Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God? - ABC Religion & Ethics (2023)

"Do we worship the same God?" This complex question, it seems to me, warrants a similarly complex response, one that integrates a variety of dimensions of reading and belief.

1. A Prayerful Response

I pray that we worship the same God. This is where one must begin, and where one must necessarily end.

2. A Theo-political Response

I believe it is God's will that, at this time in our histories, we in the Abrahamic traditions declare that we worship the same God, albeit by way of mutually exclusive practices of worship.

3. A Rabbinic Response

Within this response, there are grounds for a series of competing claims:

  1. 1.There is rabbinic warrant for either affirming or denying that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and that Christians worship the same God as Jews ― overall, there tends to be more support of Muslim worship than of Christian, except for participants in European Jewish-Christian dialogue.
  2. 2.There is strong rabbinic warrant for identifying some forms of worship ― whether by Jews or non-Jews ― as idolatrous and, therefore, as offered to gods other than God.
  3. 3.There is also strong rabbinic warrant for recognizing that Jews ultimately understand only their own worship and that each religion remains at some point opaque to the other.
  4. 4.There is strong rabbinic warrant for recognizing that the God to whom Jews pray makes Himself known in other ways to other peoples ― and that means other languages or religious discourses.

I believe that rabbinic doctrine defines the limits within which I can respond to this question. Within those limits, however, it refrains from offering me any one determinate response. In other words, rabbinic doctrine requires me to make fresh judgments on the basis of the issues and evidence before me at the time of this judgment.

4. A Scriptural Response

The narratives of ancient Israel, as displayed in the Tanakh, in the New Testament and in the Qur'an, are framed within and extend the terms of the religion of ancient Israel. There is therefore strong narrative warrant for speaking of the Abrahamic Religions as sharing a common frame for characterizing God's identity as, for example, creator of the universe, revealer of His word and will, commander of human behaviour, teacher of ultimate wisdom, author of universal redemption in the time to come, a dear friend and ultimately a lover of those who love Him, the only source of our being, knowledge, and peace.

There are also narrative grounds for distinguishing different spheres of God's self-identity as known in these different traditions. But there are, at the same time, strong narrative warrants for identifying different, and at times seemingly mutually exclusive, sub-communities within these traditions, making competing claims about the divine identities even within these traditions.

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5. A Jewish Philosophic Response

Perhaps the most significant Jewish philosophic element is the elementary rabbinic distinction between plain sense (peshat) and interpreted sense (derash). For the Talmudic authors, peshat does not mean what some later mediaeval commentators took to mean "the literal sense." Peshat means the sense or place of a verse or verses in their somewhat broader literary context, such as the meaning of "earth" within the specific plot of Genesis 1.

As opposed to literal sense, however, peshat does not include the objective reference of such a term ― in this case, what we may imagine "earth" means as some physical a part of the universe wholly independent of the biblical narrative. I would say, perhaps more starkly, that the peshat refers only to a verse's internal sense in the flow of a narrative ― by itself it has no determined meaning for us. I believe that, for the rabbinic sages, such meaning is to be found only in some level of interpretive meaning ― that is, through the interpreting community and individual's lived relationship to the verse and to the broader scriptural literature.

In the most general sense, derash refers to any level of interpretive meaning of this kind. I think this is a powerful distinction because it means that God speaks to us by way of the material language (in this sense, "the alphabet") of peshat, but only as enacted in the actual speech of those who in a given time and place hear the scriptural word as commanding this or that action and revealing this or that truth.

In these terms, what do we mean when we name or characterize the one whom we worship? Our utterance has to make sense in itself ― it has to have a plain sense ― but what is its interpreted meaning? If we maintain this distinction between sense and meaning, then our discussions about "the same God" will have to be nuanced. So, when one refers to "God," does that mean one is referring to some single object "out there," or is one invoking an infinite set about which one cannot measure sameness or difference? Or is one invoking that One who, however infinite and inscrutable, gives Himself here and now to the singularity of the relationship that binds this one seeker to this One who also seeks?

