Three of the world's major religions -- the monotheist traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- were all born in the Middle East and are all inextricably linked to one another. Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, and Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism.
While there have been differences among these religions, there was a rich cultural interchange between Jews, Christians, and Muslims that took place in Islamic Spain and other places over centuries.
Judaism is the oldest surviving monotheistic religion, arising in the eastern Mediterranean in the second millennium B.C.E. Abraham is traditionally considered to be the first Jew and to have made a covenant with God. Because Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all recognize Abraham as their first prophet, they are also called the Abrahamic religions.
While there was always a small community of Jews in historic Palestine, in 73 C.E. the Roman Empire dispersed the Jews after an insurrection against Roman authority. Most Jews then lived in Diaspora, as minorities in their communities, until the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.
When Jews from all over the world came to settle in modern Israel, they found that various subcultures had developed in different areas with distinctive histories, languages, religious practices, customs, and cuisine.
Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe were known as Ashkenazim (from "Ashkenazic" the Hebrew word for Germany). Yiddish, a fusion of German and Hebrew, was the spoken language of the Ashkenazi. In Europe, Jews had tended to be segregated -- voluntarily or not -- from the Christian population. From the late 19th and through first half of the 20th century, many Ashkenazi Jews came to Palestine to escape the persecution and discrimination they faced because of their religion.
Sephardic Jews trace their ancestry to the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal; "Sephardic" comes from the Hebrew word for Spain). They once spoke Ladino, a mixture of Hebrew and Spanish.
Mizrahi Jews (from the Hebrew word for Eastern, also sometimes called Oriental Jews) trace their origin to North Africa and Asia. Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish communities tended to be integrated into their respective societies.
There is great difference of opinion among Israeli Jews over the role Jewish religious law should play in the state. Until recently, Orthodox Judaism was the only form of the religion formally and legally recognized in Israel. Although less conservative branches of Judaism now have partial recognition, Orthodoxy remains dominant politically and legally.
Many Israeli Jews describe themselves in terms of their degree of observance of Jewish law. About half call themselves secular; about 15 to 20 percent see themselves as Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox; and the rest describe themselves as traditionally observant, but not as strict as the Orthodox.
In the United States, debate over the necessity of observing Jewish law has led to the development of three major movements. Orthodox Jews believe that Jewish law is unchanging and mandatory. Conservative Jews argue that God's laws change and evolve over time. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews believe that these laws are merely guidelines that individuals can choose to follow or not. In addition, there are many Jews in the United States who are secular or atheist. For them, their Judaism is a culture rather than a religion.
Jews believe in one god and his prophets, with special respect for Moses as the prophet to whom God gave the law. Jewish law is embodied in the Torah (also known as the Pentateuch) and the Talmud (collected commentary on the Torah completed in the fifth-century C.E.).
Judaism is more concerned with actions than dogma. In other words, observance of rules regulating human behavior has been of more concern than debates over beliefs in the Jewish tradition. According to Orthodox Judaism, Jewish law, or halakhah, includes 613 commandments given by God in the Torah, as well as rules and practices elaborated by scholars and custom. Jewish law covers matters such as prayer and ritual, diet, rules regulating personal status (marriage, divorce, birth, death, inheritance, etc.), and observance of holidays (like Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement; and Passover, the feast celebrating the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt).
Jews do not believe in the prophets after the Jewish prophets, including Jesus and Muhammad. Therefore, they do not subscribe to the idea that Jesus was the Messiah and the son of God, nor do they believe in the teachings of Islam.
Christianity started as an offshoot of Judaism in the first century C.E. Until the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 324 C.E., early Christian communities were often persecuted. It was then that the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire, and its capital relocated from Rome to Constantinople (formerly Byzantium and now Istanbul). The development of Christian groups derived from major and minor splits.
The Orthodox Church and its patriarch split away from the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope in 1054 C.E. because of political and doctrinal differences. In the 16th century, Martin Luther, upset at the corruption of the Catholic papacy, spearheaded a reformation movement that led to the development of Protestantism.
Christian missionaries proselytize all over the world, and there are large populations of Christians on every continent on Earth, although the forms of Christianity practiced vary.
Many early Christian saints lived in the Middle East. The tradition of asceticism (denial of physical pleasures in order to come closer to God) developed first in the Middle East, and the monastic tradition has its roots there.
