Moses is one of the central figures in all three Abrahamic traditions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As the prophet of the omniscient God, his contribution to the development of the three religions cannot be underestimated. However, even though representatives of all traditions assume the significance of Moses, his role differs across the followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, which leads to the existence of numerous inconsistencies in his image.
Therefore, the paper at hand aims at investigating the portrayal of Moses in the three Abrahamic traditions as well as pointing to specificities of his life and impact on the development of religions. Finally, it focuses on identifying major similarities and differences between the perception of Moses in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
To begin with, there are clear determinations of Moses’ role in all three religions. For instance, in Christianity, Moses was involved in designing the Ten Commandments, which affect the morality of all Christians and direct their lives. At the same time, he was one of the central prophets recognized by the followers of Islam and his primary role comes down being able to perform miracles.
Finally, Judaism emphasizes the contribution of Moses to the success of the Exodus and delivering the Torah, the foundation of the religion, to the Jews, as he wrote down God’s message through the Holy Spirit and shared it with ordinary people (Abou-Zaid & Leonse, 2014; Viezel, 2014). Still, it is essential to gain a deeper insight into the role of Moses in these traditions.
The portrayal of Moses in Christianity
In Christianity, Moses is God’s prophet. He was chosen among others to distribute God’s laws, as he obtained the Ten Commandments from the Lord – the foundation of the religion. It should be noted that there is a connection between Moses and Jesus, as the first was a prophet to bring the Ten Commandments, while the latter was the representation of following these regulations. From this perspective, Moses is a symbol of law. At the same time, he is mentioned as a great leader of the Jewish people during the Exodus. He is the one to put an end to violence and injustice, as he helped the Jews to escape from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and leading them to the land of Canaan (Yousef, 2014). This story is remarkable because it highlights the power of trust in God and the miracle He is capable of performing.
That said, the role of Moses in Christianity comes down to leading the Exodus of Jews from Egypt as well as writing the Ten Commandments after the Lord and distributing them among ordinary people so that they know how to live a decent life. In general, he is not only the prophet but also a remarkable historical personality to lead the Jews out of slavery and add to their salvation in God. Nowadays, he is believed to be a saint. It is imperative to note that the connection of Moses to sanctified writings is common not only in Christianity, as these were Christians, who pointed to the contribution of Moses to writing the Torah, which is the central holy text of Judaism.
The Image of Moses in Judaism
In Judaism, Moses is known as Moshe Rabbenu, which is translated as a teacher or leader from the Jewish language. Moses is known as a teacher because he is the one, who put down the Torah through the Holy Spirit. More than that, the Torah is traditionally referred to as the five books of Moses (Abou-Zaid & Leonse, 2014). So, the fact that it was written and transmitted to all Jewish people by Moses is widely accepted and recognized by the representatives of both Judaism and Christianity. However, Viezel (2014) claims that there are different approaches to recognizing that Moses is the author of the holy book.
According to one of them, only one of the five books – Deuteronomy – belongs to Moses, but he wrote it by himself, thus questioning the sanctified background of the Torah. According to another approach, Moses put it down a word in word after God (Viezel, 2014). Nevertheless, regardless of the debate around Moses and the five books, followers of Judaism believe that he was the amanuensis of God and contributed to setting up the foundation of the religion.
Moreover, Moses is believed to have distributed the alphabet, thus making him even more of an outstanding teacher to ordinary people. In addition, it is essential to note that before writing the Torah, Moses had a history of being a murderer. From this perspective, his image is a symbol of hope and redemption, proving that everyone could have a better life in God (Lawrence, 2014). That said, in Judaism, Moses is a central figure, a prophet who brought knowledge and God’s laws and distributed them among ordinary Jewish people.
Perception of Moses in Islam
In Islam, Moses is one of the most frequently mentioned Islamic prophets. The story of his life is narrated in detail in the holy book of Islam – the Quran. The holy book describes Moses not only as a prophet but also as a man, who could perform miracles – turn water into the blood during the Exodus as well as wooden sticks into snakes, and create frogs (Yousef, 2014). Moreover, he was the only prophet in the Islamic tradition, who could speak to God, even though he could never see the Lord, while other prophets received God’s revelations from angels.
