Salvation and attitudes in the Abrahamic Faiths



Salvation and attitudes in the Abrahamic Faiths.


Christian Views of Salvation


“I am the way, the truth, and the life; NO MAN cometh unto the Father, BUT BY ME.” — Jesus Christ (John 14:6)

The apostle Peter taught that through Christ, and no other, could a person receive salvation (Acts 2:10, 12).

EVERY being will eventually have to kneel before and acknowledge that Jesus is THE Savior of man (Philippians 2:9-11).


John 3: 36  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.


Muslim Views of Salvation


Qur’an 20:14            “Verily, I am Allah. No Ilah (God) may be worshiped but I. So serve you Me, and perform regular prostration prayer for My praise. Verily the Hour is coming. I am almost hiding it from Myself.”


Ishaq:324            “He said, Fight them so that there is no more rebellion, and religion, all of it, is for Allah only. Allah must have no rivals.”


The Jewish View of Salvation:


What is the Jewish view of Salvation, i.e., how a person from a given religion is ”saved”?




This is an important question. It is important to look at the questions that religions ask, as well as the ones they don’t ask. In this case, one must start with the awareness that salvation is not a Jewish concept, as it implies a focus on the afterlife, which is not significant focus of Judaism. In particular, the Christian view of the question just doesn’t work, for it implies a notion of “hell” for those that aren’t saved. Jews believe that people are supposed to do the best they can at being good. We do this because it is the right thing to do—any personal gain is a side-effect. In fact, focussing on issues of reward and punishment to some extent mitigates the good one is doing by tainting it with selfish motives.


Note also that Jews do not assume that God assesses people on some absolute scale. Jews believe that God expects you to do the best you have with what you have— including upbringing, innate abilities, and the situations you find yourself in—and you have the power to perfect yourself. Even on this relative scale, though, no one wastes their entire potential, or fully utilizes every opportunity. So, to whatever extent one does what they can, they enjoy its effects in the World to Come.


But again, Judaism is about being good to be good and to have a healthy relationship with God, man, and oneself—not to be saved. The role of Jewish law is to provide tools to learn how to do that, and values that one ought acquire. Judaism teaches that God gave us these laws because there are subtleties to the ideal that can not be conveyed in broader strokes. We therefore learn from the subtleties of the ritual, and the nuances of the inter-personal laws. Often very fundamental ideas about Jewish values can emerge from same arcane bit that one would think would never have found application in practice.


Last, there are two sorts of law: there is the covenant at Sinai, which God made with the Jews (and the other Israelites, the ancestors of the Northern Kingdom) to define the role of Jews in His plan. All Judaism asks of Jews is to follow the teachings of God as given in that covenant (as understood by their particular movement)—for the traditional Jew, this means to follow the laws given in the written and oral Torah. The other law is the covenant God made with Noah and his descendents. We believe that this is simpler law that non-Jews are expected to follow as well.


Jewish Divine Punishment




In a system of law based on divine revelation all punishment originally and ultimately derives from God. Even though human agencies may be entrusted with authority to inflict punishments in certain prescribed cases, God’s own overriding punishing power remains unaffected, and the ways and means of divine punishment are as numerous and varied as they are of catastrophic unpredictability (cf. the punishments threatened for “rejecting God’s laws and spurning His rules” in Lev. 26:14–43 and Deut. 28:15–68). God punishes whole peoples (the Flood: Gen. 6; Sodom and Gomorrah: Gen. 18; Egypt: Ex. 14:27–28; et al.) as well as individuals (Cain: Gen. 4:10–15; Aaron’s sons: Lev. 10:1–2; Miriam: Num. 12:6–10; Korah and his company: Num. 16:28–35; et al.); and visits “the guilt of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject” Him (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9). The fear of God is inculcated in those tending to be cruel or callous (Ex. 22:26; Lev. 19:14, 32), and specific retaliatory punishments will be inflicted by God for mistreating widows and orphans (Ex. 22:21–23).

