home
RSS
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
[twitter-follow screen_name='WeissFaithWrite']

(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. EvilCCP

    One theory that we are at the last God-age time is that human had too many protein for our brain to grow, the religion is the reflection of the brain evolution. As time goes by, will human being realize that all the Godswere created inside our brain as a result of evolution? Will the spiritual-age be evolved after the God-age?

    September 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  2. gregski

    YES THEY DO WORSHIP THE SAME GOD.. IT'S THE MADE UP BY THE PEOPLE SKYDADDY... Some people never want to grow up and stop believing in fairy tales..

    September 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  3. muti

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

    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.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • G to the T

      "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."

      1) God did speak to one person (not a nation) – Abraham (oh and ALL the other prophets).
      2) It would make even MORE sense if he started a religion for ALL of his creations, not just one tribe/nation.

      September 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  4. ono

    take their sins away. wash them in the blood of the lamb

    September 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Lionly Lamb

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rEbBB-Hfoc&feature=player_detailpage

      September 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Time For You To Grow Up...

      You want to send them to a slaughterhouse??

      September 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      christians sure are infatuated with blood. what a scary religion.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • oyes

      if atheists were not possessed by the devil itself, it would be easier for them to become christians. this kind of spiritual damage is healed only with prayer and fasting. they have turned their lives over to darkness, to principalities, to wickedness in high places and the to the rulers of evil of this world.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • Damocles

        Oh, yes, nothing more wicked than doing the best I can, trying to help out others, learning from my mistakes, laughing and crying with friends, raising my kids and not bringing harm to others. You should try being that wicked, might make you a better person.

        September 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • oyes

      if atheists were not possessed by the devil itself, it would be easier for them to become christians. this kind of spiritual damage is healed only with prayer and fasting. they have turned their lives over to darkness, to principalities, to wickedness in high places and the to the rulers of evil of this world.

      they spread lies everywhere. the stench of hell permeates everything they touch. can you smell their aroma, brethren?

      September 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  5. muti

    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

    September 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  6. classroomvolunteer

    If God is all powerful, then he/she/it cannot have a rival. If God has a rival, then God is not all powerful, is not God. So all Gods are one. And wouldn't God in his wisdom, give multiple explanations of Truth for us various humans, who see and understand differently. Hindus have many Gods that are different manifestations of the One. My Zen teacher used to say there are many paths to the top of the mountain.

    Enlightenment, becoming one with God/the universe, giving oneself up to Jesus, dropping body & mind, turning to the light . . . how many words to describe the top of the mountain? Unfortunately, most religions, most of us, are like two joyously married virgins, who sit before their honeymoon bed talking of making love. All night they talk/argue about making love and never go to their bed to experience it. AND the saddest part is that they fully believe that the discussion of making love is the reality!

    September 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  7. Peter Bishop

    Poor confused CNN opinion writer. Seeking to define something well beyond human understanding is about the same as a a germ contemplating man. This writer's vain attempt to encapsulate religion and God in a few paragraphs is laughable.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • tallulah13

      What's beyond understanding? Humans have been inventing gods for as long as there have been humans. For primitive men, the invention of gods served as an attempt to appeal to and control the unknown. Pretty simple stuff. Even a caveman can do it.

      September 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  8. God

    I am dead. Nobody worships me. The last christian, my son, died on the cross. If anybody worships a god, it's a god of their own making, which is fine, but it's not me.

    The end.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  9. ono

    agreed

    forgive them father

    September 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      wow, making demands of your father. Didn't your book tell you to honor your mother and father? Not demand they do anything?

      September 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
  10. muti

    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!"

    September 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    While humans may experience the Divine differently, that does not change the nature of the Divine nor influence it. To think otherwise is infantile and simplistic.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      To jump to a conclusion that there is anything divine, is illogical.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Damocles

      Why would the divine allow people to experience it differently to the point of sparking off wars and suffering?

      September 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Given that there is no evidence that any "Divine" actually exists, one might consider belief in such a thing to be infantile and simplistic.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  12. Daremonai

    A friend of mine watched a Church split over the question of if they should have a piece of cloth on the alter or if it should be bare wood. This was enough to divide the community and they broke up, forming two houses of worship.

    The differences themselves are irrelevant, they are just excuses for power struggles.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  13. scottdossett

    The question is not so much about whether we worship the same God, but "What is God like?" In the past, unfortunately, it has been about who God favors or who is really on his side. As a Christian, Christ was the perfect revelation – that he was God somehow, because he reveals the God of selfless love. Whether you call him Allah or Jehovah is only relevant to the extent of what those names mean to you. The real question to me: Is he a father or tyrant?

