A Religious Trinity:
Islam, Judaism, Christianity
By Stephen DaFoe
“The Lion of Judah, Lamb of God and the Crescent Moon”
Each year Masonic Templars gather from around the world in Washington D.C. at the George Washington Monument, where a Sunrise Service is held on Easter Sunday. The event has been a Masonic Templar tradition for years celebrating the rise of the Savior of Christianity from the grave. In this sense it is fitting that Easter falls in the spring, after the vernal equinox has marked that the long nights of winter has past and the advent of new life lies on the horizon ahead.
It is the afternoon of Good Friday, 2002 as I write these words and, as a member of Masonic neo-Templarism, this is perhaps fitting also, for one must be a member of the Christian Faith to be a member of the Order. Such is not the case for the prerequisite Orders of Freemasonry, which are Craft Masonry and Royal Arch Masonry. For in these preceding bodies and degrees, membership is open to men of moral character providing they profess a belief in a Supreme Being. To this end, among our ranks are practitioners of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, a Trinity of three of the world’s great systems of Faith. I can assure the reader that while our Masonic Templarism is open to Christians only, tolerance of all religions is as much a part of Masonic Templarism as it is in the various other bodies of the craft.
Perhaps the Christian aspect of Masonic Templarism will raise a few eyebrows among readers, given the fact that it has been written by various authors over the last century, that the Templars were anything but Christian. Some writers have put forth that the Templars were practitioners of pagan religious rites or that they had adopted the Islamic Faith. To the latter theory, it is suggested that the Baphomet idol was really a mispronunciation of the prophet of Islam, Mohammed or “Mahomet.”
It is not the province of this article to debate such theories, but it is safe to say that modern neo-Templarism of the Masonic sort is definitely Christian in origin. Recently our application forms in Canada were changed from reading “must profess a belief in the doctrine of the Holy and Undivided Trinity” to read: “Holy and Undivided Christian Trinity.” As many of the world’s religions have a trinity of some kind, it was felt by the Supreme Grand Master that the wording must be changed in order to avoid any possible confusion. This, to my mind, showed a great deal of respect for the potential non-Christian candidate who might unknowingly seek admission and thus be offended by the open reverence to Jesus Christ displayed in our rituals. As stated, modern Masonic Templarism, while exclusively Christian in nature, is not intolerant of other faiths.
While the original Templars, to whom we pay homage, certainly fought the enemies of Christendom in an era when such things were the rule of day, they were not intolerant of the Jew or Moslem in times of peace. In a past column I’ve told the story of the Templars in the Holy Land who permitted a Moslem to pray in his own chapel when a Frankish Knight chastised the Moslem for the direction in which he offered his prayers. This was an incredibly tolerant gesture in an era when tolerance was not the norm.
Today we live in a world that is much more integrated than ever before. We must begin to look for the things that make us the same and forget the petty matters that make us different. It is only after we begin this process that there can ever be true understanding. Frederick the Great is well known for his famous quotation, “All religions must be tolerated, for each man must find his own path to heaven”.
The theme of this issue of Ariadne’s Web™ is “A Religious Trinity: Islam, Judaism and Christianity” and while these three religions have a great deal of differences in their approach, it cannot be disputed that they are all, in essence, monotheistic faiths.
Present statistics show that Christianity and Islam hold the number one and number two spots, with regard to the number of practitioners worldwide. According to these statistics there are two billion who consider themselves Christian, or 33% of the earth’s population, while there are 1.3 billion who are of the faith of Islam, or 22%. Judaism has among its faithful 14 million, but although Judaism has far fewer members than the world’s two most dominant faiths, it is nonetheless as well known as the other two. Regardless of the number or percentage of practitioners, each of these faiths shares a common connection in the Biblical personage of Abraham.
