In reading the Old Testament, the descendants of Adam progress in their covenant with God. Upon the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the covenants with Abram and Noah had vanished.
Remembering that the Pentateuch was transcribed in Babylon, with the return from exile the covenant became fixed. The role of the High Priest was to educate the people in the Law and encourage marriage within the tradition. No longer do we read of Moses or Elijah humbling monarchs with miracles, or even Samuel counseling sagely against royal impetuosity. The denizens of the Temple are kept creatures.
Ancient Palestine was the cross-roads of civilization, and thus a hot bed of religious innovation. The three great competitors (Persia, Egypt, and Rome) all used religion to justify and stabilize royal authority. Perhaps the Hasmonean and Herodian dynasties were simply playing to form. Of course, religious leaders did benefit from the partnership, using the government to stifle innovation and amass wealth.
But it was the civil authorities who regulated religion. Rome imposed its pantheon upon subjugated nations. The Hebrew sect was allowed an exception only due to the antiquity of the beliefs. That fed rebellion, with the Roman reaction destroying the Temple and nation.
But the religious impulse is powerful, and Unconditional Love will not be bound by political convention. This is the greatest accomplishment of Jesus’ Ministry: to turn violence against itself in liberating his people from the intellectual and political conspiracies that denied them spiritual sustenance. Thus we properly understand: “You have been called the salt of the earth. But what happens to salt when it loses its flavor?” It is cast out in the dirt. “I will make you a city on the hill.” Jesus promised to restore Jerusalem’s spiritual prominence, a shining beacon that testified to the glory of God, rather than the glory of kings.
How then should we interpret the current state of the three covenants that arose from Abraham?
The political impulse is still to claim the authority of the Most High through stewardship of the faith. Each sect claims primacy, and uses violence to cultivate hegemony within national borders. That is the critique leveled by those opposed to the project of religion.
But that is the purpose chosen by Men. How, though, do the covenants fulfill the purpose of the Most High?
Love seeks to enter the world, and our religions are methods that guide us into accommodate with Love’s dictates. Eden was a privileged experience granted to a chosen few, but our animal conditioning conquered our gratitude.
The Old Testament is the history of the Most High’s attempt to build a culture in which gratitude would vanquish instinct. The writers did not understand the goals of the project but heralded themselves as “Chosen.” The historical record was cited as cause for gratitude.
But while the culture survived, by Jesus’ time the people were crushed by political and religious privilege. As Jesus observed “They are like sheep without a shepherd.” They hungered for fulfilment of the Sacred Promises, and Jesus responded by awakening them to direct connection with the Most High. (“Blessed are you Peter, for this comes not from men, but from My Father in Heaven!”).
Having proven that we could redeem the Covenant of Eden, what came next? Would every other culture on Earth have to repeat that 5000 year journey? This is the purpose of Islam. Rather that a recitation of a privileged relationship as a culture, the Qu’ran describes the character of Love’s heroes and heroines. This was possible only with the psychology that arose in the merger of Greek philosophy with Christian morality.
Where the Hebrews took 5000 years to condition themselves to gratitude, Islam makes that a journey of a few centuries. It is the covenant offered to the pagan world.
Judaism keeps witness with the difficulty of the transformation of gratitude. Christianity is its fulfilment. Islam is the most direct path between those endpoints.