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Do Christians, Muslims and Jews worship the same God?
September 1st, 2013
03:26 AM ET

Do Christians, Muslims and Jews worship the same God?

Opinion by Jeffrey Weiss, Special to CNN
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(CNN) - Pope Francis surprised Israeli and Palestinian leaders last month when he invited them to a special prayer ceremony at the Vatican this Sunday - not least because religion has often been the source, not the salve, of the region's conflicts.

Still, Pope Francis offered his "home" - the Vatican - as the perfect place to plea for some divine assistance, and Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dutifully agreed to attend.

"The Pope has placed it in this perspective: Prayer is like a force for peace,” Vatican Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin told Vatican Radio.

"We hope that there, where human efforts have so far failed, the Lord offers to all the wisdom and fortitude to carry out a real peace plan."

But Sunday's special ceremony at the Vatican raises an interesting question: When Francis, Peres and Abbas bow their heads in prayer, will they be talking to the same God?

After all, Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace their faiths back to a fellow named Abraham, whom they all claim was chosen for special treatment by the Almighty.

Not academic

The “same God” question is one theologians have hammered at for as long as there have been enough religions for the query to make sense.

The question is hardly academic, though. In fact, a number of politicians, religious leaders and scholars have expressed hope in recent years that a convincing answer on the God question might dampen the violence committed in His name.

Yale Divinity School theologian Miroslav Volf recently edited a book titled “Do We Worship the Same God? Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue.”

In the introduction, Volf explained why the title question matters:

"To ask: ‘Do we have a common God?’ is, among other things, to worry: ‘Can we live together?’ That’s why whether or not a given community worships the same god as does another community has always been a crucial cultural and political question and not just a theological one."

On the other hand, there’s CNN Belief Blog contributor and Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero.

His book on this subject is titled “God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run The World.”

Prothero writes:

“For more than a generation we have followed scholars and sages down the rabbit hole into a fantasy world where all gods are one … In fact this naive theological groupthink – call it Godthink – has made the world more dangerous by blinding us to the clash of religions that threaten us worldwide.”

In the world of politics, President George W. Bush asserted the unity side of the argument more than once in the years after the 9/11 attacks - often as a way to deflect accusations that America was at war with Islam.

Bush told Al Arabiya television, “I believe there is a universal God. I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to. After all, we all came from Abraham. I believe in that universality.”

Pope Francis invites Israeli, Palestinian leaders to Vatican peace talks

Pope John Paul II drew from the same rhetorical well several times.

“We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection,” he first said in a speech to Muslims in Morocco in 1985.

Looking for a more recent example? Consider the plight of Vatican envoy to Malaysia.

Shortly after he arrived there last year, Archbishop Joseph Marino said that is was fine by him that Christian translations of the Bible into Malay use the word “Allah” for “God.”

“Allah” is, of course, the Arabic word for God and is found in the Quran. The Christian translators explained that since most Malaysians are Muslim, it’s the word they’re most comfortable with and therefore the best choice for the translation.

But many Muslim authorities in Malaysia were furious. They say Christians are slipping in the familiar word as a way to convert Muslims. And conversion of Muslims is all but illegal in Malaysia.

There’s a lawsuit ongoing about the translations. Marino had to apologize for pushing into Malaysian politics.

Points of disagreement

So what do the “Abrahamic” religions disagree about?

Among other things: the purpose of humanity, the relationship of God and humanity, sin, forgiveness, salvation, the afterlife, Jesus, Muhammad, the calendar, and the religious importance of Abraham himself.

Plus the nature of God.

Any summary will leave out enormous nuance. Internal divisions within religions have fueled some of the worst examples of human violence. Consider the long and frequently bloody history of troubles between Catholics and Protestants or the growing death toll of Muslim-on-Muslim attacks.

But there are common elements about God widely accepted in each tradition.

Judaism

Start with Judaism, since it came first and established roots that carried into the other two.

Jewish tradition teaches that there is one and only one God, creator of everything, and He established physical and moral laws. As Judaism’s preeminent prayer says: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

This God walks and talks directly with His creations – for a while.

Eventually, He chooses one particular nomad (Abraham) to father a mighty nation that God sets up as an example to other nations.

This God likes the smell of burning meat and demands other extremely specific physical offerings as evidence of obedience and repentance. And He gives His chosen people a particular set of laws – but doesn’t mind discussion and even argument about those laws.

