Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in the same God? Since all three religions trace back to the Old Testament patriarch, Abraham (see Genesis 12 and following) many people say they do. But do they really?
Maybe you’ve wondered about this question yourself. Perhaps you have a Jewish or Muslim friend who sincerely practices their faith. They exhibit the same fruits of kindness, love, and self-sacrifice as your Christian faith does for you. They pray and behave morally. And they genuinely seek to live in a way that honors God. Wouldn’t that suggest there is some kind of parallel between all three religions?
In this post, we want to clear any confusion and help you form a confident answer to this important question.
What Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Believe About God That Is Similar?
Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe that there is only one God who should be worshipped. They also share many similar beliefs such as that God:
- Is the Creator
- Rules over his creation
- Reveals his will through prophets and scripture
- Loves his people
- Judges and punishes the wicked
- Forgives the penitent
- Requires followers to follow his law
- Is actively directing history toward an “end-time”
- Will one day reward the righteous and judge the wicked
These similar beliefs about God shared by Christians, Jews, and Muslims lead many to think that all three religions are basically the same.
But before we may draw any conclusion, we must look at their differences.
What Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Believe About God That Is Different? And Does It Matter?
Here’s an illustration that will help us answer this question. Name the U.S. president who:
- Was the second child to his parents
- Was related to a U.S. Senator, Attorney General, ambassador to Great Britain, and the mayor of Boston.
- Had previously been a boat captain.
- In his thirties, he married a prominent 24-year-old woman who spoke French fluently.
- Had a friend named Billy Graham.
- Was assassinated while in office by a gunshot to the head while his wife sat beside him.
- Was succeeded by his vice president whose last name was Johnson.
- His last name contains seven letters.
If you said John F. Kennedy, you’re absolutely right. But if you said Abraham Lincoln, you’re also right. Both men, whose presidencies were 100 years apart, shared an unbelievable number of similarities. But while all these and many other descriptors may apply to both men, it’s obvious that Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were not the same person.
This odd fact of history serves to illustrate a very important point. While Christians, Jews, and Muslims share many similar beliefs about God, that in itself doesn’t mean they are believing in the same God. That’s because descriptions alone do not establish identity.
Who Is God? (i.e. What Is God’s Identity?)
For the Muslim:
If you ask a Muslim, “Who is God?”, they’ll most likely recite from the Quran, Surah (chapter) 112, which says, “Say, ‘He is God (Allah) the One, God the eternal. He begot no one nor was He begotten. No one is comparable to Him.’” For Muslims, God’s “eternal oneness” (tahwid) is the core aspect of His identity. Not only does this refer to his singleness of being, but also of person. In short, Allah alone is God.
Islamic tradition gives God 99 names. These are more titles or attributes than personal names, such as the Creator; the Merciful; the Compassionate. Muslims believe that God spoke through the biblical prophets, like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus (whom they consider only a prophet, not God’s Son). Their message, however, was supposedly corrupted over time by the Jews and Christians, and so Muslims believe that God transmitted his pure message through Muhammad, his last and greatest prophet.
For the Jew:
If you ask a Jew who God is, they will likely recite from Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Like Muslims, most Jews believe that God is one in being and person. Unlike Muslims, Jews identify God by his personal name “I AM (Yahweh). This is the name that God revealed directly to Moses at the burning bush. (Exodus 3:14)
The Old Testament shows that like Christians, Jews did refer to God as “Father”. (cf. Psalm 68:5; 103:13; Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4, 19) This was not a personal name given to God, however, but used as a title or metaphor (like King or Judge) for describing God and his relationship to Israel as a nation. “It teaches us about God and about the suitable approach to God, yet it does not truly describe God.”1 For Jews then, God’s identity was and is very much rooted in his covenant relationship to Israel as a nation.
For the Christian:
For Christians, calling God, “Father” tells us who he is and how we are to relate to him. But this isn’t just a title or a metaphor. It’s an affirmation of God’s nature and identity. God is not “our Father” simply because he created us. God is the eternal Father by virtue of his relationship to the eternal Son. In other words “Father” is who he is from all eternity before he ever created a thing. This is what makes the Doctrine of the Trinity so central to Christian faith. It isn’t just some quirky aspect of God’s nature. It is the essence of who God is.
Knowing God as Father requires a relationship with Jesus his Son. Otherwise, God’s identity as Father could never be known. As the Apostle John wrote: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18) In addition, God chose Jesus his Son to be the full and ultimate revelation of himself to us. As the writer of Hebrews says:
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”Hebrews 1:1-3
The New Testament makes very clear that Jesus was none other than God in the flesh. Jesus is “the exact representation of his being”, “the image of the invisible God” who created and sustains all things; (cf. Colossians 1:15-20; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6). This is why Jesus was able to say so plainly, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
In a word, Christians believe Jesus is God. The Apostle John confirmed this statement as core to the gospel when he said, “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
How Do Muslims and Jews Respond To the Idea of Jesus As the Son of God?
The Quran explicitly condemns to hell anyone who would affirm Jesus as the Son of God (Surah 5:72). Judaism similarly denies Jesus as the Son of God and absolutely rejects him as God’s Messiah. A 12thcentury Jewish Rabbi named Maimonides (ca. 1135-1204 AD) wrote one of the Jewish traditions most venerated texts, the Mishneh Torah, in which he attempts to prove how much in error Christians are to worship Jesus as Christ. He writes:
“But when the Christ truly comes and is successful, and is raised up and exalted, then everything will be changed and these things [i.e. the claims about Jesus of Nazareth] will be shown to be false and vain.”Maimonides, Hilkoth Melakhim (IX, 4)
But Aren’t Jews God’s Chosen People?
The Jews were indeed God’s people in the Old Testament, but the earlier passage in Hebrews 1 confirms, along with the entire New Testament, that in rejecting Jesus, the Jews as a nation were, in fact rejecting the very God they claimed to worship (see Romans 10). It is important to remember, however, that this does not mean that God has rejected the Jews. As the Apostle Paul points out, Jesus and his earliest followers, including Paul himself, were Jews. In addition, Paul seems to be pointing very clearly to a day when God would draw great numbers of the Jewish people back to himself through Christ. (cf. Romans 11)
In summary, despite how tempting it might be to appeal to some kind of unity of belief in God in order to build bridges with Jewish or Muslim people, this analysis demonstrates the error in doing so. This does not mean we cannot appeal to what Muslims and Jews already believe as a starting point for sharing the gospel. But we must remain clear and truthful in our faith and message. While Christianity, Judaism, and Islam may share many superficial similarities in their general descriptors about God, they’re fundamentally opposed to each other when it comes to identifying God and worshipping Him.
The biblical, Christian message of faith has always been that God has revealed himself to humanity in the person of his Son, Jesus. Apart from Jesus then, God is quite simply unknowable. As the Apostle Peter proclaimed to the Jewish people after Pentacost:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven and earth given to mankind by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:12
The plain teaching of the Bible then is that calling God by any name other than Jesus’ is to call on some other god.
- Alon Goshen-Gottstein, “God the Father in Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity: Transformed Background or Common Ground?” Jewish-Christian Relations, September 30, 2003, www.jcrelations.net. [Accessed online Feb 10, 2020].
For Further Reading: