Saul Ascher, in his major work Leviathan, puts forth an argument that aims to prove the revealed nature of Judaism and the role of Christ and Mohammed in its subsequent transition from regulative towards constitutive function.
Ascher defines three major categories of religion: rational, natural, and revealed. According to him, the rational religion comprehension process excludes the subjective assessment of the supernatural; the natural approach takes the phenomena of the surroundings as a proof of a deity and applies them to his understanding of the deity (Greenberg 315), while the revealed religion is formed after the deity reveals itself to humanity (Greenberg 317). The difference from the natural religion, according to Ascher, is that the laws and principles revealed by deity do not develop in the natural course of things, but rather are imposed on human beings, and either negate their autonomy or change the path of society by introducing the paradigm that is sufficiently different from the natural one (Greenberg 317). Such revelation arguably deprives humans of free will, as they are viewed as mechanical believers, not artists or thinkers. Stripped of religious bonds, they would choose a different path, which will likely differ sufficiently from the religious paradigm.
In the case of Judaism, the Deity revealed itself to people and created the set of rules to be adhered to. Later, when the natural world became insufficient for the manifestation, the supernatural and miraculous aspects came into play and were embedded in human consciousness. Later, Christ and Mohammed conveyed the revelations to all nations. They arguably did not have to resort to revelation and miracles, as at that time both concepts were strongly embedded within the social paradigm and fitted their teachings perfectly (Greenberg 320).
A different approach is conducted by Salomon Formstecher, who, in his paper Mind/Spirit attempts a scientific evaluation of Judaism as a form of spiritual worship, while arguing that Christianity is an adaptation of Judaism for pagan cultures. For this, he introduces the category of mind/spirit and defines two types of worship: spiritual and natural. As, according to Formstecher, the natural worship strives for knowledge of beautiful, while the spiritual one prioritizes the knowledge of the objectively good instead. This is the reason for the rejection of polytheism as idolatry in spiritual worship (Greenberg 168). Another important distinction is that despite its relatively similar premise, the natural worship’s limited possibilities for serving as absolute truth will cause it to fall apart, while the spiritual worship can eventually provide the understanding of the absolute truth, “for once it reaches its culmination point and is capable of recognizing and presenting the ideal of its individual life, it realizes that which is objectively good” (Greenberg 169).
This happens when the relatively true revelation (the peak of individual consciousness) becomes true. Such transgression from the individual and relative to the universal absolute is what characterizes Judaism, and, in this case, serves as proof of the author’s concept that Judaism is spiritual worship, which puts it on a higher plane of religious integrity. Christianity and Islam, according to the author, serve as a bridge needed to aid the pagan cultures in overcoming the gap between the natural worship, characteristic for them, and the spiritual worship of Judaism. Christianity does so by introducing spiritual worship through concepts familiar or comprehensible by pagans – monasticism and original sin. Islam adhered to poetry, fantasy, and materialism – the concepts that have natural beauty in their core (Greenberg 143).
Greenberg, Gershon. Modern Jewish Thinkers. Brighton, Massachusetts: Academic Studies Press, 2011. Print.