Abraham: Father To Three Faiths
In the traditions of Judaism, we see the young man, Abraham’s commitment to monotheism. The son of Terach, an idol merchant in the city of Ur in Babylonia, Abraham tried desperately to sway his father away from the worship of idols. His persuasions were to no avail. One day while minding his father’s shop, Abraham took a large hammer and smashed all of the idols save the largest one. He placed the hammer in the idol’s hand and awaited the return of his father, Terach. When his father arrived, he saw the smashed clay and in a rage asked his son what happened. “The idols got into a fight and this big one smashed all the others to pieces,” said Abraham. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Terach said. “Idols have no life or no power.” Abraham asked: “Then why do you worship them father?”
Abraham would later, according to tradition, make a pact with God to follow his laws, to which end God would make him a great nation. As part of the deal, he would be put to a series of ten tests of faith, the first of which was to leave his home and family.
Late in Abraham’s life he grew concerned that he had no children and his wife Sarai was well past the age of bearing children. Knowing that this was the case, Sarai offered her maidservant, Hagar as a wife to Abraham, a common practice during the time. Hagar bore Abraham a son, Ishmael. This son, according to both Jewish and Moslem traditions, was the ancestor of the Arab peoples.
The book of Genesis recounts that when Abraham was 100 and Sarai 90, God promised that she would conceive a child. This child was named Yitzchak, which comes from the Hebrew word for laughter, and is in reference to the joy the couple felt in having a child at such an old age. In the West, we know the child by the name Isaac.
The story of Abraham and Isaac is perhaps one of the best known stories of the Bible. As a test of Abraham’s faith he is commanded by God to take his only son, Isaac to Mount Moriah, to be burned as an offering to God. Being faithful of his Lord, Abraham raised no question and quickly set out with his son on the journey. When Isaac inquired as to where was the sacrificial lamb, Abraham replied, “God will provide us with the offering.” The Biblical narrative of this story found in Genesis makes no mention of how Abraham finally told his son that he was to be the burnt offering, but it does tell us that Isaac lay on the stone willing to be sacrificed. As Abraham raised his blade to slay his child a voice from the heavens called out for him to stop. God reveals to Abraham that he never intended for him to go through with the deed, but wanted to test Abraham’s faith to the extreme. As a reward for his faithfulness, God promises that Abraham and all his family would be blessed.
This story is central to the three faiths included in the theme of this issue of Ariadne’s Web™, and of this article, albeit that many Moslems argue that it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was to be sacrificed, since the scripture states that it was Abraham’s only son. As Ishmael had been born 14 years prior to Isaac, it must be he who was the only son. The argument is of little importance since all three faiths see the story from the same essential view point, which is one of profound faith in God’s will and personal sacrifice to the same.
Many Christians see in the story of Isaac and Abraham a parallel to Jesus. In the story of Abraham, Isaac is seen to carry the wood for his own sacrifice, while in the Easter Story, Christ is seen carrying the burden of his own cross, which would serve as the instrument of his own demise. In both cases each man is willing to sacrifice himself for the will of his father. This, of course, is not a majority view of the connection and to most Christians, Abraham remains important for the same reasons as he does in Islam and Judaism. Additionally Abraham is important to the Christian because St. Matthew’s lineage of Jesus can be traced back to Abraham. In his gospel, Matthew traces Jesus’ ancestry from Abraham, divided into three series coinciding with historical periods. The first traces Abraham to David, the second traces the lineage from David to the captivity, and the third traces the lineage from the release of the Jews to the time of Jesus.
So we can see that to this Trinity of World Religions, Abraham remains central to all three in one way or another.
It is interesting to point out that The Dome of the Rock is believed to be the very spot where Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, or Ishmael, depending on your point of view. The Dome of the Rock is also the place where Moslems believe the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. It is on the Temple Mount, in the spot occupied by the dome of the Rock, that Solomon is said to have built his illustrious temple to YHVH and it is the Dome of the Rock, that many Crusaders mistakenly believed to be that same temple of Solomon.
From the Templar Perspective, the Temple of Solomon was the impetus behind the name, The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon.