Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jerusalén: Capital de 3 Religiones

Jerusalem: a holy city for three religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
In the year 2001 I was taking Hebrew classes in the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM[1]) in one of my classes we were told that we were going to be visited by Sergio Berlioz. Sergio Berlioz is a Mexican Jew living in Mexico City. He is famous for his talent in music. When he visited us he did not talk about music but his experience as a Jew and the Frank Kafka works. As part of his presentation, he explained to us that Jerusalem is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I was a little confused but then I started to study about it and the topic has been really interesting to me.

            For the Jews, Jerusalem has been the holiest city since, according to the Torah, King David of Israel first established it as the capital of the united kingdom of Israel in c. 1000 B.C., and his son Solomon commissioned the building of the first temple in the city.

For Christians, Jerusalem has been a holy city since, according to the New Testament; Jesus was crucified in 30 A.D.

            In Sunni Islam, Jerusalem is the third holiest city. It became the first Qibla, the focal point for Muslim prayer (Salah) in 610 A.D and, according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad made his Night Journey there ten years later.

Deities, Scriptures and Prayers (Rituals)


             The God of the Jews has a proper name, written YHWH, in Rabbinical Judaism vocalized as HebrewModern Yehova. The name YHWH literally means "The Existent One" and relates to God as God truly is, God's essence, which transcends the universe, it also represents God's compassion towards the world.

            For Christians God is understood by as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a single infinite being who is both within and beyond nature.  Less commonly, non-Trinitarian theologies exist in various denominations which define the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as separate beings.

            For the Muslims God is Allah is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, controller, and judge of the universe. Islam points out the conceptualization of God as strictly singular God is unique. Creation and ordering of the universe is seen as an act of mercy for which all creatures including humans should praise Allah. According to the Islamic teachings, God does not exist in a single space. The Qur’an explains it in these words:  "No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision. God is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things"[2]

            The main similarity that I found is that the three religions share the same God. They call him with different names but is the same God that created the earth, created Adam and spoke to Abraham. The difference is that “their God” has elected and can save their particular group of people that belong to their specific religion. So, Yehova cares for the Jews, The father of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ cares for the Christian and Allah cares for the Muslims.


            For the Jews “The Hebrew Bible” includes:The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, forming the covenant between God and the Jewish people. They also use the Talmud which is an abridgment of the rabbinic discussions about the Hebrew bible plus other topics of Jew ethic , philosophy and history.

            The Christians also believe in the Hebrew Bible but call it the Old Testament. This, plus the “New Testament” which is an account of the birth, life and ministry of Jesus Christ and his apostles constitutes the Christian Scriptures.

            For the Islamic religion, the sacred book is called “The Qur’an”. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad by Allah verbally through the archangel Gabriel over a period of approximately twenty-three years, beginning in 610 A.D, when he was forty, and concluding in 632 A.D. the year when he passed away. This book was written after the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible. The Qur’an mentions that those two books are true and given by God through revelation as well. All the main prophets of the Judaism and Christianity (including Jesus) are mentioned in the Qur’an. So, in  a way the Qur’an claims to be a continuation of the prior two books and the final one.

            The main similarity is that all these sacred book speak about God and his dealings with the same prophets: Adam, Noah, Enoch, etc. The main difference is that Each new book are used as the foundation for  a new religion.  The New Testament is the foundation for Christianity, (Jews only kept the Old testament) The Qur’an is the foundation for Islam (Christian only kept the New Testament). Christians, with exception, generally agree that the Torah is the original work of Moses but has been modified in translation, transliteration or transcription to include more recent names of places and similar insubstantial alterations.

            The Qur'an contains many references to people and events that are mentioned in the Bible; that Jesus was given the gospel from the Abrahamic God. Traditionally, Muslims have believed that parts of these teachings were eventually lost or distorted to produce what are now the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament.

Prayers (Rituals)
            In Judaism, Jews recite prayers three times daily (upon waking up in the morning, before eating or drinking different foods, and at night), with a fourth prayer added on Shabbat and holidays. A very important key prayer in some worshiping services is the declaration of faith, the Shema Israel (or Shema). The Shema is the
recitation of a verse from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4): Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God! The Lord is One!"
Most of the prayers in a traditional Jewish service can be recited individually, although communal prayer is preferred. Communal prayer requires at least a group of ten adult Jews, called a minyan. In nearly all Orthodox and a few Conservative circles, only male Jews are counted toward a minyan; most Conservative Jews and members of other Jewish denominations count female Jews as well.In addition to prayer services, observant traditional Jews recite prayers and benedictions throughout the day when performing various acts.

            Christians on the other hand don’t have a standard prayer schedule. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that prayer should not be a repetition of standard prayers. With time however mainly the Catholic churches adopted standard prayers. All other churches offer prayers based on their feelings and need at the moment.

