Term Paper: Western Religion in His Book

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[. . .] Education is to be had on penalty of Sin.

The author Neusner avers that there are several forms of Judaism -- each presenting a different viewpoint based on culture and philosophy. Rabbinic and Talmudic Judaism are two of the main. (pp. 41-49) Contemporarily, secularism has taken root under the strength of Western culture. Incidentally the Torah has also undergone severe changes. The Torah was destroyed after first Temple's destruction. When the Jews were restored to Israel, the Torah was revived and was made available to everybody. It included the Tannakh (The Hebrew Bible) (p. 45), which contained the Pentateuch, Books of the Biblical Patriarchs and smaller books. During the age of cogency, the notion of the dual (written and oral) Torah arose (p. 71). This helped bring the messages of Judaism to many people. The Torah means "instruction."

The Jews were given the freedom to practice the religion (by virtue of Amendments to the Constitution) in the United States. Presently two schools of Judaism exist, at least in philosophy. The reformed Jews who espouse more of the western cultural mores and the orthodox Jews who are against significant reform, which they consider a dilutant that takes away from how practice of the religion was intended. Conservative Judaism, which believes in keeping to the Jewish tenets while also adhering to the demands of modern society seeks a middle ground between the orthodoxy and the reform-minded followers.

Elie Wiesel, probably the most famous Holocaust Survivor, in a poignant essay gives a thumbnail sketch of the physical, emotional and mental attributes of a Jew during the second coming of diversity (pp. 89-93). His story bespeaks directly the salvation of Jews and their suffering. Judith Plaskow also provides a definitive voice for Jewish women (pp. 93-97). She bemoans the secondary role that women have played in Jewish history right from the time that Abraham traveled with Sarah pretending to be his sister where she had no say in this new designation. Ms. Plaskow bemoans the fact that this secondary status was created not by suppression but by the omission of a woman's role in Jewish affairs -- cultural and spiritual.


The word Christ finds it origins in Antioch Syria in the word Christos, which means Messiah in Hebrew, which came to be referred to Jesus (p. 99). While Christianity has co-opted most of the Old Testament showing that Jesus was a direct descendant from David and Abraham, historically, the establishment of Christianity started with the evangelical ministries of his disciples and other immediate followers, e.g., Paul. Today Christianity is the World's largest religion with more than 1.7 billion followers. Despite the initial sporadic persecution of a religion, as Lawrence Cunningham puts it, "honoring an executed provincial criminal," which rose during the time of Emperor Decius, Christianity found a willing audience in the Romans living at the peak of the Roman Empire. In 311, Constantine recognized Christianity. In 386, Theodosius made it the official state religion (p. 101).

From then on Christianity spread to the far reaches of the globe. The main Christian groupings are Catholic (the earliest), Protestantism (that arose from the efforts of Martin Luther) and Eastern Orthodoxy (which is the majority religion in Greece and the Baltic States). Christianity was, during the Middle Ages, in a constant struggle with the spread of Islam to which the Crusades will testify. As the religion grew and evolved, different dogmas based on disagreements on certain tenets of Christianity and cultural influences brought differences in religious practices. Monasticism is one example; where complete cultural deprivation was the norm. Later, St. Theresa of Avila of Spain created a movement that modified the cloistered nature of monastic life (p. 136). Martin Luther and John Calvin took certain rituals from the Catholic Church and emphasized the Bible teachings (p. 137). Not to be outdone, Catholics made their own reformations of. Ecumenical Councils were established to identify what practices were appropriate. Catholics, perhaps in a desperate attempt to spread their own brand of Christianity, send missionaries to different parts of the world where their proselytizing met with varying degrees of success.

As in Judaism, with modernization the constant struggle between the orthodox and secular reasoning continues to be waged in Christianity. In the United Sates, Christianity arose from a sense of Thanksgiving. Michael Wigglesworth's "Day of Doom" is the "bible" of Puritanical thought (Wigglesworth and Murdock, 1966, 94).

