Torah, New Testament and Koran

From: Scott

Dear Rabbi,

I was wondering if from a Torah point of view Judaism considers either Christianity or Islam as an extension of itself, and which of those religions is considered closest to Judaism?

Dear Scott,

It is undisputable that Judaism pre-dates both Christianity and Islam (the Revelation at Sinai being app. 1300-2000 years before each, respectively); and that both religions, first Christianity and then 700 years later Islam, were undeniably patterned after Judaism.

Christianity certainly views itself as an “updated”, direct extension of Judaism. The relative “new-comer” Islam considers itself to be an extension of both, although perhaps less directly.

Judaism, however, doesn’t consider either of them to be an extension or continuation of itself at all, but rather inaccurate versions of what the Torah teaches and demands of non-Jews.

That distinction being made, it’s hard to say which is a “closer-miss” to Judaism. Each has ways in which it is more similar to Judaism and other ways in which it is less similar.

Perhaps the main way in which Christianity expresses its purported continuity of Judaism is through its adopting the Jewish Scriptures (Torah, Prophets and Writings) within what it considers its Bible. And what’s more, Jesus, as well as his earliest followers, was himself Jewish. These factors certainly sent the departing Christianity on a trajectory which maintained significant affinity with Judaism.

On the other hand, in the realm of core-belief and formalized practice, Christianity’s connection to Judaism is more tenuous. The notion of G‑d incarnate, a failed messiah, and the trinity (among other beliefs) blatantly oppose Judaism. And even though Christianity adopts many of the good deeds prescribed in the Torah, they do not take the form of mitzvot – commandments.

In contrast, Islam does have more affinity with Judaism in core-belief and practice. Its rigorous monotheism rejects the deification of a man, repudiates its representation in statuary, and repeals the inherently contradictory belief in the trinity. In addition, certain Torah mitzvot were adapted by Islam as formal requirements which resemble kosher laws, circumcision and prayer.

However, in contrast with Christianity, Islam was not founded and developed by people whose roots were within Judaism. Nor did Islam adopt the Jewish Scriptures as part of its formal canon. Thus, Islam is outside of much of the historic and religious consensus shared by Judaism and Christianity as a result of their common allegiance to the Holy writ. Interestingly, the Koran obviously and liberally cites the history, events, personages and prophets of the Jewish Scriptures, as well Talmudic teachings. But regarding the details of the above it is regularly inaccurate. And even regarding the essential content it is often outright different than the Jewish sources upon which it’s based.

Despite the significant differences between Christianity and Islam to Judaism, Rambam (Melachim 11:4, uncensored) wrote that the proliferation of these religions fits into the Divine Plan of weaning mankind away from idolatry, engaging humanity in the discussion and belief of G‑d, Messiah and the Final Redemption, in order to prepare the human race for the ultimate, pristine, unaltered truth of the Torah that will be revealed to, and accepted by, the entire world.

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