A number of years ago, upon learning of my intention to pursue the academic study of Islam, a dearly beloved relative of mine felt compelled to ask:
“Is Allah God?”
This question took me by surprise, for I felt as though I was being put to the test, as if my evangelical credentials were being put on trail.
However, I have come to understand that this question comes from a place of legitimate concern about moral relativism, compromise, and a desire to be faithful. I, however, have also come to understand that, as a result of who my lord and savior is, the closer we grow in faithfulness and commitment to him, the closer we in-fact find ourselves in the midst of those ‘not like us’ with arms outstretched in love, hearts full of grace, and minds ready to listen.
Therefore, as a committed follower of Christ, 5 reasons I am convinced Allah is, in fact, God are:
1) Allah is the Arabic Word for God.
Simple as that. At its most basic, Allah is God for no other reason than the simple fact that Allah has been the Arabic word for God for centuries. Millions of Arabic speaking monotheists living throughout the Middle East, Africa, Eurasia and the Americas worship Allah. And, they have worhsiped Him for centuries. Muslim. Christian. Jew. To denigrate Allah is to denigrate the object of faith for millions, including millions of our own Christian brothers and sisters in faith. To illustrate, I offer the closing plea of one Middle Eastern Evangelical Christian to his brothers and sisters in the West, from his article “Allah and the Christian Arab“:
“PLEASE never, never speak against the glorious name of Allah, a name that has been loved and revered by millions of God’s children down through the centuries.” 
2) Added to this, Allah is the ‘pre-Islamic, Aramaic-derived’ Arabic word for God.
It is often claimed that ‘Allah’ originated within pre-Islamic Arabian paganism, was exported throughout the Middle East and North Africa via the Arab Conquests, and was subsequently adopted by Arabic speaking Christians and Jews. However, historical and etymological evidence rather compellingly point us in the opposite direction. Historically, Judaism and Christianity were both widespread and well known within pre-Islamic Arabia and they shared a common name for God.  That name was Allah. Furthermore, Allah is in all etymological likelihood derived (via Syriac) from Aramaic, the third most common language of the Bible and the language Jesus Christ himself spoke. Any guess as to the Aramaic word for God used by Jesus? Alâh-â. 
3) In addition, Muslims themselves maintain that they worship the same God as Christians and Jews, the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc.
As followers of Christ, it is imperative for us to listen to people on their own terms and in their own words, ‘not via the distorted and defensive lenses’ of historical animosity. When the Qur’an, Muhammad and the early Muslim community therefore speak of the ‘one true God’, they intentionally speak of Allah, the ONE God already known to Christians and Jews. Islam self-consciously views itself as both a continuation of and corrective to that which came prior. Islam recognizes the prophets and apostles of Judaism and Christianity, holds a special, if incomplete, view of Jesus Christ, and in principle honors, despite allegations of corruption by some, our respective holy books. Islam clearly recognizes a common affinity with both Judaism and Christianity and deliberately worships the God of both Christians and Jews. Allah.
4) Although vital differences remain, Christian and Muslim beliefs about God are significantly more similar than some might initially suppose.
To paraphrase Miroslav Volf, in Allah: A Christian Response, the similarities between Christian and Muslim conceptions of God in their description of God’s being, character, and ethical expectations allow us to conclude with confidence that Muslims and Christians do, in fact, worship the same God. Volf asserts that ‘normative’ Christians and Muslims “agree on the following six claims about God”:
Volf is therefore led to affirm that:
History, etymology, and (very important) questions of salvation aside, when Christians and Muslims begin to unearth the theological substance of their respective traditions, a remarkable amount of common ground emerges.
5) Finally, because I think Jesus would want me to.
In his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Jesus reveals something quite remarkable in regard to the manner in which we should understand and interact with those of different social and religious backgrounds. It is a well known biblical fact that Jews and Samaritans, who shared a “significantly similar, albeit vitally different” faith in the ONE true God, hated each other with a passion. So, when the Samaritan woman inquires as to the differences in faith and practice between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus, rather than condemn her ‘inaccurate ritual practices’, offers instead the “most important teaching on worship in the entire New Testament”  and a life-altering encounter with himself. In this encounter, Jesus affirms the truth of previous revelation. But he also builds upon, rather than condemns, the elements of truth already present within Samaritan religion. In doing so, Jesus simultaneously:
So, as the contemporary relationship between Christianity and Islam has often been likened to that between the ancient Judeans and Samaritans, I feel fully justified in:
For a slightly outdated, yet nevertheless very interesting article by theologian Miroslav Volf as to the importance of this discussion, see here.
For a truly fascinating article by linguistics expert Rick Brown, see here.