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All these questions come, moreover, even before we entertain the possibility or the prospect of measuring the sameness or difference that link or do not link the one whom this Jew worships to the one whom this Christian worships and this Muslim worships. I do not believe these questions are unanswerable ― whether wrapped in infinite mystery or disbarred by some logical rule ― but I do believe the answers will be nuanced and have multiple levels.

To say that "I worship God" is therefore at the very least to say that I count myself as having some manner of intimate relation with God. Can I talk about the intimate relations I have with friends? Yes, but I would not presume to "capture" those relationships through simple characterizations or simple references or pointings ― as if to say that I could fully describe my wife in a word or even in a very long string of sentences. I would not rely merely on utterances as a means of sharing with someone else any significant aspects of my intimate relation with God. Nor would I be silent or give up on communication.

Instead, I would first acknowledge that my relation to God is articulated through patterns of action, cognition, feeling, expectation and interrelation (the list continues indefinitely) and that I discern in these patterns a more precise register of my knowledge of God than I can articulate ― at least, outside of my worshiping community ― in the sentences of any natural language.

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To share what I know with someone else, I must therefore enter into a relationship with this person that will, like any other relationship, begin in time, develop slowly, move, change, grow deeper. Within the complex life of that relationship, my conversation partner and I could share familiarity with certain patterns of life and thought, and I could then speak of aspects of my knowledge of God by pointing to, commenting on, or drawing analogies with these patterns. Over time, we two may develop a linguistic shorthand for the ways we tend to refer to these patterns. Within the limits of our constructed vocabularies and shorthand, we may, only then, begin to share some of our knowledge of divine things.

I think this is one of the profound dimensions of Jewish belief and ontology. It is signalled in the famous dicta of Jewish sages, classic and modern: The words of the rabbinic sage Hillel, "If I am not for myself who will be for me, but if I am for myself alone, what am I?" The words of Martin Buber, "In the beginning was relation." And Emmanuel Levinas's references to "proximity" and to the "face of the other."

As for our present conversation about "the same God," I believe this Jewish wisdom leads to the following recommendation. If a Christian or a Jew wants to discuss whether or not "a Muslim, Christian or a Jew" does or does not worship the same God, the "Muslim, Christian or Jewish" conversation partners will first have to enter into significant relations, one with the other with the other. Only by way of a three-part relationship of this kind can meaningful and verifiable claims be offered about the relationship between the God to whom I worship and to whom you worship and to whom you worship.

By the standard of Jewish wisdom I have just called upon, this relationship will have to begin somewhere in time and it will take some time to develop, evolve, change and move until a response to our question can begin. And this brings me to my penultimate response.

6. A "Scriptural Reasoning" Response

There are many ways that Muslims, Jews, and Christians may interact with one another so that, over time, they could share conditions for articulating significant characteristics of the One to whom they each pray. Scriptural Reasoning represents one practice of this kind. Nurtured since 1995 by a society of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars, it is a practice of shared scriptural study.

The rules of practice are simple: join a small fellowship of study, meet regularly, focus group study on small excerpts from the three Abrahamic scriptures, spending hours on short selections so that there is time for the texts to become windows to each other and to the heart-knowledge-minds of all participants, study as if all participants shared in each scriptural tradition (in the sense of being invited equally to read, question, and explore possible meanings of each word and verse), privilege no individual person or tradition's voice or authority.

The "reasoning" aspect of Scriptural Reasoning is what may happen over time as trajectories of discussion and interpretation emerge that do not appear to belong specifically to any one text tradition.

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Scriptural Reasoning would, I believe, offer an optimal context for conversing about each tradition's relation to "the same God (or not)." This study would not prepare participants to learn and recognize their several traditions' doctrines about the identities of the one whom other traditions worship.

To enter Scriptural Reasoning study is to come in some sense already settled in the range of one's traditional doctrines: coming now to meet the other more directly and intimately. Over time, Scriptural Reasoning study should ― in grace ― nurture the depth of inter-personal and thus inter-traditional relations appropriate to hearing and seeing meaningful aspects of the relations that trace each participant's "knowledge" of the one to whom he or she prays.

