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Don Stewart :: What Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians Have in Common?

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What Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians Have in Common?

Islam – Question 8

Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a number of things in common that are not shared by Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. However, even within these things they have in common, we find significant differences as to what is believed. We can make the following observations.

1. Each Believe in Absolute Truth

Contrary to religious pluralists, who accept no such thing as absolute truth, these three religions all believe that such truth does indeed exist. There are absolute standards of right and wrong that have been divinely revealed by God. These are truths that must be obeyed because they have been supernaturally revealed.

However, all three religions see absolute truth in a different way. For one thing, each has a different source as to where ultimate truth can be found. For the Jews it is the Old Testament, for the Christians the Old and New Testament, and for Islam the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Quran.

Because each of these religions has a different source of authority, we find that each of these three religions has beliefs and practices that are contradictory to the other two. In other words, at least two out of the three must be wrong. Indeed, there is no way to reconcile them. Any attempt to reconcile them does not take their claims seriously.

2. Each Believe Only One True God Exists

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are monotheistic religions; they believe only one true God exists. This is in contrast to religions that accept the existence of multiple gods or faiths that do not accept the idea that a personal God exists.

In addition, none of these three faiths argue for God’s existence. Instead, they assume it to be true. The first verse of the Bible says,

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)

God’s existence is assumed throughout Scripture.

The basic testimony of Islam is called the “Shahadah.” The first part makes the following claim.

There is no god but God.

This is certainly a statement that Christians and Jews would affirm; there is no God but God. The difference is how Christians, Jews, and Muslims understand the identity of the one God.

The God of the Old Testament Is Yahweh, Not Allah

The God of the Old Testament cannot be equated with Allah. To the contrary, He is Yahweh. This God of the Old Testament is a personal God that is deeply concerned with the well-being of humanity. Allah, the God of Islam is a different type of deity. He is aloof from humanity and not personally involved in the daily lives of people.

Christians Recognize God Is a Trinity

Christians, as opposed to Judaism and Islam, recognize God as a Trinity. In accord with the Old Testament, the New Testament also recognizes that only one God exists. The New Testament, however, gives further revelation concerning the personal loving God that is revealed in the Old Testament.

God is a Trinity. There are three distinct persons, or centers of consciousness, in the Godhead. They are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Judaism does not accept this fact neither does Islam. Muslims insist that there is no distinction within the Godhead.

Therefore, Islam rejects Christianity and its teaching of the doctrine of Trinity. Muslims have incorrectly accused Christians as tritheists; believing in three gods.

Thus, Muslims assume Christians are guilty of the unpardonable sin of “shirk,” which is, attributing an associate to Allah. However, this point of view is a misunderstanding of what Christians believe. Christians plainly assert the unity of the one God who exists; we do not believe in three gods! Yet, within the nature of this one God are three distinct persons. This is what the God of the Bible teaches about His own character or being. Christians are merely reflecting the biblical teaching upon the subject.

The One True God Has Similar Attributes and Abilities

The God that is revealed in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism has certain attributes and powers that are similar. God is the Creator. He is also all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere-present. Each of these three faiths accepts this as true of God.

Yet again, the differences between Islam and Judaism and Christianity outweigh the similarities. For example, Islam and Christianity would have a different understanding of these attributes. The God of Islam is not the loving and caring God that is revealed in both testaments. Rather he is aloof and impersonal.

3. Each Believe That God Has Acted in History

These three religions all believe that the living God has acted in history. However, the emphasis is different.

In Judaism, it is the Exodus from Egypt when the Lord delivered His people from slavery. This was God’s great act in history.

For Christianity it is the fact that God became human in the Person of Jesus Christ. This was God’s greatest act in history. The Bible says,

So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. (John 1:14 NLT)

The coming of Christ into the world was the entrance of God in human form to our planet. No historical act could be greater than this. This truth is denied by both Judaism and Islam.

Islam accepts certain historical figures from both Judaism and Christianity. Muslims believe Moses was a prophet of God who gave God’s law. Jesus further revealed truth about God. For Islam, Allah was given his final word through the prophet Muhammad. Again, we see that there are huge differences in these three faiths.

4. Each Has Abraham as a Human Founder

Interestingly, all three of these religions trace their human beginnings back to one man, Abraham. The Bible traces the promises of God back to Abraham. We read in Genesis,

Then the LORD told Abram, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NLT)

Islam also sees Abraham as their human founder. The fact that Abraham is held in such high regard by all three faiths fulfills what God promised him. God told Abraham that He would make him famous or make his name “great.” This has been literally fulfilled.

