but that also comes with greater responsibility than that imposed on non-Jews-- Jews must keep the Torah & its 613 commandments- non-Jews are obliged only to the seven "Laws of Noah"

    3. The Laws of Noah are basic guidelines for behavior that Jews believe were given to Noah and his family after God saved them from the flood. Since everyone is thought to have descended from these survivors, then all should be bound to these laws in perpetuity:

      1. Establish courts of justice, do not commit blasphemy, idolatry, incest or adultery, bloodshed, robbery, & do not eat flesh cut from a living animal

    4. For Jews, the laws are more extensive, since they are though to know and understand the correct forms of behavior.

  5. The Role of Women in Judaism

    1. Jewish women are neither superior nor inferior, but are rather separate

    2. Like men, they are created in the image of God, & thus deserve respect

    3. It is widely felt that women are more intuitive than men, and they have historically/biblically been less inclined to stray from God's ideals

    4. For this reason, it is felt that women should not seek as much education as men, because they would neglect their other roles to become closer to God

    5. Legally, Jewish women have had more rights than most women in Western cultures for thousands of years, only "falling behind" in the last century.

      1. Women have held rights to own, buy, and sell property, to enter into their own contracts, to be free from mistreatment within their marriages, and to be consulted on their feelings about prospective marriages since the Pharaohs ruled in Egypt, things not all American women can say today

    6. Having said that, it is felt that the primary role of a woman is to a wife and mother, and keeper of the household and all things domestic. They are exempted from certain of the mitzvot when those conflict with their primary roles, and thus do not "count" for certain services where a minimum number of people are to attend

  6. Christianity

    1. Christianity is an offshoot of the Hebrew religion, and now claims approximately 1/3 of the world's population as followers (over 2 billion)

    2. Christianity originated as a Jewish cult in the early part of the 1st century, when a small group of Jews became convinced that a man named Jesus (b. 4 BC) was the messiah, & perhaps literally the Son of God, who had come to renew the covenant between God & humanity & expunge the sins of man

    3. Christianity claimed that all people were alike in spirit & could be members

    4. Led first by Jesus and later by Saul/Paul, and quickly gained converts from among all the various peoples of the region, starting with the poor

    5. The followers of Jesus (known as Jewish Christians) eventually split from the Jewish community because they felt that He was the messiah who had been promised in the Torah, while most Jews rejected this claim

    6. One of the main events in this split was a Jewish revolt in 70 AD which the Pauline Christians did not participate in, going instead to Pella in Jordan.

    7. The surviving Pauline Christians were mostly gentiles, and many lived in the Roman Empire, where they were unusually persecuted for their refusal to accept the Caesars as divine beings

    8. Eventually, the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity & in 313 he declared (Pauline) Christianity to be the official & exclusive religion of the Roman Empire, through which it spread throughout Europe and the Med

    9. Church authority was divided between the five bishops (or patriarchs) of the Church, located in Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome, but gradually centered around two poles: Rome and Constantinople

    10. In 1054, these two branches of Christianity, which had grown apart in belief & practice, split, establishing Roman Catholic Church & Orthodox Church

    11. The Catholic Church split again in 1517 when a priest named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a door in Germany & started Protestant Reformation

    12. Protestants have divided still further into many denominations, all of which consider themselves (as do the Catholics and Orthodox) to be Christian

  7. Basic Beliefs

    1. The basic belief structure of Christianity was established by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD after a series of heresies had divided the Church against itself. At Nicea, the Emperor Constantine called the Council to establish what the basic beliefs of Christianity actually were. They eventually agreed on a statement of faith, which survives today as the Nicene Creed:

      1. We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried. On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    1. Having said this, there are at least a few core beliefs:

      1. God is a trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

      2. Jesus died, and was resurrected as proof of His divinity

      3. Heaven exists, as does a Hell (who goes to either varies widely)

      4. Baptism is an important self-declaration of one's Christian status

  1. Divisions

    1. In addition to the Catholic and Orthodox split, the Protestants have split many times on their own. There are currently about 1,000 different denominations in the United States

    2. These can be (very roughly) divided into Conservative, Mainline/Mainstream, and Liberal

      1. Conservatives tend to view only "saved" individuals as Christian, and see Christianity as a personal relationship with their Savior

        1. They see the Bible as inerrant & inspired directly from God, thus being both infallible and completely literal

        2. Bible is seen as inflexible- was and is completely correct as written

        3. Conservative Christians tend to believe that all other religions are wholly false, and are often viewed as opposing forces