A famous rabbinic saying implies that every word in Judaism’s sacred texts can be understood in 70 correct (but related) ways. And human reasoning can even trump divine intention. (No kidding. It’s in the Talmud)

This God judges His people every year. Tradition says he’s willing to accept imperfection, as long as it comes with repentance.

He’s big on obedience, not so much on faith. He’s not nearly as attentive to the behaviors of non-Jews. (There’s a famous Jewish joke with the punch line “Would you mind choosing somebody else once in a while?”)

Tradition holds that there’s a World To Come after death where moral accounts will somehow be settled. But this God is vague on details.

Christianity

The most obvious differences in the Christian God are the traditional teachings about the Trinity and Jesus. God is three separate persons who are also one. How? Christianity says the Trinity is a “mystery” of faith.

According to Christian tradition, God begets a son who is somehow also Him but not Him to atone for Original Sin. He sacrifices that son though a brutal death and thus achieves humanity's salvation.

But the son, who also is God, rises from the dead. And that sacrifice redeems eternally all who accept and believe in it. Faith, not behavior, is the essential measure of salvation.

This God is willing to vastly expand what it means to be among His “chosen people.” He’s also willing to cancel many of the laws that had applied to that chosen group for this expanded membership.

Orthodox Jews say that God prohibits them from eating a cheeseburger; Christians say God has no problem with them wolfing down Big Macs.

Unlike the Jewish God, whose instructions are almost all about this world, the Christian God is focused more on eternal salvation: heaven and hell.

Finally, for this God, much of the Jewish scriptures (which are all God’s word) are actually about foreshadowing Jesus. Including Abraham.

Islam

The Muslim God is a bit more like the Jewish God.

There is no Trinity in Muslim tradition. Jesus was a prophet, but no more divine than other prophets.

God has never has had anything like physical attributes and has no gender. (Some Muslim commentators say that the noun “Allah” is masculine, but only in the way that all nouns in some languages include gender.)

Muslim tradition holds that God wants one thing from humans: Submission. The word “Islam” is defined as “submission to the will of God.”

For Muslims, all true prophets in Jewish and Christian traditions were actually Muslim because they knew to submit correctly to God. Differences between Muslim, Jewish and Christian interpretations of God are due to errors that crept into the other two faiths, Islam teaches.

The Muslim God, like the other two, initially demanded that Abraham sacrifice a son. But the Muslim God wanted Abraham’s son Ishmael, not Isaac, who Jewish tradition holds was offered as a the sacrifice.

The Muslim God also designated, from before the world began, a perfect man to be his final prophet: Muhammad. God’s perfect truths are found only in the Quran and in the sayings of Muhammad, the hadiths.

And the Muslim God, like the Christian God but unlike the Jewish God, will welcome believers to paradise and condemn many non-Muslims - exactly which ones is a matter of much discussion - to eternal torment.

Final answer

So do Christians Muslims, and Jews, really all worship the same God?

In two major volumes on the subject recently published by scholars from various faiths and traditions, including Volf’s, the most inclusive response from these scholars is basically: Yes, and it’s our God.

This is not a new way of answering the question.

In 1076, Pope Gregory VII wrote this to a Muslim leader: “We believe in and confess one God, admittedly, in a different way…”

But like many other religious leaders on all sides of the argument, Gregory insisted that his version of the Almighty is the one whom the others are unknowingly and incompletely worshiping.

A less exclusivist set of religions might shrug off the differences. But all three claim to have the only “True Faith.”

So do all three faiths actually worship the same deity, whether they call him God or Allah or Adonai?

God only knows.

Jeffrey Weiss is an award-winning religion reporter in Dallas.The views expressed in this column belong to Weiss. A version of this story first ran in September 2013. 

CNN's Daniel Burke contributed to this article. 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • History • Islam • Judaism • Muslim • Religious violence • Torah • Vatican

soundoff (7,438 Responses)
  1. zamedine

    People generally kill each other over the same things, which the Pashtuns helpfully sum up as 'zar, zan, zameen'- gold, women and land. Slight or great differences in faith are just a handy motivator for less bombastic members of the group who might resist sacrificing THEIR lives to get back YOUR woman...

    I believe that there is a God, and only one. I believe that Muhammad was that God's final profit, but that the three (four if you count Mandaeanism) faiths spring from the same source. I (somewhat controversially) believe all the other theistic faiths are basically in touch with the same single, eternal, indivisible, omnipresent, omnipotent deity. I believe that a secular government is best in places (like everywhere) where not everyone follows the same faith to the same degree. I don't believe there is any reason we can't disagree in life and leave the judgement of God to God, rather than trying to balance every account here on Earth. I don't believe any decent, honest, caring people should have to live in fear of abuse or attack. Life is short, and hard enough for most of us already.