Later this gave way to Deism and intellectualism brought forth by the scientists and back to religious emphasis with firebrand preachers like Jonathan Edwards threatening hellfire and brimstone to all those who strayed from the fold. A different version of Christianity also came to the shores of America -- Mormonism. This was due to a vision that occurred to Joseph Smith where America was supposed to be the land of new Christianity. Brigham Young helped Smith in his endeavor. Today they are called the Church of the Latter Day Saints. (pp. 144-145)

Spiritually, as Jurgen Moltmann the foremost authority on the concept of Trinitarianism show, Christianity is the struggle between the "chicken or egg" conundrum of Christology and Pneumatology in the Trinity; i.e., what flows from what Christ of the Holy Spirit.

For all Christianity, eschatology governs (or is supposed to govern) Christian life. (Moltmann, 1992, 358)

The Christian Bible like several denominations has several versions. While the basic message is the same, variances in different translations may cause varied interpretations. The Old Testament is largely like is the Jewish Tannakh. The New Testament includes the life of Christ as given by the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The ministry and teachings in the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Paul and some of the other apostles follow this.

The unfortunate consequences in the evolution of any religion are cultural influences. In Christianity it has been the influence of Western Culture. Eastern Orthodoxy has, meanwhile managed to retain its purity and holds a different worldview. It holds to orthodox teachings of from the Bible, retains an adherence to the original "consciousness of rituality and catholicity." Its rituals also hold on to the beauty of when the Church first began, refusing to bow to modern expeditions for convenience. (pp. 155-157)

While Judith Plaskow spoke about the hierarchical inequalities afforded to women, there are no such religiously ordained inequalities that women suffer in Christianity. However, the perspectives of black slave women are eye opening. Blacks were brought in from Africa where they practiced indigenous religions. In the new world they were forced to adhere to religious practices of the masters; but they were not afforded the dignity that comes from being strict followers of Jesus Christ. Black women suffered the most indignities of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. This continued in different forms even after emancipation. Their color and sex counted against them. (pp. 160-167)


In 610 C.E. An illiterate man Muhammad Ibn Abdullah was contemplating his mundane existence when a voice commanded him to recite. The simple man was confounded and afraid. But over a period of time he learned to recognize that he was the channel for the most beautiful words mandated by Allah. This was the beginning of Islam, the religion of Peace. Muhammad discovered that he had a certain role to play. He was the prophet through whom Allah communicated to his people. (p. 171)

Islam is a relatively young religion. Christianity and Judaism flourished in the areas where Muhammad resided. The Islamic doctrine therefore also finds in its origins some ideas from the other two major religions. Being a Muslim means submitting to the Word of Allah. With 837 million practitioners in the world, Islam is the dominant religion in 56 countries. Surprisingly, Indonesia and not some of the Middle Eastern countries, boasts most of his adherence with India, a predominantly Hindu nation, having the second largest followers. There are several sects in Islam. The Sunni Muslims are the vast majority. The Shiites are the minority. Culturally, Muslims come from all walks of life. The idea of a Bedouin Arab as the portrait of a Muslim is a fallacy.

The place of Muslim worship is the masjid (p. 174). There is no official clergy but the imam is generally in charge of the proceedings. The religious book is the Qur'an. These are composed of passages or verses called Surahs. Arabic is the language of the Qur'an. The beauty of Allah's missives in the opinion of most renders it untranslatable in other languages. Within the Qur'an are embedded hadiths or religious edicts that every body is obliged to follow (p. 179). The law that governs Islam contemporarily is called the Shariah. There are different schools of Sunni thought. These are: Shafite, Hanafite, Hanbalite and Malikite. (p. 192)

Historically, by 1200 the religious, ritualistic processes were established. In 1500 however the timetable of Islamic evolution marks a locus of division. It was the time when three major Islamic societies rose in different parts of the world. Each… [END OF PREVIEW]

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