The Gift of God

    Since I was a boy, I have always considered Judaism, Christianity and islam to be essentially  the same religion- worshiping the same “Jewish” god, whether directly or through an intermediary, a “Logos,” such as Plotinus's archangel or Hellenistic “god fearers’” Jesus Christ who was eventually amalgamated into the “Trinity.”

    The Jewish god was based on an anthropomorphic concept, but with the understanding of the profound enigma involved. The initial custodians of the concept attempted to give their god no physical form, but conceded him omnipotence and omniscience.  However, for them to present a marketable version of their god to the people as well as a means to worship him, they had to fit the new religion into the context of the society in which they found themselves.  The result was a perfect, faceless, formless, but temperamentally anthropomorphic being.

    Initially, the social context demanded a “place of worship,” a “tabernacle,” housing holy relics in the form of engraved stone tablets and written scrolls as opposed to the “abominable” idols of their neighbors.  Eventually the tabernacle became a temple. Unfortunately, if we look at the Old Testament book 1 Kings, we find a blueprint for a rather typical pagan temple except for the absence of graven images of the Hebrew god.  There are, however, graven images of angels and various strange mythical creatures, apparently representing the inhabitants of god’s “heavenly” abode.  Eventually the temple is assumed to be the Hebrew god’s “earthly” abode.

    It is under the persistent influence of Greek and perhaps Buddhist philosophers that the Hebrew god’s followers finally developed the concept of their god as some sort of “spirit” or “soul.”  In that way the Hebrew god could maintain his identity- no face, no form- and he could finally be sought in his rightful place: in the “hearts” of his followers.  Thus the idea that the soul of man is part of the soul or spirit of his god is not just a Greek or a Buddhist or a Gnostic concept.  It is the key that links Judaism, Christianity, Islam and, in a way, Buddhism as well.

    What separates these great religions are their unique weaknesses.  Too many myopic Jews, Christians and Muslims do not seem to understand the message of their greatest and most profound leaders.  Hillel said it, Jesus said it and eventually Mohammed acknowledged it.  When Hillel said and Jesus quoted him- “ the sabbath was made for man,” when Hillel claimed and Jesus reiterated that the most vital part of their religion was to love one’s neighbor as oneself, and when Mohammed conceded that Jews, Christians ,and Muslims were all “People of the Book,” the message was clear: For them, religion was meant to be God’s gift to mankind, not mankind’s gift to God!

Allen Finkelstein  10/10/17