    September 1, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Silly

      God's final profit . . . Ironic misspelling

      September 1, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Sort of a religious fellow

      Good summary. Now we have to top killing each other over it.

      Peace.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  2. What is going on? FREEDOM

    I for one has always linked these major religions together. You can't tell me that all of you believe in one so-called God and not link yourselves together in believing the same thing, but with only different view points.

    September 1, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Colin

      When you know God you will know the difference. allah is not God allah is an idol.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:08 am |
      • What is going on? FREEDOM

        Allah is about the same as your God. You just deny it because you are one of them selfish Christians who think they are the only religion that exists in the world.

        September 1, 2013 at 9:15 am |
        • Colin

          There is one God allah ain't Him

          September 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  3. mohamed abdulle

    yes it is one one but is Allah

    September 1, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Colin

      allah is an idol

      September 1, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Ian

      Yes it is one, but it is imaginary.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  4. One one

    Reasons why people believe in gods and associated religions:

    1. fear of death and hope to live forever
    2. Explain the unknown
    3. Social management and control
    4. Desire to be loved and protected by an authority figure
    5. Desire to be part of a clan
    6. Affirmation that your values, beliefs, and practices are the "correct" ones
    7. Provides a rational to judge and condemn the "others".

    September 1, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Colin

      Wrong on all counts. Until you actually know God your assumptions (actually the assumptions of others that you have adopted) will remain false.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:10 am |
      • Silly

        Proof?

        September 1, 2013 at 9:14 am |
        • Colin

          The "proof" is before your eyes but your hate filled blindness prevents you from sight.

          September 1, 2013 at 9:20 am |
        • midwest rail

          "...but your hate filled blindness prevents you from sight. "
          Arrogant presumption.

          September 1, 2013 at 9:22 am |
        • S-3B Viking

          "Hate-filled" eh, Colin? A little emotional this morning?

          September 1, 2013 at 9:23 am |
      • One one

        Please enlighten us, what are the reasons as you see it ?

        September 1, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  5. Blyden

    These religions all claim to worship the (singular) God of Abraham, so to the extent that they actually do, they all worship the same God, BUT they have various and competing understandings of who that God is, who his true prophets were, and how he should be followed and worshipped. If their shared claim to worship the one God is correct, then these differences must be in how the different people perceive God, not differences in the God. The problems come from each group thinking that their own understanding is the true understanding of God, or at least the best one, and that it is the other guys whose understanding is flawed or who have been deceived.

    September 1, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  6. ll

    Religion =/= Spirituality

    September 1, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  7. 4ormorechars

    Since there is no actual, real God, we have three different versions of a story, and therefore something the copyright lawyers should resolve.

    September 1, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  8. believer

    The Muslim God, like the other two, initially demanded that Abraham sacrifice a son. But the Muslim God wanted Abraham’s son Ishmael, not Isaac, who Jewish tradition holds was offered as a the sacrifice."

    Now this is false , it was a test for Abraham of his faith and the child was replaced by a sheep but it was never about ishmael or issac.
    Correct it please

    September 1, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  9. Sort of a religious fellow

    What did I take from that and what will most that believe in "their God" but condemn everyone elses (the folks that are killing people over it it particularly). Blah, blah, blah, blah

    September 1, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  10. ll

    Maybe people of all ethnic backgrounds use the veil of religion in attempts to give their hate and bigotry a higher authority.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  11. aginghippy

    The very fact that the "Big 3" have been allowed by their identical or completely different gods to kill each other in his name, while he sits back and does absolutely nothing to prevent the bloodshed, nor offer any evidence to set the record straight, should illustrate to even the most dimwitted of believers that HE DOES NOT EXIST!
    To an atheist, hearing or reading discussions like this are no different than listening to children debate the existence of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Otherwise intelligent and rational people waste time debating ancient myths and fairy tales, each calling the other believer's fairy tales silly or preposterous. A Muslim will tell the Christian that a messiah born of a virgin is just a silly notion, then proclaim with a straight face that Mohammed rode a horse (or was it a donkey?) to heaven.
    All of this ridiculous behavior would be hilarious, if not for the fact that religion has been, and will always be, a motivation and an excuse to promote bigotry, hatred and violence. Add to that the way that religion is used to hinder science, discourage critical thinking and dictate the life choices of others, and one can only hope for a speedy end to the plague on humanity known as religion.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Sort of a religious fellow

      Never met an atheist that wasn't a bitter former religious person or from a family that had strange or extremist ways of expressing their "faith". And I love that comparison to children, right out of the handbook. LTFOL. And I am hardly what you would call a "religious" person...