    September 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Dan W

      Then the answer should be obvious. If we are made in His image than the image of our fathers is likely the image of God. Fathers are known for being stern, being quick to anger, but they are also loving, and they can show great strength. There is no reason God can't be just like us. Sometimes He's happy, sometimes He's mad and breaks stuff or casts His creation out into the world to learn more. So what?

      September 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
      • Damocles

        So what?

        Yeah, no biggie if your dad punishes the whole neighborhood for something that you did. No big deal if the punishment is so blown out of proportion. Who cares if he tells you not to use his gun and then shows you where it is and puts it in your hand. Who are you to argue with your dad if he beats the crap out of his grandkids for something you did when you were five?

        September 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  14. muti

    ) 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.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  15. Elena

    Scientist now claim that they BELIEVE there are an infinite number of universes with a copy of you en each with an infinite number of possibilities, so very well in one of those universes there is a copy of you with v agin a or a pe eni$

    Do you atheist believe that?

    How is that different from believing in imaginary friends?

    and before insulting, prove you have the ability to debate with intelligent arguments?

    September 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • sybaris

      You don't know Atheists very well and despite what your minister spews from his podium we don't worship scientists or hang on every word they say.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
      • Elena

        Of course I know atheist very well, they like insulting and punching when they have no intelligent arguments to debate, and they are so arrogant they assumed things, like you assuming I have a minister telling me things!

        do you want more evidence?

        September 1, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
        • tallulah13

          So basically, Elena, what you are saying is that you don't know atheists. You just invented a cartoon villain to make yourself feel better about your own beliefs.

          September 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Elena
          It is hard to have an intelligent debate when you have one group making wild unsubstantiated claims, using circular logic and logical fallacies.
          Also, while there are some that will say there are no gods, I choose to say that there is no evidence of any of the thousands of gods men have worshipped.
          I will say ( or to you christians "witness") that I sought god for many years, looked for him in many different houses, services, rituals, various sects of this religion and that and my witness is that either there are no gods, or god ignored me 100%.

          September 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Time For You To Grow Up...

      Shouldn't you be out on a ledge somewhere??

      September 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Elana
      Who said they believe that? Likely they said that it is a possibility, one of an infinite number of possibilities.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Once upon a time, humans didn't even know about other continents. Perhaps there are other universes, but I'll wait until there is tangible evidence before I believe this hypothesis. That's the beauty of science. You don't blindly believe. You wait until the evidence supports an idea before you put any faith into it. And if the evidence doesn't support, the idea is changed or dismissed.

      On the other hand, humans have worshiped literally thousands of gods throughout history and there hasn't been a single shred of proof for any of them. That's a pretty bad track record, any way you look at it. Should irrefutable evidence of a god somehow be unearthed, of course I will reconsider. But until that evidence is provided, I will continue to dismiss your claims.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  16. shuja Rauf

    Yes! We do have a Common God. Yet, we are seeking different paths, different ways to get to same destination. As far as divine religions are concerned, each divine religion is continuation of previous one. In other words, God's message to mankind was revealed in 3 stages, in 3 versions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam; the last form of God's message). Each version was adapted to time and environmental context of particular civilization. The notion of current era’s devastation and disharmony among followers of different religions just can’t support the argument that religion is a non-primary or useful facet of human life. There is one God for all. It’s HUMANS, who are at blame for killings and violence.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  17. muti

    with thanks to Rabbi Michael Skobac, Jews for Judaism

    One of the most common questions we receive at Aish.com is: "Why don't Jews believe in Jesus?" Let's understand why ― not in order to disparage other religions, but rather to clarify the Jewish position.

    Jews do not accept Jesus as the messiah because:

    Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies.
    Jesus did not embody the personal qualifications of the Messiah.
    Biblical verses "referring" to Jesus are mistranslations.
    Jewish belief is based on national revelation.

    But first, some background: What exactly is the Messiah?

    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, 1-Kings 1:39, 2-Kings 9:3)

    1. Jesus Did Not Fulfill the Messianic Prophecies

    What is the Messiah supposed to accomplish? 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, 32:15-18, 60:15-18; Zephaniah 3:9; Hosea 2:20-22; Amos 9:13-15; Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 8:23, 14:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34)

    Specifically, the Bible says he will:

    Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
    Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
    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)
    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).

    If an individual fails to fulfill even one of these conditions, then he cannot be the Messiah.

    Because no one has ever fulfilled the Bible's description of this future King, Jews still await the coming of the Messiah. All past Messianic claimants, including Jesus of Nazareth, Bar Cochba and Shabbtai Tzvi have been rejected.