 Rafique, “Allah and the Christian Arab”, Seedbed, 13/1 (1198), 7, as quoted in Rick Brown, “Who Was Allah before Islam? Evidence that the Term Allah Originated with Jewish and Christian Arabs” in Toward Respectful Understanding and Witness Among Muslims: Essays in Honor of J. Dudley Woodberry. (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2012) 147-178
 This is attested to by scholars as diverse as Rick Brown, “Who Was Allah,” 147-178, Imad N. Shehadeh, “The Predicament of Islamic Monotheism”. Bibliotecha Sacra. 161 (April -June 2004) 142-162, and Foud Accad, Building Bridges (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress), p. 22
 However, the final â is often dropped. And, in Syriac this becomes Alâhâ. Furthermore, the Aramaic Alâh/Alâhâ is cognate to the Hebrew word Elôh.
 Miroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response, (Harper Collins e-books, 2011). Kindle Edition. Locations 1869-1970; 2106-2113.
 Kenneth Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008) 210
 Christian theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg describes this as “the incurable religiosity of all humankind”. As there is only one God and each of us is created in His image, all humans have a natural desire for God. Hence religion. Through Christ, alone, that desire is satisfied.
 For example: Colin Chapman, Cross and Crescent: Responding to the Challenge of Islam. (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2007) Kindle Edition. Location 746
Thanks brother for writing this post. Although I find it insufficient to put “questions of salvation aside,” I am not sure we can reach a specific, concise, and simple answer to a such complex question. Why should we attempt to set forth a yes/no answer in the first place? Muslims believe that they worship the same God because they believe in the continuity of Allah’s prophets, among whom is Jesus, and because the Quran claims so in Surah 29:46 and 4:163. The question then more precisely becomes: Do Christians agree with the Islamic claim that they believe in the same God? In my opinion professor Volf’s argument has various gaps. The result is what he writes: “If Muslims and Christians have a common God, are not Islam and Christianity just two versions of the same thing?” (191). I argue that the answer of this question cannot be stated in a yes/no form. The matter is pretty complex, this, again, I quote what I wrote in my review for Volf’s book, “In the pursuit of peace-building and mutual understanding, particularities and differences essential to each religion cannot be set aside.”
Thanks for commenting Ayman! Safe travels to you and your wife. I do agree that nuance is needed in this discussion and that simple Yes/No questions are often too reductionistic to be truly helpful. And, you are very correct in saying that particularities and differences essential to each religion can’t be set aside. I find it rather silly, and a little bit pointless, when theologically liberal Christians, Muslims, and Jews all get together in a room to discuss how much they agree on everything…when in fact they largely dissagree with many in their respective faith communities. That being said, I think it’s very important to find common ground where it truly exists, point out un-common ground where it truly exists, and respectfully dialogue about it all. I personally think we can affirm that we worship the same God…there is only ONE after all…but disagree as to the means by which he reveals Himself and His will for humanity. Blessings brother!
U v really tried and I pray Allah (God) will keep giving u more strength and knowledge to attend to much of their questions, God is ONE,the Absolute,The Eternal and The Lord of the Heavens and the Earth…..christians pls and pls Prophet Isa (jesus christ) (pbuh) is a Prophet and messanger of God and he is not God,,,pls, he is one of the prophet and messanger of God starting from prophet Adam (pbuh) to and way down to the Holy prophet muhammed (pbut)…..we need no argument on this ‘cos it befits not the Majesty of God to have a sub-ordinate or child or son…tnks I love u all chistians and jews, A strict warning 4 u all, prophet isa (jesus christ) (pbuh) is from God Almigthy……..don’t dispute this b4 its too late 4 u….I pray we all understand all these better…God is ONE not three in one..
Thank you, Jesse, for writing this. I agree with the spirit of your piece. I do think, however, that you glossed over Jesus’ words, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22; NRSV). But having said that, I agree with you that he sets himself up as one who is not bound by Judaism, and at the same time, he connects himself with the coming Messianic figure of the Samaritans, Taheb — “I am he” (v.26).
Hi P. Jin! Thanks for the comment. I hope you and the family are doing great! Howz Jersey treating you? You are absolutely right in that I wish I had more time/space to explore the nuances and particularities of this passage in more depth. To clarify, I think verse 22 is very important and is what I believe in regard to the matter. Salvation, i.e. Jesus, is from the Jews. Jesus is Jewish and never disavowes but actually affirms his Jewish identity. At the same time, he is not bound by his Judaism, or any socio-political-religious system for that matter. (Even ‘Christianity’.) And, He didn’t deny or denigrate the object of the Samaritan’s worship, but affirms and builds upon pre-existing truth, if incomplete or not fully understood, by saything that Samaritans ‘worship what they do not know’. He then offers himself as the answer to and fulfillment of their pre-existing hopes. Paul makes a similar case in Athens. And, I simply think it’s possible to make a similar case for Muslims. Blessings!!
Also,I am honored that you are reading my stuff. 🙂
Jesse this is a question I often encounter, and like you I think it is sometimes intended to be a test of whether I’m some sort of Unitarian. I’ve normally answered it from the historical/linguistic context that you offer here. It is important when answering this question to admit that there are some serious differences between the Muslim view of God, and the Christian view. Christians view God as being intimately involved in the details of his creation, as a loving father and friend. This is sometimes an affront to the Muslim view of the sovereignty of God.
