Christianity is rooted in Second Temple Judaism, but the two religions diverged in the first centuries of the Christian Era. Christianity emphasizes correct belief (or orthodoxy), focusing on the New Covenant as mediated through JesusChrist, as recorded in the New Testament. Judaism places emphasis on right conduct (or orthopraxy), focusing on the Mosaic Covenant, as recorded in the Torah and Talmud.
Christians believe in individual salvation from sin through repentance and receiving Jesus Christ as their God and Savior through Faith in Christianity. Jews believe in individual and collective participation in an eternal dialogue with God through tradition, rituals, prayers and ethical actions. Christianity generally believes in a Triune God, one person of whom became human. Judaism emphasizes the Oneness of God and rejects the Christian concept of God in human form.
Main article: Jewish Christians
See also: Christian Theology
Judaism's purpose is to carry out what it holds to be the only Covenant between God and the Jewish people. The Torah (lit. "teaching"), both written and oral, tell the story of this covenant, and provides Jews with the terms of the covenant. The Oral Torah is the primary guide for Jews to abide by these terms, as expressed in tractate Gittin 60b, "the Holy One, Blessed be He, did not make His covenant with Israel except by virtue of the Oral Law" to help them learn how to live a holy life, and to bring holiness, peace and love into the world and into every part of life, so that life may be elevated to a high level of kedushah, originally through study and practice of the Torah, and since the destruction of the Second Temple, through prayer as expressed in tractate Sotah 49a "Since the destruction of the Temple, every day is more cursed than the preceding one; and the existence of the world is assured only by the kedusha...and the words spoken after the study of Torah." Since the adoption of the Amidah, the acknowledgement of God through the declaration from Yishayah 6:3 "Kadosh [holy], kadosh, kadosh, is HaShem, Master of Legions; the whole world is filled with His glory". as a replacement for the study of Torah, which is a daily obligation for a Jew, and sanctifies God in itself. This continuous maintenance of relationship between the individual Jew and God through either study, or prayer repeated three times daily, is the confirmation of the original covenant. This allows the Jewish people as a community to strive and fulfill the prophecy "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand and keep you. And I will establish you as a Covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations." (Isa 42:6) (i.e., a role model) over the course of history, and a part of the divine intent of bringing about an age of peace and sanctity where ideally a faithful life and good deeds should be ends in themselves, not means. See also Jewish principles of faith.
According to Christian theologianAlister McGrath, the Jewish Christians affirmed every aspect of then contemporary Second Temple Judaism with the addition of the belief that Jesus was the messiah, with Isaiah 49:6, "an explicit parallel to 42:6" quoted by Paul in Acts 13:47 and reinterpreted by Justin the Martyr. According to Christian writers, most notably Paul, the Bible teaches that people are, in their current state, sinful, and the New Testament reveals that Jesus is both the Son of man and the Son of God, united in the hypostatic union, God the Son, God made incarnate; that Jesus' death by crucifixion was a sacrifice to atone for all of humanity's sins, and that acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord saves one from Divine Judgment, giving Eternal life. Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant. His famous Sermon on the Mount is considered by some Christian scholars to be the proclamation of the New Covenant ethics, in contrast to the Mosaic Covenant of Moses from Mount Sinai.
National versus universal
Main articles: Ethnic religion and Major religious groups
The subject of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, is the history of the Children of Israel, especially in terms of their relationship with God. Thus, Judaism has also been characterized as a culture or as a civilization. In his work Judaism as a Civilization, the founder of the Reconstructionist Movement, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan defines Judaism as an evolving religious civilization. One crucial sign of this is that one need not believe, or even do, anything to be Jewish; the historic definition of 'Jewishness' requires only that one be born of a Jewish mother, or that one convert to Judaism in accord with Jewish law. (Today, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews also include those born of Jewish fathers and Gentile mothers if the children are raised as Jews.)
To many religious Jews, Jewish ethnicity is closely tied to their relationship with God, and thus has a strong theological component. This relationship is encapsulated in the notion that Jews are a chosen people. For strictly observant Jews, being "chosen" fundamentally means that it was God's wish that a group of people would exist in a covenant, and would be bound to obey a certain set of laws as a duty of their covenant, and that the Children of Israel chose to enter into this covenant with God. They view their divine purpose as being ideally a "light upon the nations" and a "holy people" (i.e., a people who live their lives fully in accordance with Divine will as an example to others), not "the one path to God". For Jews, salvation comes from God, freely given, and observance of the Law is one way of responding to God's grace.
