What unites and what separates the three Abrahamic holy books

The sacred books of the three great monotheistic religions were (and are) a pretext for profound divisions in humanity. But between them there are more similarities than differences.

Sep 23, 2023 - 00:43
What unites and what separates the three Abrahamic holy books
Image by İbrahim Mücahit Yıldız / Pixabay

The Torah, the Bible, and the Quran (also spelled Al-Quran or Alcoran) are central religious texts for three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, respectively. Each book holds significant religious and historical importance for its respective faith community. Here are some of the main differences between the three sacred texts:

  1. Religious Context:

    • Torah: The Torah is the central and most important religious text in Judaism. It is considered the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Pentateuch, which includes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Torah contains laws, commandments, and narratives of the early history of the Jewish people.
    • Bible: The Bible is the sacred scripture of Christianity, comprising two main sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is largely equivalent to the Hebrew Bible and includes the books of the Torah, as well as other historical, prophetic, and poetic writings. The New Testament focuses on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the early Christian Church.
    • Quran: The Quran is the holy book of Islam, believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is written in Arabic and is divided into chapters called surahs. The Quran covers a wide range of subjects, including theology, guidance for personal conduct, moral values, legal principles, and stories of earlier prophets.
  2. Revelation and Authorship:

    • Torah: According to Jewish tradition, the Torah was revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.
    • Bible: The Bible is a collection of writings attributed to various authors over many centuries. The Old Testament's authorship is traditionally ascribed to multiple prophets, leaders, and poets, while the New Testament includes writings by early Christian figures like the apostles and Paul.
    • Quran: Muslims believe that the Quran was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad over a period of approximately 23 years, through angel Gabriel.
  3. Central Figures:

    • Torah: Moses is a central figure in the Torah and is considered one of the greatest prophets in Judaism.
    • Bible: Jesus Christ is the central figure in Christianity, believed to be the Son of God and the savior of humanity.
    • Quran: The Prophet Muhammad is the central figure in Islam, revered as the last prophet and the seal of prophethood.
  4. Core Beliefs and Doctrines:

    • Each sacred book outlines the core beliefs, commandments, and ethical teachings of its respective religion. While there are shared elements of monotheism, ethical values, and religious practices, there are also differences in specific beliefs, rituals, and moral codes.
  5. Language and Translation:

    • Torah: Originally written in Hebrew.
    • Bible: Written in multiple languages, including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Translations exist in numerous languages worldwide.
    • Quran: Written in Classical Arabic, and it is believed that the original Quranic text is preserved without alteration.
  6. Canonical Structure:

    • The Torah, as mentioned earlier, consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.
    • The Bible's structure varies depending on the Christian denomination, with variations in the inclusion of certain books, particularly in the Old Testament.
    • The Quran is a stand-alone, separate book that contains 114 chapters (surahs) of varying lengths.

But the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran also share several fundamental similarities, despite being central sacred texts of different Abrahamic religions. These similarities revolve around certain theological, historical, and moral themes. Here are some of the main similarities between the three:

  1. Monotheism: All three texts uphold the belief in the existence of one supreme and transcendent God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic religions, and their sacred texts emphasize the oneness of God and His sovereignty.

  2. Abrahamic Heritage: The three texts share a common origin in the story of Abraham (Ibrahim in Islam). Abraham is regarded as a central patriarch and prophet in all three faiths, and his narrative is prominently featured in the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran.

  3. Prophetic Tradition: The texts highlight the role of prophets as intermediaries between God and humanity. Figures such as Moses (Musa), David (Dawud), and others are shared between the texts, although there may be variations in the details of their stories.

  4. Ethical and Moral Teachings: Each sacred text contains ethical principles and moral teachings that guide the behavior and conduct of their respective followers. Themes of compassion, justice, charity, honesty, and respect for others are emphasized in all three texts.

  5. Narratives of Creation and History: The Torah, the Bible, and the Quran present accounts of the creation of the world and the early history of humanity. These narratives provide insights into the origin of the universe and the relationship between God and humanity.

  6. The Ten Commandments: The Ten Commandments, which outline fundamental moral and ethical principles, are shared between the Torah and the Bible (specifically in the Book of Exodus). These commandments are foundational to the ethical teachings in Judaism and Christianity.

  7. Eschatological Themes: Each text discusses the concept of the end times, the final judgment, and the idea of an afterlife. These eschatological themes explore the ultimate destiny of humanity and the concept of reward and punishment based on one's deeds.

  8. Importance of Scripture: The Torah, the Bible, and the Quran are regarded as divinely inspired and authoritative texts by their respective religious communities. They serve as the primary sources of religious guidance and knowledge.

Despite these similarities, it's crucial to recognize that the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran have distinct contexts, teachings, and historical backgrounds, which have led to the formation of different religious traditions. As a result, each text is central to its respective faith and plays a unique role in shaping the beliefs and practices of millions of followers worldwide.

It's essential to approach these sacred texts with respect and sensitivity, recognizing their profound significance to the respective religious communities. The interpretations, commentaries, and teachings associated with these texts can be vast and diverse, shaping the beliefs and practices of millions of followers worldwide.

Janet Bluesky Member of EA Coordination Team