      September 1, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  12. Su

    Hinduism believes in 'Brahman' being the supreme energy/god the rules all the creatures.. it kind of sounds like 'ABraham'
    I am wondering if all religions at some point had the same origin and as people migrated, new languages developed and new points of worship came into being.. and human as foolish as they are now, started fighting with each other 🙂

    September 1, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • cigarlover9

      Very aptly said Su. I wouldn't be surprised that Hinduism being the oldest major religion in the world was the source of the Abrahmic religon. For Hindus the calendar of event can well go beyond 5000 years whereas the abrahmic faiths are 2000 years.
      There are many stories in Hinduism which seems to have inspired the abrahmic religious stories.
      Of course now the Abrahmic religions more dominant (thanks to conversion and conquests) they want everyone to believe their god/saviour died for all the humanity. What arrogance and boorish thinking...

      September 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  13. David

    So we are talking about, the Israeli god of war, the political Christian god of lies, corruption and deceit and the Islamic god of violence and intolerance.

    They are all different gods created by different cultures in their own image.

    The real God is probably very different.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  14. God is alive

    all of you are so wrong. It is not about religion but knowing God on a persona level. The end times are here and Jesus wil soon be coming and we will have to answer for what we did for him so watch out.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • TexasZag

      And pray tell, where'd you get that from?

      September 1, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Tom

      The only thing that all these religions have in common is that they teach you not to seek knowledge or the truth.

      That should say a lot...

      September 1, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • S-3B Viking

      Hmmm...Back in 1973 when I accepted Jesus as my "personal" savior, we were supremely sure that the "end times" were here...as they were in 1873, 1773, 1673...down to 73 C.E.

      Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus...

      Much like Mr. Beckett's "Waiting for Godot"...they're still waiting.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:17 am |
      • TexasZag

        And ironically, everyone's end-time does come. Most of those so-called believers who are singularly focused on the end-times wind up missing the fullness of the Christian message.

        In his description of Christianity, the author was wrong on one very important count. It's not just a "faith" religion (as protestants allege), it is also a religion of action; good works. The end-timers and others have for the most part completely removed Jesus' emphasis on works in favor of Paul's emphasis on faith, to the point that they couldn't care any less than they do now for the hungry and the sick. Instead, even as they ignore the words of their savior, they've convinced themselves that they are the true believers.

        September 1, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  15. muti

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/jewsandjesus/

    What exactly is the Messiah?

    (back)

    The word “Messiah” is an English rendering of the Hebrew word “Mashiach”, which means “Anointed.” It usually refers to a person initiated into God’s service by being anointed with oil. (Exodus 29:7, I Kings 1:39, II Kings 9:3)

    Since every King and High Priest was anointed with oil, each may be referred to as “an anointed one” (a Mashiach or a Messiah). For example: “God forbid that I [David] should stretch out my hand against the Lord’s Messiah [Saul]...” (I Samuel 26:11. Cf. II Samuel 23:1, Isaiah 45:1, Psalms 20:6)

    Where does the Jewish concept of Messiah come from? One of the central themes of Biblical prophecy is the promise of a future age of perfection characterized by universal peace and recognition of God. (Isaiah 2:1-4; Zephaniah 3:9; Hosea 2:20-22; Amos 9:13-15; Isaiah 32:15-18, 60:15-18; Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 8:23, 14:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34)

    Many of these prophetic passages speak of a descendant of King David who will rule Israel during the age of perfection. (Isaiah 11:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 30:7-10, 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5)

    Since every King is a Messiah, by convention, we refer to this future anointed king as The Messiah. The above is the only description in the Bible of a Davidic descendant who is to come in the future. We will recognize the Messiah by seeing who the King of Israel is at the time of complete universal perfection.

    1) JESUS DID NOT FULFILL THE MESSIANIC PROPHECIES

    (back)

    What is the Messiah supposed to accomplish? The Bible says that he will:

    A. Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).

    B. Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).

    C. Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)

    D. Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: "God will be King over all the world—on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).

    The historical fact is that Jesus fulfilled none of these messianic prophecies.

    Christians counter that Jesus will fulfill these in the Second Coming, but Jewish sources show that the Messiah will fulfill the prophecies outright, and no concept of a second coming exists.