Originally, divine punishment was independent of and additional to judicial punishment; there are several biblical instances in which *capital punishment is prescribed for a particular offense and yet the threat of divine punishment is superadded (e.g., Ex 31:14). In one instance, the law explicitly states that where the prescribed capital punishment is not carried out, God will himself set His face “against that man and his kin and will cut off from among their people both him and all who follow him in going astray after Molech” (Lev. 20:2–5). This juxtaposition of divine and judicial punishments appears conclusively to disprove the view that karet (“cutting off”) was not a divine punishment of death, but rather a judicial punishment of excommunication. While, in the nature of things, all judicial punishment is uncertain, depending on the offender being caught, evidence against him being available, and the “people of the land not hiding their eyes” from him (Lev. 20:4), divine punishment is certain and inescapable, and thus a much more effective deterrent; the omniscient God will not suffer His laws to be disobeyed with impunity (cf. Deut. 32:41). The fundamental injustice underlying the ideas of inherited guilt and deferred punishment and unbounded wrath is, from the point of view of penal policy, a lesser evil than God’s failure to mete out deserved punishment.

For a good many offenses, the divine karet is the only punishment prescribed. It has been suggested that they are such offenses as are committed in private, for which eyewitnesses will not usually be available, such as, for instance, the eating of fat or blood (Lev. 7:25–27; 17:10, 14), or various sexual offenses (Lev. 20:17–18; 18:29), or the nonobservance of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:29–30) or of Passover (Ex. 12:15, 19). Others maintain that these offenses are mostly of a religious or sacerdotal character, such as failure to circumcise (Gen. 17:14) or to bring certain sacrifices (Num. 9:13), as well as the nonobservance of the religious festivals already mentioned; and that for such religious sins any judicial punishment was thought inappropriate (cf. Sifra 1:19). There are, however, some offenses, punishable by karet only, that do not fit into either of these categories as, for instance, public blasphemy (Num. 15:30–31). This fact – together with the gravity of some of the sexual offenses so punishable – led some scholars to assume that karet, even though a threat of divine punishment, was at the same time an authorization of judicial capital punishment (cf. Ibn Ezra, Lev. 18:29). This theory is strengthened by the fact that some of the offenses punishable with karet are stated to be also judicially punishable (Ex. 31:14; Lev. 20:6).

Apart from karet, divine punishment is expressed in terms of simple death (e.g., Num. 18:7) as well as of “bearing one’s iniquity” or guilt (e.g., Lev. 5:1; 7:18; 17:16; 20:19; 24:15; Num. 5:31). Sometimes “he shall bear his guilt” is followed by “and he shall die” (Ex. 28:43; Num. 18:32); sometimes it is combined with the threat of karet (Lev. 19:8; 7:20), and sometimes joined with the threat of childlessness (Lev. 20:20). It has therefore been suggested that where the “bearing of guilt” stands alone, it is meant only as imposing the duty to bring a sacrifice to God (Tosef., Shevu. 3:1).

With the development of jurisprudence, it was sought to purge divine punishment from apparent injustice (Jer. 31:28–29; Ezek. 18:2–29), and it was later relegated altogether to the realm of homiletics; people were warned that premature death (at the age of 50), or death without leaving issues, were signs of the divine karet (Sem. 3:8; MK 28a; Rashi and Tos., Shab. 25a–b), and that every undetected murderer would meet with “accidental” death at the hands of God (Mak. 10b). By talmudic law, karet, though interpreted as divine capital punishment, was absolved by the human judicial punishment of *flogging (Mak. 13a–b; Yad, Sanh. 19:1); having been flogged, the offender has expiated even his divine capital crime (Mak. 3:15). This substitution of flogging for divine capital punishment was in legal theory founded on the notion that God would forgive offenders who had repented, and in His mercy refrain from punishing them; undergoing the flogging was regarded as tantamount to repentance. By being flogged, the offender could avoid divine punishment since he cannot be punished twice for the same offense (Mak. 13b). The recidivist, who after having twice been flogged again committed the same offense, was given up – presumably because the supposed repentance could not have been genuine – and was imprisoned and kept on a diet of barley until his belly burst (Sanh. 81b; Yad, Sanh. 18:4).

Where a lesser penalty, such as a *fine, is merged in the larger penalty for the same offense and will not therefore be recoverable, it is sometimes held that in order to satisfy divine law (Dinei Shamayim) as well as human law and not be liable to future divine retribution, one should pay also the lesser penalty, especially where it is payable to the victim (cf. BM 91a; Tos. to BK 70b–7 la; Tos. to Ḥul. 130b).

