1. How do Islamic perceptions of Heaven and Hell differ from those of Christianity and Judaism?
I must start by saying I enjoyed this lesson a lot. I knew very little about the Islamic religion and even what some of the big differences were between Christianity and Judaism. This has shed some light. The Islamic view of Heaven is that it takes good acts to get there, and even then one may not get in. Allah will compare your good deeds against your bad deeds, and if your good outweigh your bad then you can enter. If not, you are sent to hell. Christianity and Judaism are more alike, when you die you either go to Heaven or Hell and you stay there. However for Judaism, they believe Heaven is the Garden of Eden.
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?
What does Christmas mean to people? What about the Passion? I would say that nonbelievers, Christmas is a time for exchanging presents, being with family and loved ones, baking, and all those fun things that Im sure all of us enjoy. Even nonbelievers though are familiar with what Christmas is traditionally. The birth of Jesus, the three wise men giving their gifts of gold, frankincense, and mer. Many are aware that this is what it is, however it is now a cultural norm that it’s all about the presents. Additionaly, for a pagan audience, the Passion is familiar to many as well. Good Friday, and Palm Sunday… these many people know of. When Jesus was crucified and rose again. However, we today correlate this with the easter bunny and candy.
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?
First of all, all men are sinners. According to the Bible. Therefore, I would think that every man who accepts God gift of eternal life, forgiveness, and unconditional love would be a great victory for God. What isn’t precious about the acceptance of this gift according to God? I think that makes our relationships with God all the more special. You are accepting Him, and acknowledging that he is the I AM. This type of relationship is the opposite of those present in the Iliad or Gilgamesh. There I think everyone is focused on obtaining what is best for themselves, and the gods use the humans and vise versa for their own personal gain/enjoyment. They are all consumed up in vanity and pathetic arguments that the gods, after awhile, do not seem like god like figures at all compared to Jesus or even Allah.