THE “SALVATION OF THE SOUL” ACCORDING TO JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAMISM
Article available in portuguese.
I – INTRODUCTION
In this text I briefly outline how the three major monotheistic religions (that is, those claiming to worship a single God) have emerged and what their main beliefs about “soul salvation” are.
It may be noted that in certain matters Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have similar teachings. But let’s not fool ourselves, the points of similarities are few near the many substantial differences.
When I verbally share this information I am glad to realize that many people are interested in this subject, so I hope you enjoy it too.
Before beginning our brief historical summary, I would like you to know that the oldest of these three religions is Judaism. Then came Christianity and, finally, Islam. This seems to be very basic, but several people do not know.
Some theologians of each of these religions will want to “kill” me, for oversimplifying certain themes. But that is the intention, to transmit information in a way accessible to any layman.
So let’s get down to the theme.
II – HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT (JUDAISM)
In the beginning, there was no religion. There was only a direct relationship between God and men.
From the creation of the world and all that existed to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, at least in an organized way, there was none of these three monotheistic religions.
To elaborate a little more, I explain that from the Creation to Abraham, God had not made a covenant with any person or people. In this period lived illustrious figures such as Adam, Cain, Abel, Enoch, Noah, there was the Tower of Babel, that is, a lot happened, but God always treated mankind in general.
However, as time passed, malevolence multiplied among men, especially idolatry, that is, the worship of spiritual entities that are not “gods”, which lack the divine characteristics of eternity, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.
Then, at a certain point, God spoke to a man named Abraham (it was Abram initially and then had the name changed), made promises to him and subjected him to tests. After being approved in all, God confirms that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed.
Here is an important detail. God promised that Abraham would have a seed. It turns out that Abraham and his wife Sarah were already very old and because it was taking too long to have children, they thought to “help” God. So Sarah offered her handmaid, an Egyptian, that Abraham should have a son with her. Once this was done, Ishmael was born, who is Abraham’s first child, but “illegitimate.”
It is taught that the Arab people are descended from Ishmael, who also received from God promises of blessings, prosperity and growth. In Islam, the reference is always “Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob,” while in Judaism and Christianity it is said “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
This is because in the Jewish and Christian understanding, God’s covenant with Abraham was confirmed only by the birth of Abraham’s first legitimate son with Sarah, named Isaac, from whom the Jews descended.
This is one of the reasons (unconscious, of course) of the eternal quarrel between these two peoples.
Another curiosity is that one of the sons of Isaac was Jacob, and he had the name changed to Israel, hence the origin of the name.
Continuing from the descendants of Isaac came other important figures until Moses came, which was used by God to deliver from Egypt the descendants of Abraham, where they were enslaved about 430 years . Interesting that centuries before God had already told Abraham that this slavery would occur and that the people would be set free.
After the departure (exodus) from Egypt, God delivers the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. According to the rabbis (name given to the spiritual leaders of Judaism), Moses also received the Torah, which would be the first five books of the Bible that we have in Christianity.
From these Ten Commandments and the Torah (which is composed of 613 positive and negative rules, as compiled many centuries later), the people of Israel, after many ups and downs, developed a peculiar way of living, with the rules of the Torah involving not only religious aspects, but also everyday matters.
These people today are called Jews and to this day their religious basis is the Torah, which occupies the highest position among their religious books. There is also the Talmud, which is a kind of teachings and discussions about the details of the Torah.
III – THE PROMISE OF A SAVIOR (CHRISTIANITY)
Beginning with the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden and passing through the prophets of the Old Testament, there was always the promise from God that He would send a messiah, that is, a savior to his people.
In the course of centuries, when the prophets in the name of God promised a savior, scholars of Judaism created a sort of “checklist” to evaluate the candidates for messiahs who appeared. Not a few were reproved.
When the carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, appeared, most of the religious at that time rejected him as a messiah because they believed that he would not have fulfilled all the requirements of such a checklist.
However, some of them believed in His preaching and received Him as the Messiah promised by God over the centuries.
The preaching of this Messiah, Jesus, was initially turned to the Jews.