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

    ____________________

    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.

    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.

    For further reading: "Did God Speak at Mount Sinai?"

    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

    • "The Path of the Righteous Gentile," by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky

    FOOTNOTES

    Click here to receive Aish.com's free weekly email.

    (1) In response, it is claimed that Joseph adopted Jesus, and passed on his genealogy via adoption. There are two problems with this claim:

    a) There is no biblical basis for the idea of a father passing on his tribal line by adoption. A priest who adopts a son from another tribe cannot make him a priest by adoption.

    b) Joseph could never pass on by adoption that which he doesn't have. Because Joseph descended from Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11) he fell under the curse of that king that none of his descendants could ever sit as king upon the throne of David. (Jeremiah 22:30; 36:30)

    To answer this difficult problem, apologists claim that Jesus traces himself back to King David through his mother Mary, who allegedly descends from David, as shown in the third chapter of Luke. There are four basic problems with this claim:

    a) There is no evidence that Mary descends from David. The third chapter of Luke traces Joseph's genealogy, not Mary's.

    b) Even if Mary can trace herself back to David, that doesn't help Jesus, since tribal affiliation goes only through the father, not mother. Cf. Numbers 1:18; Ezra 2:59.

    c) Even if family line could go through the mother, Mary was not from a legitimate Messianic family. According to the Bible, the Messiah must be a descendent of David through his son Solomon (II Samuel 7:14; I Chronicles 17:11-14, 22:9-10, 28:4-6). The third chapter of Luke is irrelevant to this discussion because it describes lineage of David's son Nathan, not Solomon. (Luke 3:31)

    d) Luke 3:27 lists Shealtiel and Zerubbabel in his genealogy. These two also appear in Matthew 1:12 as descendants of the cursed Jeconiah. If Mary descends from them, it would also disqualify her from being a Messianic progenitor.

    (2) Maimonides devotes much 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)

    September 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      there is no good proof jesus existed at all. if you have some, please present it as i have seen none.

      if jesus did exist and went around telling people he was the son of god and that he could perform magic, then he was either:
      1) crazy: he really thought he was the son of god - which he wasn't.
      or
      2) a liar: he knew he wasn't the son of god but told people he was so they would obey him.

      so was jesus a nutjob or a charlatan?

      there is a third possibility:
      3) jesus never existed and the stories about him are made-up

      September 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
      • Dan W

        Magic is just applied Psychology. You want to make sure you get what you want? Associate the things you want with specific colors, with specific smells, specific songs, specific poems, wear specific clothes, and use specific instruments. All these actions essentially train 1 desire to the whole of your brain and it's various components. So let's say I do a spell for money. Any time I smell X I'm going to think about getting money. Any time I hear X song, or think about X song, I'm going to think about money. Is magic magical? No it's science.

        September 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  18. Bootyfunk

    do they worship the same god? more or less. christianity is a rip-off of judaism and islam is a rip-off of judaism and christianity. considering many the same fictional characters are found in all three religion's holy writings that it's obvious they're all connected. yes, all three religions worship, more or less, the same ultra-violent god. they are off-shoots of one another.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You forgot, Christ is a rip-off of Buddha. And Jesus never even gave him any credit for all the things Jesus took from him.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  19. Bootyfunk

    in Hinduism, all gods, even gods of other religions, all lead to the same god and the path to nirvana. so it doesn't matter which gods are worshiped. of course, hinduism is just as silly as christianity, judaism and islam. do they worship the same god? more or less. christianity is a rip-off of judaism and islam is a rip-off of judaism and christianity. considering many the same fictional characters are found in all three religion's holy writings that it's obvious they're all connected. yes, all three religions worship, more or less, the same ultra-violent god. they are off-shoots of one another.

    September 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • The Antichrist

      There is no heaven, there is no hell. There is only us.

      September 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
      • Rebbe Bupkis

        Ever been to Childress, Texas?

        September 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  20. FutureWoman

    I can picture the lecture in a history classroom in a few hundred years:
    "... and they gathered on Sundays to pray before a large wooden torture device and share impossible stories of magic and alien beings. When they had children, they would hold ceremonies where the infant was held under water or had his genitals mutilated. They seem to have held a belief that a person's body contained a secondary invisible brain,and that after death, this brain would travel to another dimension to live out another life. They seemed to have believed they worshiped one single god, though their holy book is filled with many gods, but most adherents weren't literate enough to even know the names or histories of their chief god. Their dogma delivered a mixed message of peace, family, love, hatred, bigotry, and above all anti-intellectualism."

    September 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80
Advertisement
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.