The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
Anglican relations with Islam and with Muslims are rooted in the long history of Christian contact with the world of Islam. There has been mutual recognition and cooperation during the millet system of the Ottoman times, but also hostility and conflict. Anglicans have sought to strengthen the ancient Oriental churches in Islamic lands through assistance of various kinds, without proselytizing. At their best, they have tried to serve their Muslim neighbours through education and medical work, whilst also seeking to understand Muslim cultural, literary, and spiritual traditions. In particular, Anglican witness has focused on translating and making available the Bible in Muslim languages. This chapter maps out the variety of approaches adopted and to outline what has been fruitful as well as to acknowledge the mistakes and to learn from them in order to work towards a common understanding of and commitment to fundamental freedoms, including that of belief in our world today.
In the Old Testament, apocalyptic literature (or simply ‘apocalyptic’, as the genre is often called) might not seem to occupy a prominent place. Only the book of Daniel falls into this category. Despite its poor representation in the Bible, apocalyptic literature is not a fringe activity; nor are its contents peripheral to an understanding of Judaism (or Christianity, for that matter). This article focuses on the book of Daniel, the main Old Testament exemplar, and the book of 1 Enoch, which contains the earliest and in many respects most important Palestinian Jewish apocalypses.
Apocalyptic phenomena and discourses run as a thread through Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history, playing a lead role during times of transition and ferment. Apocalyptic phenomena announce not only ‘the end’ but the completion of history and an essentially better world to come, and may therefore be seen as radical optimism, the product of a profound discontent with present conditions. Although Apocalypticism frequently played a role in political upheavals, apocalyptic discourse has been used also by conservative elements; theologically, apocalyptic arguments can pose a solution for problems of theodicy. In the Abrahamic traditions, apocalyptic discourse frequently concerns a messiah as well as a counter-messiah as lead figures in the events of the eschaton. Apocalypticism continues to this day, as most of the groups usually labelled religiously radical or fundamentalist in the Abrahamic traditions see themselves as actors in an apocalyptic drama.
Michael A. Sells
This chapter, which looks at the actual or alleged cases of apocalypticism within contemporary Iranian Shi'ite, Saudi Sunni, and American Christian circles, evaluates the issue of contemporary militant apocalypticism, emphasizing the competition between its American Christian and Islamic versions. The hadith collections present contradictory reports regarding the end-time struggle between the Messiah Jesus and Dajjal. Militant near-term apocalypticism summons the power of religion, imagination, and personal conviction against any serious peace endeavor; demonizes those who work toward such endeavors; and sanctifies those who, once the tribulation or endtimes conflict is underway, kill the peacemakers. The apocalyptic messianism of American dispensationalists, and of the Salafi Sunni figures Safar al-Hawali and Ali al-Timimi, feature scenarios of Middle Eastern and global carnage ending with messianic triumph and theologically grounded rejection of Middle East peacemaking.
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all claim that God has given humans a revelation. Divine revelation may be either of God, or by God of propositional truth. Traditionally Christianity has claimed that the Christian revelation has involved both of these. God revealed himself in his acts in history; for example in the miracles by which he preserved the people of ancient Israel, and above all by becoming incarnate (that is human) as Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead. And God also revealed to us propositional truths by the teaching of Jesus and his church. Some modern theologians have denied that Christianity involves any propositional revelation, but there can be little doubt that from the second century until the eighteenth century, Christians and non-Christians were virtually unanimous in supposing that it claimed to have such a revelation, and so it is worthwhile investigating its traditional claim. This article is concerned with the Christian claim to have a propositional revelation. The first section describes the process by which Christians of past centuries have come to believe that certain propositions have been revealed. The second assesses alternative philosophical accounts of what constitutes a belief that such-and-such propositions have been revealed, being a ‘justified’ belief (or a ‘warranted’ or ‘rational’ one).
This chapter examines such current expressions as ‘the three monotheisms’, ‘the three religions of Abraham’, and ‘the three religions of the book’, points to their falsity and the dangers inherent in their use, and argues they mask real differences underneath a surface harmony. Concerning monotheism, it points to the fact that not only the Abrahamic traditions are monotheists, and the Abrahamic traditions frequently do not recognize each other as such. Concerning Abraham, it argues that while a person with this name indeed appears in the scriptures of all these religions, this figure is rather a source of disagreement than of concord, interpreted in widely differing ways; furthermore, each religion believes only its version of Abraham to be the true one. Concerning ‘religions of the book’, it claims that the character of the three religions’ scriptures are highly diverse, and each religion has a very different relationship with its own ‘book’.