Christians in the Middle East today include Copts, Maronites, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, Assyrians, and Protestants. These groups have different liturgical languages, rituals, and customs, and different leaders who direct their faith.
The Coptic Church, the dominant form of Christianity in Egypt, arose from a doctrinal split in the Church at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Egyptian government supports the Copts' rights to worship and maintain their culture, but there has been some violence against the community by extremist Muslims.
The Maronite Church was started in the fifth century by followers of a Syrian priest named Maroun. The Maronite Patriarch, based in Lebanon, guides his followers in the teachings of Maroun and other saints. Maronites are still one of the most powerful political communities in Lebanon.
There are also Christian communities of different sects living today in Syria (10 percent of the population), Jordan (6 percent), the West Bank (8 percent), and Iraq (3 percent), with smaller percentages in other Middle Eastern countries.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many Christians from what is now Syria and Lebanon (then the Ottoman Empire) emigrated to the United States and other countries. Although Christians are a minority in the Middle East today, more than 75 percent of Americans of Arab descent are Christian.
Christianity developed out of the monotheistic tradition of Judaism; Jesus, its founder, was a member of the Jewish community in Roman Palestine. Its holy scriptures are the Old Testament (the Jewish Torah with additions), and the New Testament (written by the followers of Jesus after his death and containing the life story of Jesus and other early Christian writings).
Christians believe that God is revealed through three dimensions: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is considered the son of God, born to the virgin Mary and come to Earth to offer redemption for mankind's sins. After Jesus was crucified and executed by the Romans, he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This event is celebrated at Easter, while the birth of Jesus is celebrated at Christmas.
Christians believe in an afterlife where those who have lived a good life will reside in heaven with God, and those who have lived an unrepentant life of sin will be punished in hell.
Although Christianity developed out of Judaic texts, Christians do not follow Jewish law. Instead, they believe that the ritualistic Jewish law was abrogated in favor of a universal gospel for all of humanity and the Christian teaching, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
Relationships between Jewish and Christian communities have often been difficult, particularly in Christian Europe. There, Jewish communities were often subject to discrimination and violence at the hands of Christians.
Christianity has also had a problematic relationship with Islam. Christians do not accept Muhammad as a prophet. While many Christians in the Middle East converted to Islam during and after the seventh century, the Church hierarchy in Rome and Constantinople considered Islam to be both a political and theological threat. The Crusades were an unsuccessful attempt to reverse the Islamic conquest of the eastern Mediterranean and the holy places of all three monotheistic religions.
Islam arose in the early seventh century C.E. in the settled desert community of Mecca (in present-day Saudi Arabia). It developed from both the Judeo-Christian tradition and the cultural values of the nomadic Bedouin tribes of Arabia.
Islam expanded into areas controlled by the Byzantine Empire (largely Greek-speaking and Orthodox Christian, but with a diverse population) and the Sassanian Empire (officially Zoroastrian and Persian-speaking, but also diverse). By the mid-eighth century, Islam had spread west into North Africa and Europe, and east into Central Asia. Over the centuries, Islam continued to grow in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
As Islam expanded, the new Islamic societies adapted and synthesized many of the customs they encountered. As a result, Muslims in different areas of the world created for themselves a wide array of cultural traditions.
The culture of Islamic Spain, for example, was so cosmopolitan that some Christian and Jewish parents complained that their children were more interested in developing their knowledge of Arabic than in learning Latin or Hebrew, respectively. Many elements of Islamic society became integral parts of medieval and Renaissance European culture, like the notion of chivalry, and certain forms of music (the lute, the arabesque) and poetry.
On the eastern end of the Islamic world, many Indonesians converted to Islam between the 15th and 17th centuries. Preexisting animist beliefs were often incorporated into the local practice of Islam.
Within Islam, there are many different communities. Many of these divisions, like the Sunnis, Shiis, Ismailis, Alevis/Alawites, and Druze, originate in political and doctrinal differences in the community. Adherents of Islam may be more or less observant, conservative or liberal.
Sufism is the mystical tradition of Islam, where direct experience of the divine is emphasized. The 13th-century poet Jalaluddin Rumi is a well-known Sufi figure whose work has become popular in the United States today. Whirling dervishes are dancers who are entranced in their experience of Sufism.