Disagreeing on the nature of God is different than worshipping different gods. There are sects of Christianity that through doctrinal error verge on or fall into polytheism. These groups actually do worship other gods, and are really further from the true Christian understanding of God than are Muslims.
There’s a great dialogue that can take place when we understand that we are talking about the same God, and it’s foolish of Christians to try to throw that away.
Thanks for the comment Chris! How is your time stateside?
Thank you for this. I appreciate the spirit in which it is written and I affirm a lot of it. But I wonder how we can say Muslims and Christians worship the same God when Muslims reject the idea of the Trinity. Historical orthodoxy insists that the Christian God is three-in-one, which Muslims deny. Allah has not begotten a Son, etc. Islam teaches, as I understand it, that the Christian tradition–and even the Christian scriptures to some extent–distort the truth about the one true God. I guess what I mean is what does “same” indicate, when there is this sort of enormous difference between the perceptions of God?
I think we can say that we (Muslims) and you (Christians) worship the same God. When the Quran rejects Trinitarianism, it does so with the assumption that Christians are applying the concept of Trinity to Allah. This by itself shows that in the Quran’s perspective, we are talking about the same One God of Abraham.
My point is, that specific trinity argument aside (it’s already been had quite thoroughly), the point that we are talking about the Being: the One who created the heavens and the Earth in six periods of time, created Adam, and established a covenant with Abraham and established a line of messengers from Noah all the way to Jesus, is agreed upon.
Because we disagree with the CHARACTERISTICS of God, and the nature of one (very important) ASPECT of his essence – His unity/trinity, does not negate the rest. We are still all talking about Him.
Excellent article. As a practicing Muslim and Islamic theology student, I found this to be refreshing and relevant. It is simple acknowledgements like this that will allow us to find common ground on values and ethics, while respectfully disagreeing about theology.
From a theological perspective, I found your article to be accurate in presenting Islamic ideas.
Muslims universally and without exception hold Allah to be the God of Abraham and the God who sent Jesus to this Earth, as these are literal phrases from the Quran itself.
When speaking, I often make the analogy to historical figures. We all know that George Washington was the first President of the United States. However, historians can disagree on a number of details about him. It does not mean that one historian’s portrayal of him means that he is talking about a DIFFERENT George Washington, but that he disagrees on the information that has been related about him.
In the same way, Muslim and Christians disagree on the sources of information, the reliability of the information, and the accuracy and method of transmission of the information we have received about God (i.e. our different scriptures), and thus, on his characteristics.
But it doesn’t mean we aren’t talking about the same God of Abraham, because indeed, we are.
I am really glad you enjoyed it, Abdul! I truly appreciate your comments. With a background in history (as well as theology), I REALLY like your George Washington analogy. Our sources may differ and lead us to different conclusions. And, we may each strongly affirm the reliability of our respective sources. But, this doesn’t negate the fact that our respective sources refer to the same subject. As Christians and Muslims, we should be honest and agree where we truly agree, disagree where we truly disagree, and respectfully dialogue together about it all. (And, thanks for doing much of my responding for me, ha!) Peace.
Allah is simply a derivative from Elohim or vice versa. Anyone can detect the similarity of names,
Thanks for your comment. Many historians, theologians, and language experts wish it were that simple. The words are etymologically related, but in truth the actual history is a bit more complicated. I recommened the article to which I linked in point #2. Peace.
I am on the same page as you. While there are some differences between how Muslims and Christians see God, there are also differences between how Calvinists and Arminians see God. By the way, hymnist Augustus Toplady thought Arminians worshipped a different God than Calvinists. I try to specify that Muslims believe in the same God, but do not worship the same God. I’m not sure you can truly worship God outside of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Sprit came to tell us who Jesus is, and Jesus came to tell us who God the Father is. Without Jesus we cannot know who the REAL God is.
I appreciate the general balance in your comment, but I’m concerned about your last sentence. Is that really true? From my understanding, God is transcendent above space and time. This is common between the Abrahamic Faiths.
To hold that one CANNOT worship God outside of Jesus Christ, would mean that God, who is transcendent above space and time, underwent some kind of change that made Noah’s, Abraham’s, and Moses’ worship of Him, without mentioning Jesus’s name, invalid.
If one is a Christian, it is fair to say that to worship God in exactly the way that God wants is not possible without Jesus Christ. I will accept that with respect to your faith, though it is not my belief.
However, I don’t think that it is fair to say that one cannot worship God outside of Jesus Christ, period. It would mean God underwent a fundamental change in His Essence after Jesus’s rising, and people who worship Him in the way that Moses may have, without mentioning Jesus, are now NOT worshiping God any longer.
Now, if one believes that, one would run into theological issues about God’s transcendence over space and time because we are making a historical event something that can impact God’s Eternal Essence.
Rather, to say that non-Christians do not worship God as God wants – I can accept that is your belief even if I disagree with it. It is not an outrageous claim, but simply a claim that you believe that Christianity is the truth.
