Do we all worship the same God?

Questions for Discussion

How do you describe your God?

What has impacted your views on God?

How have they changed over your lifetime?

Belief in One God

In all branches of Judaism, the God of the Torah is considered one singular entity, with no divisions, or multi-persons within.

(ד) שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד׃

(4) Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.

Question for Discussion

What does the Shema prayer mean to you?

How do you translate it?

What does the word Echad mean?





Unified purpose


How to Translate the Shema

In light of these multiple uses of echad, we must be open to reading the Shema with an open mind about what it denotes. What are our options? What makes most sense, within the Bible?

The LORD is first.
The LORD is one [God].
The LORD is the same [as whom?]
The LORD alone.
The LORD is a single [Being, Deity, Elohim].
The LORD is a unified [Being, Deity, Elohim].
The LORD is unique, the one and only [God].

Question for Discussion

Why does the Torah have so many different names for God?

Jewish Belief in Multiple Gods

There is but one God, according to Jewish religious dogma. No other exists. We tend to assume that our forefathers devoutly believed the same. But the truth is that the Bible also shows, time and again, that wasn't the prevailing system of belief among the ancient Israelites.

Did you know that there are many references to multiple gods existing in the Torah?

(יא) מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהוָ֔ה מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ נוֹרָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא׃

(11) Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods; Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in splendor, working wonders!

(ג) לֹֽ֣א יִהְיֶֽה־לְךָ֛֩ אֱלֹהִ֥֨ים אֲחֵרִ֖֜ים עַל־פָּנָֽ֗יַ
(3) You shall have no other gods besides Me.

The different scribes who wrote most of the biblical canon believed the incorporeal world was populated by a multitude of gods, but that the Hebrews should not worship any of these other deities, only Yahweh

Arguably the most important of these gods was Ba’al (“master”), who is mentioned about 90 times in the Bible. Ba’al was an honorific title of the god Hadad, in much the same way that "Adonai" (“my master”) is an honorific title for Yahweh.

Ba’al/Hadad was the West Semitic storm god, responsible for bringing the rains. His cult was thus particularly important in arid regions, where an especially dry winter could result in mass starvation. The historic books of the Bible recount an ongoing competition between the worship of Yahweh and Ba’al, eventually resulting in the supremacy of Yahweh. It seems however that the Israelite devotion to their intangible deity stemmed in part from Yahweh coming to encompass certain characteristics of the pagan god.

(יח) וַיֹּ֗אמֶר לֹ֤א עָכַ֙רְתִּי֙ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל כִּ֥י אִם־אַתָּ֖ה וּבֵ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ בַּֽעֲזָבְכֶם֙ אֶת־מִצְוֺ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה וַתֵּ֖לֶךְ אַחֲרֵ֥י הַבְּעָלִֽים׃ (יט) וְעַתָּ֗ה שְׁלַ֨ח קְבֹ֥ץ אֵלַ֛י אֶת־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־הַ֣ר הַכַּרְמֶ֑ל וְאֶת־נְבִיאֵ֨י הַבַּ֜עַל אַרְבַּ֧ע מֵא֣וֹת וַחֲמִשִּׁ֗ים וּנְבִיאֵ֤י הָֽאֲשֵׁרָה֙ אַרְבַּ֣ע מֵא֔וֹת אֹכְלֵ֖י שֻׁלְחַ֥ן אִיזָֽבֶל׃ (כ) וַיִּשְׁלַ֥ח אַחְאָ֖ב בְּכָל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּקְבֹּ֥ץ אֶת־הַנְּבִיאִ֖ים אֶל־הַ֥ר הַכַּרְמֶֽל׃ (כא) וַיִּגַּ֨שׁ אֵלִיָּ֜הוּ אֶל־כָּל־הָעָ֗ם וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ עַד־מָתַ֞י אַתֶּ֣ם פֹּסְחִים֮ עַל־שְׁתֵּ֣י הַסְּעִפִּים֒ אִם־יְהוָ֤ה הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ לְכ֣וּ אַחֲרָ֔יו וְאִם־הַבַּ֖עַל לְכ֣וּ אַחֲרָ֑יו וְלֹֽא־עָנ֥וּ הָעָ֛ם אֹת֖וֹ דָּבָֽר׃ (כב) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלִיָּ֙הוּ֙ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם אֲנִ֞י נוֹתַ֧רְתִּי נָבִ֛יא לַיהוָ֖ה לְבַדִּ֑י וּנְבִיאֵ֣י הַבַּ֔עַל אַרְבַּע־מֵא֥וֹת וַחֲמִשִּׁ֖ים אִֽישׁ׃ (כג) וְיִתְּנוּ־לָ֜נוּ שְׁנַ֣יִם פָּרִ֗ים וְיִבְחֲר֣וּ לָהֶם֩ הַפָּ֨ר הָאֶחָ֜ד וִֽינַתְּחֻ֗הוּ וְיָשִׂ֙ימוּ֙ עַל־הָ֣עֵצִ֔ים וְאֵ֖שׁ לֹ֣א יָשִׂ֑ימוּ וַאֲנִ֞י אֶעֱשֶׂ֣ה ׀ אֶת־הַפָּ֣ר הָאֶחָ֗ד וְנָֽתַתִּי֙ עַל־הָ֣עֵצִ֔ים וְאֵ֖שׁ לֹ֥א אָשִֽׂים׃ (כד) וּקְרָאתֶ֞ם בְּשֵׁ֣ם אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֗ם וַֽאֲנִי֙ אֶקְרָ֣א בְשֵׁם־יְהוָ֔ה וְהָיָ֧ה הָאֱלֹהִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲנֶ֥ה בָאֵ֖שׁ ה֣וּא הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיַּ֧עַן כָּל־הָעָ֛ם וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ ט֥וֹב הַדָּבָֽר׃ (כה) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלִיָּ֜הוּ לִנְבִיאֵ֣י הַבַּ֗עַל בַּחֲר֨וּ לָכֶ֜ם הַפָּ֤ר הָֽאֶחָד֙ וַעֲשׂ֣וּ רִאשֹׁנָ֔ה כִּ֥י אַתֶּ֖ם הָרַבִּ֑ים וְקִרְאוּ֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֔ם וְאֵ֖שׁ לֹ֥א תָשִֽׂימוּ׃ (כו) וַ֠יִּקְחוּ אֶת־הַפָּ֨ר אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֣ן לָהֶם֮ וַֽיַּעֲשׂוּ֒ וַיִּקְרְא֣וּ בְשֵׁם־הַ֠בַּעַל מֵהַבֹּ֨קֶר וְעַד־הַצָּהֳרַ֤יִם לֵאמֹר֙ הַבַּ֣עַל עֲנֵ֔נוּ וְאֵ֥ין ק֖וֹל וְאֵ֣ין עֹנֶ֑ה וַֽיְפַסְּח֔וּ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה׃ (כז) וַיְהִ֨י בַֽצָּהֳרַ֜יִם וַיְהַתֵּ֧ל בָּהֶ֣ם אֵלִיָּ֗הוּ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ קִרְא֤וּ בְקוֹל־גָּדוֹל֙ כִּֽי־אֱלֹהִ֣ים ה֔וּא כִּ֣י שִׂ֧יחַ וְכִֽי־שִׂ֛יג ל֖וֹ וְכִֽי־דֶ֣רֶךְ ל֑וֹ אוּלַ֛י יָשֵׁ֥ן ה֖וּא וְיִקָֽץ׃ (כח) וַֽיִּקְרְאוּ֙ בְּק֣וֹל גָּד֔וֹל וַיִּתְגֹּֽדְדוּ֙ כְּמִשְׁפָּטָ֔ם בַּחֲרָב֖וֹת וּבָֽרְמָחִ֑ים עַד־שְׁפָךְ־דָּ֖ם עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ (כט) וַֽיְהִי֙ כַּעֲבֹ֣ר הַֽצָּהֳרַ֔יִם וַיִּֽתְנַבְּא֔וּ עַ֖ד לַעֲל֣וֹת הַמִּנְחָ֑ה וְאֵֽין־ק֥וֹל וְאֵין־עֹנֶ֖ה וְאֵ֥ין קָֽשֶׁב׃
(18) He retorted, “It is not I who have brought trouble on Israel, but you and your father’s House, by forsaking the commandments of the LORD and going after the Baalim. (19) Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, together with the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (20) Ahab sent orders to all the Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. (21) Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; and if Baal, follow him!” But the people answered him not a word. (22) Then Elijah said to the people, “I am the only prophet of the LORD left, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men. (23) Let two young bulls be given to us. Let them choose one bull, cut it up, and lay it on the wood, but let them not apply fire; I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, and will not apply fire. (24) You will then invoke your god by name, and I will invoke the LORD by name; and let us agree: the god who responds with fire, that one is God.” And all the people answered, “Very good!” (25) Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull and prepare it first, for you are the majority; invoke your god by name, but apply no fire.” (26) They took the bull that was given them; they prepared it, and invoked Baal by name from morning until noon, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound, and none who responded; so they performed a hopping dance about the altar that had been set up. (27) When noon came, Elijah mocked them, saying, “Shout louder! After all, he is a god. But he may be in conversation, he may be detained, or he may be on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.” (28) So they shouted louder, and gashed themselves with knives and spears, according to their practice, until the blood streamed over them. (29) When noon passed, they kept raving until the hour of presenting the meal offering. Still there was no sound, and none who responded or heeded.

