Most people know that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all descended from Abraham, the Patriarch of the three Semitic faiths. If these three religious “children” all came from the same “Father” so to speak, why can’t they all just get along? The reason why Judaism, Christianity and Islam seem at odds with each other can be understood as a result of the original purpose for each religion. First off, Judaism was meant only for the Jewish people -- no one else.
God says in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear ye O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” This is exactly what Jesus himself quotes to his followers when they ask him: “What is the highest commandment?” Hardly surprising -- most people know Jesus was Jewish, that he was raised as a Jew and that he observed all the laws and rituals associated with Judaism. Jesus himself says he did not come to destroy the Mosaic Law (Matt. 5:17) and that his mission as stated in Matt. 15:24 was only to “gather the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel” – the Jews, in
Judea and elsewhere.
Specifically, Jesus came as the Messiah for the Jewish people to reform them of their worldliness and hard-heartedness. Jesus also came to prepare the Jews for their next Prophet, one who would be like Moses and whose type and nature of prophethood (Law-bearing verbal revelation) along with the location of his advent (Mount Paran in Arabia) are mentioned clearly in Deuteronomy 18:18-21 and Deuteronomy 33:2. (Paul, a Rabbinical Jew educated under Gamaliel in the exegesis of the Torah and its numerous prophecies, must certainly have understood these prophecies and their import. This would explain why he went to
Arabia for three years after initially converting to Christianity in 35 AD. Was Paul hoping to become the Law-bearing Prophet foretold in Deut. 18:18-21 and 33:2 -- the “Holy One from Mount Paran” prophesized in Habakkuk 3:3...? Paul himself never tells, but his actions speak volumes.)
Islam came six centuries after Jesus to restore the original, pure understanding of the true Oneness of God as defined in Judaism, and to strengthen the love for God and the kindness towards humanity as demonstrated by the original Jewish followers who accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Let’s start with the Jewish Scriptures.
The Torah -- the Old Testament -- as it’s called in the Christian Bible -- was given by God to the Law-bearing prophet Moses for the Israelites only after they had escaped from centuries of slavery in
. During that time, many of the Israelites had adopted some of the Egyptian religious beliefs and practices, most notably, the worshipping of idols. Everyone knows the Israelites built and worshipped a golden calf at Egypt Mount Sinai. The golden calf was the Egyptian cow goddess, Hathor. To purify the Israelites of these polytheistic beliefs, God gave them the pure teaching about only one, non-physical, all-powerful Creator, with no beginning and no end, a God who can never die, be killed or be “formed” as a physical living being either before or after God (Isaiah 43:10).
But after the Israelites built and worshipped the golden calf, God banished them to the wilderness for 40 years – two to three generations – the minimum amount of time it takes to re-establish a community of purely monotheistic Jews cleansed of their idolatry. The Torah presents God as a non-physical being and forbids Jews from making any images of Him or worshipping any idols or any other gods besides Him.
This is why virtually all Jews do not believe that Jesus could be God in the flesh, or the literal, physical Son of God, because it violates God’s Laws given to Moses. That is also why, in the Torah, in Numbers 23:19, God says very clearly: “God is not a man that he lies; neither is he the Son of man that He repents.” Here ‘son of man’ means a prophet, as in the prophet does not repent or pay for the sins of his people.* It is not an accident that Jesus referred to himself more than 80 times as “son of man.” He was proclaiming his status as a divinely-appointed messenger and beloved of God, a human being who faithfully followed his mission from God and in no way considered himself God in human form, as this is still sacrilege in Judaism.
The meaning of Numbers 23:19 is so straight-forward and obvious that Jewish Rabbis regularly quote this verse as proof that Jesus could not be God because God sent the Torah to purify the Jews of this very same pagan belief -- that the Egyptian gods came down as animals and human beings, which was false. How could God then change his mind and bring back a pagan religious idea and say it was now true?
Judaism’s main theological purpose was to first lift up the Israelites and make them brave and self-confidant after being cowed and debased as slaves in Egypt for centuries, and most importantly to then educate them about the absolute Oneness of God – the only God in the Universe, who was not a force of nature or a god in human form, because these were ideas that weakened people’s faith in the true, non-corporeal, transcendent God Who was not “of the creation” but was the supreme Creator of all creation. The Israelites were given an understanding of God that we still respect and believe to this day -- that there is only one God, Who is all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal and unseen by the human eye.
* See also Exodus 32:30-33, where Moses pleads before God to punish him instead of the disobedient Israelites who built the golden calf, but God tells Moses He does not punish the innocent, only the guilty. In the Christian doctrine of the death of Jesus on the cross as the atonement for sin, God does just the opposite; punishing an innocent man for the sins of guilty mankind.
Muslims believe that Jesus came to guide the Jews out of their hard-heartedness, which the teachings of the Torah had instilled in them to toughen them up and make them successful as a race. Jesus was their savior and messiah who followed the Jewish Law and did not come to start a new religion but only came to “gather, or minister to, the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.”
The first Christians were Jews who fully accepted their Promised Messiah. The later Christians were Gentiles, Greeks and Romans. These Christians accepted the teachings of Paul, who presented Jesus as a God-man sent to die as the atonement for the sins of the people. This was an idea Greeks and Romans already believed – a “sacrificial savior” whose death and shedding of his blood would appease God and allow sinners to enter Heaven and escape the eternal punishment of Hell.
