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#1 David Hawthorne

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 12:14 PM

I was wondering the other day: is there any real difference between the Jewish and Islamic concepts of God?

Of course, they don't accept the Persons of the Trinity as we do but is there a concept of Personhood in God (e.g. the Father only) or do they only conceive of his essence and, if so, do they mean approximately the same thing by God's essence as we do?

When we refer to the three monotheisms as worshipping the same God do we really do so as far as ousia is concerned? Is there any agreement as far as hypostasis is concerned?

#2 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 01:13 PM

My acquaintance with Jewish theology is limited, but my impression is that a single philosophically informed Jewish concept of God does not exist. One can, of course, find rabbis and philosophers who do philosophically reflect on the nature of God (see, e.g., Maimonides); but my impression is that Jewish theology favors a personalist, existential way of talking about the one God, grounded in a profound awareness of God's mystery and holiness--hence the refusal to pronounce the divine name (YHWH). The rabbis are more concerned about obedience to Torah than on philosophical reflection upon the divine ousia.

#3 Mike L

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 03:40 PM

Modern Judaic concepts of God grew out of the Tradition of the Elders of the Pharisees and can best be exemplified by looking at the Babylonian Talmud, which is the equivalent of "canons" to us. Also, for some sects of Jews, like the Hasidim, they also believe in the Kabbalah as well, which are esoteric writings. In them, God is referred to En Soph ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/En_Soph ); it is basically a reflection and mystical look at God as essence and almost pantheistic & occultic in its outlook. All-in-all, this form of monotheism differs greatly from Christian understanding.

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:32 PM

From my experience Fr Aidan is right. The classical Jewish understanding of God is very personal with strong elements of mercy. I suppose that this comes from the sense that God looks out for His chosen people and tends them like a shepherd tends His flock.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#5 Owen Jones

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 12:28 PM

We keep getting various versions of the question on Monachos. First, the term monotheism, as far as I know, is a modernist sociological term and I tend to shy away from it. As far as Judaism goes, you also have ancient and modern variations on the theme and I think one has to make those distinctions. One of the best treatments of ancient Judaism is in the introduction to Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann -- although I recommend the whole book. It is not religious in the strict sense, but rather evokes the experience of participation in the cosmos, and so it has what we would call a mystical foundation. Modern Judaism strikes me as the antithesis of mysticism, and the later movements within Judaism toward mysticism are very controversial within mainstream Judaism.

Controversies in early Islam resulted in the victory of nominalism, which reduces everything to God's will. You find this among some Christians as well. In general, I would say that Islam was a very intentional movement to co-opt the potential spreading influence of Christianity among Arabs, which Muhammed saw as a threat. Islam was a means to create a political religion that he could use to unite all of the tribes and resist any potential Christian encroachment. It also bears great resemblance to Mormonism. On the phenomenological level, it represents a contraction of both faith and reason. In a sense, the Muslim doesn't really need faith because it involves a set of guarantees. It is also the antithesis of mysticism, and the mystical movements within Islam, in particular Sufism, is very controversial among Muslims, most of whom would say that Sufism has nothing to do with Islam. Although much is said about advances in science, particular mathematics, produced by Muslims at a certain point in history, when one looks at Muslim societies today, absent oil money they are all poverty stricken and I think this is for a reason. Nominalism equates to a kind of fatalism which has broad social consequences.

So I would not look to the superficial category of "monotheism" to compare Islam and Judaism. it doesn't tell us much.

#6 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 06:57 AM

Sadly, this is such a huge a topic in our days. Especially since the 11th of September 2001 when the Islamic world came crashing into our daily life. Now we hear constantly of seminars with titles dealing with various wording but under the theme: the 'Abrahamic religions...'

I admire Owen's post. Owen holds a very lofty position in my collections of quotes. Forgive such a mundane analysis of his post, but truly he "hits the nail on the head".

Not only is there a dramatic difference between the Judaic and Islamic concept of God; Islam is not even in the same ball park.

Father Sophrony put it very well one day as he walked near the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist with our beloved Father Symeon (+2009), Father Kyrill and Father Raphael: "Islam is an enormous fall for mankind."

As Father Zacharias writes:

"According to Old Testament and Christian revelation, the Absolute Being is personal. From the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, we see the one Triune God, 'thinking' (Judith 9:5 LXX) the world and Adam, creating them, and then preserving and maintaining His creation - and not least, revealing Himself and saving mankind. All this is the work of the Holy Trinity: the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit (see Ps. 32:6,9; 33:6,9)...

"The Christian God is one Being but not a single Hypostasis - as in the perspective of Islam and even of many passages in the Old Testament - but tri-hypostatic: He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...

"In God's dispensation for humanity and the world, the Son and the Word is the 'Angel of Great Counsel (Is. 9:6 LXX), the bearer of the revelation of the Father, the voice of His wisdom. From this revelation we learn that the Absolute Being is a hypostatic, personal God. God is not, though, one Person, but three, which have one Essence, one kingship, one glory, one action ('We Shall See Him', p. 212). In the Old Testament God was revealed to Moses as He who truly Is. To the Prophets He appeared as Almighty, as One who lives (Is. 49:18), the only Truth (Is. 45:19), the Saviour (Jer. 46:18)...Above all, though, He showed that God is love (cf. 1 John 4:16), and furthermore, love 'unto the end (John 13:1)...
('Christ, our Way and our Life' pp. 17, 18, 19, 21, 22)


"We do not, then, accept that faith is an empty concept or a form of self-deceit. We acknowledge, with the Apostle James, that faith can be empty or self-deceiving, but our aim, by contrast, is to acquire true faith. This involves drawing near to the Lord and entering deeply into the life of God so as to be instructed in His mysteries. We must believe that God is the Absolute Truth of indestructible Being, the God is, that He is the Being. In Him there are two aspects: God is and God exists. God is the Being which is unknowable and beyond participation. But He also exists because through His energy He enters into a living and personal relationship with His reasonable creatures. Indeed, when we believe that God is the Being we believe that He is the One Who Is (o Ov in Greek), for He revealed Himself to Moses as 'I AM THAT I AM (Exod. 3:14). However, the Greek o Ov expresses both aspects: that God's Being is an active state - that He is personal, and that His existence is the energy which flows forth from His Being to us."
('Remember Thy First Love' p. 21, Mount Tabor Publishing, 2012, edited by Dr. Christopher Veniamin)

please forgive my computer's inability to produce the proper Greek font; I urge you to trust yourselves to Dr. Veniamin's Publishing House, www. thaborian.com

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