      2. Mainline Christians tend to see those who follow the teachings of Jesus as Christian, and are thus more inclusive

      3. Liberal Christians are even more inclusive, and are often said to have abandoned true Christianity by the other denominations

        1. They see the Bible as a document edited and arranged by humans to meet their needs, having selected from different Gospels those which seemed most appropriate, and they believe that the text cannot therefore always be taken literally, since it expresses the opinions of humans

        2. The Bible is somewhat outdated, and needs interpretation to apply to the modern world

        3. Liberal Christians tend to view all religions as potentially true within their own contexts



  1. Islam

    1. The word Islam literally means "submission (to the will of God)," and the religion is practiced by approximately 1/5 of the world's population

    2. Islam follows Judeo-Christian tradition, & sees itself as the inheritor of that tradition, but believes that their religion is the most accurate and up-to-date

    3. Islam was founded by a Arabic merchant named Mohammed (b. 571 AD), who had grown up earning a reputation for fairness, honesty, and integrity

    4. At the age of forty, Mohammed was visited by the angel Gabriel, who instructed him to "recite" the word of God to his fellow human beings

    5. This recitation became the Qur'an, as Mohammed taught it to his followers. Mohammed himself could neither read nor write, but he recited the Qur'an orally, and had his followers memorize it and recite it back to him

    6. A further book of the prophet's actions, explanations, and sayings is called the Sunnah, and is documented extensively

    7. The Prophet died around 630AD, leaving the Arabian peninsula mostly Islamic, although his followers split into two principle factions after his death (the Sunni and the Shi'a)




  1. Basic Beliefs

    1. The Five Pillars of Islam- All Muslims are required to incorporate the Five Pillars of Islam into their lives to the best of their abilities

      1. Shahada- The confession of faith- "There is no other God but God and Mohammed is His Prophet"

      2. Prayer- Muslims are to pray five times each day (early morning, noon, afternoon, evening, and night), & traditionally face Mecca when doing so

      3. Zakat- Charity toward the poor, this is similar to the Catholic tithe

      4. Fasting- During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims who are physically able to do so must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and having sex from dawn until dusk

      5. The Hajj- This is a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca which all Muslims are to attempt at least once in their lives if able to do so

    2. The Articles of Faith- Like Judaism and Christianity, there are several core beliefs that all Muslims accept

      1. Tawhid- Belief in the Oneness of God

      2. Messengers- Belief in all of God's messengers, from Adam, Noah, and Abraham, to Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed

      3. Books- Belief in the holy texts which have been revealed by God, such as the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Qur'an

      4. Angels- Belief in the Angels of God

      5. Day of Judgement- Belief that a day of judgement will come when humans will be held accountable for their earthly behavior

      6. Destiny and Power- Belief in predestination, and the absolute power of God to do as He will

  2. Divisions

    1. There are two major divisions within the Islamic faith, Sunni and Shi'a

    2. The Sunni represent the mainstream of the faith, and are about 85-90% of the Muslim population, with Shi'a accounting for almost all the remainder

    3. These two groups split over who to follow after the death of the Prophet, with the Sunnis following the Sunnah and the Hadith, and the Shi'a following the guidance of the successive members of the prophet's family

  3. Attitudes Toward Women

    1. One of the common conceptions of Islam in the West is the notion that Islamic women are somehow inferior to men- as with many things in life, the reality is much more complicated

    2. Islam does proscribe the Hijab for women, which is a dress code intended to maintain female modesty and chastity, but few Muslim women view it as a restriction or an imposition- they see it as a liberating symbol of their faith

      1. The Hijab prevents women from being evaluated solely (or even mainly) on physical attractiveness, and instead emphasizes their intellects or skills

      2. The Hijab also serves as a barrier to unwanted attentions, since women can be more or less anonymous

    3. Islam has a proud history of establishing equality between the sexes, in the sense that women have been able to own and inherit property, seek an education, vote, hold leadership positions, etc., for almost 1400 years

    4. Having said all this, Islam does recognize that the sexes are different, and has generally relegated women to running the household and men to providing for their families

    5. This is said to be because women are closer to God, and thus more spiritual, thus making them better at raising families

    6. It should be noted that these general sex roles are not absolute, as Mohammed's first wife was a businesswoman who had hired him before proposing to him



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