            For the Muslims the Salah is the standard way of prayer. Salah is the practice of formal prayer. Its supreme importance for Muslims is indicated by its status as one of the Five Pillars of Sunni Islam and of the Ten Practices of the Religion of Shi'a Islam. Salah is a ritual prayer. Performing salah is obligatory for all adult Muslims, with a few dispensations for those for whom it would be difficult. To perform valid salah, Muslims must be in a state of ritual purity, which is mainly achieved by ritual ablution according to prescribed procedures.

Salah consists of the repetition of two or more units of a prescribed sequence of actions and words. The prescribed words of the prayer remain obligatory.
            The main similarity I found is that prayers are performed to thank the blessings and to request other blessings. The difference is that while Judaism and Islam have standard prayers, Christianity leaves the door open to express our feelings.

Origin and contemporary expression.
        God promised Abraham that out of his seed he will raise a power nation. Jews believe that they are that people.  Judaism also claims that they are the direct heirs of the religion and people guided by Moses. The Israelites were living as a slave people in Egypt. They (as the covenant people) were rescued by God through his prophet Moses.

Since then they have kept the law of Moses and studied the Hebrew Bible. Throughout the ages the Jews have been scattered and enslaved so many times that in reality we can say it is a miracle they have kept their identity. In our time they have achieve (with the help of the Christian nations) to recover their promised land and have a powerful nation there. They are living also on almost every nation and as a group they are very united and help each other. They are not very numerous and only represent the 0.22 % of the population of the world[3].
Christianity on the other hand was born with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was a Jew. And his preaching was directed to the Jews. The Jews are expecting for a Messiah. The Jews that did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah kept and still are waiting for the promised Messiah. The Jews that believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah were the first Christians (although the term Christian was not used until some centuries later).  As a new religion, Christianity was persecuted by other especially by the Roman empire. It wasn’t until Constantine who was the first Roman emperor that converted into Christianity allowed and promote the spreading of Christianity. In February 313, Constantine developed the Edict of Milan. The edict stated that Christians should be allowed to follow the faith of their choosing.   With an estimated number of adherents that ranges approximately around 2.2 billion, split into 3 main branches of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, Christianity is the world's largest religion[4] and represents the 33% of the population of the world.

            The Islam was born with Mouhmmad. Muhammad was Born in 570 in the Arabian city of Mecca, he was orphaned at when he was very young was brought up under the care of his uncle Abu Talib. Later on he worked mostly as a merchant, as well as a shepherd, when he was 25 years old he got married. Discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. According to Islamic beliefs it was here, at age 40, in the month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God. Three years after this event Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "surrender" to Him is the only way acceptable to God, and that he himself was a prophet and messenger of God, in the same vein as other Islamic prophets.
Muhammad gained few followers early on, and was met with hostility from some Meccan tribes; he and his followers were treated harshly. To escape persecution, Muhammad sent some of his followers to Abyssinia before he and his remaining followers in Mecca migrated to Medina  in the year 622. By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam.
            Nowadays Islam represents the 21% of the entire population of the world.
The following chart show more information about the comparison of these three religions[5].
History & Stats
date founded
c. 30 AD
622 CE
c. 1300 BC
place founded
Arabian Peninsula
founders & early leaders
Jesus, Peter, Paul
Abraham, Moses
original languages
Aramaic and Greek
major location today
Europe, North and South America
Middle East, Southeast Asia
Europe, Israel, North America
adherents worldwide today
2 billion
1.3 billion
14 million
adherents in USA
159 million
1.1 million
5.6 million
adherents in Canada
21 million
adherents in UK
51 million
1.6 million
current size rank
largest in the world
second largest in the world
12th largest
major branches
Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant
Sunni, Shiite
Orthodox, Conservative, Reform
Religious Authority
sacred text
Bible = Old Testament (Jewish Bible) + New Testament
Qur'an (Koran)
Tanakh (Jewish Bible)
inspiration of sacred text
views vary: literal Word of God, inspired human accounts, or of human origin only
literal Word of God
views vary: inspired human accounts or of human origin only
status of biblical prophets
true prophets
true prophets
true prophets
status of Jewish Bible
noncanonical but useful as a (corrupted) inspired text
status of Jewish Apocrypha
canonical (Catholic);
useful but noncanonical (Protestant)
noncanonical but useful
status of New Testament
noncanonical but useful as a (corrupted) inspired text
noncanonical, not useful
summaries of doctrine
Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed
Six Articles of Faith
Talmud, halakhah
religious law
canon law (Catholics)
other written authority
church fathers, church councils, ecumenical creeds (all branches);
papal decrees, canon law (Catholics)
13 Articles of Faith
Beliefs & Doctrine
ultimate reality
one creator God
one creator God
one God, Jehovah, the God of Abraham
nature of God
Trinity - one substance, three persons
unity - one substance, one person
unity - one substance, one person
other spiritual beings
angels and demons
angels, demons, jinn
angels and demons
revered humans
saints, church fathers
prophets, imams (especially in Shia Islam)
identity of Jesus
Son of God, God incarnate, savior of the world
true prophet of God, whose message has been corrupted
false prophet
birth of Jesus
virgin birth
virgin birth
normal birth
death of Jesus
death by crucifixion
did not die, but ascended bodily into heaven (a disciple died in his place)
death by crucifixion
resurrection of Jesus
denied, since he did not die
second coming of Jesus
mode of divine revelation
through Prophets and Jesus (as God Himself), recorded in Bible
through Muhammad, recorded in Qur'an
through Prophets, recorded in Bible
human nature
"original sin" inherited from Adam - tendency towards evil
equal ability to do good or evil
two equal impulses, one good and one bad
means of salvation
correct belief, faith, good deeds, sacraments (some Protestants emphasize faith alone)
correct belief, good deeds, Five Pillars
belief in God, good deeds
God's role in salvation
predestination, various forms of grace
divine revelation and forgiveness
good afterlife
eternal heaven
eternal paradise
views vary: either heaven or no afterlife
bad afterlife
eternal hell, temporary purgatory (Catholicism)
eternal hell
views vary: either eternal Gehenna, reincarnation, or no afterlife
view of the other religion
Islam is respected as a fellow monotheistic religion, but Muhammad is not seen as a true prophet
Christians are respected as "People of the Book," but they have mistaken beliefs and only partial revelation
Christianity is a false interpretation of Judaism.
Rituals & Practices
house of worship
church, chapel, cathedral, basilica, meeting hall
synagogue, temple, schul
day of worship
rabbi, rebbe
religious leaders
priest, bishop, archbishop, patriarch, pope, pastor, minister, preacher, deacon
mitzvot (commandments)
major sacred rituals
baptism, communion (Eucharist)
Five Pillars: prayer, pilgrimage, charity, fasting, confession of faith
observing Sabbath, wearing tallit and tefilin, prayer services
head covered during prayer?
generally no
generally yes (especially men)
central religious holy days
Lent, Holy Week, Easter
Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha, month of Ramadan
Yom Kippur, Days of Awe, Passover
other holidays
Christmas, saints days
Mawlid, Ashura
Chanukah, Purim
major symbols
cross, crucifix, dove, anchor, fish, alpha and omega, chi rho, halo
crescent, name of Allah in Arabic
Star of David, chai, hamsa, tree

