Islam and Christianity Religion Serves Term Paper

  • Length: 13 pages
  • Subject: Mythology - Religion
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #63930398

Excerpt from Term Paper :

The first five books were separated from the whole about 400 B.C. As the Pentateuch. Jean Astruc in the eighteenth century noted that the Pentateuch is based on even earlier sources. The two chief sources have since been identified in Genesis on the basis of their respective uses of Yahweh or Elohim in referring to the deity. They are called J. For the Jehovistic or Yahwistic source and E. For the Elohistic source, and P. For the Priestly source was later separated from the E. source (Miller and Miller 698-699).

Consider just the complexities involved in the construction of the first book of the bible, Genesis, in its present form. It is believed that at an early time in human history, perhaps as early as the eleventh or tenth century B.C., someone put together the stories of God's dealing with the fathers from oral forms then in circulation. Such a collection would have been along the lines now seen in the Pentateuch, the name for the first five books of the Old Testament. This hypothetical composition is considered necessary to explain the common features of the various versions that would follow, and it has been called the G. document, for groundwork, or T. For traditional. Some find more than the three sources noted above, considering the possibility as well of an N. Or nomadic source, noted for passages in which the writer shows hostility towards civilization and instead glorifies the desert and the life of the nomad (Blair 83-84). The J. And E. sources (and perhaps the N, if there was such a source) were brought together in Jerusalem or Judah after the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. The purpose of the editor was to create a complete history of the people of God in order to encourage the fidelity of both northern and southern Israel to the God of the fathers (Blair 87).

The Old Testament also touches on the history of the people of Israel and so represents the development of a community, but as a history this raises difficulties. The historical antecedents to the stories in the early section of Exodus, for instance, create problems for analysts and historians. The first reason for this derives from the fact that the stories have come down through a long process of oral and written tradition and have been shaped to confess faith in God. The beginning of Exodus also links directly with the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph as if there were a unified sense of nationhood for Israel which in fact did not then exist. The passages present an oversimplified picture of the history of Israel extending back into the ancestral period. A second reason why the story of Exodus offers difficulty for those trying a historical assessment developed from the fact that the only source for our knowledge of the ancestors of Israel comes from the biblical story itself, and this was written in a time far removed from the events. Archaeologists and historians note how impossible it is at this time to link any person or event in Genesis 12-50, the section to which the opening of Exodus is linked, to any person or event otherwise known from another source (Anderson 27-28). Questions of historical accuracy are also found concerning the New Testament and the differing versions of the Christian gospels as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

One of the key issues Christians have had regarding the Quran is the fact that the Islamic book accepts Christ as a prophet while denying His Godhead. The tone of the Quran is similar to the Old Testament in that both have a sense of conflict because both were born in societies in conflict. The negation of the Christian Trinity is a source of conflict with Christianity. The Quran is also more overtly critical of and geared toward defining those who would be considered outsiders, or misbelievers, those who, like Christians and Jews, do not belong to Islam:

If the Quran contains elements of polemic concerning Christianity and, for stronger reasons, concerning Judaism, it is because Islam came after these religions, and this means that it was obliged... To put itself forward as an improvement on what came before it (Schuon 56).

Many in the West have trouble with the Quran because they look to the text for a meaning that is fully expressed and immediately intelligible, while the people of Islam generally are lovers of verbal symbolism and read the text "in depth":

The revealed phrase is for them an array of symbols from which more and more flashes of light shoot forth the further the reader penetrates into the spiritual geometry of the words: the words are reference points for a doctrine that is inexhaustible; the implicit meaning is everything, and the obscurities of the literal meaning is everything, and the obscurities of the literal meaning are so many veils marking the majesty of the content (Schuon 59).

The Quran builds on portions of the Israeli and Christian Bibles and comments on those two religions because it comes last in terms of development. Many of the differences seen between the Bible and the Quran therefore involve doctrinal differences, but there are other changes which may relate to distinctions that develop in an oral tradition as changes are made over the years and become part of the ultimate version once that is written down by later generations. This same process explains different versions of stories in the Bible as well.

Inherent in many religions is a conception of death and the possibility of immortality. Immortality is often equated with salvation in that the individual at some point is resurrected and benefits from the rewards for a good life or a life lived according to some prescriptions. Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation or the way of salvation and usually refers to the salvation of individuals. Different religions have different views of salvation, of who will and will not be saved, of what it means to be saved, and of what relationship there may be among acceptance of doctrinal matters, behavior, and salvation. The Christian conception of salvation is very different from the Buddhist conception, with very different historical roots and doctrinal assumptions. The consequences of each conception for followers are also markedly different.

Some general notions of salvation are in order first. The idea that people need to be saved implies that there is a defective condition which is normally prevalent, and the major religions see this problem as having different roots. Many Indians systems see these problems as deriving from human ignorance, while the Christian conception is based on the doctrine of original sin in which the human race is implicated because of the primordial acts of Adam and Eve.

Smart further notes: "In Western monotheisms the question is often whether there is an afterlife; in the Indian tradition the afterlife is a given, and the question is whether one can get out of it" (Smart 418).

The conception of salvation also relates to the idea of some ultimate value or being, and it can be thought of as an identity with such an ultimate state or being. It is most frequently thought of as a kind of communion with a personal Lord in a heavenly place. There are different means offered whereby the individual may gain liberation or final communion. In those religions where God is a personal object of worship, salvation typically has to be effected by the deity, though the individual may cooperate even if it is only by calling to the divine for salvation. In religions where there is no such personal God, the individual must prepare himself or herself, often through rigorous methods, to be in a position to gain eternal freedom. There are also different emphases in different religions on whether salvation is something that occurs after death or whether it is something that can be attained in life (Smart 418).

Islam has a conception of salvation similar to that of Christianity in that there will be a final day when those who are saved are recalled. As in later Judaism and Christianity, Islamic believers accept a Last Judgment in which the deeds of each person will be weighed and the person will be assigned either to heaven or hell. Both regions have been described in vivid terms in Islamic writings and teachings, just as they have in Christian teachings. Those found to be righteous would enter a region where there were gardens and fountains and where they would be clothed in fine raiment. Those found to be sinners, on the other hand, would live in hell, covered with fire and begging those in paradise to pour cool water down on them. Angels would preside over the sinners and would be relentless in inflicting punishment. A violent contrast was thus drawn between the two possible fates after the Last Judgment, and this would…

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