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Contexts

The three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — can be defined in great measure by several basic commonalities. Among the most important are:

Monotheism
Jews, Christians, and Muslims share a belief in the same one true God, whom they call by different names. An innovation of the patriarch Abraham, this radical new belief in a single Divine Being flew in the face of the religions of antiquity with their plethora of gods, each imbued with a particular attribute, purpose, and power.

Abraham
The great forebear of each of these faiths is Abraham, an itinerant herdsman who lived some 3,700 years ago in the Middle East and embraced and promulgated his belief in a single deity. Abraham is considered variously as Patriarch, Man of Faith, and Prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all of whom regard themselves as his physical heirs or spiritual descendants.

Revelation
Each of the three faith communities believes that God’s presence has been directly revealed at various points in time to selected individuals or groups. Though always emanating from God, revelation may be channeled through celestial messengers such as angels or through the agency of humans who have been divinely endowed with prophecy.

Scriptures
Each faith community also preserves a canonical, or fixed, written text, believed to have been dictated by God or divinely communicated to human authors. These texts comprise a record of the beliefs and early history of each faith tradition and provide adherents with guidance and inspiration. Collectively, these sacred Scriptures are unequivocally the most widely disseminated and influential texts ever recorded.

 

Images: (top) Hebrew Bible (The Xanten Bible).  Joseph ben Kalonymus, scribe.  Xanten, Lower Rhineland, 5054 AM (1294 CE).  NYPL, Spencer Collection. Digital ID 1244109; (middle) Tetro Evangelie [Gospels], in Church Slavic. Moscow: Radishevskii, 1606. NYPL, Spencer Collection; (bottom) Al-Baydawi. Anwar al-Tanzil [Lights of Revelation]. Istanbul (?), Ottoman Empire, AH 976 (1569 CE). NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division.