In Acts 14:11 it says: “For these Greek peoples believed the gods came down to Earth in the likeness of men. . .” They called Paul and Barnabus “Jupiter” and “Mercury” -- which we know are just planets -- but the Greeks and Romans thought these were living gods moving across the night sky. What Paul did was replace the many gods of the Greeks and Romans with just one God -- God the Father as in Judaism -- but to win over the pagans, he made this one god a three-person god-head consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is the Christian Trinity, but it derives, originally, from Egyptian beliefs dating back to 3,500 B.C.
One of the first Trinitarian god-heads was comprised of the Egyptian god Osirus, his wife the goddess Isis and their son Horus. This idea was based on the family unit, which was something people could easily relate to. This Trinitarian idea of three separate entities forming one god-head was adopted by each successive culture until it was adopted by Paul to convert the Greeks and Romans to his hybrid interpretation of Christianity.
The Jews largely rejected this pagan idea of Trinitarianism because it was so completely foreign to their teachings in the Hebrew Bible. What Paul did was simplify a belief that had many gods and many yearly rituals of sacrifice and atonement. Paul made it one god with a one-time sacrifice of the god in human form – God Himself incarnated as His own son. It’s no wonder Christianity spread so quickly! It was a definite improvement over the old, pagan beliefs – and a lot less expensive to the Christians in the Greek-Roman world.
Before Christianity, Greeks and Romans paid tribute with gifts or money to the gods and goddesses on their days of remembrance. In fact, the names for all the days in our week come from the names of non-Christian gods. In the Greek-Roman world, Monday comes from “Moon Day” -- the day for worshipping the Moon god; Saturn was worshipped on Saturn’s Day, which became Saturday. The Sun god, Sol Invictus, (born on Dec. 25th) was worshipped – you guessed it -- on Sunday. And when Christianity entered
Europe, Norse gods and goddesses got their day (literally). From the Viking religion, we get the names for the remaining days of the week: Tuesday comes from Middle English Tewesday, the day of “Tiw” or “Tyr,” the god of single combat, victory and heroic glory in Norse religion. Odin / Wodin was honored on Wodin’s Day – known today as Wednesday; Thor’s Day became Thursday; and Friday comes from the Norse goddess Friya or Freya.
300 years later, when Christianity became the official state religion under the Emperor Constantine early in the 4th century AD, Jesus replaced the Sun god and took over his birth date. Jesus was most probably born 3-4 months earlier in August or September, when shepherds still watched over their flocks at night in the fields (Luke 2:8). The Holy Quran also states that Jesus was born at a time when dates were ripe and ready for harvest – i.e., not in the Winter.
So the folks who converted to Christianity saved a whole lot of cash-y money by not having to pay tribute to all these other gods. But that’s not why they converted. No, of course not. The first Christians didn’t convert to save money, they converted to save their souls. One of the truly great things Christianity brought to the pagan world was its focus on leading a compassionate, moral life here on Earth, doing good to others, and preparing themselves spiritually for the next life with God.
To its credit, Christianity brings a much higher focus on the next life and the attainment of salvation, but it does so by making Jesus the physical incarnation of God for the purpose of killing him by crucifixion as atonement / payment for our sins, followed by his resurrection and ascension to heaven as “proofs” that he is, in fact, God. The problem with all these notions is that they clearly violate the Jewish understanding of the pure Oneness and non-physicality of God and the elemental justice required of God that only the guilty and not the innocent are punished for their sins (Exodus 32:30-33) and that the prophets do not pay (repent) for the sins of their people.
The difference between Islam and Christianity is that Islam does not allow any division of God into “persons.” With the Christian Trinity, our spiritual eye is no longer focused solely on One God, as in Judaism, but is now split up into three separate points of focus, with different levels of attention, honor and authority given to each “person” in the Trinity. Different levels of sanctity and respect are also indicated – the Holy Spirit being the only “person” of the Trinity you cannot blaspheme or you will never be forgiven.
This also clearly shows that the Trinity is three separate entities and not “three-in-one” because if they were really “one” you could blaspheme the Holy Spirit and be condemned for it, but Jesus and God (being blasphemed at the same time because they are all still “one” indivisible God) would forgive you because it’s OK to blaspheme them. Assuming each “person” in the Trinity has an equal vote in dispensing judgment, the ruling would be 2-to-1 in your favor. In any court of law that would mean you were pardoned.
But to never be forgiven for blaspheming the Holy Spirit would require the Holy Spirit to be the supreme arbiter in God’s court, greater than Jesus and the Father (the Chief Justice as it were) with an overriding veto of any respective votes of forgiveness by Jesus and the Father – forgiveness you are promised by Jesus in Matt.12:31, Mark 3:28-29 and Luke 12:10. (That, my friends, is a Kangaroo court and not a true heavenly court of real justice.)
In standard Christianity, Jesus is the central focal point – he is the fulcrum upon which mankind’s salvation is leveraged by his death and resurrection. Jesus is also given all power to rule, judge and forgive sins, and he is even given credit for creating the Universe along with God the Father. Salvation is now obtained in Christianity only by believing in the death, atonement and resurrection of Jesus, whereas Judaism and Islam both affirm that God does not share sovereignty or power with anyone; that He alone is the sole Creator of everything; that He alone is the Master on the Day of Judgment; that He alone is the only means of salvation; and that He alone has all power to show mercy and forgive us for our sins.
[ Originally appeared on http://www.ahmadiyyatimes.com/ at this link: http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.com/2012/03/three-abrahamic-faiths-gods-timeline-to.html ]