Is the god of the Muslims and the Jews the same as the Christian God? Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God? At the outset, let me clarify that this Insight is written by a Christian for Christians. It is not about how to witness to your Muslim neighbor, how to foster peace and harmony, etc. Rather, it is for us Christians to gain an understanding of the issues that are involved in today’s widely-discussed question for which even Pope Francis has offered an opinion.
It is commonly agreed that there are three major monotheistic religions in the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three originated in the Middle East. All three claim roots in Abraham. We can only guess what Abraham’s views of God were before God began dealing with him, but we know there was idolatry in his family. Joshua stated it clearly: “From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods” (Josh. 24:2).
The Bible dedicates a mere eleven chapters to the history of the world before Abraham. With Abraham, the record becomes quite detailed. The “God of Abraham” is mentioned in the Bible from Genesis to Acts. Outside of Genesis, Abraham is mentioned over 100 times from Exodus to 1 Peter. The blessed abode of the dead is termed “Abraham’s bosom.” Very few individuals in history are as outstanding as Abraham. Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the God of Abraham?
Seeking for a Meaningful Question
The common question these days asks for a yes/no answer. Does this result in a meaningful response? I think not. The present-day tendency to simply want a “yes” or “no” answer opens the door to preconceived judgments. “Yes” means you lack conviction or knowledge. Or it means you are loving and nonjudgmental. “No” means you are a bigot and suffering from islamophobia. Or it means you are firm in your faith. It’s all in the mindset of the questioner as well as the responder. A simple “yes” or “no” provides little useful information.
It’s not just a problem of unhelpful answers; the question itself is a bad question. The question assumes that there could be more than one God. But the three religions reject that concept. The three are in agreement that there is only one true God and that He is the one they each worship. Therefore, a more meaningful question would be: Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims have the same understanding of the nature of the one true God? Or: Do the three religions attribute the same characteristics to God? However, we are still left with yes/no replies.
More meaningful questions could be something like these: In what ways do Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree regarding the nature of the one God? In what ways do they differ? What is the importance of these differences? More complicated? Yes. More enlightening? Yes. Whether the questions are worded this way or some other way, what we need are some facts.
Begin or End with Abraham?
Before proceeding, let’s examine the common idea that there are three major Abrahamic religions in the world, three religions that have their basis in Abraham. Upon examination, it might be more accurate to consider that these three religions did not start with Abraham. Rather they started with Adam and their sameness ends with Abraham.
Actually, we could start before Adam, before the creation. All three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, believe that there is one eternal God who is the all-knowing and all-powerful Creator of the universe. When I say “all three religions believe,” I am referring to those who are orthodox, traditional, conservative, or whatever term you want to use. We are concerned here with the accepted historical views of the three religions.
From Abraham, the three religions diverge. Islam connects to Abraham through his first son, Ismael, who was born to Abraham’s Egyptian slave Hagar. Islam teaches that Ismael was the son whom Abraham nearly sacrificed, and it further says that Abraham and Ismael built the Kaaba in Mecca. It believes that Mohammed was a descendent of Ismael. Judaism, on the other hand, connects to Abraham through his son Isaac, who was born to Abraham’s wife Sarah well after she reached menopause. Judaism teaches that the Jewish people who descended from Isaac and Jacob are the people of God. On the other hand, Christianity connects to Abraham through his physical descendent Jesus, teaching that physical ancestry is important only up to that point. Since Jesus, Christianity says that “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). Physical lineage no longer matters.
Thus, even though the three religions are said to claim Abraham as father, they reach Abraham through three different individuals: Ismael, Isaac, and Jesus. And the God of the three religions? Is he the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Is he the God of Abraham and Jesus? Or is he the God of Abraham and Ismael? As indicated, all three believe in the one, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, Creator and Ruler of the universe, who is both merciful and Judge of the living and the dead, and who has revealed himself to mankind.
