Allah and Yahweh: are they the same God?

Here is a link to a thoughtful and subtle post about Christian-Muslim dialogue by Steve Taylor, associate professor of New Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary (also grew up a missionary kid). He makes some interesting observations on culture, Paul, and (why not) Ferdinand de Saussure.

I sense a C. S. Lewisesque (is that a word? it is now) The Chronicles of Narnia (especially The Last Battle) vibe, which I appreciate.

In our world, which continues to shrink by the minute, thoughtful posts such as Taylor’s are needed more and more.

  • mark

    Isn’t there another question to ask? Is Yahweh the Trinity? My understanding is that Jews say, No. Taylor seems to take it for granted that there is a simple identity between Yahweh and the God that Christians invoke in the “Sign of the Cross,” the “Glory be …” or whatever. In light of the recent discussions about Mark Smith and the history of God, maybe we should be considering that whole issue. Is the problem that Jews don’t understand their own religion, don’t understand that Yahweh is the Trinity? I think not, but maybe that’s just me. I think the problem is Christians not understanding the faith they profess.

    • labreuer

      Perhaps the first step for a polytheistic culture is to accept Yahweh alone, lest they see Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as competing gods.

    • http://redmarkedward.com/ Mark Edward

      When reading through Romans, I found it interesting when Paul considered his fellow Jews ‘zealous’ for God. He says their mistake is not understanding how God’s righteousness manifested apart from the Law in Jesus… he doesn’t criticize their understanding of God as multiple persons, or whatever.

      • mark

        I see. So all those doxologies throughout the Pauline letters are meaningless and there’s no basis for God’s Trinitarian identity in Paul or other early Christian writings.

        • http://redmarkedward.com/ Mark Edward

          This… is one of the most hamfisted examples of someone putting words in another person’s mouth, that I have ever seen.

      • Seraphim Hamilton

        To be fair, the Jewish insistence on Unitarianism crystallized in the late second century as part of a response to Christianity- early Judaism was more diverse and open to personal differentiation within the one God. You see this in the “Memra” concept in some of the Targumim. All the theophanies are attributed to the Memra.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      I believe that Allah, Yahweh, and the Father are all the same. Muslims have mistaken ideas about God, but so do the Jews, and so do we!

      However, I cannot identify Yahweh as the Trinity. Yahweh is the Father alone. Jesus said in John 8:54: “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” Jesus does not seem to think Yahweh is the Trinity.

      I think we have a lot confusion about the Trinity because we use the word ‘God’ in three ways: God=the Father (Yahweh); God=the Trinity; God=the God nature (ousios/substance/essence). According to the Athanasian Creed we should understand the doctrine of the Trinity “Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.”
      Jesus is not the Trinity; he is the Son. Yahweh is not the Trinity; he is the Father.

      • Felix Alander

        I always supposed the YHWH to be the Son. Consider that in its normal spoken form, “the Lord”, it’s a title that is given to Christ and the Apostles made use of this to include Christ in various statements of the Old Testament.

        However it’s probably more accurate to say that there was some clarification and separation of the persons after the Incarnation, because before then it wasn’t all that important (and the authors of scripture basically didn’t know about it and they had no way of including it in their text…), but afterwards the difference had been made more concrete and needed to be clarified to answer the question, who was Christ?

        • Andrew Dowling

          “Lord” was a title given to non-divine persons all the time.

          • Seraphim Hamilton

            That’s true, and it is reflected in some New Testament passages, but other passages witness to a higher use of the word kyrios. 1 Corinthians 8:6, which I mentioned above, takes the “kyrios” (in the LXX) of the Shema and applies it to Jesus. Philippians 2 talks about Jesus possessing the Sacred Name.

        • Seraphim Hamilton

          All three persons are YHWH, but the being of YHWH is grounded in the hypostasis of the Father. The Son appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel of YHWH who, at the same time, was addressed with the Sacred Name. See Genesis 22 especially. This is rooted and grounded in an extremely ancient Christian tradition borne out in passages like John 1:18.

