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Faith: Books

Each religion has a book of divine revelation, providing moral teachings and spiritual guidance.

In Judaism, it is the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). In Christianity it is the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments. (The Old Testament essentially consists of the Hebrew Bible.) In Islam it is the Qur'an.

Each religion acknowledges the preceding texts and draws from them, with differences of interpretation and emphasis. So Christianity inherits from Judaism, and Islam inherits from both Judaism and Christianity. In this way the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible and the Qur'an form one linked textual tradition.

Muslims refer to followers of all three religions as 'People of the Book'.


The Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible, known to the Jews as Tanakh, comprises three sections: Torah (the Law), Nevi'im (the Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). The Torah, also known as the Five Books of Moses, is the most sacred part of the Hebrew Bible. According to Jewish tradition, it was given to Moses by divine dictation, over 3,000 years ago, on Mount Sinai. Among many other things, it contains 613 instructions from God, including the Ten Commandments. The Torah is the cornerstone of Jewish religious life. It is also an object of great affection. The Torah Scroll, handwritten on parchment without any decoration, is the most treasured possession of any Jewish community.


The Christian Bible

The Christian Bible's first part is the Jewish scriptures – the Old Testament. The second part, or New Testament, relates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the history of the early church. The first books of the New Testament are the Four Gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are followed by the Acts of the Apostles, describing the experiences of the followers of Jesus after his death, including the pivotal event of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. This moment is often regarded as the beginning of the Christian church. The New Testament also includes the letters written by Paul and other Apostles for early Christian communities. The final book is an apocalyptic vision, called Revelation.


The Qur'an

The sacred book of Islam is the Qur'an. Muslims believe it contains the word of God as revealed through the archangel Jibril (Gabriel) to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic. The word 'Qur'an' comes from the Arabic verb 'to recite'; its text is traditionally read aloud. Muslim tradition has it that Muhammad received the divine revelation between 610 and his death in 632, and that he received the first of these messages in the cave of al-Hira', while wandering alone outside Mecca. At first his message was ill-received in Mecca by merchants and religious authorities who objected to his teachings. Hostility forced him and his followers to migrate to Medina in the year 622.

Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments

The Duke of Sussex’s Hebrew Bible. Italy, 15th century

The Gospel of John. Tyndale New Testament, Germany 1526

Qur’an. Spain, 15th century