ELEMENTS, pt. 12—Re
John 11:17-27; 14:1-17
HINDUISM c. 1500 BC in India; no official beginning or leader
When the Aryans invaded India and conquered the Dravidians, they co-mingled both of their polytheistic, fertility religions that personified and worshipped nature. The Aryans wrote hymns, poetry, and mythical stories into their scriptures, the Vedas. Hinduism developed over 1000 years into a complex combination of socioeconomic religious caste structure (priest, warrior, merchant, slaves) and a spectrum of sometimes contradictory beliefs in India.
Divinity: Polytheism early (many gods, possibly 330 million); pantheism later (god is all things, Brahman—infinite, impersonal reality; Brahma, creator; Vishnu, preserver; Shiva, destroyer).
Salvation: People’s souls (atman) are separated from Brahman at birth. Through the Way of knowledge, devotion, and good works (dharma) people can be freed from the cycle of thousands/millions of reincarnations (samsara) based on karma (good or bad actions) until reabsorbed to Brahman in freedom from suffering (moksha).
Jesus: Avatar of Vishnu; all beliefs are valid as reality is an illusion.
JUDAISM c. 1440 BC in Israel; Moses given the Covenant by God
Moses was born an Israelite slave in Egypt but was adopted and raised as an Egyptian prince. After killing a man, he escaped to the desert where later God called him to rescue the Israelites in continuing His promise to Abraham. After doing so, he received the Law at Mt. Sinai as God’s covenant with Israel. Moses had 2 wives (one after the other died) and was an imperfect but faithful prophet. Later, rabbis developed instructions for living out the Law/Torah called the Mishnah (200 AD) and Talmud (500 AD).
Divinity: One God (YHWH), referenced in plural. Moses not divine.
Salvation: Faith in God and perfect obedience to His Law/Torah
Jesus: Teacher, false prophet, promised Messiah (Messianic Jews)
BUDDHISM c. 560 BC in India, Siddhartha Gautama
Siddhartha grew up in a palace in north India, in a wealthy Hindu caste, never seeing suffering. Upon see it, at 29 years old, he abandoned his wife and child and set out to discover true peace. He tried study, self-denial, and starvation, but when none brought him peace, he sat under a tree for 40 days and at the end found nirvana (‘to blow out’)—the extinguishing of desire and suffering. From this
point on, he was known as the Buddha or ‘enlightened one’.
Divinity: No god or gods; non-theistic, atheistic
Salvation: Goal of life is to remove suffering by removing all craving/desire through Four Noble Truths—1. Suffering is universal, 2. Cause of suffering is craving, 3. Cure for suffering is overcome ignorance and eliminate craving, 4. Suppress craving by practicing the Middle Way (Eightfold Path)—a right viewpoint, aspiration, speech, behavior, occupation, effort, mindfulness, meditation. After karma and reincarnation cycles, no afterlife, just nothingness.
Jesus: Great teacher, another enlightened Buddha
ISLAM c. 570 AD, Mohammed given Quran from Allah
Mohammed was raised by his grandfather and uncle and entered the caravan trade as an adult. At 25 he married a wealthy 40-year-old widow. Though he couldn’t read or write, at age 40 he received the beginnings of the Quran (‘reciting/reading’) in a cave near Mecca from angel Gabriel who choked him repeatedly telling him to read. Afraid that he had been possessed by a jinn (demon), he considered suicide but was talked out of it by his wife. Over 23 years he got various revelations that he dictated to followers or they wrote them down after he died on leaves or bone. His supplemental teachings were called Sunnah (‘path’) and gathered into one work, Hadith. He was a military leader responsible for thousands of deaths, married to 11 women at once (Aisha was 9) and had concubines.
Divinity: Allah numerically one; Mohammed a prophet not divine.
Salvation: Not guaranteed but submission to Allah depending on the Five Pillars, 1. Belief Statement (Shahadah ‘There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet’), 2. Prayer (5 times a day toward Mecca), 3. Alms (2.5 % to charity), 4. Ramadan (Fast during 9th month), 5. Pilgrimage to Mecca one time in life, Hajj. Only guarantee of heaven is death defending Allah/Islam during Jihad.
Jesus: A prophet, not God’s son or divine (but born of a virgin!), didn’t die on a cross, not Savior of the world.
CHRISTIANITY c. 33 AD, Jesus the Christ
Jesus fulfilled OT prophecies by being born in Bethlehem to a virgin. He lived a sinless life as a single virgin, perfectly fulfilling the Law of God. He died on a cross and resurrected from the dead. His apostles wrote/oversaw writing the NT from c. 50-95 AD.
Divinity: One God revealed in three Persons; Jesus divine.
Salvation: Faith in Him alone as Son of God and forgiver of sins.
Jesus: God in the flesh, prophet, priest, King of kings.