You seem to be missing an essential part of biblical theology. Jesus did not begin to exist when he incarnated as a man. Jesus is eternally co-existent with God, and therefore, the men of God in the old testament did worship God and Christ, in faith, even though they did not fully understand. There was no change in the essence of God, ever. Jesus is God’s eternal Son. The term “Son of God” does not refer to Christ’s physical body – it refers to his true spiritual identity.
This eternal nature of Jesus with God is evident through the many prophesies about Christ in the Old Testament, and in many ways, such as how Abraham, in faith, accepted the sacrificial lamb in place of his son’s death. This was actually faith in Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the earth, which is the same faith by which the animal sacrifices decreed by God in the Old Testament were made for the remission of sins.
Before Jesus was incarnated, this was all done in faith through obedience of God’s plan that had not been fully revealed. After Jesus came to earth and completed the sacrificial system in space and time, his name and identity as the Son of God became known, and those who know about him must choose to accept or reject him.
No matter what conception of God is in the mind of any person of any religion, they cannot be acceptable before God. Any worship of God without acceptance of Jesus is like Cain’s vegetable offering when what God asked for was a blood sacrifice. Without Christ’s sacrifice there is no forgiveness of sins, and no unforgiven sinner can approach a Holy God.
Any Jew who rejects Christ has torn the heart out of the Torah. Any Christian who rejects Christ is only Christian by name but is a hypocrite. Any Muslim who believes the Qur’an rejects the Sonship, crucifixion, sacrifice, resurrection, and Lordship of Christ, and because of this, sadly, no matter how sincere they are in worshipping God, they cannot come to the Father (God). Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Thanks for your comment and the clarification. Fortunately, I’m well aware of biblical theology. Although I understand your point completely and am aware that it is your belief, I think you may have strayed away from the original question.
It is interesting that you quoted: “No one comes to the Father except through me”. This seems to imply that Jesus is a means to an End, not the End itself. Jews and Muslims, believe in the same End as Christians. But we differ on the means.
The question is NOT: Are Muslims and Jews able to “come to God” without Jesus.
The question is NOT whether or not their worship of God is acceptable either. If your belief is that Muslims and Jews, since they reject Jesus’ divinity cannot “come to God” and that their worship is not acceptable – that is your belief, no problem.
The question is – are we trying to worship the same God. The answer there, is yes. The God of Abraham.
Jews were worshiping God without the mention of Jesus, long before Christianity came about. A Christian may believe Jesus was there (as a part of the Essence of God) the ENTIRE TIME. Let’s even assume this is true, and Jesus is inherently God. Fine.
But Jews didn’t know that. They didn’t mention him. Nor did they acknowledge him. Muslims are the same, they do not acknowledge him as divine but are saying their prayers to the same God of Abraham. If Jesus is part of that Godship, then Jews and Muslims may not “know” it, but it doesn’t mean we are worshiping a different God.
Muslims have a very well-established position on the role of Jesus that is bound in textual evidence, history, reason, and logic. I am not touting it here, because I am a guest on a Christian writer’s blog, and did not come here to preach, but to establish a basic fact – we are worshiping the same God, but we BELIEVE different things ABOUT HIM.
Let’s state it another way:
1. There was a man named George Washington.
2. He led the American armies to victory.
3. He was the first President of the United States.
4. He lived in Mount Vernon after his presidency.
Group A: I agree on points 1-4. Also, he had his own son.
Group B: I agree on points 1-4. He did not have a son.
Group A: You are talking about a different man, not George Washington. He had a son.
Group B: No, we are talking about the general in the Revolutionary war, the first president of the U.S., the man who lived in Mount Vernon after his presidency.
Group A: We are too! And he had a son!
Group B: No, he did not have any children. He had 2 stepchildren but no children of his own.
Group A: He had a son of his own. You must be talking about some other George Washington.
Group B: We are talking about the same George Washington!
Group A: If you were, you’d admit he had a son. You don’t admit that so you are not talking about George Washington, founder of our country, general of the American army.
Group B: We ARE talking about the George Washington, founder of our country, general of the American army, but we are telling you he didn’t have a son.
Group A and Group B proceed to beat each other with history books 🙂
Clearly, Group A, and Group B are talking about the same person, but the information that has reached them came from two sources. One source has been altered and changed over time to the point that it does not reflect accurate information, and one source has information that was preserved and protected over time and was not altered.
This is the essential difference between Muslims and Christians. Muslims think Christians are Group A and Christians think Muslims are Group A.
We don’t believe in your scripture as being properly preserved and think men changed and invented things in the Bible over time, and you don’t believe in our Messenger as recieving Divine revelation so you don’t care what our scripture says to begin with.
Jews also believe that the New Testament is not divinely revealed, and they were worshiping God long before Jesus was sent, so it would be unfair to tell them that they are no longer worshiping God at all because they don’t include Jesus in their worship.
Jews worship Him too, but not in the WAY that you believe is acceptable to God any more once the news of Jesus has reached them – which is your right to believe.
This is an issue of sources. It is still the same God of Abraham.
At least we can agree that helping our fellow human beings is what we are all called to do by God 🙂
No. I’m not convinced they’re the same and your reasons aren’t compelling.