7. A Prayerful Unity of Responses

If, at this time in theo-history, I pray that we worship the same God, I also pray that I take up such a question only in the fullness of my life with God, among the people Israel. Within the terms of this article, "the fullness of my life ..." is represented by my capacity, in grace, to attend to and engage equally all seven of the above dimensions of my reading and belief. The integrity of my participation in such a discussion would depend on the integration of all these dimensions as well as on my integration into an appropriate circle of inter-traditional, theological study. To achieve this integrity, I have "work" to do, but in the end I can only pray that the work is met by the work of others and by divine favour.

But in closing, let me introduce some of the beliefs that I believe I bring to such a discussion ― beliefs that would be articulated appropriately only over time, within the context of an extended fellowship of study.

I am open to the possibility that other peoples and other individuals may worship in an idolatrous fashion and, thus, worship someone I do not know, or seek to worship the one I know but in a fashion that profoundly obscures His identity. I would not, however, make judgments about others' worship until I had extended contact with them. I cannot make a priori judgments about what God is doing with and in relation to other peoples, as well as with and in relation to other individuals of the people Israel.

Other peoples may profess knowledge of "God," but display something else. Or, they may profess knowledge of some god I do not recognize, but their manner of worship and life may suggest to me an unexpected relation to the God I know. Other Jews, for that matter, may profess doctrinally rabbinic belief in God, but until I enter into relationship with them and see how they eat, sleep and pray, I would not be able to comment on the object and nature of their worship.

I want to enter into this discussion only within the parameters set by traditional rabbinic doctrine. But I discover that, on this question, there are rabbinic sources for both affirming and denying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, creator of heaven and earth.

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As a consequence, I read rabbinic doctrine as sending me out to look and see and hear about the practices of this or that Christian and this or that Muslim before I would be able offer a reasonable judgment about whose worship may or may not be to the one God.

Peter Ochs is Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Return to Scripture in Judaism and Christianity: Essays in Postcritical Scriptural Interpretation and Another Reformation: Postliberal Christianity and the Jews.

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FAQs

Do Muslims and Christians have the same belief? ›

Christians believe that Jesus was the incarnated Son of God, divine, and sinless. Islam teaches that Jesus was one of the most important prophets of God, but not the Son of God, not divine, and not part of the Trinity. Rather, Muslims believe the creation of Jesus was similar to the creation of Adam (Adem).

What 4 religions believe in the same God? ›

And yet, despite the manifest differences in how they practise their religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God. The founder of Islam, Muhammad, saw himself as the last in a line of prophets that reached back through Jesus to Moses, beyond him to Abraham and as far back as Noah.

Do Jews and Muslims have the same beliefs? ›

The two religions share similar values, guidelines, and principles. Islam also incorporates Jewish history as a part of its own. Muslims regard the Children of Israel as an important religious concept in Islam. Moses, the most important prophet of Judaism, is also considered a prophet and messenger in Islam.

Do the Jews believe in the same God as Christians? ›

Traditionally, both Judaism and Christianity believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for Jews the God of the Tanakh, for Christians the God of the Old Testament, the creator of the universe.

Do Muslims worship the same God as Christians Catholic? ›

The Catholic Church since Vatican II has taught in different ways that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God.

Are Allah and Yahweh the same God? ›

Though Muslims and Christians can describe Allah and Yahweh in similar ways at times, they are not the same god.

Which religions worship the same God? ›

The three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam readily fit the definition of monotheism, which is to worship one god while denying the existence of other gods. But, the relationship of the three religions is closer than that: They claim to worship the same god.

Who is the God of Jews? ›

Israelite tradition identified YHWH (by scholarly convention pronounced Yahweh), the God of Israel, with the creator of the world, who had been known and worshipped from the beginning of time.

What is the main difference between Islam and Christianity? ›

A key difference is that Christianity is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow this are called Christians. Whereas, Muslims believe that the word of God and the teachings of Islam are sharedby the prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

What is the main difference between Judaism Christianity and Islam? ›

Judaism's views of Christianity and Islam

Jews do not believe in the prophets after the Jewish prophets, including Jesus and Muhammad. Therefore, they do not subscribe to the idea that Jesus was the Messiah and the son of God, nor do they believe in the teachings of Islam.

