So far in our study we have noted that there are only 12 major religions in the world. We have briefly looked at Primitive religion (which is not normally considered an organized worldwide religion) and will continue by examining the remaining religious groups. We will do this by comparing the eight different categories used to describe each religion. By approaching our study in this way, we will be able to more easily note the similarities and differences between all the religious groups and determine if some are more effective, adaptable and enlightened than others. We begin with Christianity since this will be used as the basis for comparing all other religions.
Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth called the Christ. A Jew in the 1st century, who claimed to be the divine Son of God and the Jewish Messiah. He was put on trial by the Jews for making this blasphemous assertion and was executed by the Romans as a political favor to the Jewish leadership. Jesus taught that His death and resurrection from the dead were predicted in the Jewish scriptures and when accomplished, would verify and confirm His claim to be the Messiah.
- Ancient Christianity (30-476 AD):
- Spread of apostolic Christianity culminating in Christian religion becoming the religion of the Empire.
- Collapse of the Roman Empire gave rise to the social and spiritual leadership by religious leaders in Rome Emergence of the Roman Catholic church.
- Rome was the largest city with the largest church having the most influence and thus began to dominate and control the Christian religion.
- Medieval Christianity (476-1517 AD):
- Consolidation of religious authority and dominance by the Roman Catholic Church.
- Secularization (political) of the Roman Catholic Church and leaders.
- Renaissance (Italian) reaction against Universalism.
- Church became the political power broker in Europe.
- Modern Christianity (1517-1960):
- Luther's 95 theses (1517).
- Protestant Reformation.
- Fragmentization of religious groups, which among other things eventually produced the Restoration Movement from which came the Churches of Christ.
- Idea that individuals have the responsibility for finding and expressing the truth of the Bible. This idea influenced by modern democratic thought.
- Post-Modern Christianity (1960-Present)
- Churches moving away from Bible authority.
- Idea that all things are relative and religions are equal.
Concept of Deity
God is one and yet has diversity:
- Creator, sustainer, judge (Father)
- Prophet, priest, king, savior (Son)
- Intercessor, witness, revealer, facilitator (Holy Spirit)
All encompassing, eternal, monotheistic. Exclusive, personal, intimate.
Concept of Man
Man is created in the image of God, essentially good, with free will, with the world as his sustainer. Man has fallen through moral failure and needs restoration.
Man's guilt separates him from God eternally. God takes on humanity and offers His perfect human life as payment for the sins of all mankind. This person is Jesus Christ. Mankind is reunited to God through faith in Jesus.
Faith is expressed through repentance and baptism and a pursuit of right living. Public gathering for commemorative meal (communion), prayer and teaching.
The Bible (Old and New Testaments). Belief that these writings are directly inspired by God and recorded by men.
Began in Israel but has spread throughout the world. Greatest concentration in America, Europe, South America, Africa and more recently an underground movement in China.
- Specific clergy
- Evangelistic in nature
- Many groups
- Belief that Jesus will inaugurate the end of the world at His second coming.
This is how Christianity would be categorized if it were looked at through the eyes of one studying Comparative Religion. Let us now compare Christianity with the other 10 organized religions of the world.
Judaism is one of the four religions grouped (based on geography) in the Near Eastern section. Had the Jews accepted Christ these two religions (Christianity and Judaism) would not be separate but form a single unit. One merely completing the other.
The claim of Jesus and the Apostles was that the whole purpose of Jewish history, religion and society was to provide a historical stage upon which the Christ could make His appearance in this world. The Jews, however, rejected this claim and their Messiah, and thus capped their religion at this point. We, therefore, study Judaism as a major religion as it is now, not as what it was meant to be.
Jews see their history differently than we see it. We see it as one unbroken thread from Abraham until now. They see their history in stages:
- Biblical Judaism (1400 BC-200 BC):
- Abraham, Moses, prophets, kings, statehood
- Recorded Old Testament
- Rabbinic Judaism (220 BC-425 AD):
- Called this because the authority in religion was the Rabbi.
- We see this in Jesus' constant conflict with the Rabbis and Pharisees.
- European Judaism (425 AD-1400 AD):
- Majority of Jews lived in Europe, not Israel.
- Islamic influences had despised them and there was constant struggle with the Roman Catholic Church.
- Jews were constant targets of oppression and intolerance.
- Since they were not allowed to own property, they survived by developing skills in commerce, medicine, law, shipping and banking.
- Since the 1800s there have been three main groups within modern Judaism (1800-Present):
- Reform Judaism - Liberal branch who try to reconcile their beliefs to modern science and society. It was through the efforts of this group that the modern state of Israel was re-established after World War II.
- Conservative Judaism - They hold to the old ways of Judaism although they do not offer animal sacrifices. They still maintain the concept of the Messiah as a personal Savior.
- Orthodox Judaism - Most conservative of Jews. Hold to everything except animal sacrifice, the reason being that there no longer is a temple or priesthood (the area where the Jewish temple stood is now controlled by the Palestinians and a mosque (Dome of the Rock) now stands where the temple was located). Presently they hold the balance of political power in the Israeli government (modern day Pharisees).
Concept of Deity
God is one - YAHWEH (not diverse). He has revealed Himself through the prophets (Old Testament). Pure spirit, eternal, just, compassionate. Jesus is only a man.
Created by God. Has a soul, will die once. Subject to sin. Moses is the greatest teacher.
Transgression against God's Law is sin and means separation from God. Keeping God's Law leads to salvation. No need for a sin sacrifice on their behalf. The Jewish nation is the Messiah. God's choice of them is their guarantee of salvation and if they keep His Laws (which range from moral to ceremonial depending on the group) they are saved and will be with God in heaven. Being Jewish is what saves you.
What is wrong with this?
- God is not partial (Leviticus 24:22).
- All have sinned, cannot keep Laws (Psalms 14:1-3).
- Resurrection (Psalms 49:15).
The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. Synagogues were later used for assembly, prayer, singing and readings. The largest temple today is the Belz temple located in Jerusalem and can accommodate over 10,000 people for worship.
Different groups within Judaism follow various Jewish festivals and holy days.
Torah (means to teach) is the Hebrew Bible. It contains written laws and revelation (Christian - Old Testament). It also has the oral teachings, traditions and commentaries recorded by various rabbis (Talmud, Midrash, Mishnah). Jews do not consider their writings as the Old Testament, since they reject the New Testament as having any religious authority. We refer to their Scriptures as the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh).
Israel, Europe, worldwide.
Theodor Herzl began the Zionist Movement in 1863 as part of Reform Judaism and this ultimately led to the reestablishment of modern Israel in 1947.
Jews believe that their national presence is a blessing to the world and through them God will bless mankind (to the point where some believe that the state of Israel is the Messiah). They also believe that the Jewish nation will be the instrument of world salvation (this being the main reason for their present suffering). Many Christian politicians believe and use this in their argument for the support and defense of Israel (aside from its strategic location in the Middle East as a proxy for American political influence).