Jews hold that other nations and peoples are not required (nor expected) to obey the Law of Moses, with the notable exception that the only laws Judaism believes are automatically binding (in order to be assured of a place in the world to come) on other nations are known as the Seven Laws of Noah. Thus, as an ethnic religion, Judaism holds that others may have their own, different, paths to God (or holiness, or "salvation"), as long as they are consistent with the Seven Laws of Noah.
While ethnicity and culture play a large part in Jewish identity, they are not the only way Jews define themselves as Jews. There are secular Jews, who do use ethnicity and culture as their defining criteria. And there are religious Jews, who do not. Rather, religious Jews define their Jewishness within the context of their Judaism. In this context, a religious convert could "feel" more Jewish than a secular ethnic Jew. While Rabbi Kaplan defines Judaism as a civilization, there are many who would not agree, citing millennia of religious tradition and observance as more than simple civilization. Most observant Jews would say that Judaism is a love story.
Judaism and Christianity share the belief that there is One, True God, who is the only one worthy to be worshipped. Judaism sees this One, True God as a singular, ineffable, undefinable being. Phrases such as "Ground of All Being", "Unfolding Reality" and "Creator and Sustainer of Life" capture only portions of who God is to Jews. While God does not change, our perception of God does, and so, Jews are open to new experiences of God's presence. Christianity, with a few exceptions, sees the One, True God as having triune personhood: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, so Christians generally look to the Scriptures (both Hebrew and Christian) for an understanding of who God is.
Christianity is characterized by its claim to universality, which marks a significant break from current Jewish identity and thought, but has its roots in Hellenistic Judaism. Christians believe that Jesus represents the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham and the nation of Israel, that Israel would be a blessing to all nations. Most Christians believe that the Law was "fulfilled" by Jesus and has become unnecessary to "faith life". Although Christians generally believe their religion to be very inclusive (since not only Jews but all gentiles can be Christian), Jews see Christianity as highly exclusive, because some denominations view non-Christians (such as Jews and Pagans) as having an incomplete or imperfect relationship with God, and therefore excluded from grace, salvation, heaven, or eternal life. For some Christians, it is the stated or "confessed" belief in Jesus as Savior that makes God's grace available to an individual, and salvation can come no other way (Solus Christus in Protestantism, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus in Catholicism, see dual covenant theology for a traditional view). In Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism and 'mainline' Protestantism (Lutherans, Methodists et cetera), sanctifying grace is ordinarily received via the Sacraments. However, God can also work outside the Sacraments. Also see "Invincible Ignorance" as understood in Catholic theology.
This crucial difference between the two religions has other implications. For example, while in a conversion to Judaism a convert must accept basic Jewish principles of faith, and renounce all other religions, the process is more like a form of adoption, or changing national citizenship (i.e. becoming a formal member of the people, or tribe), with the convert becoming a "child of Abraham and Sarah". For many reasons, some historical and some religious, Judaism does not encourage its members to convert others and in fact would require the initiative from the person who would like to convert. In contrast, most Christian denominations actively seek converts, following the Great Commission, and conversion to Christianity is generally a declaration of faith (although some denominations view it specifically as adoption into a community of Christ, and orthodox Christian tradition views it as being a literal joining together of the members of Christ's body).
Both Christianity and Judaism have been affected by the diverse cultures of their respective members. For example, what Jews from Eastern Europe and from North Africa consider "Jewish food" has more in common with the cuisines of non-Jewish Eastern Europeans and North Africans than with each other, although for religious Jews all food-preparation must conform to the same laws of Kashrut. According to non-Orthodox Jews and critical historians, Jewish law too has been affected by surrounding cultures (for example, some scholars argue that the establishment of absolute monotheism in Judaism was a reaction against the dualism of Zoroastrianism that Jews encountered when living under Persian rule; Jews rejected polygamy during the Middle Ages, influenced by their Christian neighbors). According to Orthodox Jews too there are variations in Jewish custom from one part of the world to another. It was for this reason that Joseph Karo's Shulchan Aruch did not become established as the authoritative code of Jewish law until after Moshe Isserlis added his commentary, which documented variations in local custom.
Main articles: Development of the Hebrew Bible canon and Development of the Christian Biblical canon
The Hebrew Bible is composed of three parts; the Torah (Instruction, the Septuagint translated the Hebrew to nomos or Law), the Nevi'im (Prophets) and the Ketuvim (Writings). Collectively, these are known as the Tanakh. According to Rabbinic Judaism the Torah was revealed by God to Moses; within it, Jews find 613 Mitzvot (commandments).