It seems that what this story and other biblical stories like it are telling is that the belief in Yahweh supplanted the worship of Ba’al. In fact it seems that in some ways, Yahweh subsumed Ba’al, taking on his attributes and powers.

In the Hebrew bible God is often designated as El, recalling the chief God of the Canaanite pantheon. Furthermore, the term Elohim, which is now thought of as merely another name of God, was in Canaanite religion a term for the whole court of El. (The original Hebrew texts not having vowels, Elohim in Hebrew is basically the same as 'lhm.) Some of the other Gods featured in the Ugaritic texts are also mentioned in the Bible, not as synonymous with the Jewish God, but rather as "other gods," which are now (by Orthodox Jews) thought to mean "idols" or false gods. For example, Asherah is mentioned in 2 Kings 18.8:

(ד) ה֣וּא ׀ הֵסִ֣יר אֶת־הַבָּמ֗וֹת וְשִׁבַּר֙ אֶת־הַמַּצֵּבֹ֔ת וְכָרַ֖ת אֶת־הָֽאֲשֵׁרָ֑ה וְכִתַּת֩ נְחַ֨שׁ הַנְּחֹ֜שֶׁת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֣ה מֹשֶׁ֗ה כִּ֣י עַד־הַיָּמִ֤ים הָהֵ֙מָּה֙ הָי֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ מְקַטְּרִ֣ים ל֔וֹ וַיִּקְרָא־ל֖וֹ נְחֻשְׁתָּֽן׃ (ה) בַּיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בָּטָ֑ח וְאַחֲרָ֞יו לֹא־הָיָ֣ה כָמֹ֗הוּ בְּכֹל֙ מַלְכֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר הָי֖וּ לְפָנָֽיו׃
(4) He abolished the shrines and smashed the pillars and cut down the sacred post. He also broke into pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until that time the Israelites had been offering sacrifices to it; it was called Nehushtan. (5) He trusted only in the LORD the God of Israel; there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him.
(יג) וּבְכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־אָמַ֥רְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶ֖ם תִּשָּׁמֵ֑רוּ וְשֵׁ֨ם אֱלֹהִ֤ים אֲחֵרִים֙ לֹ֣א תַזְכִּ֔ירוּ לֹ֥א יִשָּׁמַ֖ע עַל־פִּֽיךָ׃
(13) Be on guard concerning all that I have told you. Make no mention of the names of other gods; they shall not be heard on your lips.

Transition to True Monotheism

It was apparently only during the Babylonian Exile (about 586 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E) and the following Second Temple period (500 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.), that Judaism progressed from the belief that Yahweh is the only god that should be worshipped, to the belief that he is the only god that exists. I.e., monotheism was born.

(ו) כֹּֽה־אָמַ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה מֶֽלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְגֹאֲל֖וֹ יְהוָ֣ה צְבָא֑וֹת אֲנִ֤י רִאשׁוֹן֙ וַאֲנִ֣י אַחֲר֔וֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַ֖י אֵ֥ין אֱלֹהִֽים׃
(6) Thus said the LORD, the King of Israel, Their Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts: I am the first and I am the last, And there is no god but Me.

How does Judaism differentiate between monotheism and polytheism and is there anything in between?

Maimonides' 13 Principles of faith, Second Principle:

God, the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species (which encompasses many individuals), nor one as in an object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that is infinitely divisible. Rather, God is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This is referred to in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4): "Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one."

Shituf (Hebrew: שִׁתּוּף‎; also transliterated as shittuf or schituf; literally "association") is a term used in Jewish sources for the worship of God in a manner which Judaism does not deem to be purely monotheistic. The term connotes a theology that is not outright polytheistic, but also should not be seen as purely monotheistic.

The term is primarily used in reference to the Christian Trinity by Jewish legal authorities who wish to distinguish Christianity from full-blown polytheism. Though a Jew would be forbidden from maintaining a shituf theology, non-Jews would, in some form, be permitted such a theology without being regarded as idolaters by Jews. That said, whether Christianity is shituf or formal polytheism remains a debate in Jewish philosophy.

Jewish views, as codified in Jewish law, are split between those who see Christianity as outright idolatry[8] and those who see Christianity as shituf.[1] While Christians view their worship of a trinity as monotheistic,[9] Judaism generally rejects this view.

How did the category of Shituf play out in rabbinic times?