Firstly, I agree that Allah means God. But God is a generic term. The Christian God has a name, Yaweh whereas Muslim God has no personal name. So I fail to see how they can be the same simply because they share the same generic name. It’s much like saying a banana and an orange are the same simply because they share a generic term ‘fruit’
Also, to say Muslim insist that they’re the same does not in itself make it true. I can insist I’m a white man but that will not change the fact that I’m black!
So for me, I fail to see how they can be one and the same deity. Allah is not Yaweh!
Michael. I’m not sure you have been exposed to the depth and breadth of Islamic theology or had an opportunity to study it from Muslim sources.
In Islamic theology, the overwhelming opinion is that Allah is in fact God’s personal name. However, there are interesting places in which God mentions His personal name as:
“Ar-Rahman” – The Overwhelmingly Merciful Lord (this is not a fitting translation but the best I can do).
Point: God has a personal name in Islam, and it is Allah, and in key places, He emphasizes the attribute of His Mercy by using the word “Ar-Rahman.”. But it is referring to the God of Abraham. We have to rise above language and understand essence when we are disagreeing.
Just because a proper name has an etymological source, does not mean it is not a proper name. The word Yahweh itself has multiple possible origins, one of them being that it comes from the Hebrew “hawah”, an early Hebrew form meaning: “to cause existence/to create”. This does not mean we throw out the word Yahweh as being God’s proper name in your tradition. It may very well be, and I can respect that.
Actually, Michael is on to something, and although he didn’t realize that Islam does have a proper name for God, thankfully, Abdul, you have given us an important key to understanding this issue.
You’ve made it clear that the God of the Bible and the God of the Qur’an have two different proper names.
So that shows that we’re not talking about two slightly different versions of George Washington. We’ve now added a group that claims that Thomas Jefferson was the first president of the United States.
Muslims claim that their proper name “Allah” was the God worshipped by Abraham, who they say was a Muslim. This is an anachronistic way of writing history, starting from the Qur’an and moving backwards through history, changing details in accordance with 7th century claims.
The proper name “Allah” is found nowhere in the original Hebrew or Greek of the Bible, so how could the God whose proper name is “Allah” have been the one worshipped by Abraham, who was worshipping the proper name “YHWH”?
Islam has claimed that all the biblical characters were Muslims and worshipped the proper name “Allah”, who they say is the creator. Christians need to either accept this account and throw their Bible away (or believe that it was translated from Arabic to Hebrew and the originals were destroyed), or just come to terms with the fact that these are two completely different conceptions of God, with different proper names, different attributes, and different prophets (most of whom share the same names).
Thank you Abdul, for hitting the nail on the head.
Secondly Michael, in the Islamic tradition, and in the arabic language:
Allah = God
This distinction is already made in the language and the Islamic creedal testimony: “La ilaha illa Allah”
There is no god (ilah) except for God (Allah).
Probably the key fact I left out in demonstrating why I disagree with your comment, and where the “generic term” argument falls apart.
This is a difference of usage between Muslims and Christians.
Muslims use “Allah” as a proper name, whereas Arabic-speaking Christians use “Allah” as a general word for God.
Thanks everyone for all of the great comments and discussion! I hope to be able to reply to many of you…but alas….it’s almost midnight for me. Keep the comments coming and I will approve and respond tomorrow. Blessings!
For certain the concept of God is written into the fabric of humanity throughout the world, in its varying forms, and without doubt the Hebrew/Christian/Muslim faiths are the most similar in many ways. However, the question I have about is: Did Mohammad receive his revelations from the God of the Bible, in order to write what eventually became the Koran, or from another god? If he did, then we can say that the same God is being worshiped. But the differences between the Koran’s teaching about who Jesus is are clearly in-congruent with Jesus’ own teachings and the teachings of His followers found in the Bible. Is Jesus simply a prophet and no more? Is he the greatest profit and no more? The Scriptures are abundantly clear; Jesus is God. Our understanding of who God is rises or falls on this point. Just because my name is Jonathan does not mean I am Jonathan in 1 Samuel. I hope in some ways to be similar to him, but he will always be him and I will always be me…we are different. Anyone who says different would be delusional. In the same way, with all due respect, I simply cannot accept Allah being the same as the God of the Bible, even if the name in Arabic is identical, because the clearest and fullest revelation of God on the planet, Jesus (Heb 1:1-3, Col 1:15-20), is denied as being God in the Koran. How then can we say that the God of the Bible is the same as that of the Koran? And from this, how then can we say that the God who is worshiped by Christians; Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit, is the same as Allah, who is worshiped by Muslims? Please help me with this.
(Jesse, do you mind deleting my previous comment please? It is a copy of this same comment but I replied to your message instead of his! Sorry for my clutter. Thanks!)
I think some concepts may be mixed up. The statement that Jesus IS God, is your belief and that is yours to hold of course. However, even within Christian history, that statement has not been so simple in meaning, and the Arians and Niceans disagreed on what it actually means, and so did many other legitimate Christian groups.