What do Judaism Christianity and Islam all have in common? ›

Aside from being monotheistic belief systems that arose in the Middle East, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a great deal in common. There are notable similarities in notions of sacrifice, good works, hospitality, peace, justice, pilgrimage, an afterlife and loving God with all one's heart and soul.

Do Muslims believe in the Bible? ›

Gospel (Injil)

Accordingly, Muslim scholars reject the Christian canonical Gospels, which they say are not the original teachings of Jesus and which they say have been corrupted over time. Some scholars have suggested that the original Gospel may be the Gospel of Barnabas.

What God do Jews pray to? ›

God in Judaism has been conceived in a variety of ways. Traditionally, Judaism holds that Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the national god of the Israelites, delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and gave them the Law of Moses at Mount Sinai as described in the Torah.

Do Jews believe in one God or many gods? ›

Jewish people believe there's only one God who has established a covenant—or special agreement—with them. Their God communicates to believers through prophets and rewards good deeds while also punishing evil.

Is the Quran older than the Bible? ›

Knowing that versions written in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament does predate the Quran, Christians reason the Quran as being derived directly or indirectly from the earlier materials. Muslims understand the Quran to be knowledge from an omnipotent God.

What is the main difference between Allah and God? ›

Allah is the standard Arabic word for God and is used by Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews as well as by Muslims.

Is Muhammad in the Holy Bible? ›

Muhammad is not mentioned explicitly or ;implicitly in the Bible, God's oldest written revelation (and the only written revelation as far as Christians are concerned). But Christ Jesus is found in the Quran. And what it says about Him places Ham far above the founder of Islam.

What two religions share the same holy? ›

JERUSALEM (Jordanian Sector) Jan. 3—All of Jerusalem is holy to three religions—Christian, Jewish and Moslem, and some of the religious sites in and around the Holy City are shared by two or even all three of the religions. For Christians and Jews, Jerusalem is, of course, the preeminent holy city.

Do all religions lead to the same God? ›

Most religions, in some way, attempt to contemplate the divine; and some of them get closer than others. In this sense we can say that all religions lead to God.

What religion believes all religions are the same? ›

Omnism is the recognition and respect of all religions and their gods or lack thereof. Those who hold this belief are called omnists, sometimes written as omniest.

Do Muslims believe in God? ›

Belief in the Oneness of God: Muslims believe that God is the creator of all things, and that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. God has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

What are 4 beliefs of Judaism? ›

God is beyond time: God has always existed. God will always exist.
...
A summary of what Jews believe about God
  • God punishes the bad.
  • God rewards the good.
  • God is forgiving towards those who mess things up.
14 Sept 2009

Can Jews say Yahweh? ›

Observant Jews and those who follow Talmudic Jewish traditions do not pronounce יהוה‎ nor do they read aloud proposed transcription forms such as Yahweh or Yehovah; instead they replace it with a different term, whether in addressing or referring to the God of Israel.

Which came first Islam or Judaism? ›

recording available. Where, when, what? Judaism is generally regarded as the first monotheistic religion. The advent of Islam, however, brought a strictly monotheistic “competitor” to Judaism.

Do Muslims believe in the Holy Spirit? ›

So, yes, Muslims believe in the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ as given to us in the Qur'an and as exemplified in the life model of Prophet Muhammed.

What is the oldest religion in the world? ›

The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit.

Which is older Islam or Christianity? ›

According to religious historians, Islam was founded by Muhammad the Prophet around 622CE (Common Era), or about 1,382 years ago in Mecca. Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ approximately 1,971 (33CE) years ago.

What is the same between Christianity and Judaism? ›

These religions share many common beliefs: (1) there is one God, (2) mighty and (3) good, (4) the Creator, (5) who reveals His Word to man, and (6) answers prayers.

Do Muslims believe in Adam and Eve? ›

Islam teaches that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, repented, asked for forgiveness and God forgave them. They had to suffer the consequences of their actions by living a mortal life on earth, but their relationship with God was never changed. God has always remained accessible.

Do Muslims believe in Moses? ›

Moses is an important prophet in the Muslim faith as well as in Judaism and Christianity. Muslims call him Musa.