Rabbinic tradition asserts that God revealed two Torahs to Moses, one that was written down, and one that was transmitted orally. Whereas the written Torah has a fixed form, the Oral Torah is a living tradition that includes not only specific supplements to the written Torah (for instance, what is the proper manner of shechita and what is meant by "Frontlets" in the Shema), but also procedures for understanding and talking about the written Torah (thus, the Oral Torah revealed at Sinai includes debates among rabbis who lived long after Moses). The Oral Law elaborations of narratives in the Bible and stories about the rabbis are referred to as aggadah. It also includes elaboration of the 613 commandments in the form of laws referred to as halakha. Elements of the Oral Torah were committed to writing and edited by Judah HaNasi in the Mishnah in 200 CE; much more of the Oral Torah were committed to writing in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, which were edited around 600 CE and 450 CE, respectively. The Talmuds are notable for the way they combine law and lore, for their explication of the midrashic method of interpreting tests, and for their accounts of debates among rabbis, which preserve divergent and conflicting interpretations of the Bible and legal rulings.
Since the transcription of the Talmud, notable rabbis have compiled law codes that are generally held in high regard: the Mishneh Torah, the Tur, and the Shulchan Aruch. The latter, which was based on earlier codes and supplemented by the commentary by Moshe Isserles that notes other practices and customs practiced by Jews in different communities, especially among Ashkenazim, is generally held to be authoritative by Orthodox Jews. The Zohar, which was written in the 13th century, is generally held as the most important esoteric treatise of the Jews.
All contemporary Jewish movements consider the Tanakh, and the Oral Torah in the form of the Mishnah and Talmuds as sacred, although movements are divided as to claims concerning their divine revelation, and also their authority. For Jews, the Torah - written and oral - is the primary guide to the relationship between God and man, a living document that has unfolded and will continue to unfold whole new insights over the generations and millennia. A saying that captures this goes, "Turn it [the Torah's words] over and over again, for everything is in it."
Christians accept the Written Torah and other books of the Hebrew Bible (alternatively called Old Testament) as Scripture, although they generally give readings from the Koine GreekSeptuagint translation instead of the Biblical Hebrew/Biblical AramaicMasoretic Text. Two notable examples are:
- Isaiah 7:14 -- "virgin" instead of "young woman"
- Psalm 22:16 -- "they have pierced my hands and feet" instead of "like a lion, (they are at) my hands and feet"
Instead of the traditional Jewish order and names for the books, Christians organize and name the books closer to that found in the Septuagint. Some Christian denominations (such as Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox), include a number of books that are not in the Hebrew Bible (the biblical apocrypha or deuterocanonical books or Anagignoskomena, see Development of the Old Testament canon) in their biblical canon that are not in today's Jewish canon, although they were included in the Septuagint. Christians reject the Jewish Oral Torah, which was still in oral, and therefore unwritten, form in the time of Jesus.
Christians believe that God has established a New Covenant with people through Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles, and other books collectively called the New Testament (the word testament attributed to Tertullian is commonly interchanged with the word covenant). For some Christians, such as Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, this New Covenant includes authoritative Sacred Traditions and Canon law. Others, especially Protestants, reject the authority of such traditions and instead hold to the principle of sola scriptura, which accepts only the Bible itself as the final rule of faith and practice. Anglicans do not believe in Sola Scriptura. For them Scripture is the longest leg of a 3-legged stool: Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Scripture cannot stand on its since it must be interpreted in the light of the Church's patristic teaching and ecumenical creeds. Additionally, some denominations include the "oral teachings of Jesus to the Apostles", which they believe have been handed down to this day by apostolic succession.
Christians refer to the Biblical books about Jesus as the New Testament, and to the canon of Hebrew books as the Old Testament, terms associated with Supersessionism. Judaism does not accept the retronymic labeling of its sacred texts as the "Old Testament", and some Jews refer to the New Testament as the Christian Testament or Christian Bible. Judaism rejects all claims that the Christian New Covenant supersedes, abrogates, fulfills, or is the unfolding or consummation of the covenant expressed in the Written and Oral Torahs. Therefore, just as Christianity does not accept that Mosaic Law has any authority over Christians, Judaism does not accept that the New Testament has any religious authority over Jews.