It may a good summary of your belief and that is great, but I’m concerned that it is not detailed enough to allow us to discuss? I know you have more depth behind that statement so I’d like us to get back to the essentials.
Let’s step back for a second and see if we can agree on some basics so that we understand each other better. I’m curious about your thoughts on these two questions:
Question 1: Did the Jewish People (before the coming of Jesus) worship God, or did they worship some other being that is not God?
Questions 2: Do the Jewish People today worship God, or do they worship some other being that is not God? (assuming the rites and words and rituals of their worship are essentially the same as before)
Your answer on these would help us get to some clarity on where we stand. I’m sure you can see why.
Abdul, i appreciate your respectful feedback. Let me begin by saying that although some offshoots of the Christian community have questioned that divinity of Christ, no orthodox Christian movement has turned aside from this understanding. Name one that we can speak of that was legitimate. The Christian faith rises and falls on whether or not Jesus is God or not. If there is any essential doctrine to Christians world wide, this is it. The NT writers are abundantly clear on it (Matt 1:23, Col 1:15-20, Heb 1:1-3, John 8:54-59 among others).
Secondly, as for your questions
1. Of course the Jewish people worshiped the one true God, before Jesus came. He had revealed Himself to them. Yet they sometimes worshiped with their mouths, yet their hearts were far from Him. And others saw the acts of God yet refused to worship, and worshiped their own gods instead.
2. What is fascinating about this question is that Jesus himself addressed it. As recorded in John 8, he said,
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
In this passage two groups are established. The first are those who rely on their heritage and traditions, the second are those who follow Jesus and his teachings. And Jesus is clear, those who do not accept Him and his teaching, cannot be God’s children, because He came from God. So in one sense, yes, the Jewish people still worship God as they understand him, or as they want to understand Him, yet in another sense, how can they truly worship God when they do not accept and worship the clearest revelation of who He is? Hope this provides some clarity.
Reblogged this on Theology & the City.
Interesting thoughts Jesse. I’m sure you would agree more discussion on the topic is needed. I agree with your assessment that the 1st century Jew to Samaritan dynamic is comparable to the 21st century Christian to Muslim dynamic. I have long been convinced that if Jesus were to teach in our contemporary context he would teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves by telling the story of The Good Muslim.
Thanks for the comment Brent! I agree 🙂
And maybe if Jesus were teaching to Muslims, he’d tell the story of The Good Jew…
Thanks for this Jesse. Whenever I hear this question posed I find myself a little baffled. As Christians we believe their is only one God/Allah. There cannot be another God. If there is only one God then the question for me is does this one God hear the prayers of both Muslims and Christians who are genuinly seeking after him? The Bible teaches us that God loves all humanity and that Jesus died for all of us equally. Christ died to restore God’s relationship with man. Thus I believe a loving God would equally hear the prayers of a Muslim as a Christian because he loves us equally. A few years ago a Muslim friend came to me quite concerned. She had been praying and thought that she had heard God speak to her. Her question to me was “am I going mad?” I asked her what God had said. Her reply was, “He loves me”. This sounded to me like God was revealing his heart to my friend and had been listening to her prayers.
Grace and Peace!
Thank you for writing a much needed post.
I enjoyed reading your conclusions and want to take the opportunity to ask you practical personal doubts originated from such an argument. The questions below do consider we worship the same God, while are also linked to the biblical revelation that teaches us that only through Christ Jesus we are reconciled to Allah.
Question 1#: What type of relationship, or more bluntly, what benefits one has from relating to a God he is not reconciled with?
Question 2#: Are there other clear purposes for Allah to relate with unreconciled people other than the opportunity to point them to Christ in order to establish a relationship based in His justice? (John 6:44)
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us brother.
Hi Jonno! I hope you are well. I first want to affirm that I while I believe Muslims and Christians do worship the same God, it is only through Jesus Christ that we are reconciled to God/Allah. That being said, these are both very great, very important questions. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am able to respond. There are millions of practicing Muslims and Jews who may be better able to speak to the personal benefits of their faith experiences. Biblically, however, I do feel there is sufficient ground to claim that God does interact with those outside the covenant community. We affirm this when we affirm the sovereignty of God and proclaim Him to be the Lord of history. Much of this would be to point people to Christ, but I also don’t wish to speak for God or His purposes. In Christian Theology, in addition to the discussion of ‘General vs. Specific Revelation’, there is a whole sub-field of inquiry known as the “Theology of Religions” which examines and speaks to these questions. A good textbook-type primer to this discussion is my old professor Dr. Karkkainen’s book, “Introduction to the Theology of Religions”, but there are a number of other good works out there as well. Blessings Jonno. Excellent questions for further thought and inquiry!
I just posted a lengthy response to article Jesse. No apologies, no excuses, no compromise no doubting “there is no other name under Heaven given among man by which we should be saved” (Acts 4 v 12)except the name of Jesus (John 14 v 6). Same God? Not a chance.
I find the argument presented by Brown, and repeated by you here i.e. “that because “allah” in an Arabic context can be used as a generic word for God that means “allah” can also be used in other linguistic contexts as a generic word for God” to be quite deceptive. Additionally, the transliterations of the Aramaic and Hebrew words in Brown’s article (and re-presented here) appear to be nothing more than deliberate attempt minimize differences that are easily recognized by native speakers of these languages. Legitimate transliterations of these words in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic would be eloah, elah*, and allah.
Here is how “allah” is defined in the Abraham Even-Shoshan Hebrew Dictionary:
אַלַּה – ז’ אֱלֹהִים אֵצֶל הַמֳּסְלְמִים
Allah – (masculine noun) god* belonging to the Muslims.
The word “god” in this definition is the Hebrew word “elohim” (used as a generic word for God) and although “Allah” comes from the same root, it is clearly defined here as the “Muslim God.” Again, native speakers easily recognize these differences, differences that are simply ignored by those trying to blur the lines.
While it is true that “allah” is a valid word for a generic deity in some linguistic contexts like Arabic. In most linguistic contexts, it is not a valid word for a generic deity but instead is understood as a proper name for the Islamic deity. In these contexts using “allah” brings to mind only the Islamic god and to use this word in a translation of the Christian scriptures is simply deceptive.
*Note: the suggestion that alaha/אלהא is another form of word for god in Aramaic is just a demonstration that Aramaic is poorly understood. In Aramaic the appended א is not part of the word, it simply indicates the inclusion of the definite article i.e. “the god” rather than “god.”
WRONG! I do apologise for being emphatic, but Jewish (Mizrahi) Lebanese mention GOD as ALLAH . The oldest extant gospel translations in Arabic all use the name ‘ALLAH”. In essence Mohammed did not rediscover the One and Only, and did not invent HIS name. When he wanted to call people to worship one GOD- the name was already there and he used it. Predating ISlam, Allah can not be the ‘Muslim God’.
To understand the bias of the above-mentioned dictionary, look up the discrimination European Jews had against the Mizrahi’s during their ‘settlement’ of Palestine.
There seems to be some confusion regarding ‘AL” – . Neither does arabic consider “AL” anything more than a definite marker for nouns – you seem to imply that it was actually not a prefix in the name ALLAH. Again, ‘wrong’.
I think you have misunderstood Benelchi.
He’s saying that in Arabic, “Allah” IS a generic term for God (although I would add that Muslim usage makes it into a proper name), but that in “other linguistic contexts”, meaning, in other languages (NOT ARABIC), “Allah” means “the God of Islam”.
So he’s saying that in Hebrew, “Allah” means “the God of Islam”
I’d also add that:
in Turkish, “Allah” means “the God of Islam”, and the generic word for God is tanri
In Farsi, “Allah” means “the God of Islam”, and the generic word for God is khoda
Also, in English, “Allah” means “the God of Islam”, and the same thing in several other languages.
Does that make more sense?
But etymologically, it is not a generic name, it is a contraction of AL IlaH . When languages borrow or graft ‘foreign’ names into their languages, these words tend to fossilize. So true , non-Arab speaking Muslims do use it as a “Proper noun” , but that doesn’t mean that it is so. It is not.
Sorry I forgot to add, that if the Jews consider “Allah” the God of Islam, why do the Middle Eastern Arab speaking Jews also refer to Him as Allah, historically predating the advent of Islam itself ? A more precise interpretation is that it has become to be considered as the Name of God in Islam. Historically , etymologically, linguistically and theologically, this is not technically correct.
Reblogged this on Persona and commented:
An interesting article of a disputed topic from the blog of the Institute for Middle East Studies in Beirut.
Respect is a big lesson I get from this presentation, it tells me that I can gain a Samaritan woman a neighbour or a lost sheep if I am respectful so I’m thankful for that.
I do find a lot of fairness and sincerity from most contributors in this post, so could we take a look at how The Bible would deal with the question, please? Jesus Himself to be precise. He is as you would know, supremely jealousy of His Father and He leaves no room for compromise, not a chance. But like you have said already Jesus never told anyone to disrespect the religious leadership of His time on earth. Ref: Matthew 23 v 1-3.
So He rejects the ways of the Pharisees and Sadducees together with their god in a stroke. Ref: John 8 v 44. These leaders were still in their hereditary positions many generations coming, interpreting the law of Moses, in the original priestly adornment, keeping the temple, forcefully observing the Sabbath, the strictest attention to detail paying tithes on the smallest gain “mint and dill and cummin”, stoning adulterous women, upholding the law. The descendants of Abraham, the servants of Moses, then still able to trace their lineages to Levi, Simeon, Judah, Benjamin and to all the sons of Jacob. John the Baptist called them “brood of vipers” Matthew 3:7 and Luke 3:7. Jesus called them hypocrites and brood of vipers Matthew 23 v 13———.
It can then be put differently deducing from Jesus views, if you plot murder and play double standards with the law of God then you are not serving God. If we then ask who is your god? You cannot claim the God of Abraham. Saul of Tarsus had a blinding awakening. Ref: Acts 9 v 5. In the Bible there is such a thing as the god of this world, KJV 2 Corinthians 4 v 4.