The Talmud warns against causing an idolater to take oaths. The commentators living in Christian Germany in the 12th century, called Tosafists, permitted Jews to bring a Christian partner to court in partnership during a breakup even though the Christian would take an oath by God, which to Christians would include Jesus, by saying that so long as another deity is not mentioned explicitly, there is no forbidden oath taking place, but only an association

In the 16th Century, the terse comment is explained as follows by Moses Isserles, where it is seemingly expanded to allowing partnerships in the first place:

Today, it is permitted [to form a partnership with Christians], because when they swear on their holy scriptures called the Evangelion, they do not hold it to be divine. Even though when they mention God they mean Jesus, they do not mention idolatry since they really mean the Creator of heaven and earth. Even though they mention jointly (shituf) God's name and another name, there is no prohibition to cause someone to jointly mention [or associate] (shituf) God with another... since this association is not forbidden to gentiles.[10]

Similarities in the Understanding of God

Descriptions of God that are given in the different traditions are somewhat similar to each other.

  • In Judaism, God is known as the “First Being, without beginning or end, who brought all things into existence and continues to sustain them.”
  • In Islam, “God is the All-Powerful and All-Knowing Creator, Sustainer, Ordainer and Judge of the universe.”
  • In Christianity, “God is the divine being from which all things come.”
  • In Hinduism, God is the “the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest from whom everything emanates.”

Origin of the 3 Monotheistic Religions

The three religions trace their origins back to Abraham, who, in Genesis, had humanity’s first relationship with God after the failures of Noah’s flood and the Tower of Babel. Judaism and Christianity trace their tie to Abraham through his son Isaac, and Islam traces it through his son Ishmael.

Each of the three religions reveres Adam and honors him as the first person, centering key theological elements on God’s creation of humanity through Adam. God is the father of humanity and the father of each religion.

Different Jewish Perspectives

A Scriptural Response

The narratives of ancient Israel, as displayed in the Tanakh, in the New Testament and in the Qur'an, are framed within and extend the terms of the religion of ancient Israel.

There is therefore strong narrative warrant for speaking of the Abrahamic Religions as sharing a common frame for characterizing God's identity as, for example, creator of the universe, revealer of His word and will, commander of human behaviour, teacher of ultimate wisdom, author of universal redemption in the time to come, a dear friend and ultimately a lover of those who love Him, the only source of our being, knowledge, and peace.

A Rabbinic Response

Within this response, there are grounds for a series of competing claims:

  1. There is rabbinic warrant for either affirming or denying that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and that Christians worship the same God as Jews ― overall, there tends to be more support of Muslim worship than of Christian, except for participants in European Jewish-Christian dialogue.
  2. There is strong rabbinic warrant for recognizing that the God to whom Jews pray makes Himself known in other ways to other peoples ― and that means other languages or religious discourses.

A Jewish Philosophic Response

Perhaps the most significant Jewish philosophic element is the elementary rabbinic distinction between plain sense (peshat) and interpreted sense (derash)... So, when one refers to "God," does that mean one is referring to some single object "out there," or is one invoking an infinite set about which one cannot measure sameness or difference? Or is one invoking that One who, however infinite and inscrutable, gives Himself here and now to the singularity of the relationship that binds this one seeker to this One who also seeks?

Do Christians believe that the Jewish God is the same as their God?

Christians believe in a triune God: God the father, God the son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.

"The question basically comes down to whether one can reject Jesus Christ as the Son and truly know God the Father," says Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "And it's Christ himself who answered that question, most classically in the Gospel of John, and he said that to reject the Son means that one does not know the Father."

Do Christians and Muslims believe in the same God?

  • The Second Vatican Council, speaking to Catholics back in 1964, affirmed that Muslims "together with us adore the one, merciful God."
  • Quran there's the Biblical story of Jacob asking his sons whom they'll worship after his death.

    • "Jacob's sons replied, 'We will worship the God of your fathers' — Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. He is the God," Saritoprak says. "So this God that Jacob worshipped, this God that Abraham, Isaac worshipped, is the same God that Muslims worship today."

"The Muslims have a statement in our theology: Whatever you imagine God to be, God is other than that."

And Amy Plantinga Pauw, a professor of Christian theology at Louisville Seminary, says Christians can have their own definition of God while still seeing commonality with Muslims and Jews.

"To say that we worship the same God is not the same as insisting that we have an agreed and shared understanding of God," Pauw says.


The teachings of Baháʼu'lláh form the foundation of Baháʼí belief.[16] Three principles are central to these teachings: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity.[17] Baha'is believe that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers, whose purpose is to transform the character of humankind and to develop, within those who respond, moral and spiritual qualities. Religion is thus seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age.[18]