However, after his death and resurrection (as we Christians believe), especially through the work of the Apostle Paul of Tarsus, the preaching of the way presented by Jesus was extended also to non-Jews, known as “Gentiles.”
Well, in this way Christianity developed and expanded, until we came to what we know today.
Parallel to this, Judaism remained firm in its own convictions and still waiting for its savior (messiah).
It is worth noting that we Christians understand that the religious Jews were mistaken in interpreting the prophecies, so that their non-belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah is due to this error of interpretation of the Scriptures (Old Testament), that is, about the requirements that the Messiah should fulfill. In other words, the Jewish religious were mistaken as to what they hoped the Messiah would do while in this world.
Thus, the Christian Church began to develop with much persecution, death and suffering in the beginning, until it effectively established itself and today is the monotheistic belief with more followers in the world.
IV – A NEW (AND LAST) PROPHET (ISLAMISM)
Judaism and Christianity developed in parallel, the first with its Torah and the second with its Bible, until about 600 AC, a person named Mohammed said he received a series of revelations from the angel Gabriel. The content of these revelations is what is now known as the Koran.
Among other things, these “revelations” said that the Jews had erred because they had distorted the divine laws which they had received, by diverting themselves from the way of God. Christians, in turn, also erred because they considered Jesus to be God himself and not just as a prophet sent by the Most High. With this divinization of Jesus, according to Islam, Christians committed the most abominable sin that is idolatry (worship of anything or entity that is not the only true God).
Although the “light” Muslims deny in the Qur’an (which I do have and have read) there is an express order to eliminate these two peoples, because they are “unfaithful.”
One more parenthesis here. When I defend the Christian faith for some people, there comes the accusation that the God of the bible also ordered to kill and that the Catholic Church committed atrocities. I acknowledge this, but I explain that in the bible, the orders to kill were never made in a generic and indiscriminate way. For example, they decimated whole cities for the purpose of taking possession of them (I will not judge whether is right or not, for the order came from God). And when the Catholic Church, in the name of the Christian faith, committed slaughters, I explain that this was due to a distortion (good or evil, I do not know) of the commandments of Jesus, because, in the essence of Christianity, the clearest commandment is to love even those who persecute us (that is, the “enemies”), whereas in Islam the essence is to kill those who do not share the same faith.
Close the parenthesis and let’s move on.
Because it is a “continuity” (something like that) or an unfolding of Judaism and Christianity Islam shares some characters and commandments, but it always re-reads from its own point of view. It states, for example, that Abraham, who is called Ibrahim, was a Muslim. They maintain that every soul is born with the Islamic faith, but that its parents make it Jewish, Christian, etc.
Let us look at some of the Old and New Testament prophets that Muslims recognize as the messengers of God: Adam (Adam), Enoch (Idris), Noah (Nuh), Eber (Hud), Shelah (Salih), Lot (Ibrahim), Ishmael (Ismail), Isaac (Ishaq), Jacob (Yaqub), Joseph (Yusuf), Jethro (Shu’aib), Job (Ayyub), Ezekiel (Dhulkifl), Moses (Musa), Aaron , David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulayman), Elias (Ilias), Elisha (Alyasa), Jonah (Yunus), Zechariah, John the Baptist (Yahya) and Jesus.
Today these three religions develop in parallel. I would like to say that their coexistence takes place in a peaceful way, but it would not be true, since the latter has as its mission the extermination of the infidels (Jews, Christians and all those who do not believe in Muhammad as the messenger of God whom they call Allah) .
Let us now see, in a very general way, how the “salvation of the soul” according to each of these three monotheistic religions occurs.
V – “SALVATION OF THE SOUL” IN JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAMISM
In these three religions there is the understanding that after this earthly existence there may be another life. I am not talking about reincarnation, because it is not another earthly life, but a life on another plane of existence.
To refer to this “other place”, these religions use expressions such as: World to Come (Judaism); Heaven, Eternity, Paradise (Christianity); Jannah or Paradise (Islam).
Although each belief portrays this “second phase” differently, what I want to emphasize is that there is a consensus that after physical death in this earthly world there is a life on another plane of existence and that the condition we will enjoy in it is still decided in this earthly existence.