This chapter explores the intertwined themes of pilgrimage and the cult of saints in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, highlighting similarities and differences as well as issues of importance in the study of the tensions and moments of convergence that historically existed between the faiths during the Middle Ages down to the present. Current events have resulted in an existential threat to holy places and long-established customs and traditions throughout the Middle East and, indeed, to the destruction of shrines in Syria and Iraq. To that end this study explores the varieties of holy persons and places that believers of the Abrahamic faiths venerated. While traditional approaches to the cult of saints and pilgrimage and, indeed, other related themes are useful in highlighting certain relationships, a more concise framework that considers the Abrahamic dimensions of both phenomena is needed which is sensitive to the historical context and the ritual aspects.
David M. Freidenreich
This survey of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic dietary law finds no recognition within pre-modern sources of the biblical or familial affinities implied by the contemporary term Abrahamic. The profound diversity of norms regarding animal species, blood, meat and dairy, and alcohol demonstrates that it is misleading to focus on the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in a common scripture. Pre-modern sources about the food of religious foreigners, moreover, do not express a sense of Abrahamic kinship among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These sources instead employ classificatory methods that reinforce ideas particular to each tradition’s approach to claiming superiority over foreigners. The term Abrahamic offers a convenient label for the juxtaposition of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources that bypasses the diverse and ideologically driven categories native to these traditions; the more one focuses on the term’s meaning, however, the less useful it becomes.
Sidney H. Griffith
Greek and Syriac texts dating back to the late seventh century CE bear the earliest notices of emergent Islam recorded by Christians living in the conquered territories of the Levant. Formal conversations between representative Muslims and Christians were recorded in written notices by the early years of the eighth century. Theological treatises written by Christians first appeared also in the eighth century. This article examines Christian theology in the first ʿAbbāsid century and the relationship between Christianity and Islam throughout the period. It looks at the doctrine of the Trinity as a centrepiece of Arab Christian theology in the first ʿAbbāsid century and its role in the burgeoning systematic theology of the contemporary Muslim mutakallimūn. It also discusses a notable development in Islamic religious discourse in two places: Damascus in Syria and Baχra in Iraq.
This article examines the reception of Neo-Ashʿarite theology during the Renaissance of Syriac and Copto-Arabic literature. It first looks at the so-called ‘Syriac Renaissance’ of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the ‘Renaissance of Copto-Arabic literature’ of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It discusses some of the factors that contributed to the ‘Golden Age’ of Syriac and Copto-Arabic literature, including the political stability of Ayyūbid rule that provided favourable conditions to the flowering of the socio-cultural life among Muslims and non-Muslims. It then assesses the impact of the Coptic and Syriac Renaissances on scientific-literary production and the influence of earlier authors of Christian-Arabic literature on the exponents of the Syriac and Copto-Arabic Renaissances. It also analyses the Christian reception of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī in Ayyūbid Syria and Egypt during the Renaissance of Syriac and Copto-Arabic literature.
Gabriel Said Reynolds
Most Muslims think the Bible is a corruption of Islamic revelations once given to Moses and Jesus and that the biblical narratives about God and Jesus falsify the true story. The Qur’an shows a lot of interest in Jesus. It links Jesus to the Holy Spirit, calling him ‘a spirit from [God]’. But much the Qur’an says about Christ is there to use Christian tradition against Christians. The Qur’an stresses that Jesus was human and not divine. It insists that he was a prophet of God, and that to call Jesus ‘God’ is to belittle God. It is common for Muslims to claim that Jesus did not die on the Cross. Some traditions claim that Judas was made to look like Jesus and crucified. In other traditions, Jesus asks his disciples for a volunteer to die in his place. In Sufi traditions, Jesus is presented as a moral teacher.
