Present essay studies how new religions are born in the context of social, cultural and intellectual relations between people. The analysis addresses the origins of three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam to trace their origins, historical and social needs that drove their development and intrinsic ties with their predecessors. The thesis is defended that the birth of religions should not be regarded as merely divine providence, intellectual development, but should be understood through the prism of socio-political developments in a given society. The origins of Christianity
Christianity was not born as fully autonomous religion, but in contrast was under a great influence of Judaism (Brown, 963). This influence relates to the same canonical religious texts, including Old Testament, monotheism etc. Hence, Christianity was born simultaneously as a follower and opponent to Judaism. There is no denying the importance of the fact that social roots of Christianity should be traced in Jewish revolutionary movement against Judaist aristocracy, living in wealth and oppressing lower classes and Roman dominance, which was particularly aggressive.
In its intellectual roots Early Christianity focused on critique of material goods, which is reflected in its celebration of soul, love and salvation. Such ideology was particularly successful amongst ordinary people, who saw Christianity as the source of their liberation (Bruce, 235). However, notwithstanding these social roots, Christian religion was for a long time persecuted in Judea and Roman empire in general. It did not function as state religion until AD 325 when the First Council of Nicaea took place and Constantine the Great made his historical decision.
Until that time Christianity functioned within different sects, which focused on often contradictory interpretations of Bible, Greek philosophy, Gnosticism, Judaism etc (Grant, 45). Therefore, establishing Christianity as a full-fledged religion required its ascendance in the role of state religion and codification of its canonical legacy. The task was realized by St. Paul, who transformed the earlier premises of Christianity and made them affordable to interpretation by state power.
Various Christian Councils later codified Christian texts and interpreted them to create unified traditions. Other interpretations of Christianity were persecuted by official Christianity, which marked the final stage in its transformation into full-fledged religion. Judaism The historical roots of Judaism should be traced back in the social need of Judea state to legitimize and develop its national autonomy in the ancient world (Shaye and Cohen, 36-39). The proof of the latter thought may be found in Tanakh (Old Testament), a canonical text of Judean tradition.
Old Testament presents a Jewish nation (Childern of Israel) in their direct relationship with God, who proclaimed them the chosen nation. The latter shows that Judaism was central for Judea in positioning itself as the most progressive state in the Middle Eastern region. The historical origins of Judaism should also be traced in the need of regulating social relations in Judean society. This is the most evident in commandments or Law of Moses, which includes 613 laws, regulating various spheres of life in society.
Hence, there is no denying the importance of the fact that Judaism was a very important ethical, legislative and moral tool in ancient Jewish society. Its main principles were later included in Talmud, which became the prototype of religious legislative system in general. Notwithstanding the fact that Judaism was the first monotheistic religion it was influenced by some ancient religions such as Zoroastrianism, from which Judaism borrowed certain cult practices, monotheistic ideas and philosophical mindset (Shaye and Cohen, 295).
The ties of Judaism are also evident with Christianity and Islam, which form the group of common Abrahamic religions. Islam Islam has its historical roots both in Judaism and Christianity. As it is widely known, Islam uses Christian tradition of preaching Jesus; however, unlike Christianity in Muslim tradition, Jesus is regarded as a mortal person (Esposito, 23). Muhammad, the final prophet of God is regarded as a great reformer, who restored the original monotheistic tradition of Moses, Jesus and Abraham, which arguably was distorted in Christianity and Judaism.
Therefore, it may be said that Islam is based on permanent reference to Judaism and Christianity, as the sources of its own development. The birth of Islam was also fostered by the ethical, intellectual and moral needs of Arab societies. Quran may be compared to Torah in this respect, because it served as the main tool for regulating social relations in Muslim societies. Its main commandments were included in Shariat law, which reflects Muslim tradition of correspondence between law and religious norms.
Moreover, it should be noted that Islam was born and developed in the period of the rapid ascendance of Arab civilization as the center of power and development in Asia (Esposito, 68). Arab conquests and interrelations with the West were premised on the construction of the national and religious identity, which was found in Islam. Islam served as the tool for contrasting Muslim world with Western and allowed unifying various Muslim nations in the single task of promoting the cause of Mohammad.
To sum it up, we have discussed major historical, social, cultural and ethical causes, which influenced the birth of three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The analysis shows that their birth and development should be understood as the complex process, affected not only by intellectual development, but deeper social and political processes, including revolutionary movement, the inception of new nationalist states, the relations between different civilizations etc.
Brown R. E. 1994. The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave. New York: Doubleday, Anchor Bible Reference Library. Bruce F. F. , 1988. The Canon of Scripture. Intervarsity Press. Esposito, John. 2003. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press Grant, M. 1977. Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels. New York: Scribner’s. Shaye, J. D. and Cohen. 1999. The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties, Berkeley: University of California Press.