Christianity and Judaism— Similarities and Differences in Belief and Practice

Christianity and Judaism— Similarities and Differences in Belief and Practice

A comparison

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Christianity and Judaism are closely related and, in fact, Christianity has evolved from Judaism. Out of all major world religions, Christianity and Judaism are typically regarded as the most similar. Today, there are around 2.2 billion followers of the Christian faith and 14 milllion followers of the Jewish faith worldwide. As the largest religion in the world, Christianity has adherents are all over the globe and is in a majority in Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and North and South America. Having originally existed only in Israel, Jewish people are now dispersed all over the world. Today, the majority live in Israel, the USA, Canada, Russia, France and England. Both religions thus share similar origins and a lot of commonalities, but also several key differences in both practice and belief, which will be examined in the following.

Abrahamic religions

Firstly, both Judaism and Christianity are Abrahamic religions, along with Islam. The Abrahamic religions are religious communities of Semitic origin that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites, and the term ?Abrahamic? is derived from a figure in the Bible known as ?Abraham?, who is the common patriarch of the three Abrahamic religions. In Judaism, he is considered the founding father of the covenant, i.e. the special relationship between the Jewish people and God, while in Christianity, he represents the prototype of all believers.

Today, both Judaism and Christianity are universal religions. Judaism, however, has always remained the heritage of one particular people. The Jewish understanding of the world is based on their belief that the Israelites are God?s chosen people and that God made a covenant with them, securing their status as the chosen people and ownership of their land, the Promised Land. God?s covenant requires Jewish people to follow God?s rules as laid out in the Ten Commandments, Torah and later the Talmud. As a response to God first loving Israel, the Jewish people are expected to love God unconditionally, to serve God and obey the law, and to observe the many Jewish rituals and practices.

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Unlike Judaism, Christianity was never a religion of just one particular people. It has traditionally been a proselytising religion and has become the religion of many nations with a variety of different backgrounds and customs. Although Christianity arose in Jerusalem, which has always been considered by the Jewish people as their capital city, the early Christians gave up the physical Jerusalem and only spoke of a spiritual Jerusalem. While Judaism accepts converts, it does not actively encourage conversion to the Jewish. faith and has no missionaries as such. This is a stark contrast to Christianity, which encourages evangelism in an attempt to convince others to convert to the Christian faith. Many Christian organisations send missionaries to non-Christian communities throughout the world, and forced conversions to Christianity have been documented at various points throughout history.

In terms of scriptures, both Judaism and Christianity accept the Old Testament, which in Judaism is also referred to as the Hebrew Bible and considered a key scripture. Judaism, however, rejects the New Testament, which comprises teachings and accounts of Jesus and his first followers and is therefore of central importance to the Christian faith. Christianity thus believes in the authority of both the Old and New Testaments, which are both encompassed in the Holy Bible, the central Christian scripture.

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Another similarity between Judaism and Christianity is that both Jews and Christians engage in worship and are praying to the same God, Yahweh. The authors of the New Testament took for granted the existence of the God of the Old Testament and believed in Yahweh as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whom the Jews worshipped as the one true God.

Both religions also have dedicated physical places of worship, namely churches in Christianity and synagogues in Judaism. In addition, both faiths have designated religious leaders, which are typically priests in Christianity and rabbis in Judaism.

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Monotheistic

Furthermore, both Christianity and Judaism are monotheistic religions, i.e. they believe in one God, and further that God is the creator of the universe. However, there is also a difference in belief between both religions in this respect, namely that Judaism believes in strictly one God only, whereas a central tenet of Christianity is the belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, which sees God as three persons in one substance, namely God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The concept of trinity is rejected by Judaism, as it is incompatible with Jewish theology.

Devotional faith

Finally, an ideology that is comparable in both Christianity and Judaism is the concept of the ego of the devotional faith. For both religions, this is described in the Book of Exodus, which is the second book of the Jewish Torah (Hebrew Bible) and the Christian Old Testament. Here, God demands outright submission and states explicitly that people should have no other gods because ?I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God? (Exodus 20:5). It follows that if people don?t believe exclusively in this one and only God, they will be punished.

Having considered the key similarities of both religions, the following section will discuss several differences in belief between Judaism and Christianity.

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Role of Jesus

Both Jews and Christians believe that the word of God was communicated through prophets, with particular importance being attached to Moses by Judaism and Jesus by Christianity. To Christians, Jesus was the son of God, born to the virgin Mary and therefore a physical incarnation of God himself.