See also: Christian anarchism and Antinomianism
Many Jews view Christians as having quite an ambivalent view of the Torah, or Mosaic law: on one hand Christians speak of it as God's absolute word, but on the other, they apply its commandments with a certain selectivity (compare Biblical law in Christianity). Some Jews contend that Christians cite commandments from the Old Testament to support one point of view but then ignore other commandments of a similar class and of equal weight. Examples of this are certain commandments that God states explicitly be a "lasting covenant" (NIVExod 31:16-17). Some translate the Hebrew as a "perpetual covenant" (Exod 31:16-17). Likewise, some Christians contend that Jews cite some commandments from the Torah to support one view, but then ignore other commandments of a similar class and of equal weight.
Christians explain that such selectivity is based on rulings made by early Jewish Christians in the Book of Acts, at the Council of Jerusalem, that, while believing gentiles did not need to fully convert to Judaism, they should follow some aspects of Torah like avoiding idolatry and fornication and blood, including, according to some interpretations, homosexuality. This view is also reflected by modern Judaism, in that Righteous Gentiles needn't convert to Judaism and need to observe only the Noahide Laws, which also contain prohibitions against idolatry and fornication and blood.
Some Christians agree that Jews who accept Jesus should still observe all of Torah, see for example Dual-covenant theology, based on warnings by Jesus to Jews not to use him as an excuse to disregard it, and they support efforts of those such as Messianic Jews (Messianic Judaism is considered by most Christians and Jews to be a form of Christianity) to do that, but some Protestant forms of Christianity oppose all observance to the Mosaic law, even by Jews, which Luthercriticised as Antinomianism.
A minority view in Christianity, known as Christian Torah-submission, holds that the Mosaic law as it is written is binding on all followers of God under the New Covenant, even for Gentiles, because it views God’s commands as "everlasting" (Ps 119:152, 119:160; Ex 12:24, 29:9; Lev 16:29) and "good" (Neh 9:13; Ps 119:39; Rom 7:7-12).
Concepts of God
Main articles: God in Judaism and God in Christianity
Traditionally, both Judaism and Christianity believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for Jews the God of the Tanakh, for Christians the God of the Old Testament, the creator of the universe. Judaism and major sects of Christianity reject the view that God is entirely immanent (although some see this as the concept of the Holy Ghost) and within the world as a physical presence, (although trinitarian Christians believe in the incarnation of God). Both religions reject the view that God is entirely transcendent, and thus separate from the world, as the pre-Christian Greek Unknown God. Both religions reject atheism on one hand and polytheism on the other.
Both religions agree that God shares both transcendent and immanent qualities. How these religions resolve this issue is where the religions differ. Christianity posits that God exists as a Trinity; in this view God exists as three distinct persons who share a single divine essence, or substance. In those three there is one, and in that one there are three; the one God is indivisible, while the three persons are distinct and unconfused, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It teaches that God became especially immanent in physical form through the Incarnation of God the Son who was born as Jesus of Nazareth, who is believed to be at once fully God and fully human. There are denominations self-describing as Christian who question one or more of these doctrines, however, see Nontrinitarianism. By contrast, Judaism sees God as a single entity, and views trinitarianism as both incomprehensible and a violation of the Bible's teaching that God is one. It rejects the notion that Jesus or any other object or living being could be 'God', that God could have a literal 'son' in physical form or is divisible in any way, or that God could be made to be joined to the material world in such fashion. Although Judaism provides Jews with a word to label God's transcendence (Ein Sof, without end) and immanence (Shekhinah, in-dwelling), these are merely human words to describe two ways of experiencing God; God is one and indivisible.
Main article: Shituf
A minority Jewish view, which appears in some codes of Jewish law, is that while Christian worship is polytheistic (due to the multiplicity of the Trinity), it is permissible for them to swear in God's name, since they are referring to the one God. This theology is referred to in Hebrew as Shituf (literally "partnership" or "association"). Although worship of a trinity is considered to be not different from any other form of idolatry for Jews, it may be an acceptable belief for non-Jews (according to the ruling of some Rabbinic authorities).
Faith versus good deeds
See also: Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and Biblical law in Christianity
Judaism teaches that the purpose of the Torah is to teach us how to act correctly. God's existence is a given in Judaism, and not something that most authorities see as a matter of required belief. Although some authorities see the Torah as commanding Jews to believe in God, Jews see belief in God as a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a Jewish life. The quintessential verbal expression of Judaism is the Shema Yisrael, the statement that the God of the Bible is their God, and that this God is unique and one. The quintessential physical expression of Judaism is behaving in accordance with the 613 Mitzvot (the commandments specified in the Torah), and thus live one's life in God's ways.