    2) JESUS DID NOT EMBODY THE PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS OF MESSIAH

    (back)

    A. MESSIAH AS PROPHET

    Jesus was not a prophet. Prophecy can only exist in Israel when the land is inhabited by a majority of world Jewry. During the time of Ezra (circa 300 BCE), when the majority of Jews refused to move from Babylon to Israel, prophecy ended upon the death of the last prophets—Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

    Jesus appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended.

    B. DESCENDENT OF DAVID

    According to Jewish sources, the Messiah will be born of human parents and possess normal physical attributes like other people. He will not be a demi-god, (1) nor will he possess supernatural qualities.

    The Messiah must be descended on his father’s side from King David (see Genesis 49:10 and Isaiah 11:1). According to the Christian claim that Jesus was the product of a virgin birth, he had no father—and thus could not have possibly fulfilled the messianic requirement of being descended on his father’s side from King David! (2)
    SEE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S RESPONSE TO THIS QUESTION

    C. TORAH OBSERVANCE

    The Messiah will lead the Jewish people to full Torah observance. The Torah states that all mitzvot (commandments) remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-4)

    Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable. (see John 1:45 and 9:16, Acts 3:22 and 7:37) For example, John 9:14 records that Jesus made a paste in violation of Shabbat, which caused the Pharisees to say (verse 16), "He does not observe Shabbat!"

    3) MISTRANSLATED VERSES "REFERRING" TO JESUS

    (back)

    Biblical verses can only be understood by studying the original Hebrew text—which reveals many discrepancies in the Christian translation.

    A. VIRGIN BIRTH

    The Christian idea of a virgin birth is derived from the verse in Isaiah 7:14 describing an "alma" as giving birth. The word "alma" has always meant a young woman, but Christian theologians came centuries later and translated it as "virgin." This accords Jesus’ birth with the first century pagan idea of mortals being impregnated by gods.

    B. CRUCIFIXION

    The verse in Psalms 22:17 reads: "Like a lion, they are at my hands and feet." The Hebrew word ki-ari (like a lion) is grammatically similar to the word "gouged." Thus Christianity reads the verse as a reference to crucifixion: "They pierced my hands and feet."

    C. SUFFERING SERVANT

    Christianity claims that Isaiah chapter 53 refers to Jesus, as the "suffering servant."

    In actuality, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular form because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit. The Torah is filled with examples of the Jewish nation referred to with a singular pronoun.

    Ironically, Isaiah’s prophecies of persecution refer in part to the 11th century when Jews were tortured and killed by Crusaders who acted in the name of Jesus.

    From where did these mistranslations stem? St. Gregory, 4th century Bishop of Nazianzus, wrote: "A little jargon is all that is necessary to impose on the people. The less they comprehend, the more they admire."
    For further reading on the "suffering servant":
    jewsforjudaism.org/ss

    4) JEWISH BELIEF IS BASED SOLELY ON NATIONAL REVELATION
    (back)

    Of the 15,000 religions in human history, only Judaism bases its belief on national revelation—i.e. God speaking to the entire nation. If God is going to start a religion, it makes sense He’ll tell everyone, not just one person.

    Throughout history, thousands of religions have been started by individuals, attempting to convince people that he or she is God’s true prophet. But personal revelation is an extremely weak basis for a religion because one can never know if it is indeed true. Since others did not hear God speak to this person, they have to take his word for it. Even if the individual claiming personal revelation performs miracles, there is still no verification that he is a genuine prophet. Miracles do not prove anything. All they show—assuming they are genuine—is that he has certain powers. It has nothing to do with his claim of prophecy.

    Judaism, unique among all of the world’s major religions, does not rely on "claims of miracles" as the basis for its religion. In fact, the Bible says that God sometimes grants the power of "miracles" to charlatans, in order to test Jewish loyalty to the Torah (Deut. 13:4).

    Maimonides states (Foundations of Torah, ch. 8):

    The Jews did not believe in Moses, our teacher, because of the miracles he performed. Whenever anyone’s belief is based on seeing miracles, he has lingering doubts, because it is possible the miracles were performed through magic or sorcery. All of the miracles performed by Moses in the desert were because they were necessary, and not as proof of his prophecy.

    What then was the basis of [Jewish] belief? The Revelation at Mount Sinai, which we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears, not dependent on the testimony of others… as it says, "Face to face, God spoke with you…" The Torah also states: "God did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us—who are all here alive today." (Deut. 5:3)

    Judaism is not miracles. It is the personal eyewitness experience of every man, woman and child, standing at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago.