Muslims believe that Allah (the Arabic word for God) sent his revelation, the Quran, to the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century C.E. to proclaim it to mankind. The Quran contains verses (surahs) in Arabic that tell Muslims to worship one god, and explains how they should treat others properly.
Another historical text, the Hadith, written by scholars after the death of Muhammad, describes Muhammad's life as an example of pious behavior, proscribes law for the community based on the Quran and the example of Muhammad, and explains how certain rituals should be performed.
Observant Muslims practice five principles (pillars) of Islam: orally declaring their faith (shahadah); praying five times a day (salat); fasting in the daylight hours during the month of Ramadan (sawm); giving a share of their income for charity (zakat); and making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they can afford it (hajj). Many Muslims also observe dietary rules, in origin similar to those of Judaism, that forbid certain foods (like pork), outlaw alcohol, and dictate how animals should be slaughtered for food.
The Muslim calendar is lunar, and shifts in relation to the solar calendar. Just as Christians count years starting with the year of Jesus's birth, Muslims count years beginning with Muhammad's move from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E. Muslim years are labeled as A.H., Anno Hegirae, or "year of the Hijra."
Major Muslim festivals include Id al-Fitr (the Fast-Breaking Festival, celebrated at the end of Ramadan) and Id al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice, the commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Ishmail which takes place during the month of pilgrimage).
Muslims believe in a Day of Judgment, when righteous souls will go to heaven and wrongdoers will go to hell.
Islam sees Judaism and Christianity as earlier versions of Islam, revelations given within the same tradition by Allah but misunderstood over time by their followers. Muslims see Islam as the final, complete, and correct revelation in the monotheistic tradition of the three faiths.
The Islamic tradition recognizes many of the Jewish and Christian prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (although he is not considered to be the son of God). Many non-Muslims mistakenly believe that Muhammad is the equivalent of Jesus in the Islamic tradition; in fact, it is the Quran that stands in the same central position in Islam as Jesus does in Christianity. Muhammad himself is not divine, but a prophet chosen by God to deliver his message and an example of piety to emulate.
Jews and Christians are specifically protected in the Quran as Peoples of the Book, reinforcing their spiritual connection to Islam by virtue of having been given revelations from God. The Islamic legal tradition has upheld the rights of Jews and Christians to maintain their beliefs and practices within their communities in Islamic lands, and this policy of tolerance has generally been upheld.
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Lexicon of Israeli "English":
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Islam: A Worldwide Religion:
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Judaism's views of Christianity and Islam
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Christianity's views of Judaism and Islam
A brief history of Islam
What Muslims believe
Islam's views of Judaism and Christianity
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Of the world's major religions, Christianity is the largest, with more than two billion followers. Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and is approximately 2,000 years old.What is the connection between all religions? ›
The world's religions are similar in many ways; scholar Stephen Prothero refers to these similarities as “family resemblances.” All religions include rituals, scriptures, and sacred days and gathering places. Each religion gives its followers instructions for how human beings should act toward one another.What's the most fastest growing religion? ›
Modern growth. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. In 1990, 1.1 billion people were Muslims, while in 2010, 1.6 billion people were Muslims.What is the biggest religion in the world 2023? ›
|Projected size of major religious groups for 2023|
Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world. The word Hindu is an exonym although many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit.Who is the first man in the world? ›
Adam is the name given in Genesis 1-5 to the first human.What religion accepts all religions? ›
Omnism is the respect of or belief in all religions with their gods or lack thereof. Those who hold this belief are called omnists, sometimes written as omniest. In recent years, the term has been resurfacing due to the interest of modern-day self-described omnists who have rediscovered and begun to redefine the term.Do all religions believe in a God? ›
Most religions, in some way, attempt to contemplate the divine; and some of them get closer than others. In this sense we can say that all religions lead to God.Do all religions believe in one God? ›
The three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam readily fit the definition of monotheism, which is to worship one god while denying the existence of other gods. But, the relationship of the three religions is closer than that: They claim to worship the same god.What will be the largest religion in 2050? ›
Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 … The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
About 64% of Americans call themselves Christian today. That might sound like a lot, but 50 years ago that number was 90%, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center study. That same survey said the Christian majority in the US may disappear by 2070.What is the youngest religion in the world? ›
Sikhism, (Gurmukhi: ਸਿੱਖੀ ), amongst the youngest of the major world religions, originated and primarily developed in the 15th-17th century sub-continental India (South Asia).Which is the final religion? ›
Islam: The Final Religion
❖ 'Islam' means submission to the will and law of God. ❖ The other meaning of the word is peace (through God).