What are the four ways Jews worship God? ›

Worship is also important to Jews because it brings the community together. Worship in the synagogue includes daily services, rites of passage and festivals. Worship at home includes prayers, Shabbat meals and study.

Why do Jews pray 3 times? ›

The Talmud gives two reasons why there are three basic prayers each day: Each service was instituted parallel to a sacrificial act in the Temple in Jerusalem: the morning Tamid offering, the afternoon Tamid offering, and the overnight burning of this last offering.

What are 5 beliefs of Judaism? ›

Basic Elements of Jewish Belief:
  • There is a God.
  • There is one God.
  • God has no physical body.
  • God is eternal.
  • Only God may be worshipped.
  • Prophecy--God communicates with humans.
  • Moses was the greatest of the prophets.
  • The Torah came from God.

What do Jews believe about the nature of God? ›

For Jews, God is a single, whole, indivisible entity. He is infinite and eternal, beyond the full understanding of humankind. This makes him the only being who should be praised.

Can Jews eat pork? ›

Both Judaism and Islam have prohibited eating pork and its products for thousands of years. Scholars have proposed several reasons for the ban to which both religions almost totally adhere. Pork, and the refusal to eat it, possesses powerful cultural baggage for Jews.

Who Wrote the Bible? ›

Even after nearly 2,000 years of its existence, and centuries of investigation by biblical scholars, we still don't know with certainty who wrote its various texts, when they were written or under what circumstances. READ MORE: The Bible Says Jesus Was Real.

What was the first language Jesus spoke? ›

Most religious scholars and historians agree with Pope Francis that the historical Jesus principally spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic.

What's the difference between the Torah and the Bible? ›

Language: The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic whereas the Torah was written only in Hebrew. Composition: The Torah is only comprised of the first five books up to Deuteronomy, whereas the Christian Bible contains 66-80 books depending on the version.

What do all 4 religions have in common? ›

The thing is that all major religions have the Golden Rule in Common. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ' Not always the same words but the same meaning.”

What are the 4 main religion? ›

Pew Research Center organizes the world's religions into seven major categories, which includes five major religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism), one category that broadly includes all Folk/Traditional religions, and an unaffiliated category.

Which religion is the oldest? ›

The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit.

Is there a golden rule in Islam? ›

Islam. “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others that which you wish for yourself.” “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” “Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourself.”

What are the 3 main religions in history? ›

Three of the world's major religions -- the monotheist traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- were all born in the Middle East and are all inextricably linked to one another. Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, and Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism.

What is the religion where you believe in everything? ›

Pantheism is a religious belief that includes the entire universe in its idea of God. A person who follows the religious doctrine of pantheism believes that God is all around us, throughout the whole universe.

What do you call a person who believes in God but not religion? ›

The religiously unaffiliated now make up just over one quarter of the U.S. population. While the Nones include agnostics and atheists, most people in this category retain a belief in God or some higher power. Many describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” or “SBNR,” as researchers refer to them.

Who is the mother of all religion? ›

Hinduism - "mother of all religions"

Which is the most powerful religion in the world? ›

Major religious groups
  • Christianity (31.2%)
  • Islam (24.1%)
  • Irreligion (16%)
  • Hinduism (15.1%)
  • Buddhism (6.9%)
  • Folk religions (5.7%)
  • Sikhism (0.3%)
  • Judaism (0.2%)

What is true religion according to the Bible? ›

In short, James tells us that true religion is a devotion to God, demonstrated by love and compassion for fellowmen, coupled with unworldliness. Such a statement seems too simple to be sufficient, but in its simplicity it speaks an important truth.

Is Jesus the same in all religions? ›

The religious perspectives on Jesus vary among world religions. Jesus' teachings and the retelling of his life story have significantly influenced the course of human history, and have directly or indirectly affected the lives of billions of people, even non-Christians.

Do we all pray to the same God? ›

I believe most assuredly that Muslims, Christians and Jews are worshiping the same God: the God of Abraham. As an extension of culture, religion encompasses traditions and customs. These differences in how we worship appear to be a focal point, rather than the sameness among the religions.

What religions follow the Bible? ›

Bible, the sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity.

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