      • mark

        Interesting. But can a Christian really say: the Father = God without qualification–or at least some further explanation? Certainly we can’t say: Jesus = God without qualification. I’m not saying those statements (or the Spirit = God) are incorrect, but if any of us were trying to explain the identity of God to a non-believer I don’t think any of us would want to stop with any one of those statements. In this sense, while I agree with most of what you’re saying–or at least I think I do–I’m not sure there is a simple identity such that a Jew could say Yahweh = the Father or a Christian could reply, That’s right! The Father is Yahweh! Each, if he is theologically aware, would want to point out differences or make distinctions of one sort or another.

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

        Hello Tim.

        Okay but does that mean that the Jews had only experiences with the father?

        I don’t know and am not persuaded by the trinity as I explain here:
        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/on-divine-perfection-mysteries-and-logical-contradictions/

      • Seraphim Hamilton

        Jesuswithoutbaggage-

        Not quite. The Father is the paternal source of the triune God, the principle without principle, and the very being of God depends on His hypostasis. But note how St. Paul inserts Christ into the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6. There is One God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus the Messiah. I don’t see how your argument gets around the fact that Paul’s kyrios Christology is rooted in the Old Testament theology of the Divine Name: the Messiah possesses the Name that is above every name.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Do a progressive Arminian believing that God loves unconditionally everyone
    and a consistent Calvinist believing that God only loves a few number
    of them (while condemning all others to conscious eternal torments)
    worship the same God?

    My response is a resounding No!

    • Andrew Dowling

      I remember in a similar thread somewhere I made the same point. I think the God of say progressive/liberal Muslims and progressive/liberal Christians have much more in common than the God of neo-Calvinists has with that of progressive Christians

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

        Yep, I had a liberal Muslim friend.

        2013/10/9 Disqus

    • Seraphim Hamilton

      Why not? Do errors about God’s activity constitute errors about the identity of God?

  • Rick

    If one is truly seeking God, and/or God is reaching out to someone, can that person deny Christ and still say they are worshipping the same God?

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      My answer is yes! However, they will only understand God in greater fullness if they discover Jesus. Those who worship God and ‘deny’ Jesus probably have baggage issues that prevent them from embracing him.
      I don’t think God rejects those who believe in him just because their belief is flawed, but they will not live the ‘good news’ without Jesus. All those who come into the kingdom do so through Jesus, whether they acknowledge it or not.

      • Rick

        If Jesus is God, then are they not rejecting God?
        I am not referring to people who have not heard of Jesus (that is another topic).

        • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

          We use the word ‘God’ in two different ways, and this often causes confusion. We say God is the Father (God=the Father). but we also refer to the Trinity as God or the Godhead (God=Trinity).

          The Father (God) is part of the Trinity. In John 8:54 Jesus identifies the Father (not the Trinity) as the one the Jews worshipped as God: “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.”

          • Rick

            Correct. But Jesus is still fully God. If so, rejecting him still means rejecting God (if one is honestly seeking God).
            If they had never heard of Jesus, then I can see your point.
            I am afraid there is too much of a human-centric view to this topic as well. God draws people to Himself (I will let Calvinists and Arminians allow their own interpretations of exactly what that means), so He would then allow people to see Jesus for who he really is.

          • Seraphim Hamilton

            Other religions contain hints of Jesus, the Divine Logos. Even Muslims have it in their understanding of the Eternal Word (for them, expressed in the Qur’an.) This is not dissimilar to how the Jewish people of the Second Temple Period understood Torah to be the embook-ment of wisdom. Because Christ is the incarnation of wisdom, Paul realized that to “do the Torah” means to be “in Christ.” Perhaps Muslims can come to a similar realization- to submit to God through His Eternal Word means to follow Jesus.

            I don’t think it’s quite correct to say that the Father is “part” of the Trinity. The Father is the ground of the divine essence, and this essence is eternally communicated to the Son by generation, and the Spirit by spiration. Each divine person possesses the fullness of the divine nature.

          • Rick

            I agree, Rather than “part”, I should have used “one person”.

  • James

    The problem derives more from scripture (Torah, Koran, Apostolic Witness, etc.) and its interpretation than linguistics, though they are all related. On a New Testament translation team in West Africa we used Alla (Arabic) and Yesu (African/French?) preferring the latter over Isa (Jesus of Islam). The scriptures of the three major Abrahamic faiths describe the nature and character of the one and only supreme being (YHWH, Theos, Allah, etc).