In short, James tells us that true religion is a devotion to God, demonstrated by love and compassion for fellowmen, coupled with unworldliness. Such a statement seems too simple to be sufficient, but in its simplicity it speaks an important truth.Which is older Islam or Christianity? ›
Christianity developed out of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century CE. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow it are called Christians. Islam developed in the 7th century CE.What religion was Jesus? ›
He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues.What was the main religion before Christianity? ›
Sometimes called the official religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest surviving religions, with teachings older than Buddhism, older than Judaism, and far older than Christianity or Islam. Zoroastrianism is thought to have arisen “in the late second millennium B.C.E.What was the first religion in the Bible? ›
Judaism, the oldest Abrahamic religion, is based on a strict, exclusive monotheism, finding its origins in the sole veneration of Yahweh, the predecessor to the Abrahamic conception of God. The names of God used most often in the Hebrew Bible are the Tetragrammaton (Hebrew: יהוה, romanized: YHWH) and Elohim.Which God created the world? ›
In other versions of creation, the creator deity is the one who is equivalent to the Brahman, the metaphysical reality in Hinduism. In Vaishnavism, Vishnu creates Brahma and orders him to order the rest of universe. In Shaivism, Shiva may be treated as the creator. In Shaktism, the Great Goddess creates the Trimurti.Who is the first person died on Earth? ›
The first person to die is Abel at the hands of his brother, which is also the first time that blood is mentioned in the Bible (4:10–11).
According to the lengthier Yahwist (J) narrative of the 10th century bce (Genesis 2:5–7, 2:15–4:1, 4:25), God, or Yahweh, created Adam at a time when the earth was still void, forming him from the earth's dust and breathing “into his nostrils the breath of life.” God then gave Adam the primeval Garden of Eden to tend ...What religion has no religion? ›
Irreligion is the neglect or active rejection of religion and, depending on the definition, a simple absence of religion. Irreligion takes many forms, ranging from the casual and unaware to full-fledged philosophies such as atheism and agnosticism, secular humanism and antitheism.What religion believes in God but doesn t? ›
Agnostic theism, agnostotheism, or agnostitheism is the philosophical view that encompasses both theism and agnosticism. An agnostic theist believes in the existence of one or more gods, but regards the basis of this proposition as unknown or inherently unknowable.What is it called when you believe in God but not religion? ›
A theist is the opposite of an atheist. Theists believe in the existence of a god or gods. The word deist refers to someone who believes in God. But a deist believes that while God created the universe, natural laws determine how the universe plays out.What religion will take you to heaven? ›
Judaism and Islam, for example, both teach that all righteous people will go to heaven. The belief that only some righteous people go to heaven is a Christian belief.Is Allah the same as God? ›
Allah is the standard Arabic word for God and is used by Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews as well as by Muslims.Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? ›
Most mainstream Muslims would generally agree they worship the same God that Christians — or Jews — worship. Zeki Saritoprak, a professor of Islamic studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, points out that in the Quran there's the Biblical story of Jacob asking his sons whom they'll worship after his death.Who is father of all gods? ›
As the chief Greek deity, Zeus is considered the ruler, protector, and father of all gods and humans. Zeus is often depicted as an older man with a beard and is represented by symbols such as the lightning bolt and the eagle.Who is the mother of all religions? ›
Hinduism, the mother of all religions.Who is Jesus based on? ›
Historical Jesus scholars typically contend that he was a Galilean Jew and living in a time of messianic and apocalyptic expectations. Some scholars credit the apocalyptic declarations of the gospels to him, while others portray his "Kingdom of God" as a moral one, and not apocalyptic in nature.