Under the general rubric of ‘Abrahamic Religions’ there is a sub-topic that highlights particular similarities between Islam and Christianity in areas of institutional and societal development. As joint inheritors of a Judaic theological and ethical legacy and a Hellenistic philosophical and scientific legacy, Islam and Christianity ‘co-evolved’ in directions that did not have distinct parallels in Judaism, which remained particularistic rather than universal in nature. Among the areas in which the two faith traditions converged were sin and salvation, spirituality and mysticism, conversion, state and law, violence and toleration, word and language, clergy, and education and mission. The degree of convergence warrants the assigning of the label ‘Islamo-Christian Civilization’ to the partially shared—though also antagonistic—social, institutional, and political structures that emerged over a period of fourteen centuries.
How does Christianity explain the existence of the two rival Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam? What place does it allow in Christian society for Jews and Muslims? The responses to these questions are many; this chapter examines a few prominent examples. Rather than a survey of Christians’ attitudes towards Jews (or Judaism) and Muslims (or Islam), it examines how Christian law accommodated Jews and Muslims as residents of Christian societies and at the roles that Christian thinkers assigned to Judaism and Islam in a Christian scheme of history. The emphasis is on a few salient examples from the fourth century (when Christianity obtains social and intellectual predominance in the Roman Empire) to the nineteenth (when Christianity loses that predominance in Europe).
The intensification of religious life, and the contact with what is conceived of as a spiritual sphere, are two main general features of mysticism, present in all of the Abrahamic traditions. Intensification is nevertheless applied to different particularistic ways of religious behaviour. This chapter attempts to explore some of the common denominators of the different mystical literatures and experiences while doing justice to the specific background of the various religions within which they emerge and to interactions between these mystical traditions. In all of the Abrahamic traditions, we find the use of similar mystical techniques, such as use of the divine name, as well as the common influences of sacred scripture and Hellenistic culture. Furthermore, all of them have an intense interest in mystical union and in personal redemption.
This chapter examines the distinctive character of philosophy among Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the medieval Islamic world. It relates philosophy to theology, but also to other competing intellectual projects such as Sufism and Ismaʿīlī esotericism and shows how philosophers argued for the religious legitimacy of their project, among others by portraying religious founders like Abraham as accomplished philosophers. The chapter also addresses methodological issues, most importantly the question how to capture the complicated relations between religious identity, intellectual commitments, and cultural exchange in this period. It ends with a sketch of similarities and differences between philosophy and theology in the Muslim world and in the Latin West.
This article examines the roles of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church in Croatia, and the Islamic religious authority of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1991–1995 war inWestern Balkans. Religion in this case has been instrumental as a factor for galvanizing conflict and rationalizing its outcomes. The article also notes religious activities aimed at preventing violence and healing postconflict societies. The public influence of these religions began during the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia. Through the war and afterward, religions continued rebuilding resources and increasing influence. Traditional religion was blended with the new national ideologies carried out by ethnic nationalist parties allied with the ethnic majority churches established as state religions. Two decades after the Balkan war, the growing influence of these religions in public sphere coincides with the post-Yugoslav new ethnic nations’ failures in state building and democratic transition.
David Nirenberg and Leonardo Capezzone
This chapter explores the place of love—of human towards humans or towards God, and of God towards humans—in the Abrahamic traditions. Christianity frequently presented itself as a religion of love, as opposed to ‘loveless’ Judaism and Islam. However, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have all used love to imagine, contest, and represent relations both proper and improper between and among created beings and divine creator; and all three religions have also used love to imagine their relation to each other (as well as to other religions), and to represent the stakes in their competing claims to truth. Although claims of love animate many Abrahamic ethical, social, and onto-theological ideals, the same claims underpin many of the sectarian dynamics and discriminations through which religious communities distinguished themselves from one another. The chapter focuses on various types of love from the Hebrew Bible and Quran to medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophers.
Was Abraham religious? The question seems out of place in a volume on ‘Abrahamic Religions’. Yet, it is precisely the juxtaposition of strictly anachronistic terms (Abraham, religion) at a time when ‘the religious’ proliferates, that should initiate a sustained interrogation. By considering the ways in which Abraham was never religious, by thinking with Kafka, with Ronell and Derrida, about ‘another Abraham’, this chapter asks about the persistence of an all-too Christian religio and reads Abraham (Sarah and Hagar too) toward another question, another juxtaposition, a different disputation.