The Middle East Religious Paradigm
The “Middle East religious paradigm”—combining a belief in monotheism, prophecy, revealed scripture, and a Last Judgment—proved very successful among world religions. Although Zoroastrianism is today represented by relatively few adherents (notably the Parsees of India), and Judaism (because of its non-proselytizing character) is also a small community concentrated mostly in the Middle East, Europe, and North America, the other two traditions—Christianity and Islam—have engaged intensely in proselytizing and are today the two largest religious communities in the world, with adherents numbering in the billions found in virtually every country on the globe.
Fred M. Donner
Professor of Near Eastern History, University of Chicago
1. In what ways do the concept of monotheism and the central belief in prophesy relate to one another?
2. This essay clearly explains each of the similarities between the monotheistic faiths within the Middle Eastern religious paradigm. However, there are stark differences between polytheism and monotheism—apart from the quantity of deities one worships. In particular, with regard to the degrees of difference in the areas of prophesy, revealed scripture and final judgment. Using what you know about polytheistic faiths, and inferring from reading the main essay, describe how polytheistic faiths would stand apart from the Middle Eastern religious paradigm concepts of prophesy, revealed scripture, and final judgment.
3. Donner explains the enormous growth of Christianity and Islam through their proselytizing character, whereas Judaism, and its smaller population of faithful, is non-proselytizing. Generally speaking, what challenges would/has each faith encounter(ed) through history as related to their proselytizing or non-proselytizing character?