1. How do Islamic perceptions of Heaven and Hell differ from those of Christianity and Judaism?
Between these religions, there are a few differences between the perceptions on heaven and hell. With Christianity and Judaism they believe in the sanctity where as long as you believe in god you will be accepted into heaven. Islam on the other hand one will not get into heaven that way unless their actions allow it as well. Heaven is described as a place of pleasure and happiness through all three religions and hell is described as a place of torture and despair. The only difference is how you get in.
2. Although Jesus was a Jew, the religious institutions created in his name proved difficult for Jews to embrace but attractive to Greeks. What elements in the Nativity and the Passion narratives seems particularly and culturally familiar to a pagan audience?
Almost all “unreal” elements from the Nativity and passion narratives can be related and culturally familiar to Pagan audience. A prime example would be the birth of Jesus coming from a virgin. That is an unworldly aspect because, well… we all know where babies come from.
3. Jesus claims the redeemed sinner is more precious to God than the righteous person who never sinned. This implies a conception of God unlike that found in the Old Testament or in The Iliad. How does this emphasis on human repentance and divine mercy change human relations to God? What different aspects of the divine/human relationships were emphasized in Gilgamesh, or The Iliad?
Asking for forgiveness from God is showing that you truly believe. This is why I think Jesus claims the redeemed sinner to be more precious. They have learned from their mistakes and are asking for forgiveness and giving themselves to God. In Gilgamesh and the Iliad have the Greek gods that warriors would pray to for power in their wars or sailing on the oceans. The difference was rather than just one God to pray to they had many gods for different occassions.