There exist a lot of distinct features regarding Judaism that make it different from other religions such as Christianity even though research has shown both originated from ancient worship of Hebrew people. However, research has further shown that, both modern Judaism and Christianity are not continuation of Judaism of ancient times because ancient Judaism stopped being a viable religion at around 70 AD during the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Today, the primary difference between Judaism and Christianity concerns Jesus Christ because Christian’s belief in Him as the promised messiah in Israel and therefore Judaism has its ultimate completion in the Christian faith. This paper mainly discuses Judaism with a few comparison and contrast between the religion and Christianity.
Judaism is a set of beliefs as well as practices that originated from ancient Israelites according to the Hebrew bible and which were explored in the Talmud text. The set of beliefs is the covenantal relationship existing between God and Jewish nation which comprises of the children of Israel. This is why it is normally considered to be the first monotheistic religion. However many aspects of the religion are similar to the western ethics as well as civil law. Traditionally, it is among the oldest religions and even today it is much practiced with its many texts being central to other religions (Frederic, 2007).
Features in Judaism
The name Judaism originated from the Hebrew term Judah and the founder of the religion Judaism is believed to be Abraham who is the first patriarch and born in 1800 B.C. In Judaism, messiah is the Hebrew name for the deliverer who was promised to the mankind. However, the religion contends their messiah as yet to come and so considers Jesus Christ as just a prophet. Regarding the division in Judaism, it has several divisions such as Hasidic also known as orthodox, Reform Judaism as well as Conservative Judaism. The ethnic grouping in Judaism includes Ashkenazi who is the majority and the minority Jews known as Sephardic. The holiest city in the religion of Judaism is Jerusalem which is also the capital city of Israel and geographically located between the Dead Sea and Mediterranean Sea. This explains why many battles regarding the rights of the city are centered in Jerusalem. Regarding the population, Judaism comprises of a population of about 14 million followers and majority of them live in the United States, former USSR as well as Israel. Concerning the nature of God in Judaism, the belief is that there is one God who is referred to as Yahweh or Jehovah in English Whom everyone is under his rule. The followers of Judaism believe that, the universe was created by God and His rule over the universe continues even today (Jacob, 2006).
Regarding worship and practices in Judaism, the followers pray in their congregations every day three times where they study Torah which is believed to be the revealed God’s will as part of the worship. Torah is again read in details on Sabbath day where other major activities include prayer, feasting among family members as well as study and resting. This means by the end of the Jewish year that comprises of five major festivals, the entire torah is read on festival days in addition to Sabbath. These festivals are: Yom Kippur, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Shabuoth and Sukkoth. During the community prayers, the followers of Judaism assemble in synagogues. They also assemble during study as well as for other meetings because synagogues act as the central community’s institution or temple as it is called by modern Jews (Jacob, 2006).
Although there are variations in designs from one synagogue to another, they all have the arc from where the scrolls are read facing the wall that in turn faces Jerusalem. An everlasting flame also has to be lit in front of this arc. In Judaism, there is a rabbi who is a teacher educated in the Jewish law and his role is to give instruction to the community and answer their questions as well as settling disputes concerning Jewish law. However, his authority is not above that of other male adults in the Jewish community. Any person who has completed the study in the Jewish law is provided with a written document and his authority to make certain decisions in the community is confirmed. Rabbis are therefore spiritual readers who ministers to the community and lead them in religious services as well as administrative matters in the synagogues. However, their role does not confirm authority for them to conduct services in the synagogues as this can be done by anyone sufficiently educated (Eileen, 2003).
Contrast between Judaism and Christianity
Regarding the rituals in both religions, Judaism circumcise their newly born males to mark the coming of age of their boys. They also observe the Sabbath as well as recognizing prayers as very important. On other hand, examples of the rituals in Christianity include taking of the sacrament and baptism as well as the holly communion referred to as the holy Eucharist. In the orthodox and roman divisions of Christianity, there are more rituals such as marriage, penance, anointing of the sick as well as holy orders. Prayers in Christianity are also considered to be very important in their faith.
In Judaism, man is believed to have a sinful nature by the time he is born and for him to be forgiven; he has to undergo atonement, prayers and repentance. This Day of Atonement is made specific for the prayers of forgiveness. Regarding sin in Christianity, man is considered to inherit a sinful nature from his ancestor; Adam, because of the rebellion he had against God. Christians considers that Jesus atoned for their sins when he died on the cross (Dan, 2004).
Similarities between Judaism and Christianity
The two religions are similar in that, they originated from the ancient worship by the Hebrews. All early Christians were Jews but they did not maintain their religion because the purpose of the Christianity was reaching all cultures bringing them to Jesus Christ. Research has shown that, today the followers of both religions are getting interested with one another with a movement where the Jews are reclaiming Jesus to His history since Jesus and his apostles were Jews. Both religion are also monotheistic and thus belief in one God although this is usually not understood about Christianity regarding the holy trinity. However, this does not deny Christians from being monotheism because holy trinity only represents how complex the divine being is. The common belief in both is that, all that exist originated from God who cares for the entire creation and is merciful through His grace. He therefore gives strength to His people so that they can be what He would like them to be. Both religions also belief in human being, being the highest creature on earth that originated from Abraham and that is full of mystery and with a capacity for continuous growth as species as well as individuals. The two religions also belief in future irrespective of the situation of the past or present and therefore according to both, suffering has no chance to prevail. Judaism and Christianity also believe in the communication between the followers and their maker through a revelation on their prophets (Jonathan, 2005).
Research has shown that, the history of Judaism as well as its principles influences to a great extent the ethics of other religions such as Christianity because of the similarities among them. The followers of this religion are called Jews and the collective term Jewish is referred to as ethno-religious group where the sacred book define the group as nation more than the followers of its faith. Modern Judaism does not vest its central authority in a single person but in its religious law, its sacred book as well as Taught Rabbis in the interpretation of the sacred text and its laws.
- Frederic P. (2007): An analysis of claims to knowledge in books of Judaism and Christianity: University of California pp. 12-19
- Jacob N. (2006): Religious Writings and Religious Systems: University of Virginia pp. 34-45
- Eileen O. (2003): Christianity and Judaism: Elsevier pp. 21-28
- Dan C. (2004): Judaism: History Belief and Practice: Taylor & Francis Group pp. 72-79 Jonathan D. (2005): American Judaism: A History: American Judaism: A History