3 interviews :
Jew: (I was trying to get an interview with Sergio Berlioz but I couldn’t) So I interview one of his students. Esther Wade. Mexican 28 years old. Active Jew. Residence in Mexico City. Graduate student.
Were you born in this religion? Yes
Why did you convert or decided to stay in that religion? I never decided it is just a given that once you are born Jew you stay Jew
Have you been active participant? Yes, with the exception of one year that my family was going through some financial problems, we needed to work more.
What are your feelings for the scriptures? I Love the Torah, my family used to read it very often, now that I live on my own I don’t read it but I plan to read it with my kids when I get married.
Have you participated in Prayers? Yes
How your life has change for those prayers? Not much, I think that your life change when you live what you are taught. Praying is just a way to give thanks.
What are your feelings about the other two religions?I know a lot of christians and we do business with them. I personally don’t trust them they are only looking for the money and don’t care to be dishonest.
Do you accept that the other two religion share the same god.? I do.
Some word of advice to the other two religions? Follow your Bible and you will be good people.
Christian: Juan Garcia. Age 34. Married.Catholic. Never attended college. Reside in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Were you born in this religion? Yes
Why did you convert or decided to stay in that religion? When I got married we decided we will never change religions.
Have you been active participant? Not really
What are your feelings for the scriptures? I have never read them
Have you participated in prayers? When I was a with my mother.
How your life has change for those prayers? I realized I was Catholic
What are your feelings about the other two religions? I don’t know any Jew but I have heard they are good doing business. About the Muslims I have heard  don’t like the USA.
DO you accept that the other two religion share the same god.? I did not know that
Some word of advice to the other two religions? No

Muslim. I interview a lady that I found at the library. She was very reluctant to talk to me so I had a female friend to asked her the question she did not respond all of the questions. She was in her mid-thirties. Residence Salt Lake city, Utah
Were you born in this religion? Yes
Why did you convert or decided to stay in that religion? Why change? All my family is muslim.
Have you been active participant? Yes
What are your feelings for the scriptures? They are Allah’s word
Then she left.

            In conclusion I learnt that these three religions are more related than I thought. You can even say that they were built upon each other. Judaism, then Christianity and then Islam. I think that they don’t understand each other and they isolate themselves from the other religions. Christians in general know very little about their own religion. Jews know their religion better and Muslims are more closed. This is the perspective that this paper left me. I hope I keep learning more about them.

Anthology of World Scriptures
Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction to Religion (6th Edition)
Bowker John, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions
Clark Marcolm, Islam for dummies.
Falcon Ted & Blatner David, Judaism for dummies.

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