Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths trace their common origin to Abraham and recognize a spiritual tradition identified with him. They are one of the three major divisions in comparative religion, along with Indian religions (Dharmic) and East Asian religions (Taoic). As of the early twenty-first century, it was estimated that 54% of the world's population (3.8 billion people) considered themselves adherents of the Abrahamic religions, about 30% of other religions, and 16% of no religion.
The three major Abrahamic religions are, in chronological order of founding, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism regards itself as the religion of the descendants of Jacob, a grandson of Abraham. It has a strictly unitary view of God, and the central holy book for almost all branches is the Tanakh (sometimes refered to as the Hebrew Bible), as elucidated in the oral law.
Christianity began as a sect of Judaism in the Mediterranean Basin of the 1st century CE and later became into a separate religion with distinctive beliefs and practices. Jesus is the central figure of Christianity, considered by almost all denominations to be divine, typically as one person of a Triune God. The Christian Bible is usually held to be the ultimate authority, alongside Sacred Tradition in some denominations such as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Islam arose in Arabia in the 7th century CE with a strictly unitary view of God. Muslims (adherents of Islam) typically hold the Qur'an to be the ultimate authority, as revealed and elucidated through the teachings and practices of a central, but not divine, prophet, Muhammad. Less well-known Abrahamic religions, originally offshoots of Shi'a Islam, include the Bahá'í Faith and Druze.
|Ephraim Lilien, "Abraham," Die Bucher der Bible, 1908|
The three main Abrahamic religions have certain similarities. All are monotheistic, and conceive God to be a transcendent Creator-figure and the source of moral law, and their sacred narratives feature many of the same figures, histories and places in each, although they often present them with different roles, perspectives and meanings. They also have many internal differences based on details of doctrine and practice. Christianity remains divided into three main branches (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant), dozens of significant denominations, and even more smaller ones. Islam has two main branches (Sunni and Shi'a), each having a number of denominations. Judaism also has a small number of branches, of which the most significant are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. At times the different religions—and often branches within the same religions—have had bitter conflicts with each other.
It has been suggested that the phrase, "Abrahamic religion", may simply mean that all these religions come from one spiritual source. Christians refer to Abraham as a "father in faith" (Romans 4). There is an Islamic religious term, Millat Ibrahim (The Nation of Abraham), indicating that Islam sees itself as having practices tied to the traditions of Abraham. In addition to Jewish direct birth descendancy from Abraham, adherents follow his practices and ideals as the first of the three spiritual "fathers", Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
All the major Abrahamic religions claim a direct lineage to Abraham.
Abraham is recorded in the Torah as the ancestor of the Israelites through his son Isaac, born to Sarah through a promise made in Genesis 17:16. All variants of Judaism through the early 20th century (prophetic, rabbinic, reform, and conservative) were founded by Israelite descendants.
The first part of the Christian Bible is the "Old Testament," which is a modified form of the Jewish Hebrew Bible, leading to the same ancestry claim as above.
It is the Islamic tradition that Muhammad, as an Arab, is descended from Abraham's son Ishmael. Jewish tradition also equates the descendants of Ishmael, "Ishmaelites", with Arabs, as the descendants of Isaac by Jacob named Israel are the "Israelites".
Other terms sometimes used include Abrahamic faiths, Abrahamic traditions, religions of Abraham, Abrahamic monotheistic religions, Semitic religions, Semitic monotheistic religions, and Semitic one god religions.
However, the term "Abrahamic faiths", while helpful, is also misleading. It conveys an unspecified historical and theological commonality that is problematic on closer examination. While there is commonality among the religions, in large measure their shared ancestry is peripheral to their respective foundational beliefs and thus conceals crucial differences. For example, the Christian and Islamic belief in the prophetic position of Jesus is not shared by Judaism; Christian beliefs of Incarnation, Trinity, and Jesus' Resurrection are accepted by nither Judaism nor Islam.
Something in Common: The Centrality of Jerusalem
|A view of Jerusalem, not far from the Foundation Stone|
Judaism. Jerusalem became Judaism's holiest city in 1005 BCE when David established it as the capital of Israel, and his son Solomon built the First Temple on Mount Moriah. Since the Hebrew Bible relates that Isaac's sacrifice took place there (on the Foundation Stone), Mount Moriah's importance for Jews pre-dates even these prominent events. Jews thrice daily pray in its direction, including in their prayers pleas for the restoration and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple (the Third Temple) on mount Moriah, close the Passover service with the wistful statement "Next year in built Jerusalem," and recall the city in the blessing at the end of each meal. Jerusalem has served as the only capital of all five Jewish states that have existed in Israel since 1400 BC (the United Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of Judah, Yehud Medinata, the Hasmonean Kingdom, and modern Israel). It has been majority Jewish since about 1852 and continues through today.
Christianity. Jerusalem was an early center of Christianity. The Pagan Romans under Emperor Vespasian, in order to end the First Jewish Revolt, used forces lead by Vespasian's son and heir to the throne, Titus to lay siege to Jerusalem, sack the city, and destroy the Second Temple in 70 AD (eventually building a shrine to Jupiter Capitolinus in its place). In 135 AD, under Hadrian, as a response to another Jewish revolt against Roman rule (the Third Jewish Revolt of Simon Bar Kochba), the Romans further expelled all Jews from the area, after three revolts in 70 years, to ensure another revolt was not forthcoming. This is when the area surrounding Jerusalem, until then called Roman Judaea, first was given the name "Palestine", or "Syria Palaestina". There has been a continuous Christian presence there since. William R. Kenan, Jr., professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, writes that from the middle of the 4th century to the Islamic conquest in the middle of the 7th century, the Roman province of Palestine was a Christian nation with Jerusalem its principal city. According to the Gospel, Jerusalem was the city Jesus was brought to as a child to be presented at the temple (Luke 2:22) and for the feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41). He preached and healed in Jerusalem, unceremoniously drove the money changers in disarray from the Temple there, held the Last Supper in an "upper room" (traditionally the Cenacle) there the night before he is said to have died on the cross, was arrested in Gethsemane. The six parts to Jesus' trial—three stages in a religious court and three stages before a Roman court—were all held in Jerusalem. His crucifixion at Golgotha, his burial nearby (traditionally the Church of the Holy Sepulchre), and his resurrection and ascension and prophecy to return all are said to have occurred or will occur there.
Islam. Jerusalem, the city of David and Christ, became a very holy place to Muslims, like Mecca and Medina. The Al-Aqsa mosque, which translates to "farthest mosque" in sura Al-Isra in the Qur'an, and its surroundings are addressed in the Qur'an as "The Holy Land". Later Muslim tradition as recorded in the ahadith identifies al-Aqsa with a mosque in Jerusalem; nothing in the Qur'an supplies this connection (nor a connection to the Dome of the Rock). The first Muslims did not pray toward Mecca, but toward Jerusalem: the qibla was switched to Mecca as part of a complete break with Judaism, when it became obvious that the Jews would not accept Muhammad as a prophet. Another reason for its significance is its connection with the Miʿrāj, where, according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad ascended through the seven heavens on a winged mule named Buraq, guided by the Archangel Gabriel, beginning from the Foundation Stone on the Temple Mount, in modern times under the Dome of the Rock.
Christian Visual Imagery
|Abraham smashes the idols|