The Relation Between Christianity and Judaism

Introduction

Judaism and Christianity are two distinct religions however with closely linked past as both religions are envisaged to have roots in the Abrahamic religious heritage. Moreover there are a number of differences that prevail over the two religions with diverging views of their respective relationship to one another. Thus whereas the two religions share historical roots they are divergent in a number of ways.

The primary concern of Judaism is based on actions geared towards appreciating the everlasting covenants the Israelites entered with God as found in the Torah, whilst Christianity stresses on observation and practices directed on how a person accepts the new covenant interceded via Jesus Christ.

Origins of the two religions

Both religions that is, Judaism and Christianity can be ascribed to the ancient worship of the Hebrew people. Tanakh being the Hebrew Bible gives account of Israel children (referred to as Hebrews) as being God’s chosen people, more specifically in their relationship with God. It is believed that Abraham founded these religions after encouraging the belief in one God, while Moses furthered these religious beliefs after entering the Israelites into covenant with God. With the advent of Christianity many Jews became Christians (Jewish Christians) observing the Pentateuch through keeping its laws, Sabbath well as performing circumcision.

According to Judaism there is only one God unlike Christianity which attempts to break the God into parts of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Christianity’s belief is based on the understanding of the Trinity. Judaism relies upon the Torah in serving their God. Torah is taken to have received its definitive mode in Talmud and the Misharim as found in the Old Testament books. Christianity holds to the Bible (Old and New Testaments) in realizing God’s mind, the state of man, the way of salvation, the results of sin as well as the origin and fate of everything. Christianity as in Judaism acknowledges the first prophet to be Abraham with Moses being construed to have established the standard of comparison for all future prophets, having experienced personal calling from God. The two religions vary in views pertaining to the personality of Jesus Christ.

While Christianity acknowledges that Jesus was the Son of God and was crucified so as to save or deliver man from sin (sign of forgiveness) Judaism does not recognize him. As far as Judaism is concerned man is born neither good nor bad, but belief in his free will to choose what is good from what is bad. Christianity deviates from this belief and holds that man is born a sinner and it is difficult for him to reach the standard of perfection God has set.

Having seen the two religions’ relationship is relatively low tone I move to a more detailed definition of these religions in certain concepts.

The issue of God

The two religions are emphatic on God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being the creator of the world. The view that God is wholly immanent is rejected by the two religions. Neither Christianity nor Judaism believes God to be wholly transcendent and thus separate from the world0.

According to these religions it appears that they concur on the aspect of God as sharing both transcendent and immanent characteristics. However, in trying to resolve the issue, differences crop up within them. As pointed elsewhere Christianity settles on God as a Trinity – God exists in a three distinct forms (persons) with a single divine essence or substance. What is meant by this is that in those three, there is one and in that one there are three. To Judaism, Trinity is construed as a violation of the Bible’s teaching that God is one and indivisible. Furthermore the incarnation of Jesus as per the Christian teachings made God immanent. The notion that Jesus or any person (human) can be God is not within the teachings of Judaism as they do not believe in how God can be married to material world in such manner.

The issue of Messiah

The aspect of messiah is not fully resolved as far as the Jews are concerned as they are still hopeful of King David’s descendent to come and restore Israel’s kingdom. Moshiach as they refer to this descendant is the person they expect. While they believe Moshiach to be a full human being, is supposed upon his coming to usher in a Messianic epoch of peace and affluence for Israel.

According to them, this Messiah will be a fully human and of human parents and with no divine traits. This Messiah’s connection with God will be as that of the prophets as per the teachings of Tanakh as opposed to being God. In the event this happens Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) asserts that every Israelite will go back to Torah. The Israelites will be gathered back to the land of Israel; reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem will take place’ Israel shall dwell among the nations in harmony and shall be strong enough to defend herself. The end result will be that war hatred and famine will be eradicated since peace and prosperity shall prevail upon the earth0.

The Christian version differs from this view, and as far as Christianity is concerned their belief is that Jesus was the Messiah foretold in the Hebrew Bible. Principally he is believed to be simultaneously the Son of God in literal sense, with full human qualities. According to Christianity this means that Jesus is a full God due to his divine character. He is believed to be the redeemer of humanity. Christianity maintains that the coming of Jesus is foretold in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). This view of Jesus coming as per Christianity compliments the Old Testament prophets.

Aspects of Faith vs. Good deeds

The aim of Torah as per the teachings of Judaism is to exhibit that good works are crucial or more crucial than actual belief in God and thus both are required of people. It is not sufficient to believe in God only as per Judaism as this is not enough presupposition for being a Jew. What is important for the Jews is to behave in accordance with the commandments as elucidated in the Torah and live according to God’s ways. Such teachings are also found within the realms of Christianity. Whereas God requires men to do good works, on the other hand good works alone can not lead to salvation. Despite the fact that some Christian faiths hold that salvation is based upon faith in Jesus as well as good works, others preserve that faith in Jesus as being the only prerequisite of salvation.

