The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Volume II

The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Volume II: The Words and Will of God

F. E. Peters
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 432
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, Volume II
    Book Description:

    The world's three great monotheistic religions have spent most of their historical careers in conflict or competition with each other. And yet in fact they sprung from the same spiritual roots and have been nurtured in the same historical soil. This book--an extraordinarily comprehensive and approachable comparative introduction to these religions--seeks not so much to demonstrate the truth of this thesis as toillustrateit. Frank Peters, one of the world's foremost experts on the monotheistic faiths, takes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and after briefly tracing the roots of each, places them side by side to show both their similarities and their differences.

    Volume I,The Peoples of God, tells the story of the foundation and formation of the three monotheistic communities, of their visible, historical presence. Volume II,The Words and Will of God, is devoted to their inner life, the spirit that animates and regulates them.

    Peters takes us to where these religions live: their scriptures, laws, institutions, and intentions; how each seeks to worship God and achieve salvation; and how they deal with their own (orthodox and heterodox) and with others (the goyim, the pagans, the infidels). Throughout, he measures--but never judges--one religion against the other. The prose is supple, the method rigorous. This is a remarkably cohesive, informative, and accessible narrative reflecting a lifetime of study by a single recognized authority in all three fields.

    The Monotheistsis a magisterial comparison, for students and general readers as well as scholars, of the parties to one of the most troubling issues of today--the fierce, sometimes productive and often destructive, competition among the world's monotheists, the siblings called Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2571-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)

    FROM WHAT WE READ in the recorded history of his devotees, the god who created the universe had shown some earlier, generally benevolent interest in what he had brought into being. Then, at a given moment in historical time, he addressed himself to one Abram, the sheikh of an extended family of Near Eastern sheep nomads who were camping in what is today called the Negev. Worship me, the god said, and I will make you and yours a great people. It was not a unique or a solitary voice: we know from plentiful evidence that there were other, many...

  5. 1 The Scriptures: Bible, New Testament, and Quran
    (pp. 1-34)

    JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, AND ISLAM are all scriptural religions, that is, they affirm the existence of a divine revelation in written form. “The Sacred Writings,” “The Scripture,” and “The Book” are practically interchangeable terms among the three communities, and their adherents can all be identified, as we shall see, as People of the Book, which the Muslims in fact call them. The three Scriptures show marked differences, however. In the Jewish—and Muslim—view, God gave and Moses wrote down a distinct and discrete multipart book, the Law or Torah. But although the Torah holds pride of place in Jewish revelational...

  6. 2 Understanding the Word of God
    (pp. 35-64)

    IF GOD’S DISTINCT VOICE was stilled with the closure of Scripture, it was not rendered completely inaudible. Each of the People of the Book thought it could catch richly nuanced echoes of those original words beneath the surface of Scripture and, even more consequentially, in what was believed to be an ongoing stream of “secondary” revelation within the community itself. The first conviction leads to a discussion of how the Jews, Christians, and Muslims proceeded to unpack the rich contents of the scriptural revelation; the latter, to an inspection of the notion of tradition (see II/3).

    All who believe in...

  7. 3 Scripture and Tradition
    (pp. 65-86)

    IF EXEGESIS IS a method of prying open the firmly closed Book of God and finding in its depths solutions to more contemporary problems of behavior and belief, tradition provides the community of believers with an instrument with which to prolong revelation itself, as in fact the three Peoples of the Book have done. What came to be normative Judaism was no more simply a matter of the Bible than traditional Christianity was of the New Testament or Islam of the Quran alone. Each group believed there was more—that certain other texts spoke with the authority of the Book...

  8. 4 God’s Law and Its Observance
    (pp. 87-126)

    THE TRADITION OF A SOCIETY governed by law is very old in the Near East, and where societies were governed by rulers whose powers were intimately bound up with divine descent, designation, or approbation, the distinction between secular and religious law is not easily or even profitably made. The Israelites were unusual in that their law came directly from God and not from some god-king: Moses was simply a prophet. But otherwise, the oldest parts of the Bible contain legal codes similar in detail to those found among the Babylonians and Canaanites.

