Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam

Table of Content


Judaism is the Jewish religion. It is one of the oldest of the great world religions, and is the mother religion of both Christianity and Islam. Judaism was not founded by one towering personality, as were most other religions. Abraham and Moses are not regarded as founders. Abraham was the “father of the Hebrew people” and Moses was the “law-giver”.

Unlike with other religions, Judaism is totally distinct in such a way that its “central authority is not vested in any person or group” but it abides in its writings and traditions. This would mean that Judaism religion does not have a head or a leader that oversees them but they rather obey what is written in its writings and traditions.

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Moreover, the Judaism church is continually bound to a number of religious practices and beliefs, specifically its belief that there is one, omnipotent, omni benevolent, transcended omniscient God who made the heavens and the earth and continually have its control over mankind. Judaism only worships one God and believes in Torah, where His commandments are written and must be strictly followed. Jews can worship anywhere but many choose to pray with other Jews at the synagogue. The word synagogue means “meeting place”. Synagogues are not only places of worship but also centers for study, celebration and for the community to meet.


The original basic beliefs of Christianity are stated in the Apostles’ Creed. It affirms that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that God sent him to earth to live as a man and to suffer and die for the redemption of mankind. It also states the belief that Jesus, after being crucified, arose from the dead and ascended to heaven, from which he will return to earth to judge the living and the dead. Belief that Jesus was born of a virgin mother and that there is a life for man after death are essential parts of the creed.

Man’s need for help from a higher power was stressed in religious earlier than Christianity.  The concept of God as benevolent and forgiving—rather than as vengeful—is a main tenet of the Christian’s faith. Another Christian belief is that even though man has sinned seriously and separated himself from the love of God, he can be saved by repentance and accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.

The necessity, and therefore the possibility, of communion between God and man is accepted by all Christians. At first, the gospel of Jesus was spread by his disciples, followers who remembered his sayings. As Gentiles (non-Jews) as well as Jews entered the church, the influence of other minds began to be seen in the interpretations of doctrines.

In this work, early Christian theologians borrowed ideas from the teachings of the Greek philosophers.  At the same time, national traits and customs began to affect rituals and observances. There are other differences. The Disciples of Christ and certain Protestant groups insist upon using the Bible alone as a source of guidance. The doctrine of the Trinity—the belief  that God is three beings (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in one divine nature—is accepted as basic by most Christians, but is rejected by Unitarians and Universalists.


Islam is one of the world’s greatest religions, founded in the seventh century A.D. by Mohammed. Followers of this religion are called Moslems which means “those who submit” (to the will of God). Non-Moslems sometimes call the religion Mohammedanism and its followers Mohammedans. Moslems, however, dislike these terms because they imply the worship of Mohammed, their prophet, rather than God.
There are more than a billion Moslems worldwide, making up about one- eighth of the earth’s population.

Islam began in Arabia in the seventh century A.D. and spread rapidly to become the principal religion of northern Africa and western Asia. It also extends into the Balkans and across Pakistan and Bangladesh to Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. When Muhammad was about 40 years old, an event happened that changed his life. Muhammad was unhappy that the rich merchants of Mecca were also cruel and corrupt. He began to spend more time by himself, meditating and praying. Sometimes he stayed away from home for days, often in a cave on nearby Mount Hira. One night, while he was in the cave, the angel Gabriel (called Jibrail by Muslims) appeared to Muhammad.

The angel held out a piece of cloth and ordered Muhammad to recite the words on it which revealed Allah’s wishes for the world. Muhammad could not read or write but suddenly he found that he knew what the words meant. Many more revelations followed throughout Muhammad’s life. Later, these verses were collected together to form the Koran (or Qur’an), the holy book of Islam. The Koran is supplemented by the Hadith (tradition), consisting of the Ahadis (sayings) and Sunna (practice) of Mohammed.

The Hadith was handed down orally for more than 200 years before being written down. It and the Koran are the sources of Islamic law. “Sunna” in a larger sense means the theory and practice of orthodox Islam, as based on the Koran and the Hadith. Further opinions and practices accepted by the highest Islamic learned men become articles of faith known as ijma (agreement).

The pilgrim participates in a number of observances. Circling the Kaaba is the pilgrim’s first and last act. The Kaaba is a sacred structure in one corner of which is embedded the Black Stone, a meteorite that fell in ancient times and acquired symbolic significance. The pilgrim circles this structure seven times, kissing the Black Stone each time. The Running which consists of trotting seven times between two low hills on opposite sides of Mecca. This act represents a search for water by Hagar, mother of Ishmael, whose story from the Old Testament was adopted as part of Moslem tradition.

The Standing at the Plain of Arafat, 25 miles (40 km) east of Mecca, consists of a day of meditating and praying, facing Mecca. Stoning the Pillars at Mina Stoning the Pillars at Mina, 5miles (8km) east of Mecca, is an act in which pilgrims throw seven stones at pillars, symbolically attacking the devil. Feast of Sacrifice Feast of Sacrifice consists of the slaughtering of an animal by pilgrims who can afford to as a thanksgiving to Allah. Religious War or holy war (jihad). This belief is not specifically stated in the Koran.

The basic ethical code of Islam comes from the Koran. The most important rule is that all Moslems are bothers. The Koran encourages charity, authorizes slavery, and prohibits wine, gambling, and the eating of pork. A Moslem may have as many as four wives, and divorce is permitted. Divorce is affected by the husband telling his wife three times “I divorce thee.” The Koran does not provide a political structure for Islam and Mohammed did not reveal how the religion should be organized after his death.


  1. Judaism. New Standard Encyclopedia. Volume 9. Pages 344-345.
  2. Klein, F. A. The Religion of Islam. Reprint of classic study, first published, 1996. London: Curzon, 2005.
  3. Noll, M.A. and others. Eerdman’s Handbook to Christianity in America. Eerdmans, 2003.
  4. Wiggins, James and R.S. Ellwood. Christianity: a Cultural Perspective. Prentice Hall, 1999.


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