Thus fundamentally in Judaism, one is enjoined to bring holiness into life (with the guidance of God's laws), rather than removing oneself from life to be holy.
Much of Christianity also teaches that God wants people to perform good works, but all branches hold that good works alone will not lead to salvation, which is called Legalism, the exception being dual-covenant theology. Some Christian denominations hold that salvation depends upon transformational faith in Jesus, which expresses itself in good works as a testament (or witness) to ones faith for others to see (primarily Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism), while others (including most Protestants) hold that faith alone is necessary for salvation. Some argue that the difference is not as great as it seems, because it really hinges on the definition of "faith" used
It is often assumed that the God of Islam is a fierce war-like deity, in contrast to the God of Christianity and Judaism, who is one of love and mercy. And yet, despite the manifest differences in how they practise their religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God.
The founder of Islam, Muhammad, saw himself as the last in a line of prophets that reached back through Jesus to Moses, beyond him to Abraham and as far back as Noah. According to the Quran, God (known as Allah) revealed to Muhammad:
the Book with the truth [the Quran], confirming what was before it, and [before He sent down the Quran] He sent down the Torah of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus… as a guidance for the people.
Thus, since Muhammad inherited the Jewish and Christian understandings of God, it is not surprising that the God of Muhammad, Jesus and Moses has a similarly complex and ambivalent character – a blend of benevolence and compassion, combined with wrath and anger. If you were obedient to his commands, he could be all sweetness and light. But you didn’t want to get on his wrong side.
To those who turned to him in repentance, this God was (above all else) merciful and all-forgiving. But those who failed to find the path or, having found it failed to follow it, would know his judgment and wrath.
For Jews, God was fully revealed in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). The God of the Old Testament was both good and evil. He went way beyond the good when he told Abraham to offer his son to God as a burnt sacrifice. He was a warrior God who murdered the firstborn of Egypt and drowned the army of Pharaoh. He approved Elijah’s slaughter of the 450 prophets of the ancient Canaanite God Baal.
Yet he was also a compassionate and loving God, one who in the well-known words of Psalm 23 in the Book of Psalms was a shepherd whose goodness and mercy supported his followers all the days of their lives. He loved Israel like a father loves his son.
Further reading: We don’t know if God exists but we should keep asking
The God of Jesus in the four Gospels in the New Testament had a similarly ambiguous character. On the one hand, Jesus spoke of a personal God, referring to him as “Father” in the prayer that he gave to his disciples. Yet, behind this God of tenderness and love, there remained a ruthless God of justice.
Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus preached doom and gloom. He was offering Israel its last chance and God would be merciless to those who failed to heed his message. God would come in judgment at the end of history. All would then be resurrected. The fortunate few would receive eternal happiness, but the wicked majority would be cast into the eternal fires of hell.
So too, with the God of Muhammad. At the end of the world, God would act as a God of justice. All the dead would be resurrected to receive God’s judgment. God would then reward or punish each person in the gardens of paradise or the fires of hell according to their deeds. Each would be presented with a record of his deeds – in the right hand for those to be saved, in the left for those to be damned to the fires of hell.
For those who were saved, the delights of paradise awaited. Those who died in the cause of Allah, however, did not need to wait for the Last Judgment. They would go straight to heaven.
Further reading: Paris attacks – why Islam and Christianity are twin religions of war and peace
The key to salvation was above all surrender (“islam” in Arabic) to God, obedience to his commands as revealed in the Quran and allegiance to his messenger Muhammad. Like the God of Moses, Allah was a lawmaker. The Quran provided (often varied) guidance to the believing community in matters of marriage and family law, women, inheritance, food and drink, worship and purity, warfare, punishments for adultery and false accusations of adultery, alcohol and theft. In short, it provided the foundation of what was later to be much elaborated in sharia law.
Muslims, Christians and Jews do all worship the same complex God. Yet, in spite of this, all believe that their religion contains the full and final revelation of the same God. Here is the origin of their unity. Here also lies the cause of their division.
For this belief in the truth of one religion and the falsity of the others leads to inevitable conflict between the believer and the unbeliever, the chosen and the rejected, the saved and the damned. Here lie the seeds of intolerance and violence.
So the God of Muhammad, like the God of Jesus and Moses, divides as much as he unites, a cause of strife both between and within these religions.