udaism, Christianity and Islam are often referred to as “sister religions” because they are closely related. However, several pronounced differences tend to alienate the three over the course of history, inducing each to alternate between periods of persecution and tolerance, even to today. Age, founder, population of believers, culture of origin, documentation, and differing views on the Messiah all factor in determining the differences and similarities between these three world religions.
To begin, Judaism is the oldest of the three, more of a “mother religion.” During the Roman occupation of the traditional Jewish homeland, Christianity came into being. Six hundred years later, Islam formed in the Middle East. All three religions base their calendar on an important event in their respective histories. The Jewish people begin their calendar at the creation of the world by the Creator. The Christians and Muslims, however, begin their calendars with an important event in the life of their founders. For Christians, it was his birth, and for Muslims, his pilgrimage. The Christian calendar is widely used today all over the world, and most especially in the west, while usage of the calendars of the other two is restricted to followers of each religion.
Secondly, Abraham founded the Jewish religion by making a covenant with his God that would apply to all of his descendants. Jesus Christ founded Christianity. Born Jewish, Christ grew up questioning his religious upbringing and as an adult preached his own version. After his Crucifixion and supposed resurrection, Christians believed that his life fulfilled the original covenant and began a new era in which Christ’s teachings were law. Islam is closer to Judaism in that both consider Jesus a prophet. Muslims believe that their founder, Muhammad, was the last prophet.
In addition, Christianity incorporates about one third of the entire world’s population as followers, divided into differing sects. Islam is the second largest of the three, and Judaism the smallest. Christianity has the most influence in the west, whereas Islam is the main religion of most of the Middle East, and Judaism is scattering throughout both regions. The hereditary, small family orientation of the Jewish community, the incorporation of church and state in Muslim cultures, and the relative openness of the Christian religion to all who have faith all offer plausible explanations for the size difference.
To continue, nomadic, patriarchal peoples founded Judaism, and its doctrines reflect the fact. For example, the Hebrew Bible illustrates many scenes in which the main characters are shepherds, or tribes at war. The Christians incorporated part of the Hebrew Bible into their own Bible, calling it the Old Testament. To this they added accounts of the life, death and promises of Christ. The Romans and Greeks both influenced Christianity, in language, traditions, and educational regulation among other things. Islam, founded in the same geographical region as Judaism and by the same types of peoples, includes characters and versions of the stories found in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Muslims believe Abraham’s son Ishmael became the ancestor of the entire nation of Islam, as Jews believe themselves the descendants of Abraham’s younger son, Issac.
Finally, the Jews still await the Messiah, the Son of God who’s Coming signals the beginning of a new era, whereas the Christians believe that One was Christ and so await the Second Coming. Muslims agree with the Jews. This fundamental difference in the religious beliefs of the three major monotheistic religions of the modern world keeps their respective followers from uniting under the banner of their one God.
In conclusion, the differences described above in addition to many others throughout history have instigated intolerance and bloodshed among three religions that worship the same God. Up to modern times followers of all three have warred over control of the promised or Holy Land. For example, the Christian crusades, the Palestinian-Israeli wars between Muslim Nations, and smaller battles in which the Jews fought with invaders to keep their land. The Holocaust serves as an infamous example of Christian intolerance of the Jews. Muslim terrorists often make headlines in the papers after slaying non-Muslim tourists or missionaries. Hopefully in the coming millennium [according to the Christian and therefore western calendar], these sisters will stop their feuding and peace will finally prevail throughout their lands.