In Judaism there is no talk of “soul salvation.” In all references to the Hebrew Bible the word “salvation” is related to contexts of war and persecution by enemies, that is, it is actual physical salvation.
However, for the Jews there is the conception of a Coming World, in which the righteous will have abundant life and the wicked ones will be raised to “shame and eternal horror,” as it is in the book of Daniel 12: 2.
So the question to ask is: within the Jewish vision, how can one be considered a righteous one to rise and enjoy an abundant life in the World to Come?
It is evident that, as in Christianity, there is no single answer, but in general there is a consensus that three attitudes are necessary:
1. Repentance, which they call Teshuvah. For true repentance, a simple remorse is not enough, but it is necessary to recognize error; confess error (to God); repair the error and no longer practice it;
2. Prayers, which they call Tefillah;
3. Assistance to the needy, which calls Tsedacá. They teach that helping those who suffers is a duty, that is, it is an act of justice (for being an obligation) and also of mercy. So when you are merciful even to those who do not deserve it, the heavens act in the same way with you, because of the principle of “measure by measure.”
Although there are these three “keys” to heaven, the most important is repentance, which can occur even at the last instant of life and which, if it is sincere, guarantees that it will be considered a righteous in the World to Come.
Another very interesting point in this religion is that to enjoy a good place in the World to Come there is no need to convert to Judaism.
That is, both Jews and non-Jews can benefit in the World to Come.
So the important thing to be “saved” (Christian and Islamic conception) is not to profess the Jewish religion, but to observe the laws that are applicable to your condition. If you are a Jew, you should observe the Ten Commandments and the Torah with its 613 precepts. If you are a non-Jew, you must respect the Seven Universal Laws, also known as Seven Laws of Noah, which are principles (comprehensive commandments) from which various rules can be drawn.
These 7 Universal Laws, applicable to all human beings, would be something like: 1. Do not commit idolatry; 2. Do not blaspheme God; 3. Respect for human life; 4. Respect for the right of others; 5. Respect for Marriage and Family; 6. Establish courts of justice; 7. Respect for other living beings. It is clear that they are (comprehensive) principles from which various rules of conduct can be drawn. Those who practice them will be welcome in the World to Come.
It is because of this view that there is no proselytism in Judaism, that is, there is no attempt to convert other people to this religion, for anyone can secure a good place in the World to Come. This is also why if one looks for a rabbi to convert to Judaism, the tendency is that he will try more than once to discourage and discard that purpose from the heart and mind of those who want to do so. Simply because there is no need.
A final detail. Although there is no need to convert people to Judaism, because it is not necessary for the “salvation of the soul”, on the other hand, it is very difficult to be in another religion and at the same time to fulfill the Seven Universal Laws, as it is prohibition the worship of any god other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Old Testament, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.
Thus, to follow these Seven Universal Laws without becoming a Jew, one should avoid any religion and remain only as a worshiper of the Only One God and develop a character aligned with the Seven Universal Laws.
The Christian view is based on the idea that no one can “save” himself, by his own good deeds, by his own right life, because we all have a soul with a tendency to do what is contrary to God’s will, for account of the “original sin” committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
So, because no one can live a life completely removed from sin, we need a Savior for our souls. This Savior is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah promised by God through his prophets.
So anyone who believes in Jesus, in his resurrection and receives Him (confessing it) as Lord and Savior of his / her soul will inherit eternal life. The statement of faith would be basically this: “I acknowledge and receive Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of my life.”
I explain that “sin” is not only what appears to us wrong, that is, according to our own concepts, but it is any act contrary to the Commandments of God, even though these attitudes are apparently not so wrong, especially in the present days when the relativization of almost everything reigns.
Regarding the necessity of change or no change of the way to live after confessing and receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, this was a discussion that existed at the beginning of Christianity. Apparently it had been resolved throughout history, but it is currently resurfacing.
