Hi there! If you’re interested in learning more about the mythology of the Abrahamic religions, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the stories and traditions that are central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
We’ll also talk about the meaning of the term “mythology” in the context of religion and how it applies to the Abrahamic traditions.
Whether you’re a devout follower of one of these faiths or just curious about their mythology, I hope you’ll find this article interesting and informative.
Let’s dive in!
- Latest Entries
- What is Abrahamic Mythology?
- Myth and Religion
- The Different Abrahamic Religions
- Prominent Abrahamic Myths
- Abrahamic Mythology Characters
- Abrahamic Mythology Sources
- Abrahamic Mythology Artifacts and Weapons
- Abrahamic Mythology Creatures
- Abrahamic Mythology in Popular Culture
- Commonalities in Abrahamic Religions
Also don’t forget to check out my World Mythology 101 article for more on all the major mythologies and religions throughout the world.
If you’d like to learn more about Abrahamic Mythology, we’re consistently putting out more articles where we can. Here are all the latest:
What is Abrahamic Mythology?
The Abrahamic religions are a group of religions centered around worship of the God of Abraham.
Of those, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the most prominent, but we’ll briefly cover the others as well.
According to tradition, the Twelve Tribes of Israel are descended from Abraham through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, while Islamic tradition claims that twelve Arab tribes known as the Ishmaelites are descended from Abraham through his son Ishmael.
The Explosion of Christianity and Islam
In the 1st century CE, Christianity emerged as a splinter movement out of Judaism in the Land of Israel. It was developed under Jesus of Nazareth and spread widely after it was adopted by the Roman Empire as a state religion in the 4th century CE.
In the 7th century CE, Islam was founded by Muhammad in the Arabian Peninsula and quickly spread through the early Muslim conquests, shortly after Muhammad’s death.
Along with the Indian religions, the Iranian religions, and the East Asian religions, the Abrahamic religions make up the largest major division in comparative religion.
Myth and Religion
Now I have to mention this first, before we continue on. When I use the term “mythology” in the context of the Abrahamic religions, I am not implying that these religions are false.
In fact, I believe the term “mythology” means something different altogether.
In the study of religion, I define mythology as referring to all stories of cultural importance, including all stories of a religious nature.
I recognize that many devout members of the Abrahamic faiths may chafe at the term “myth” when applied to their religious traditions.
However, it is not my intention to diminish the significance of these religions or to imply that they are untrue.
As a Christian myself, I have deep respect for all of the Abrahamic religions and the devotion of their followers. I use the term “mythology” simply as a way of referring to the stories and traditions that are central to these faiths.
However, I do think it’s fair to treat Abrahamic mythology in the same way in which I treat the mythologies of Hinduium, Zoroastrianism, Shintoism, or any other actively-practiced religion that I list on this site.
The Different Abrahamic Religions
- Judaism: Judaism’s primary texts are the Tanakh, an account of the Israelites’ relationship with God, and the Talmud, a work of legal rulings and Biblical exegesis. Abraham is hailed as the first Hebrew and the father of the Jewish people, and the religion gets its name from his great-grandson, Judah.
- Christianity: Christianity began in the 1st century as a sect within Judaism led by Jesus, who was viewed as the Messiah and later as God incarnate. After his death, the movement split from Judaism and Christian teaching is based on the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It has since split into various denominations and the largest post-Reformation branching is the Latter Day Saint movement.
- Islam: Islam is based on the teachings of the Quran and considers Muhammad to be the Seal of the prophets. It teaches that all prophets preached Islam and that the Quran is the final revelation and words of Allah. Like Christianity, Islam is a universal religion and like Judaism, it has a unitary conception of God called tawhid or monotheism.
- Baháʼí: The Baháʼí Faith is a world religion that has been listed as Abrahamic and is monotheistic. It recognizes Abraham as one of a number of Manifestations of God and believes that God communicates his will and purpose to humanity through intermediaries in a process known as progressive revelation.
- Druze: The Druze Faith or Druzism is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of Islamic figures and Greek philosophers. It incorporates elements of Ismailism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism, Christianity, Hinduism, and other beliefs, creating a distinct and secretive theology. The Druze believe in theophany and reincarnation and consider Jesus one of God’s important prophets.
- Rastafari: The Rastafari movement is a socio-religious movement or separate Abrahamic religion that originated in Jamaica in the 1930s. It lacks centralised authority and practitioners are known as Rastafari, Rastafarians, or Rastas. Rastafari believe in a single God, Jah, who partially resides within each individual, and many consider the former Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, to be the returned Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ.
