The Abrahamic Pyramid



I uncovered an interesting paper of mine from this time last year. The specific outline of the assignment that yielded this masterpiece eludes me at the moment, but the context was 'The Islamic Religious Tradition' course taught by Dr. Charles Kimball during the Fall 2010 semester. This was my first examination of the Islamic faith and this is what spurred my interest in studying at Bogazici University in Turkey for the 2011 Summer. Enjoy this fledgling work of mine.

Examining the Overlaps and Interactions 
of the Three Great Abrahamic Monotheisms

With religion being the number one identifying attribute of a person in the world today, and half of that religious population stemming from the Abrahamic faiths of devout monotheism, one needs to examine what makes them different from a Muslim, Jew, or Christian, and to realize that maybe they just are not that different. My personal outside view in regards to this Abraham dilemma can be explained by the idea of an “Abrahamic Mountain.” This is a theological pyramid of sorts with each of the three sides representing either Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. The fact that the same God is worshipped by all three religious communities alike allows me to make the likening to a pyramid, being that the conclusion or zenith of all three sides winds up being one singular and total point, accurately representing this shared idea of monotheism. But it is the ways of worship and daily life that creates the three distinct sides, where as the edges can sometimes become blurred.

So with the most familiar religion, in regards to the American mind, being Christianity, I will start with Islam. The central idea of Islam as it relates to the person is that humans are not evil by nature; it’s just that we are forgetful. It is through a strict regimen of prayer and daily ways to remember God and the Koran that helps to combat this issue of forgetfulness. The Major theological idea throughout mainstream Islam is that Allah is the single God and Muhammad is his FINAL messenger. Islam took rise in the early seventh century in what is now Saudi Arabia. It is believed by Muslims that the word of God was revealed to the prophet Muhammad and was written into what we now know as the Koran. During the rise of Islam, Muhammad and his few followers were heavily persecuted by the ruling class at the time, who where idolaters and did not hold to a conventional religion. So Muhammad and his followers set out to the different kingdoms of Arabia and the Middle East to find sanctuary. He found this in the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia. Part of the motivating factors for the allowance of Muhammad and his followers to stay there was that the king recognized the names of Abraham and Jesus and recognized this singular God as being the Christian God too. What most people do not know or realize today is that Jesus is not only mentioned in the Koran but viewed and glorified as a prophet. While not as devout on the God-incarnate implications that most Christians hold to, Muslims are still respectful of him, because he, like Muhammad and Moses, is just another prophet bringing forth God’s message. So even there one can see how the two religions of Christianity and Islam are linked in ideology. The main geographical place in regards to Islam is the ka’aba in the city of Mecca; believed to have been built by Abraham himself, it is the center for the hajj and became the focal point of prayer for Muslims after being liberated by Muhammad and his followers.

So far, not counting the crusades due to the fact that they were human creations and motivated by greed and personal gain of people and not the true religion, we can see a strong bond between Christianity and Islam. Next, I want to hit on the points of Judaism. The oldest and smallest of the three major Abrahamic faiths, Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity. For the purposes of this essay I will be addressing the religious implications on Judaism. Judaism gets its start from the Old Testament and plays heavily upon the origins of Christianity, being that Jesus, the central figure of Christianity, was himself a Jew. Plus two other major players of the Jewish faith are also major players within Christianity; Abraham and Moses. Whereas the Christian Bible is based off of the Old Testament and New Testament, the Jewish Tanakh is based largely off of the Old Testament or Torah and its supplemental elements. The Torah itself is known as the five books of Moses. Once these major elements of Judaism are examined it leads into the third piece of the Abrahamic trio, Christianity.

Christianity is the largest and furthest reaching religion not only in the three Abrahamic faiths but in the whole world of spirituality. Based heavily upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the encompassing teachings and lessons, as written down in the Bible by numerous authors, Christianity has had the furthest reach out of the world's religions; holding to the idea of original sin and that we are sinful by nature, much like the Judaic interpretation. Comprising of the four main gospels and other letters and texts, the New Testament is only half of the Christian Bible. The other half is the Torah, the five books of Moses, or the Old Testament.

Due to the close intertwining of all three religions, we have major figures that lead into the next form of Abrahamic religion. Judaism gave rise to Christianity; Christianity led and aided Islam into its formidable years. All three religions having different bases from which they grew and how they were influenced lead up to a singular God, as originally taught by Abraham. While although they do have major differences in regards to topics such as prayer, diet, law, and the legitimacy of the other’s prophets or messiah’s, they are united in the fact that it is the message given to them by God which holds the highest importance, not necessarily in which means that it was delivered to them.

The biggest difference from the American’s “Christio-centric” point of view would be the interpretation of Jesus from the Jewish and Muslim standpoint. Being that in Christianity Jesus is viewed as God incarnated as man, born of a virgin, and righteous and god-like in nature, able to heal, bring back the dead, perform miracles, and overcome death (the physical death, not to say that he was ever actually spiritually dead). In Judaism the view is that although Jesus was actually Jewish and was a nice guy, he was not a messiah, had no association with the divine, and therefore they purveyed his execution. The Islamic perspective is that Jesus did in fact come from a virgin birth and spread the word of god as one of his prophets, but was not in fact god himself. So it seems to be a situation of all or nothing or in-between. This is an example of a common element throughout all three branches but their interpretations of Jesus are what determine the individual and separate view.

So the point is basically this, Abraham is the common base for this pyramid/mountain hybrid. But it is the conditions, elements, and aspects of life and how they reacted and adapted that form these similar but elegantly unique religions. These three defined faces regardless of their differences provide a way to reach the top, which is commonly viewed as the ultimate relationship between oneself and God. So from the perspective of a person who has no claim to or affiliation to any of the religions involved in the Abrahamic faiths it seems to me as if as long as you are a participant on the hike towards the top of the same mountain there should be nothing to quarrel about. Just because views may not line up, does not mean one should berate or tear-down the other, because even though the methodology differs the goals still do not.

I find it extremely ironic that religions claiming peace choose to find small and petty differences to alienate themselves from each other rather than identifying with each other on the major underlying commonalities that essentially defines each religion. Because if there was no Abraham, there would be no Judaism, no Judaism leads to Jesus not being a Jew and therefore adversely affecting the unfolding of Christianity, and if Christianity turned out different, there may have not been anybody to aide Muhammad during the infant years of Islam. While admittedly other factors come into play, this seems to be the yoda-esque factor that strongly unites and bonds all three religions together. It seems as if this could be realized by the participants of the respective faiths, together they would be able to make the journey to the top of the Abrahamic Mountain better and much easier for all travelers involved.




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