Differences in the Concept of God
It is surely the resurgence of Islam that has brought this issue to the forefront of world attention, and the question is most often asked with Islam and Christianity in view. That there are many similarities has already been detailed, and no proofs are needed. But what of differences? A good question would be: What are some of the important differences in the conception of God as found in the Quran and in the New Testament? In what ways, if any, do they contradict each other? Let’s examine these issues.
NT: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (1 Cor. 1:3). (God is called “Father” 272 times in the NT.)
Quran: (No quote available. God is not called “Father” once in the Quran. Islam’s 99 names for God does not include “Father.”)
NT: ” ‘And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18).
Quran: “Allah… they falsely, having no knowledge, attribute to Him sons and daughters. Praise and glory be to Him! [for He is] above what they attribute to Him!” (6:100).
NT: “God is love… We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:16, 19).
Quran: “Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean” (2:222).
Quran: “If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you” (3:31).
NT: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Quran: “Allah loveth not transgressors” (2:190). “Allah loveth not those who do wrong” (3:57).
NT: “The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, ‘Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?’ But Jesus… said, ‘so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’—He said to the paralytic—’I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home’ ” (Luke 5:21-24).
Quran: “And who can forgive sins except Allah?” (3:135).
NT: “Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession… Christ appeared as a high priest… through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 3:1; 9:11-12).
Quran: “Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apostle” (5:78).
NT: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’ ” (John 14:6).
NT: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
Quran: “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was [no more than] a messenger of Allah… Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: [far exalted is He] above having a son” (4:171).
NT: “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him’ ” (Heb. 1:6).
Quran: “O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah” (3:64).
Quran: “Take not, with Allah, another object of worship, lest thou shouldst be thrown into Hell” (17:39).
NT: “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased’ ” (Luke 3:21-22).
Quran: “The Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; [in this] they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” (9:30).
NT: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
Quran: “They say: ‘[Allah] Most Gracious has begotten a son!’ Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous!” (19:88-92).
NT: “His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created” (Col. 1:13-16).
Quran: “He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: no son has He begotten, nor has He a partner in His dominion: it is He who created all things, and ordered them in due proportions” (25:2).
NT: “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
Quran: “They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and [they take as their Lord] Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah: there is no god but He” (9:31).
NT: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’ ” (John 14:6).
NT: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
Quran: (no quote, no mediator between man and God.)
NT: “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist,the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23).
Quran: “They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is Christ the son of Mary’… They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: For there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them” (Quran 5:75-76).
NT: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 2, 14).
Quran: “Praise be to Allah, who begets no son, and has no partner in [His] dominion” (17:111).
NT: “So that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).
Quran: “Is it not that they say, from their own invention, ‘Allah has begotten children’? but they are liars!” (37:151-52).
You likely have noticed that the majority of the texts quoted have to do with Jesus. Yes. If views of Jesus are not included in the “same God” question, it is a poor question. A yes/no response is of little more value than the famed question, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” We “all” know that Jews and Muslims on the one hand and Christians on the other hand are divided on the issue of the divinity of Jesus. Since Christians claim that Jesus on earth was God in the flesh, any discussion of “same God” must include Jesus. And once Jesus is included, there remains no question whether Muslims and Christians have incompatible views of God. In their most sacred texts, each one condemns the other.
Briefly consider the following: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder”(1). As for the sufficiency of belief in God, Scripture also says: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father”(2). And Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but through Me”(3). Far more is involved than if certain people happen to worship the same God. Jesus once quoted God as saying, “In vain they worship me”(4).
Putting these texts all together: No matter what God you believe in and no matter what God you worship, you do not “have” God the Father nor can you “come to” God the Father except through Jesus! Any religion which denies that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God worships in vain. The question that’s not only worth answering but demands an answer is this: “What do you believe about Jesus? Who’s son is he?”
(1) James 2:19; (2) 1 John 2:23; (3) John 14:6; (4) Matt. 15:9.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
Quran quotations taken from translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.