- Samaritanism: The Samaritans adhere to the Samaritan Torah, which they believe is the original, unchanged Torah, as opposed to the Torah used by Jews. In addition to the Samaritan Torah, they also revere their version of the Book of Joshua and recognize some later Biblical figures. Samaritanism is internally described as the religion that began with Moses, unchanged over the millennia.
Prominent Abrahamic Myths
Of the many stories that exist in Abrahamic mythology, some of the major ones are:
- The Creation: This story describes how God created the universe and all of its inhabitants. According to this myth, God created the Earth and the heavens in six days and rested on the seventh. He created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, and placed them in the Garden of Eden.
- The Fall of Man: This tale describes how Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and ate from the Tree of Knowledge. As punishment, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden and forced to live in the world, where they would face suffering and death.
- The Great Flood: In this myth, God became angry with the wickedness of humanity and decided to destroy it with a great flood. However, he chose to save one man, Noah, and his family, who built an ark and repopulated the Earth after the waters receded.
- The Tower of Babel: This story tells of how humanity, once united in its language and culture, attempted to build a tower so tall that it would reach the heavens. God, angered by their pride, scattered them across the Earth and gave them different languages, so they could no longer understand one another.
- The Exodus: This myth tells the story of how the Israelites, who were enslaved in Egypt, were led out of captivity by Moses. With the help of God, who parted the Red Sea and performed other miracles, the Israelites escaped from Egypt and journeyed to the Promised Land.
- The Birth of Jesus: This story describes how the Virgin Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, who told her she would give birth to the Son of God. She gave birth to Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem, and he grew up to become a teacher and prophet who was crucified and resurrected.
Abrahamic Mythology Characters
Next, here are some of the most significant characters to feature in Abrahamic mythology:
- God: God is the creator of the universe and the supreme being in Abrahamic mythology. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being who created the universe and everything in it, including all of humanity. In Christianity, he is often portrayed as having three aspects, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- Adam and Eve: Adam and Eve are the first humans in Abrahamic mythology, created by God. They lived in the Garden of Eden, but were tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit, leading to their expulsion from the garden.
- Abraham: Abraham is the father of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He was chosen by God to be the father of a great nation and to lead his people to the Promised Land.
- Isaac: Isaac is the son of Abraham and the father of Jacob and Esau. He was almost sacrificed by his father at God’s command, but was saved at the last moment.
- Jacob: Jacob is the son of Isaac and the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. He is known for his trickery, such as when he tricked his brother Esau out of his inheritance.
- Moses: Moses is a prophet and leader in Abrahamic mythology. He was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. He is known for receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai.
- Joseph: Joseph is the son of Jacob, and is known for his ability to interpret dreams. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, but eventually rose to power in Egypt and saved his family from famine.
- Mary: Mary is the mother of Jesus in Christianity. She is considered to be a virgin and was chosen by God to bear his son. She is often revered as a saint and a figure of great devotion in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
- Jesus: Jesus is the central figure of Christianity. He is the son of God and Mary, and is believed to be both fully human and fully divine. He is known for his teachings and miracles, and for his sacrifice on the cross for the sins of humanity.
Abrahamic Mythology Sources
There have been many texts that are important to some or all of the Abrahamic faiths. Here are just a sampling:
- The Bible: The Bible is the holy scripture of the Abrahamic religions, and it contains many stories and references to the myths and legends of Abrahamic mythology. The Old Testament, which is the first part of the Bible, contains the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Abraham and his descendants, and many others. The New Testament, which is the second part of the Bible, contains the story of Jesus and the early Christian church.
- The Quran: The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, and it contains many stories and references to the myths and legends of Abrahamic mythology. The Quran is believed by Muslims to be the word of God, revealed to the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. It contains stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and his descendants, and many others.
- The Book of Mormon: The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it contains many stories and references to the myths and legends of Abrahamic mythology. The Book of Mormon is believed by members of the LDS Church to be a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.
- The Kitab-i-Iqan: The Kitab-i-Iqan is a sacred text of the Baha’i Faith. It was written by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, and it contains his teachings on the nature of God and the purpose of human existence. It also includes many stories and references to the myths and legends of Abrahamic mythology. The Kitab-i-Iqan is considered to be a key text for understanding the Baha’i Faith and its relationship to the other Abrahamic religions.
- The Talmud: The Talmud is a central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law and Jewish theology. It consists of two components: the Mishnah, a written compendium of the Oral Torah, and the Gemara, an elucidation of the Mishnah and related writings. It is written in Hebrew and Aramaic and contains the teachings and opinions of thousands of rabbis on a variety of subjects.