In more than 15 ahadith found in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari, Sunnan of Imam Abu Dawwud, Jamii of Imam Tirmidhi and others, the prophet (saws) said Islam has a specific lifespan on earth, these Ahadith state Allah gave Islam 1500 years then relatively soon after this He would establish the Hour, we are now in the year ...Is atheism growing in world? ›
“There are growing numbers of atheists/agnostics in countries across the world,” said Dr Lanman. “Our recently completed 'Understanding Unbelief' programme looked beyond the stereotypes and helped to document some of the world's rich diversity in atheism and agnosticism.Where is Christianity growing the fastest? ›
Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Malaysia are said to have the fastest-growing Christian communities and the majority of the new believers are “upwardly mobile, urban, middle-class Chinese”.Is religion declining in America? ›
Participation in houses of worship continues to decline, according to the study. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they "seldom" attend religious services, and 29% of respondents said they "never" attend religious services. A decade ago, those figures were 22% and 21%, respectively.What percentage of Americans go to church? ›
|Percentage of adults who attend church at least once a week (2014):|
Christianity is the largest religion in the United States at 63% of the population, with the various Protestant Churches having the most adherents. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, religiously unaffiliated adults rose to 29%.What religion is 5000 years old? ›
1) Hinduism is at least 5000 years old
There is no 'founder' of Hinduism, nor single prophet or initial teacher. Hindus believe their religion has no identifiable beginning or end and, as such, often refer to it as Sanatana Dharma (the 'Eternal Way').
The majority language is Malay, which uses the word “Allah” for God. Islam is the official religion of the federation although the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for every person.Which is the newest religion? ›
|3HO||Harbhajan Singh Khalsa||Sikh|
|Adidam, previously Free Daist Communion, Dawn Horse Fellowship, etc.||Adi Da||Neo-Hindu-inspired|
|Adonai-Shomo||Frederick T. Howland||Adventist Communal|
|Adonism||Franz Sättler||Modern Pagan|
Christianity, the largest religion in the United States, experienced a 20th-century high of 91% of the total population in 1976. This declined to 73.7% by 2016 and 64% in 2022.
A deathbed conversion is the adoption of a particular religious faith shortly before dying. Making a conversion on one's deathbed may reflect an immediate change of belief, a desire to formalize longer-term beliefs, or a desire to complete a process of conversion already underway.Which religion is more accurate? ›
Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism make historical claims, but none are as reliable as Christianity. It is far from surprising that world religious adherents typically claim that their faith is unique in several regards. Christians are no different here.What religion believes in one true God? ›
Monotheism characterizes the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and elements of the belief are discernible in numerous other religions.Is Jehovah's Witnesses a true religion? ›
Although many of their eschatological teachings have changed over the years, Jehovah's Witnesses have consistently claimed to be the only true religion.What language did Jesus speak? ›
Aramaic is best known as the language Jesus spoke. It is a Semitic language originating in the middle Euphrates. In 800-600 BC it spread from there to Syria and Mesopotamia. The oldest preserved inscriptions are from this period and written in Old Aramaic.What religion spread the fastest? ›
Studies in the 21st century suggest that, in terms of percentage and worldwide spread, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.Do Buddhists believe in Jesus? ›
Some high level Buddhists have drawn analogies between Jesus and Buddhism, e.g. in 2001 the Dalai Lama stated that "Jesus Christ also lived previous lives", and added that "So, you see, he reached a high state, either as a Bodhisattva, or an enlightened person, through Buddhist practice or something like that." Thich ...Who is the founder of Christianity? ›
Most mainstream Muslims would generally agree they worship the same God that Christians — or Jews — worship. Zeki Saritoprak, a professor of Islamic studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, points out that in the Quran there's the Biblical story of Jacob asking his sons whom they'll worship after his death.What was the first church after Jesus? ›
Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Nisan 14 or 15), the Jerusalem church is founded as the first Christian church with about 120 Jews and Jewish Proselytes (Acts 1:15), followed by Pentecost (Sivan 6), the Ananias and Sapphira incident, Pharisee Gamaliel's defense of the Apostles (5:34–39), the ...
According to Catholic tradition, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. The New Testament records Jesus' activities and teaching, His appointment of the twelve Apostles, and His instructions to them to continue His work.What is the symbol for Christianity? ›
The cross is a universal symbol for the Christian faith and a reminder of Christ's death and resurrection. There are many types of crosses that have been used throughout history, many having regional/ethnic origins.What age did religion start? ›
The earliest archeological evidence interpreted by some as suggestive of the emergence of religious ideas dates back several hundred thousand years, to the Middle and Lower Paleolithic periods: some archaeologists conclude that the apparently intentional burial of early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals as early as 300,000 ...