[Haim Hermann Cohn]




KARET (Heb. כָּרֵת; “Extirpation”), a punishment at the hands of heaven mentioned in the Bible as the penalty for a considerable number of sins committed deliberately such as: idolatry, desecration of the Sabbath, the eating of leaven on Passover, incest and adultery; and for some forbidden foods. No previous warning need be given in these cases. The halakhah explains karet as premature death (Sifra, Emor, 14:4), and a baraita (MK 28a; TJ, Bik. 2:1, 64b) more explicitly as: “death at the age of 50,” but some amoraim hold that it refers to “death between the ages of 50 and 60.” The word karet is also used to indicate the degree of severity of a transgression, and serves as a “standard” for many other halakhot. The Mishnah (Ker. 1:1) enumerates the 36 transgressions mentioned in the Torah for which the penalty is karet, and lays down (ibid., 1:2) that only where there is karet for the deliberate act is there a sin-offering for the act committed inadvertently. Since the punishment is divine, and the fact that it is deliberate is known only to God, it does not require witnesses or previous warning. The halakhah also lays it down that only the offspring of a union for which the penalty is karet have the status of *mamzerim (Yev. 4:13).


There is a dispute between tannaim whether or not the penalty of karet exempts the transgressor from *flogging, which is the automatic punishment for most prohibitions of the Torah of which one is guilty after having been duly warned (Mak. 13a–b); according to the view that it does not exempt from flagellation, the flagellation itself exempts from karet (Mak. 23a–b). Repentance however has the effect of annulling karet (ibid.), and, with the exception of Neunya b. Ha-Kanah, all agree that karet does not absolve the guilty person from civil claims arising out of his action (Ket. 30a).


Every attempt toward a general rationale of this punishment involves serious halakhic and philosophical difficulties, and the problem greatly exercised the early authorities; although the halakhah itself makes a distinction between karet and “death by the hand of heaven” (MK 28a), the difference between them is not clear. Some rishonim hold that “natural” death takes place at the age of 60 (or later), when the karet period has ended, and that “death by the hand of heaven” has no fixed time, save that one’s span of life is curtailed. Others hold, in accordance with the Jerusalem Talmud (Bik. 2:1), that karet comes at the age of 50, “death by the hand of heaven” at 60, and natural death between 60 and 70. The connection between the punishment of “ariri” and karet and the real nature of the former is also not clear. In the Bible the punishments of karet and ariri are frequently found together. Some rishonim hold that the minor children of a sinner are also punished through the father’s karet, and in their view this also constitutes the difference between karet and “death by the hand of heaven” (Rashi, Ket. 30b, et al.). Others, however, differ (Tos. to Shab. 25a). With regard to karet in the case of the old, it is laid down that the punishment lies in the manner of death, since “one dying in either one, two, or three days has suffered karet.”


The punishment of karet raised difficulties in the theory of reward and punishment current among medieval scholars, and constituted part of the polemic around Maimonides and his views on this subject. Basing himself upon the statement (Sanh. 90b): “Hikkaret tikkaret: ‘hikkaret’ in this world, ‘tikkaret’ in the world to come,” Maimonides (Yad, Teshuvah 8:1) lays down that: “The punishment of the wicked is that they are not vouchsafed this life [of the world to come], but they suffer karet and die… and this is the karet written in the Torah…” This constitutes a maximal punishment, since ordinary sinners, after being punished in *Gehinnom according to their sin, live again in the world to come (ibid. 8:3, 5). In the opinion of *Namanides (in the Sha’ar ha-Gemul), the soul can never perish and be annihilated and he therefore holds that those liable to karet are also punished in the world to come according to their sin, and he divides sinners into three categories: those who have been guilty only once of a transgression involving the penalty of karet; those whose wicked deeds exceed their good in addition to this transgression; and lastly the blasphemers and idolaters. Only the last are punished both by karet of the body and of the soul in this world and in the next (Comm. to Lev. 18:29 and in Sha’ar ha-Gemul). Karet of the soul, according to Namanides, does not mean absolute perishing; it means only a degradation, in a way of metamorphosis, and absolute negation of spiritual pleasures awaiting the souls of the righteous.


In the opinion of some *Karaites karet was death at the hand of man (Eshkol ha-Kofer, no. 267), and this too seems to have been the view of Philo and of Josephus (Ant. 3:12, 1).

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