    See "Did God Speak at Mount Sinai" for further reading.

    5) CHRISTIANITY CONTRADICTS JEWISH THEOLOGY

    (back)

    The following theological points apply primarily to the Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination.

    A. GOD AS THREE?

    The Catholic idea of Trinity breaks God into three separate beings: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).

    Contrast this to the Shema, the basis of Jewish belief: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE" (Deut. 6:4). Jews declare the Shema every day, while writing it on doorposts (Mezuzah), and binding it to the hand and head (Tefillin). This statement of God’s One-ness is the first words a Jewish child is taught to say, and the last words uttered before a Jew dies.

    In Jewish law, worship of a three-part god is considered idolatry—one of the three cardinal sins that a Jew should rather give up his life than transgress. This explains why during the Inquisitions and throughout history, Jews gave up their lives rather than convert.

    B. MAN AS GOD?

    Roman Catholics believe that God came down to earth in human form, as Jesus said: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).

    Maimonides devotes most of the "Guide for the Perplexed" to the fundamental idea that God is incorporeal, meaning that He assumes no physical form. God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that God assumes human form makes God small, diminishing both His unity and His divinity. As the Torah says: "God is not a mortal" (Numbers 23:19).

    Judaism says that the Messiah will be born of human parents, and possess normal physical attributes like other people. He will not be a demi-god, and will not possess supernatural qualities. In fact, an individual is alive in every generation with the capacity to step into the role of the Messiah. (see Maimonides – Laws of Kings 11:3)

    September 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • bob

      YOUR 3,000 year old fairy tale is wrong because MY 3,000 year old fairy tale says so!
      *rolleyes*

      September 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Mulehead

      Blah, buh-blah, buh-blah......you people are all crazy.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Silly

      Blah, blah, blah. I'd rather burn in your hell than listen to your incessant blathering about make believe

      September 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Child of God

      All of the requirements of the Messiah will be fulfilled on Judgements day. Those prophecies still need to be fulfilled and Christ will fulfill them. Christs mission was to die for the sins of mankind so that we could have eternal life in Him. His gathering of the Jewish people, rebuilding of the temple, and His peaceful reign on earth will come later. This temple will be the Millennial Temple and will stand during His reign.

      A word of Warning: There is coming a man who will call himself the Messiah but he is not. He is the antichrist do not follow him. He will be very charismatic but don't fall for his lies.

      Come to Jesus and He will give you peace and understanding. He is the Messiah that the prophets spoke of. He died on a cross, His bones were not broken, and His clothes were gambled on just like it says in Psalm 22. Come to Him now so that you can escape the turmoil to come. His name is Jesus, Yeshua, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Lion of Judah. Call on Him and He will deliver you from sin

      Romans 10:9-10. 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:49 am |
      • Dan W

        Well according to the Bible if he is a false prophet then he shall certainly die (Deut 18:20-22). Not only that but if the Anti-Christ comes, then Jesus is surely right behind him. Have no fear.

        September 1, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  16. Rational in Austin

    The idea that we hold any credence to this ridiculous "imaginary" or "Holy" delusion is absurd. Religions were made up to control people. The world has to stop coddling the mentally ill and sorry, if you think you know Jesus or Allah, you are mentally ill. I know I was brain washed too. It took a lot of study to get out of the 'cult' of Christianity and start enjoying my life.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • TexasZag

      Rational, I don't think I agree that "god" was invented as a means to control; rather, if it truly is manmade, I think it was to deal with the unpleasant realities of life, such as death and other phenomena. When you consider that polytheism, in which usually the different gods are responsible for different aspects of life, predates monotheism, it makes sense. Man has always been rather inquisitive and has been interested in understanding why. For things and events for which there were no obvious answers, attributing them to the actions of deities worked quite nicely. I think it was sometime later that men learned to use this believe in the supernatural as a tool for control. This, of course, assumes that the manmade allegation is true.

      September 1, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Dan W

      You say control people, I say nudge them in a direction so they advance. Why wouldn't God want us to advance? We ate the apple, we obviously need to change.

      September 1, 2013 at 11:43 am |
      • TexasZag

        "We" didn't eat anything. And it wasn't an apple, it was the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And quite frankly, most people only have a biased, self-serving perspective of good and evil.

        September 1, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  17. muti

    Waiting for the Messiah

    The world is in desperate need of Messianic redemption. To the extent that we are aware of the problems of society, is the extent we will yearn for redemption. As the Talmud says, one of the first questions asked of a Jew on Judgment Day is: "Did you yearn for the arrival of the Messiah?"