Abrahamic Mythology Artifacts and Weapons
Abrahamic mythology is filled with powerful artifacts and weapons. Here are just a few:
- The Ark of the Covenant: This is a chest that was built by the Israelites, according to the command of God. It contained the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, as well as Aaron’s rod and a pot of manna.
- The Sword of David: This weapon was used by King David in his battles against the Philistines. It was said to have been given to him by the prophet Samuel.
- The Holy Grail: The Holy Grail was the cup that was used by Jesus at the Last Supper. It is also said to be the cup that was used to catch his blood during the Crucifixion.
- The Spear of Destiny: This weapon is said to be the spear that was used by a Roman soldier to pierce the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross. It is said to have magical powers that can only be wielded by the pure of heart.
- The Seal of Solomon: This artifact apparently was a signet ring that was worn by King Solomon. It is said to have been imbued with magical powers that allowed him to control demons and spirits.
- The Rod of Moses: This is the staff that was used by Moses to perform many of the miracles that are described in the Bible. It was used to part the Red Sea, turn water into blood, and bring plagues upon the land of Egypt.
Abrahamic Mythology Creatures
Abrahamic mythology, found in the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, also features a variety of creatures. Here are a few examples:
- Leviathan: In Abrahamic mythology, Leviathan is a massive sea monster that is said to be virtually impossible to defeat. It is mentioned in the Bible, and is often described as being so big that it can encircle the earth. Some interpret it as a real creature, such as a large fish or whale, while others believe it to be a mythical beast. In some traditions, it is associated with chaos and destruction, and is seen as an enemy of God.
- Seraphim: These are powerful angels mentioned in the Bible and are often depicted as having six wings. They are described as being incredibly beautiful and are said to be the guardians of God’s throne.
- Cherubim: These are angelic beings mentioned in the Bible and are often depicted as having four wings. They are said to be incredibly powerful and are often associated with guarding important places or objects.
- Lilith: In some Abrahamic traditions, Lilith is a demoness who was the first wife of Adam. She is often associated with temptation and seduction.
- Jinn: In Islamic mythology, Jinn are supernatural creatures that can be either good or evil. They are made of smokeless fire and are able to take on various forms, including human or animal.
- The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: In the Bible, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are four figures who appear during the end times. They are often associated with death, war, famine, and disease.
- Golem: In Jewish folklore, a golem is a clay figure that is animated by a rabbi in order to protect the Jewish community. It is often depicted as a large, humanoid figure made of clay, and has incredible strength.
Abrahamic Mythology in Popular Culture
It would be impossible to count the huge influence that Abrahamic mythology has had on popular culture, but here are just a few examples of some of the big ones:
- The Chronicles of Narnia: This book series (1950-1956) by C.S. Lewis features the Christian god and various elements of Christian mythology in a fantasy setting.
- The Prince of Egypt: This animated musical, released in 1998, tells the story of Moses and the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt.
- Supernatural: This TV series (2005-2020) explores various elements of Abrahamic mythology and folklore, including angels, demons, and the biblical apocalypse.
- The Chosen: a historical drama surrounding the life of Jesus Christ and his disciples.
Commonalities in Abrahamic Religions
Where there are certainly a lot of differences between different Abrahamic religions, I prefer to focus more on what they have in common, and there’s actually a lot, including:
- Monotheism: All Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam, worship a single god but differ in their conception of the godhead. Christians believe in the trinity, while Islam regards this as polytheistic. Both religions revere Jesus, but Christians view him as God incarnate while Muslims see him as a prophet. Both Islam and Judaism view the worship of Jesus as idolatry.
- Overall Continuity: All Abrahamic religions believe in a single god who created the universe, revealed his will, and will intervene in human history at the end of time. These religions view history as having a purpose, unlike some other cultures.
- Source of Scripture: According to the Abrahamic religions, God guides humanity through revelations to prophets. Each of these religions believes that God revealed his teachings to prophets, including those whose lives are documented in its own scripture.
- Ethical Orientation: According to these religions, there is a choice between good and evil that is associated with obedience or disobedience to a single god and to divine law. This choice forms an ethical orientation.
- Importance of Jerusalem: Jerusalem is considered the holiest city in Judaism and an early center of Christianity. It is also considered a holy city in Islam, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located. The city has been a center of religious importance for all three Abrahamic religions.
Significance of Abraham: Abraham is considered an important figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding patriarch of the children of Israel and is considered the first to reject idolatry. In Christianity, he is seen as a role model of faith and an ancestor of Jesus. In Islam, he is considered a prophet and the first monotheist in a world where monotheism was lost. All three religions view Abraham as an important figure, but they differ in their interpretations of his significance.