When Jesus says “The only way to point G(od) is to take a northerly direction thru junction X (cross Calvary) and there is no alternative”, are we equally ok to listen to a handsome young fellow shooting up and say “Fellow citizens it’s all fine and I’m not saying that prophet J is not telling the truth in fact I love Him too but I just took a clear south easterly direction all on my own not a single witness along the way funny how no one has ever found this way it’s quicker even and incredibly there I was point G(od) right in front of me. Do yourself a favour take care of those that seek to waste your time or dissuade you. Your reward will be great.”?
If I put it in my own words ( paraphrase) Jesus says unless it’s through Him it’s fake. Fake piety, fake religion, fake god. It’s a lie. No truth in it, how can it be the same God of Abraham who was true to God himself the friend of God? You shall tell them by their fruit. In other words if it’s an apple tree it will produce apples. Different sizes or varieties of apples but apples nonetheless. Be blunt, if it’s the same God the resulting converts will be the same inspite of different names they will flow in the same Spirit and it will be hard to find a difference between them. Example the Scribes and Pharisees. They were both wrong. Look at John 8 v5. Woman caught in adultery, what do you do to her? Decide whether you are a disciple of Christ or why not do what the law says and I will show you who I think your father is whose passions you please.
That said I will accept that friendliness and humility, a generous spirit and a neighbourly attitude will win you a lost sheep and a Samaritan woman than a high position. So I’m not judging anyone simply that I can tell the difference and I do not owe it to myself but to Christ.
[…] For more on this issue of God in Christianity and Islam, please refer to previous post by IMES colleague Jesse Wheeler: “Is Allah God?” […]
Every serious neutral semitic languages student does know that arabic allah and aramaic alah are the same word!
Both derivated from the old semtic word EL (Aleph Lamed)
and that Semitic peoples worshipped the SAME god!! proof? see these hebrew names
israEL, ishmaEL gabraEL michaEL
In Canaan El was the chief deity of the Canaanite pantheon and was worshipped as a bull deity (which is where the whole idea of the golden calf in Exodus came from). The Israelites were worshipping the true God in a proscribed form. The Aramaic form of this was Alah, which under the influence of a linguistic shift known as the “Canaanite Shift” in Hebrew became Eloah. The plural form of the latter, which is also used in the Hebrew Bible, is Elohim. But the Aramaic Alah was how one said “God” in that language, even in Jesus’ day. Thus if Jesus spoke Aramaic, then he also called God Alah; Arabic came up with nothing new when it referred to the one true God as Alah. In fact, Arabic-speaking Christians would have used this word for God long before Mohammed was born
If one argues the name “Allah” is pagan-based, what about the origins of the English word “God?”
what about the Greek word “Theos”? what about the Latin word Deus??
The word Yahweh also mistakenly referred to as Yehovah or Jehovah is derived from the statement God made to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Moses asked God as to what his name was and he got the reply “ehyeh esher ehyeh” which means I AM WHAT I AM
The editors of the NEW JERUSALEM BIBLE explain this as : “The Hebrew can be translated literally ‘I am what I am’ , which would mean that GOD did not wish to reveal his name to them”
You said that the Caananites used “El” for a bull deity. That clearly shows that the same word can be used to refer to different deities.
This undermines your argument that because they used the same word, “Semitic peoples worshipped the SAME god!!”
We have evidence in the Ugaritic Texts. EL was worshipped as the supreme god and has many sons called B’nai Elohim found in the bible too and litraly means Sons of Gods. In Canaanite language (including Israelite and Phoenician dialects) Adoni means my lord and Adonai means My Lords and the last term is used in the bible. The legend of the son god Tammuz is passed to the Greeks and they called him Adonis with the (s) of name
The Israelites,as a Canaanite people, share many common religious elements with their Canaanite relatives. Many biblical archaeologists know this FACT
Actually the so-called Hebrew language is in fact a Canaanite dialect. Phoenician and Hebrew are practically the same language with minor variants. This IS a fact known by all who studied Canaanite languages
We have evidence in South Arabian lanuguage and religion too
And Yes EL is the name of Semitic God
Allah is one of the name used to refer to God the Creator, and does not mean god. As in arabic , god/tuhan is being referred with ilah or rab. In other semitic language god would be elah/eloah/el.
Allah in Israelite scriptures would be referring to Yhwh (name for God the Creator referred by Israelites).
some Christian sect believed that Jesus and Yhwh are two different presence. as can be found in Roman Christian books for e.g in John, it is mention that Word/Jesus is ‘with’ God (greek use noun theo/god an not name of Allah the Creator). Word /Jesus is God. But this does not mean Word/Jesus is Yhwh/Allah. It is just that Word/Jesus to have equal status to Yhwh/Allah that is having the status of theo/god (in Roman Christian belief.)
[…] couple years ago, Jesse Wheeler shared five reasons he believes Muslims and Christians worship the same God. In his post, Jesse drew a parallel to the situation in Jesus’ day between Jews and […]