5. Each Has a Holy Scripture

Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have holy books. Yet the holy books of these three religions are all different.

In Judaism, the Holy Scripture is the Hebrew Bible. It consists of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. However, ultimate authority is not in Scripture alone but rather if found within the various laws and traditions that have been handed down that explain Scripture.

For Christianity, it is the Bible, consisting of both the Old and New Testaments. While the Hebrew Old Testament is seen as the Word of God, Christians believe that God has given fuller revelation in the New Testament which is also God’s Word to humanity.

For Islam it’s the Quran. While Muslims also claim to accept the Bible as God’s Word the ultimate revelation of God is found in the Quran.

However, the way in which Quran functions in Islam is different from the way the Bible functions in the Christian faith.

Christian and Jewish Scriptures Can Be Translated: The Quran Cannot

For one thing, the Bible can be authoritatively translated into any human language. The Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek a few centuries before the time of Christ. The New Testament was translated into other languages at an early date. Christians and Jews have no problem with this.

However, the Quran cannot be authoritatively translated. Muslims believe that over a period of about 23 years, the Quran was supernaturally given to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. In addition, it was revealed in Arabic, the same language of the original Quran in heaven. This makes the Quran a unique book; an exact duplicate of one in heaven.

The Quran Is Supposedly Divine: The Bible Is Divine and Human

The fact that the Quran cannot be authoritatively translated points out another important difference between it and the Bible. Muslims see the Quran as a book that is divine only. There is no human element in it. Muslims view the Quran in a similar way as Christians see Jesus Christ; He exactly represents God.

The Bible says that He is the express image of God, the Word of God. The writer to the Hebrews said,

The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 NLT)

Muslims believe the Quran contains the expressed words of God, no more, no less. This is why the Quran cannot be authoritatively translated. While it has been translated into languages other than Arabic, no translation carries divine authority.

However, the Bible is a product of the human and the divine. It is God’s word written in the words of humans. God supervised the human authors of Scripture in a mysterious way to record His truth. On the other hand, Muslims believe the Quran was dictated word-for-word by Allah from heaven.

6. Each Sees a Purpose for History

These three religions all believe that history is going somewhere. In other words, it has a purpose. History had a beginning and it will have an end.

While each of these religions believes in a divine future, the viewpoint as to what will happen is different in all three faiths. Christians believe Jesus Christ will return and set up His eternal kingdom as the rightful King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Islam and Judaism reject this claim. They have different ideas as to how history will end.

There Are More Differences than Things in Common

While there are things in common between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, it is important to realize that they are not saying the same thing. Judaism, with the Old Testament, is incomplete. Islam teaches an entirely different God than Judaism or Christianity.

The three faiths do not reveal the same God. They cannot all be true at the same time. At least two of them must be wrong. This has to be understood.

Summary – Question 8
What Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians Have in Common?

There are a number of things that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have in common. This includes the belief in absolute truth. Each of these religions accepts the fact that there is an absolute standard of right and wrong. Yet each faith disagrees as to where this perfect standard can be found. In addition, all three faiths are monotheistic; they believe and teach that only one God exists.

However, they disagree on the identity of the one God. Christianity is Trinitarian while Islam and Judaism reject the idea of the Trinity. All three faiths believe that this one God has similar attributes and abilities. Again, the attributes that Islam assumes God possesses is not the same as Judaism or Christianity. They are not talking about the same God.

All three faiths believe that God has acted in history. However, each of these faiths sees Him doing different things. Judaism would accept God’s actions in the Old Testament, Christianity in both testaments, while Islam in both testaments plus the Quran.

What they do agree upon is the human founder: Abraham as the human founder. They all see him as the “father of the faithful.”

In addition, each has a sacred Scripture. Yet the sacred Scripture of each religion is different. The Jews have the Hebrews Scriptures; what Christians and Muslims call the Old Testament. Christians have the Old Testament and New Testament and Muslims have the Old Testament, New Testament and the Quran. Each religion believes that history is going somewhere. Again, their particular view of where it is going differs.

When all the evidence is considered it will be clear that these religions have more differences than things they have in common.

Consequently, these three faiths cannot all be true at the same time. At least two of them must be wrong in their claims.

What Are the Essential Religious Practices of Muslims? ← Prior Section
Is the God of Islam the Same as the Biblical God? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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