    How can we hasten the coming of the Messiah? The best way is to love all humanity generously, to keep the mitzvot of the Torah (as best we can), and to encourage others to do so as well.

    Despite the gloom, the world does seem headed toward redemption. One apparent sign is that the Jewish people have returned to the Land of Israel and made it bloom again. Additionally, a major movement is afoot of young Jews returning to Torah tradition.

    The Messiah can come any day, and it all depends on our actions. God is ready when we are. For as King David says: "Redemption will come today ― if you hearken to His voice."

    For further study: • Jews for Judaism

    • "The Real Messiah," by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

    • "Let's Get Biblical! Why Doesn't Judaism Accept the Christian Messiah?," by Rabbi Tovia Singer

    September 1, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Rational in Austin

      See a psychiatrist. You need help.

      September 1, 2013 at 8:51 am |
      • Greg

        You don't believe, got it. Why did you even read the article? To troll others? Is that the "enjoying life" you referenced?

        September 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
        • Mulehead

          We read this to affirm our positions as non-believers. To reinforce our resolve against ALL bat-sh** crazy people that try to ruin this awesome world with such garbage. It would be nice for a change if you (religious nutjobs) would stay home and stop teaching this crap to kids.

          September 1, 2013 at 9:18 am |
        • Dan W

          If we need to teach our kids something it's to be less pompous and arrogant. We don't need to teach kids that because science can do something in a laboratory that they have it all figured out. Children should be taught not to come to conclusions about evolution theories, or the existence of the Creator. As a society we haven't looked hard enough to warrant a definitive answer on the existence of God using science. We dont have the tools, we don't know where to look, and we don't know how to build the tools we need to find Him. Once you come to know the truth, the answers all become obvious. There is a God, and believers need Atheists to strengthen our dialogue about Him. We can't just come up with some wishy washy contradictory stuff and call it a day. In order to continue to grow as believers we must engage those who would challenge our beliefs. Likewise Atheists need Theists to challenge your assertion that in some way you've done enough research to write God off. The truth is, you haven't and you cant reason on your own. There are like 2 famous Atheists who you all quote, whose ABC method you use with every theist. This is regurgitation, this isn't reason. Step up your game, think for yourselves.

          September 1, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Tom

      Please try to use your power of logic, you will see that these texts were written by humans and that there is no evidence pointing to a higher power.
      Logically speaking....

      September 1, 2013 at 9:01 am |
      • Dan W

        Lets say I went to Heaven, for me that would be plenty of proof..... but only for me. What evidence would I have from going to Heaven and coming back other than a story of what the experience seemed like through my eyes? Should I have some magical powers? Should I be able to perform miracles or predict the future? What does this body of evidence look like so I can begin assembling it, because I have seen what's on the other side. We are not alone in the universe.

        September 1, 2013 at 11:31 am |
      • Dan W

        Tell us again about logic.........

        September 1, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Dan W

      I love this person.

      September 1, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  18. Just Call Me Lucifer

    So when a tsunami hit 14 different countries in 2004, some god deemed it time for 230,000 people to die, because he didn't
    like them. Really? This is an act of a merciful supreme being? You cats is crazy. Put down the fiction that men wrote to subjugate you. This life is real. Gods are not. Deal with it and stop cowering in the pews financing pedofiles.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Dan W

      We ate the apple. We were cast out. Why would God want us to remain here? If this is cast out, death is parole, and the great journey home. Until you can shift your paradigm you will never understand why people say the things they do.

      September 1, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  19. muti

    B. Suffering Servant

    Christianity claims that Isaiah chapter 53 refers to Jesus, as the "suffering servant."

    In actuality, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The prophecies are written in the singular form because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit. Throughout Jewish scripture, Israel is repeatedly called, in the singular, the "Servant of God" (see Isaiah 43:8). In fact, Isaiah states no less than 11 times in the chapters prior to 53 that the Servant of God is Israel.

    When read correctly, Isaiah 53 clearly [and ironically] refers to the Jewish people being "bruised, crushed and as sheep brought to slaughter" at the hands of the nations of the world. These descriptions are used throughout Jewish scripture to graphically describe the suffering of the Jewish people (see Psalm 44).

    Isaiah 53 concludes that when the Jewish people are redeemed, the nations will recognize and accept responsibility for the inordinate suffering and death of the Jews.