Some maintain that requiring a change of life to “merit” heaven would be to diminish the once-for-all sacrifice on the Cross. On the other hand, there are those who understand that it is no use making this confession, without living a life away from sin. They are two extremes. But there are also the more moderate who advocates the idea that confession without change of life would even guarantee entry into heaven, but would arrive there without any (reward), because this is achieved with good attitudes. The parameters for an attitude to be considered “good” are the Commandments of God.
I affirm that there are good biblical foundations for all points of view. Thus, it is safest to confess and believe in Jesus and, at the same time, try to live a life away from what displeases God, not because he/she fears hell (because he/she is already “saved”), but because he/she loves the Eternal.
There is yet another divergence. What is the standard of conduct for a Christian’s life? Should You Follow the Ten Commandments? The Old Testament? The New Testament? The whole Bible? Part of the Old Testament and entirely the New Testament? There are opinions everywhere.
I believe we must follow the New Testament, that is, what Jesus Christ said. This is because everything He taught, which is what really matters, is also in the Old Testament, but in the form of rules (which were necessary for the formation of Israelite society).
That is, what Jesus taught are the principles, that is, the essence of the many rules and stories told in the Old Testament.
As many Old Testament rules and commandments have been distorted by religious over the centuries, Jesus has presented to us the essence and truth of what is expected from us, without, however, contradicting what was said by the Father before.
Realize that in Christianity the salvation of the soul depends on recognizing Jesus as the Savior and Lord, that is why there is an attempt to convert people of other religions to the Christian faith. Unfortunately, throughout history there has already been a very bad use of it (non-sincere interests), which has become a stain on the history of the Church.
For Islam, there will also be a Day of Judgment (Yawm al-Qiyama) or Accounts Settlement Day, in which the dead ones will be resurrected to be judged for their deeds.
Islam shares with Christianity the vision of a hell (jahannam) as a place of eternal suffering. In Surah 23:103 we read, “… they will be hapless and will remain forever in hell.” This place has seven levels and the deeper, the worse. The Jews would stay on the second level (Al Laza – furnace) and the Christians on the third (Al Hutama – the crushed).
Those who attain salvation are sent to paradise (Jannah).
For the follower of Islam, salvation depends on the belief in Allah as God, and on Mohammed as his true messenger, as well as the sincere repentance of evil ways, with consequent practice in accordance with the will of Allah (which is expressed in the Quran).
Matt Slick explains the following on the topic:
In Islam, faith in God is not enough. In Islam, the works of the Muslims will be weighed on the Last Day, and then it will be decided who is saved and who is not. Based on whether the person was a Muslim or not, and if they were sincere in repentance and if they presented good enough works to make up for the evil deeds, then there is the possibility of salvation. (Islam and salvation through works.) Https://carm.org/o-islamismo-e-a-salvacao-por-obras)
In Islam, salvation depends not only on the way of life, that is, on the practices practiced (as it is in Judaism), but also needs a specific type of faith in its god (as it is in Christianity), so there is proselytizing trying to convert people to faith in Allah as being God and Muhammad as their messenger (prophet). Thus a person becomes a Muslim by understanding the following statement of faith: “Nothing deserves worship except God, Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
It is not hard to imagine why so much war and conflict, with the two major monotheistic religions trying to convert people to their belief, with two distinct, and at least seemingly, excluding “statements of faith.”
VII – CONCLUSION
I hope I have succeeded in conveying to the reader, albeit superficially, a bit about the emergence of each of the three main existing monotheistic religions, as well as the vision of each one of what we commonly know as “salvation of the soul.”
Let us remember what Jesus said about what is really important:
“Master, which is the most important of all the commandments of the Law?”
– “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all
This is the greatest and most important commandment.
And the second most important is similar to the first:
“Love others as you love yourself.”
The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22: 36-40, NTLH)
May the Eternal God bless each reader. A Warm hug.
HENRIQUE LIMA. Lawyer (www.henriquelima.com.br). Master in Law from the University of Girona – Spain and postgraduate in Constitutional, Civil, Consumer, Work and Family Law. Author of books and articles, legal and on various topics. Member of the National Commission of Consumer Law of the Federal Council of OA (2019/2021). Currículo lattes: http://lattes.cnpq.br/5217644664058408
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