Mormonism: Abrahamic or Judeo-Christian?

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Judeo-Christian.jpgFour years ago, Richard Land, who took over the public affairs division of the Southern Baptist Convention sometime in the last millennium, had the clever idea of identifying Mormonism as the “fourth Abrahamic religion”– after Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Land was seeking to provide some cover for Mitt Romney, whom he didn’t exactly endorse for the GOP presidential nomination but whom he definitely preferred to fellow Southern Baptist Mike Huckabee. (Just why is a nice question for another day.) Since then, other non-Mormon Christians have picked up on the usage, most recently Neal Humphrey of the Ogden Standard Examiner.

But why exactly Abrahamic? The term has come into general use in order to extend the awning of Western religious identity over Islam. Islam is called an Abrahamic religion because it traces its origins to Abraham–via Ishmael, Abraham’s son by the maidservant Hagar, both cast out of the household in deference to Sarah’s wishes backed up by God’s command. It is through Isaac, Abraham’s son by Sarah, that Judaism and Christianity trace their lineage to Abraham. Call us one big unhappy Abrahamic family.

Although Joseph Smith did produce a Book of Abraham, Mormonism is Abrahamic in exactly the sense that Judaism and traditional Christianity are–descended through the line of Isaac. Indeed, among the restorationist religious movements of the Second Great Awakening, what distinguished Mormonism was its claim to be restoring ancient Judaism (the Temple, patriarchal polygamy, etc.) as well as ancient Christianity. In that sense, it is perhaps the quintessential manifestation of latter-day Judeo-Christianity.

Of course, it is easy to understand why evangelicals like Land would prefer Mormons to be Abrahamic. Like Muslims, they have an additional holy book. Like Muslims, they claim a revelation that takes them to a new level. Like Muslims, they compete with evangelicals for converts. But none of these circumstances make Mormons more Abrahamic than Judeo-Christian.

“I am shaped by the Judeo-Christian values which I have and I hope those
will hold me in good stead, as they have so far,” Mitt Romney said last week in Council Bluffs. If I were him, I’d keep playing up his Judeo-Christianity. As much as evangelicals have come to identify the term with themselves, it will be a lot harder for them to exclude Mormons from the Judeo-Christian fold than the Christian one.

  • Môlsem

    The real distinction between Mormonism and Christian groups at large is in the theology respecting the nature of Jesus and the nature of God, both in Mormon theology being normal biological human beings who achieved a very special status through virtuous living. Mormonism in that regard resembles very early schools of though denounced by the long-before-Reformation Catholic Church as heretical, which schools of thought held that Jesus was all-man, not-God.

  • Mark Silk

    Sure, Môlsem. But the question is whether holding such heretical views entitles you to be excluded from the tradition. I think most traditional Christian theologians would allow as how Arians, Monophysites, Nestorians, Donatists, etc. were nonetheless part of the Christian tradition. Manichees not so much. I’d say Mormons are Judeo-Christians in good standing.

  • JNR

    “Of course, it is easy to understand why evangelicals like Land would prefer Mormons to be Abrahamic. Like Muslims, they have an additional holy book.”
    Didn’t Christians add another book on top to the Jewish book? What makes them different from Mormons?

  • Dictionaries define “Judeo” as a combinative form. Therefore, the compound word “Judeo-Christian” implies that Judaism (Torah) is no more than an adjectival, dependent element of Christianity and that Judeo-Christian is a hybrid or middle-ground of the two.
    Christians, having historically claimed to displace Judaism (Torah with NT) and supersede (Jesus’ grace vs “law of sin and death”), now assert a new false claim to Judaism and Torah by means of an impossible union of “Judeo-” (pro-Torah) with “Christian” (supersessionist, displacement, antinomian = anti-Torah) misojudaism. See Oxford historian James Parkes, “The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue” , Yirmeyahu Ben David, “Who Are the Netzarim?” as well as the History Museum pages of
    Thus, the phrase “Judeo-Christian” implies the 4th century Hellenist Christian Church’s antinomian (anti-Torah) claimed supersession and displacement of Torah, Jews and Judaism by NT, Christians and Christianity in the 2nd-4th centuries (specifically 135 C.E.). This is no less misojudaic and repugnant than labeling the Tanakh (the original, Jewish, Bible) the “Old Testament” – begging the question of displacement and supersession.
    Where some values are shared, the accurate (and honest) way would be to state “Judaic or Christian…” (values, traditions, etc.), not “Judeo-Christian.”
    Now that you know an accurate and acceptable alternative, continuing to use supersessionist and displacement theology would be clearly misojudaic.
    Claiming, in contradiction to Torah (Dt. 13.1-6) to supersede Torah with the NT, Christianity is a 1st order displacement theology. Claiming to supersede Torah and the NT with the Koran makes Islam a 2nd order displacement theology. So, I suppose Mormonism may be considered a 3rd order displacement theology… along with the J Witnesses and a multitude of others.

  • Mark Silk

    Thou sayest, Juhem.

  • Mark Silk

    Paqid, You are evidently ignorant of the actual history of term. I suggest you begin with the following:

  • Môlsem

    I really enjoyed reading http … hating_on_the_judeo-christian_tradition.html and might best explain what I meant by using the term. I am a Roman Catholic with a Loyola MPS degree, retired from a position with the Church as a ‘lay ecclesial minister’ quasi in charge of a Station of a Parish … My own short-hand explanation of Judeo-Christian is that in many ways Christianity remains a ‘cult’ of Judaism. We value the Torah and other Jewish scriptural material as our “Old Testament” with Christian writings as the “New Testament.” We have welcomed archeological discoveries about the Jewish scriptures and the New American Bible to the best of my knowledge reflects work with the Dead Sea Scrolls and other sources.
    We are fond of historical critical studies feeding an interest in learning and taking to heart what these writings would have meant to the writers’ audiences of the time, which really gets one into striving to understand Judaism, and the Judean-Samarian and wider Middle Eastern historical and cultural context for things. These dramatically impact ones reading of Christian Scripture.
    That’s what I have in mind when I say Judeo-Christian.