Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the three main monotheistic religions closely linked to one another. Founded in the same region of the world around the same period, they share similar sacred texts, and all recognize Abraham as a forefather. However, their views on God are slightly different, shaped by varied historical and cultural heritage. It can be said that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity share the same basic concept of God but have different views on how He has manifested Himself throughout the history of mankind.
The Idea of God
All three Abrahamic religions share the same understanding of God as an eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient being that created the universe and maintains it. God is transcendent, meaning that He exists outside space and time and is not subject to universal laws (Volf, 2012). He made the universe and the first human beings and provided them with moral laws. God is also thought to be involved in people’s daily lives, listening to prayers and reacting to them, punishing vices, and rewarding virtues. He is perceived as a judging, paternal figure whom believers seek to please to achieve salvation or transcendence.
In all three religions, God is thought to communicate to people through divine revelations received by the righteous throughout history. In Islam, Muhammad is worshipped as the main messenger of God; in Judaism, the most important prophet is Moses; and in Christianity, Jesus Christ is regarded as the Messiah and the Son of God. All three religions believe that through prophets God communicated five main messages. The first three are the nature and quality of the one God, the nature and purpose of the universe, and the need to have faith in one God. The other two are the purpose of human life and the need to live a righteous life to evade punishment after death, and moral laws that people must follow. The importance of moral principles and righteous life is stressed out in all Abrahamic religions.
Salvation and the Nature of God
The main difference regarding the nature of God in monotheistic religions concerns the Christian concept of Trinity. While in Islam and Judaism, God is strictly singular, Christians believe that God exists in three Divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three entities are described as having the same substance and nature and together making up one God. Jesus Christ is worshipped as the Son of God, sharing the same divine nature with God the Father. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Apostle Paul writes, “for us, there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Cor. 8:6, The New King James Version ). Muslims and Jews reject this doctrine as contradictory to the idea of the one and only God.
Another crucial difference concerns the attitude towards other religions and non-believers. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism give different answers to the question of whether God’s mercy extends to all people on Earth or only those who belong to a particular religion. The concept of salvation is crucial to all three religions, with the common idea being that people need to live a righteous life and believe in God to achieve salvation after death.
Judaism believes that God rules over all nations, but the Jewish people have been chosen by Him to carry out a mission of providing spiritual and moral guidance for the rest of the world. In Deuteronomy 14:2 (The New King James Version), it is said, “For you are a holy people to YHWH your God, and God has chosen you to be His treasured people from all the nations that are on the face of the earth.” Nations who serve other gods and continue to live in sin will be judged by God sooner or later.
Muslims distinguish between the members of other polytheistic religions. Those who worship other gods do not receive salvation; those who have faith in one God but disbelieve His message (Islam) are left for Him to judge; and those who believe in God and His message receive salvation. In Qur’an 3:85, it is said, “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” In Christianity, salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ who paid with death for the sins of humanity. Salvation is believed to be a universal concept, and everyone is declared to be born sinful regardless of their nation, religion, skin color, or past deeds. Anyone can be forgiven and taken as a child of God if they confess and turn from their wicked ways, and those who do not repent will be judged by God.
All three Abrahamic religions see God as an omnipotent and omnipresent father figure who created the universe and watches over everything and everyone in it. There is one God, and those who worship Him receive His blessing after death. Differences in Abrahamic beliefs concern the manifestations of God throughout the history of mankind, and different views on the nature of God and the concept of salvation. While all three religions believe in salvation, they disagree on the matter of who can be saved by the Almighty God. Christians think that only those who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved, while Muslims and Jews distinguish between people who believe in one God and members of other religions. It can be concluded that Muslims, Jews, and Christians believe in one God but perceive Him in slightly different ways.
Volf, M. (ed.) (2012). Do we worship the same God?: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.