At the same time, the role of Moses in Islam is interwoven with his contribution to the development of Judaism. Because it is believed that the Quran is a reflection of most ideas developed in the Torah, which is as well one of the central scriptures revealing the history of Muslims, the importance of Moses goes beyond his ability to perform miracles.
That said, in Islam, the role of Moses is not limited to being only the prophet, who could directly communicate with God. At the same time, he is a reminder of God’s power and trust in Him. It can be proved by the fact that like any other prophet, Moses could perform miracles. However, he was the only magician, who could accomplish them without peculiar knowledge of magic, while other prophets were trained to overcome the laws of nature in order to become magicians (Yousef, 2014). In this way, it could be argued that Moses’ magic was granted from heaven.
Speculating on Similarities of Portraying Moses in All Three Traditions
Bearing in mind what was mentioned above about the role of Moses in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, it is essential to point to the existence of different similarities between them. To begin with, all three traditions clearly determine that Moses is a prophet, who could directly communicate with God, even though he could not see the Lord. Moreover, the followers of all religions recognize the contribution of Moses to the writing of holy texts and the distribution of God’s laws. That said, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism believe that he was involved in writing the Torah and acknowledge that he was the one to distribute the Ten Commandments among ordinary people.
In addition, none of the three traditions ignores the role of Moses in leading the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and saving them from pharaoh’s slavery. This event was described in the holy texts of all three traditions. Even though the extent of pointing to his remarkable deeds is different, all of them point to the fact that Moses is an outstanding leader and the symbol of law.
Finally, regardless of his talent, Moses is an ordinary man in all three religions. More than that, he is a man with a criminal past, as he has killed a man regardless of the fact that it was an unintentional deed. That said, even though God chose him, Moses was a sinner as well, but it did not diminish the role he played in the development of three religions or take away his ability to communicate with the Lord.
Identifying Differences in the Image of Moses in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam
Even though there are numerous similarities in portraying Moses in all three traditions, there as well are some significant differences, which should not be ignored. First and foremost, Islam points to the fact that Moses is a magician. His ability to accomplish miracles is perceived as magic, not the connection with God. Even though it is acknowledged that he did not possess enough knowledge to be a magician, there is no direct reference to the Godly nature of performed miracles (Yousef, 2014). Christianity, on the other hand, does not recognize the existence of magic as a sanctified phenomenon related to God. The same is true when speaking of Judaism.
Another crucial difference between the three religions is the contribution of Moses to making up holy writings and distributing God’s laws. Both Christianity and Judaism center on the belief that Moses is God’s messenger, who was involved in wording the central texts of religions after God. On the other hand, Islam does not assume the involvement of Moses in the making up of the Quran regardless of the fact that he is a widely accepted author of the Torah, which is the foundation of the Quran. It is also essential to mention that in Christianity, Moses received tablets with the Ten Commandments from God, while in Judaism, he was the one to write down the text of the five books after God and through the Holy Spirit.
Finally, even though all three traditions view Moses as a prophet and God’s messenger, they perceive his role as a teacher from different perspectives. For instance, the followers of Christianity and Islam assume that teaching refers to the distribution of God’s laws. However, in Judaism, Moses was the one to distribute the alphabet and help the population to grow intellectually. So, from this standpoint, the role of teaching was not only spiritual but also educational.
To sum up, it is essential to note that except for the existence of numerous similarities and differences in the portrayal of Moses in all three traditions, these stories are closely related. For instance, there are references to the fact that Moses wrote the Torah through the Holy Spirit in all three religions. Moreover, the story of Exodus is mentioned in the holy writings of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. That said, it is vital to view the perception of Moses in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism jointly instead of pointing to the existence of differences between them, as it is a potential way to obtain a comprehensive story of Moses and identify his contribution to the development of these three world religions.
Abou-Zaid, A. S., & Leonse, T. (2014). Religious pluralism, yet a homogenous stance on interest rate: The case of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Contemporary Economics, 8(2), 219-228.
Lawrence, J. D. (2014). Moses: A stranger among us/Inheriting Abraham: The legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 49(3), 512-513.
Viezel, E. (2014). Moses’ role in writing the Torah: The history of Jewish fundamental tenet. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, 13(39), 3-44.
Yousef, A. S. (2014). Islam within Judaism and Christianity, a voice from the past. New York, NY: Author House.