    ______________________

    4) Jewish Belief is Based Solely on National Revelation

    Throughout history, thousands of religions have been started by individuals, attempting to convince people that he or she is God's true prophet. But personal revelation is an extremely weak basis for a religion because one can never know if it is indeed true. Since others did not hear God speak to this person, they have to take his word for it. Even if the individual claiming personal revelation performs miracles, they do not prove he is a genuine prophet. All the miracles show ― assuming they are genuine ― is that he has certain powers. It has nothing to do with his claim of prophecy.

    Judaism, unique among all of the world's major religions, does not rely on "claims of miracles" as the basis for its religion. In fact, the Bible says that God sometimes grants the power of "miracles" to charlatans, in order to test Jewish loyalty to the Torah (Deut. 13:4).

    Of the thousands of religions in human history, only Judaism bases its belief on national revelation ― i.e. God speaking to the entire nation. If God is going to start a religion, it makes sense He'll tell everyone, not just one person.

    Maimonides states (Foundations of Torah, ch. 8):

    The Jews did not believe in Moses, our teacher, because of the miracles he performed. Whenever anyone's belief is based on seeing miracles, he has lingering doubts, because it is possible the miracles were performed through magic or sorcery. All of the miracles performed by Moses in the desert were because they were necessary, and not as proof of his prophecy.

    What then was the basis of [Jewish] belief? The Revelation at Mount Sinai, which we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears, not dependent on the testimony of others... as it says, "Face to face, God spoke with you..." The Torah also states: "God did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us ― who are all here alive today." (Deut. 5:3)

    Judaism is not miracles. It is the personal eyewitness experience of every man, woman and child, standing at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • longshot

      blah blah blah – youre saying words but they are gibberish

      September 1, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Dan W

      I disagree. Judaism is what it is because they accepted that they should change to be better people. God went around to the other people trying to give them the Torah (Old Testament) but none of the other people were willing to change. This is why they are considered God's chosen people. Whether or not you agree they are chosen, you can agree when someone tries to be a goody goody the world around them rains down hell fire. So what happens when a whole people try to be goody goodies? The world tries to destroy them. I feel this way when I try to live the right way standing next to someone who refuses. That person who is secretly unnerved by the fact that I think people should try to change for the better will eventually lash out at me, try to tear me down, make me feel distance from the Creator. This is surly the plight of the Jewish people. People chasing them around asking "how could your God let this happen? I thought you were chosen". But those people don't understand that this is jail, and that death is parole. If you kill someone, or attempt to wipe a people off the map you are sending them right to Gods side where they will surely be waiting when you arrive. Im just sayin'.

      September 1, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  20. muti

    2) Jesus Did Not Embody the Personal Qualifications of Messiah

    A. Messiah as Prophet

    The Messiah will become the greatest prophet in history, second only to Moses. (Targum – Isaiah 11:2; Maimonides – Yad Teshuva 9:2)

    Prophecy can only exist in Israel when the land is inhabited by a majority of world Jewry, a situation which has not existed since 300 BCE. During the time of Ezra, when the majority of Jews remained in Babylon, prophecy ended upon the death of the last prophets ― Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

    Jesus appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended, and thus could not be a prophet.

    B. Descendent of David

    Many prophetic passages speak of a descendant of King David who will rule Israel during the age of perfection. (Isaiah 11:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 30:7-10, 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5)

    The Messiah must be descended on his father's side from King David (see Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:17; Ezekiel 34:23-24). According to the Christian claim that Jesus was the product of a virgin birth, he had no father ― and thus could not have possibly fulfilled the messianic requirement of being descended on his father's side from King David. (1)

    According to Jewish sources, the Messiah will be born of human parents and possess normal physical attributes like other people. He will not be a demi-god, (2) nor will he possess supernatural qualities.

    C. Torah Observance

    The Messiah will lead the Jewish people to full Torah observance. The Torah states that all mitzvot remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-4)

    Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable. For example, John 9:14 records that Jesus made a paste in violation of Shabbat, which caused the Pharisees to say (verse 16), "He does not observe Shabbat!"

    ____________________

    3) Mistranslated Verses "Referring" to Jesus

    Biblical verses can only be understood by studying the original Hebrew text ― which reveals many discrepancies in the Christian translation.

    A. Virgin Birth

    The Christian idea of a virgin birth is derived from the verse in Isaiah 7:14 describing an "alma" as giving birth. The word "alma" has always meant a young woman, but Christian theologians came centuries later and translated it as "virgin." This accords Jesus' birth with the first century pagan idea of mortals being impregnated by gods.

    September 1, 2013 at 8:49 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.