    The Israelites, whose obligation to the God of...

  9. 5 God’s Commandments and Human Morality
    (pp. 127-167)

    THE BEHAVIORAL CODES of the three monotheistic communities were thought to rest on God’s Will, as expressed in the commandments and teachings he laid down in Scripture. The matter, as it turned out, was far more complex.

    Here we are concerned with the systems of values attached to human acts. By “systems” is meant that such values have been ordered into some kind of coherent whole. Without one version excluding the other, such systems fall into two main classes. One derives its values from a principle or principles immanent (internal) to the act or its agent, and the second from...

  10. 6 Divine Worship
    (pp. 168-210)

    IN ITS MOST GENERAL TERMS, worship is the human acknowledgment, in some formal way, of God’s existence and power. That acknowledgment may occur in a number of registers (e.g., praise, thanksgiving, petition), and its chief forms, often combined, are prayer, or direct address of God, and ritual, the performance of certain acts thought to be acceptable or pleasing to God. The word “liturgy” or “liturgical” adds to both prayer and ritual the notion that either or both are formal, public, and generally, social. There are, of course, private and individual prayers and private rituals, but they are generally not the...

  11. 7 Thinking about God
    (pp. 211-250)

    HELLENISM WAS DISTINGUISHED by its confidence in the human intellect’s ability to discern the nature of the universe and humankind’s purpose in it. The upper end of the Greeks’ ambitious intellectual program, the study of the principles of being or philosophy, led to an ultimate principle of being, namely, God. The branch of philosophy devoted to the programmatic study of God—his existence, nature, and attributes—was called theology. According to one common version of the theology circulating in the ancient Mediterranean world, God was a primary spiritual principle, eternal, all-knowing, and all-good, from whose goodness and intelligence there flowed,...

  12. 8 From Desert Saints to Muslim Sufis
    (pp. 251-292)

    All three monotheistic movements grew out of a perceived distinction between God, “who alone is holy,” and the present circumstances in which humankind finds itself. These circumstances are often referred to as “the world” or “this world.” Though God had looked on this world, which was, after all, his creation, and pronounced it “good” (Gen. 1:4, etc.), his devotees often took a somewhat more pessimistic view of their circumstances, as did God himself on occasion, since there were elements in that creation, some humanmade but others quite natural, that he wished to keep distant from his presence.

    How and why...

  13. 9 Leaping from the Dark into the Light: Mysticism
    (pp. 293-338)

    MYSTICISM IS here simply understood as the pursuit and achievement of an immediate experience of God. It thus differs both from theology, which tries to understand God through discursive intellectual means, and from the various forms of orthopraxy, which attempt to approach God, to become more godlike, through observant behavior with regard to his Law.

    The contemplation of God, or to put it in simpler and more startlingly anthropomorphic terms, seeing God face to face, would seem to be an unavailing prospect in religious traditions that held so firmly to God’s utter transcendence. But this was not beyond all hope...

  14. 10 The Last Things
    (pp. 339-376)

    IN GREEKESCHATONMEANS “END,” and from the perspective of the three monotheistic communities, that “end” is understood in two related, and sometimes conflicting, senses. It refers in the first instance to the end of the individual: what, if anything, occurs to a person immediately after death. It is a starkly personal and individual concern. But the three faiths are also, and perhaps even more thoughtfully and fretfully, concerned with the End Time, the absolute finale to God’s plan for the cosmos, and what might lie beyond. There was, as it turned out, a great deal beyond. The End will...

  15. End Thoughts
    (pp. 377-386)

    THE THREE MONOTHEISTIC religious communities we call Judaism, Christianity, and Islam now constitute the single largest block of organized believers on earth. The figures are obviously little more than approximations, or perhaps guesses, but Christians of all persuasions are thought to approach 2 billion worldwide, Muslims somewhat more than 1 billion, and Jews nearly 15 million. To unify them under the name of monotheists is merely to begin to describe the ties that bind them. All worship what we may identify, with reservations, as the same God. All three believe this deity has intervened in human history on several occasions,...

  16. Index
    (pp. 387-406)