The conviction that Jesus was the messiah is a central tenet of Christianity. Judaism, on the other hand, does not accept this role ascribed to Jesus by the Christian faith and instead believes that he was born as a regular man, not a prophet or messiah. In fact, the Jewish people believe that the messiah is yet to come in the future. They have the expectation that a messiah figure chosen by God will eventually appear on Earth and inaugurate His reign. Hence, importantly, they completely reject the Christian notion of Jesus as the messiah, whereas according to the Christian faith, Jesus was the very messiah the Jewish people are waiting for.

Accordingly, Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and that he was subsequently resurrected. Jewish people reject this idea because, as discussed, they do not accept Jesus as the messiah or prophet of God. In particular, people of the Jewish faith do not believe in the resurrection, and some claimed that Jesus? disciples had merely removed his body in order to deceive people into believing that Jesus had risen (the Stolen Body Hypothesis). The common Jewish belief is thus that Jesus was a regular human being, not the son of God or messiah.

Moral codes and laws

Both Christianity and Judaism are bound by moral codes and laws. The Jewish people are principally bound by the Talmud, i.e. the teachings and commentaries of rabbis, and Ten Commandments as dictated by God directly to Moses on Mount Sinai, and consider the Ten Commandments the theological basis for the rest of the commandments.

It is important to note that the Ten Commandments link back to God and prescribe moral principles in both religions. They were initially established in Judaism and continued in the Christian tradition. Christianity goes beyond the Ten Commandments and also places great importance on the teachings of Jesus, which focused on loving God and love one?s neighbour. This is considered the Greatest Commandment and a central tenet of the Christian faith.

Original sin

In addition, Christianity believes in the concept of original sin, which Judaism rejects in its entirety. According to Christian doctrines, everybody is born sinful, and original sin is considered a condition rather than something that people do through their actions and choices. The original sin was committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they disobeyed God and has subsequently been passed on to all other humans.

In Judaism, by contrast, individuals are not regarded as being fundamentally sinful by the mere virtue of having been born. Instead, individuals are believed to be responsible for their own actions and choices and liable for suffering the consequences, good or bad.

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Afterlife

Furthermore, Judaism and Christianity also have a different idea of the afterlife. Christians believe in the resurrection of both body and soul, and an eternal heaven or hell, or a temporary purgatory, depending on the denomination. In Judaism, on the other hand, the focus is on time on Earth now rather than on a potential afterlife. The concept of an afterlife is not given particular importance in Judaism, and there are a variety of different views on the afterlife among Jewish people. These include belief in the non-existence of an afterlife, reincarnation, another world to come, or a place of spiritual purification for souls (known as gehenna).

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In addition to these differences in beliefs, there are also several differences in practice between Judaism and Christianity, which will be discussed in the following.

Rituals

Both religions have their own important rites and rituals. First of all, the holy day in Judaism is Saturday (sabbath), while in Christianity it is Sunday.

In Christianity, the central rites include prayer, Bible study on Sundays and several sacraments including baptism, communion/confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, marriage and holy orders.

For Jewish people, the major rites are observance of the sabbath, circumcision of newborn Jewish males, wearing the tallit and tefilin, attending prayer services, and the bar/bat mitzvah for 13-year old boys/girls who must read the Torah in front of the congregation in order to officially enter adulthood.

It is also noteworthy that Christianity has no religious dietary laws, which means there are no restrictions on the kinds of foods and, in particular, animals that can be consumed. The Jewish faith, in contrast, has a set of strict dietary laws known as kashurat, which must be observed. They stipulate, for example, that no pork must be consumed and that milk and meat must always be separated.

Mammals and birds must be slaughtered according to a ritualised slaughter process known as shechita, which makes the meat kosher, which is the only permitted way for Jewish people to consume meat and poultry. A central tenet of Judaism is that the laws of shechita were given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai and are therefore of great importance .

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In conclusion, it is clear that despite their common origins and significant overlap in many areas, there are also a number of partly significant differences in both beliefs and practices between the religions of Christianity and Judaism. Although Christianity does regard Judaism as a true religion, it considers it incomplete because it is lacking acceptance of the New Testament and belief in Jesus as the messiah. In turn, Judaism believes that Christians are wrong in believing that Jesus was the messiah.

Despite its Jewish descent, Christianity clearly ought to be considered a separate religion rather than a mere branch of Judaism. As we have seen, both religions are closely related and share common origins, yet pursue a number of very different beliefs and practices.

Sources:Ehrlich, Carl S.: ‘Moses, Torah, and Judaism (Part 1)’ in The rivers of paradise : Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, and Muhammad as religious founders I edited by David Noel Freedman and Michael J. McClymond foreword by Hans Kung. Levenson, Jon Douglas: Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and IslamMcCarter, P. Kyle: ‘Abraham’ in Freedman, Noel David and Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the BibleZeitlin, Solomon: ‘Judaism as a Religion: An Historical Study’ in The Jewish Quarterly Review

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