The issue of salvation within Christianity is not fully resolved as some denominations believe that one can lead an evil life and can be saved upon repenting at his death (deathbed conversions). This is in total contrast to all forms of Judaism teachings that a person is judged by God depending on his actions and beliefs as opposed to deathbed conversions.

The issue of sin

Sin refers to people’s mistakes or offenses against God. While Christianity tenets have the notion of original sin, such concept is not found in Judaism. Christianity holds that a newborn baby is guilty of a sin even though it has taken no offending action against God. Jews believe is that a person has inherent traits of both evil and good predispositions. In fact sin is conceived out of wrongful action. According to Jews a person is at liberty to choose the path he/she will assume in life.

Judaism also provides for way back for those who are willing even though the same may be hard. Prayer, repentance and dutiful giving of charity are construed as the main prerequisites for the atonement of sins as per liturgy on the days of awe. As far as Judaism is concerned atonement constitutes repenting and setting aside all wrongs. Therefore sins can only be atoned via a person praying sincerely and committing himself to put right all wrongs he has ever done and promising never to commit similar wrongs.

Christianity construes Adam and Eve’s story to be the basics of first sin, out of which man became mortal. To Christianity rejection of Jesus as being the redeemer is seen as a willful disobedience as well as rebellion against God. Christianity theology shows that sin to be the only predicament that alienates man from God. The only way possible for man to gain reunification to God is via salvation.

Issue of Judgement

The two religions teach in some form of judgment. According to Christianity unless one is saved (through God’s grace) there is no way a person can achieve salvation sentence. Christians believe that there is judgment after death which will be done by Jesus Christ upon his return. The righteous shall be saved and live in God’s presence in heaven while the evil shall be cast into hell.

Judaism’s position on judgment is undecided. Jews do not view afterlife as a recompense of motivation. However, God is pleased with a person leading good life. The Jews have in their liturgy references to the Book of Life. They believe that God uses this Book to record names of people who are judged positively. The two religions are emphatic on life after death. Judaism position is that afterlife is attainable to people who qualify high standard of intellectual perfection. This shows that they believe in a world to come.

Aspect of the Bible

The authority of the two religions lies fundamentally with the same basic books. The way these religions understand the Bible is different. The Jewish Bible is broken up into three major parts namely, Torah (the five books of Moses), Nevi’im (the Prophets’ writings) and Ketuvim which contains other writings canonized over time, such as the books of Esther, Jonah, Ruth and Job, among others. These three parts collectively constitute the Tanakh. There are about 613 commandments found within the Torah that assist the Jews in understanding the law of God.

The Old Testament and the New Testament are the main divisions of the Christian Bible. Christians focus on the Testament of God as found in Jewish scriptures as being outdated. This is the reason Christians refer to this Testament, as the Old Testament. They believe that God entered into new covenant with the people via Jesus Christ as found in a set of books collectively known as the New Testament.

Jews do not acknowledge the New Testament. Moreover the Jews view characterization of their sacred texts as Old Testament to be a bad idea.

Idea of Evangelism

There is no evangelization as far as the Jews religion is concerned. To become a Jew, one undertakes a formal and extreme work over years geared towards that end as opposed to mere marriage of a Jew, joining of synagogues or involvement in the community or religion. Jews do not have the zeal to convert non-Jews to their religion since their belief is that for a person to approach he is not a Jew.

There is total departure on evangelization when it comes to Christianity. From the very beginning Christians are called upon to go to the whole world preaching the word of Christ. Thus this religion from onset is an evangelistic religion.

Conclusion

Whereas Judaism and Christianity are two separate religions, there are crucial similarities between them. Both religions express their faith as well as respect to one true God. They also believe that God will send a Messiah to deliver them from bondage of sin.

While Christianity has Jesus as their Messiah, Judaism adherents are still expectant. Thus it can be concluded that both religions believe in the existence of higher being who controls and offers guidelines to man.

Reference

Bloom, Harold. Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, Riverhead, 2005.

H.H. Ben-Sasson’s A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976.

M. Steinberg, Basic Judaism, New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich 1975.

McGrath, Alister E., Christianity: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, 2006.

Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption, University of Wisconsin, Press.

Speigel, Shalom. The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac as a Sacrifice: The Akedah, Jewish Lights Publishing; 1993, University

Welker, Carmen. Should Christians be Torah Observant?, Netzari Press. 2007.

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