    Each also names earthly ‘interpreters’–Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, etc–and/or the incarnation of deity–the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jews may accept a coming Messiah (Christ) but neither Jews nor Muslims accept Jesus as the Son of God. Within Christianity the personality of the Spirit, the place of Mary, and the full significance of Christ’s death and resurrection are still hotly debated.
    Now, to consider your question…

  • Bob Smallman

    The use of Allah seems to vary among Christian communities in the Muslim world. In Sudan, for example, it is used routinely by Christians as the generic name for God. Christians in other countries, however, feel that it is so closely connected with Islam that they’re uncomfortable associating with it at all.

  • rvs

    Lewis placing the the follower of Tash in heaven (Last Battle) is one of the most important theological moments in 20th-century literature.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      I agree! It really made an impact on me.

  • Seraphim Hamilton

    The key to this question, in my view, is to reframe the question in order to communicate what everyone is implicitly asking: when a Muslim prays to their god, does the true God hear their prayer as a prayer to Him? I say yes, and I say this because I know a former Muslim, now Eastern Orthodox Christian, whose journey to Christianity began with a reinvigorated prayer life within Islam. I think the God of Islam, in that way, is substantially different than Quetzalcoatl or Marduk.

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      Well said!

  • Ryan

    Ah yes – but it’s easy to overestimate our beliefs about anything as being of lasting significance. The demons believe too, after all… Christ is not the stumbling block for no reason.

  • Norman

    I find it interesting that the author of the Hebrew letter (Chp 11) considered the diverse faith of various archaic biblical individuals to coalesce around faith and that they would be included in right standing before God with the remnant faithful being addressed in Hebrews. There is inclusiveness in the early Jewish Christian mindset here that I believe we overlook regarding the continuity of their Historical God. A lot of this inclusiveness gets lost in the day to day issues of the NT that deal with the origins of the new Jewish movement called Christianity. A time of reflection is hard to locate in such a time of upheaval but there are smidgens of concepts that do occur.

    We see people of the Patriarchal age of faith included, the Abrahamic, the pre Mosaic, the Temple period and the NT period all having people of faith whom are deemed righteous whether they fully saw or envisioned God via Christ. Hebrews implies they foresaw Christ in their manifestation of Faith in YHWH. The author/authors of Genesis whom I would suggest was possibly a Second Temple priest or scribe made a point to illustrate in Genesis 4:26 that their archaic faith history of YHWH begin in their antiquity (one could draw the conclusion that these ancients would be extremely diverse and not anything like modern Christianity). It seems to indicate that the concept of One True God was the encompassing defining attribute of faith without all the acquired baggage that was picked up via multiple worldviews that eventually encroached upon the people of faith. I think Christ attempted to defuse this issue with His statement that the issue before every one of faith is to love God and our neighbor as the baseline understanding of our faith. We bring complexity to the matter at a risk of over doing something that may in essence be fairly simple.

    • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

      Hello Norman, I have tried to analyze the ethic of Jesus here:

      https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/the-central-message-of-jesus-die-zentrale-botschaft-von-jesus-unten/

      I’d be very glad to learn your personal thoughts on that!

      Lovely greetings in Christ.

      • Norman

        Lothar,
        The bible IMO is a complex amalgamation that is telling us a simple story in essence. Paul alludes to the idea that the people of God (Monotheist God worshipers) originated from this simpler idea but it got off track and so the idea of a “fall” occurs that needed correcting. That is what the messiah prophecy pointed toward. It was more of a political restoration that was to occur in which things would be set right. Years of study lead me to that simple conclusion. There’s a saying that says follow the money. In the bible we can follow the competing ideologies and boil the issues down into human concerns that have been wrestled with as long as man has had cognitive abilities. It’s reflected in the essence of Christ teachings around doing the higher and right things in order to be a blessing and receive blessings. This idea is considered to be an everlasting eternal way and will not change or pass away.
        Norm

  • Brian s

    The question is not whether we have the same God but whether we have the same Jesus.

  • WebChris

    God’s name is a very important distinction. We must be firm in our announcements of His name. Islam has clearly declared its belief in only one god, and one that cannot associate himself with a son – who we Christians believe is also God. If Jesus is not in Islam’s equation of the Godhead, then neither can Allah be as a name we can share to identify the Most High God true to the holy scriptures. (John 14:6)


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