Compared to Christianity
Both Jews and Christians believe in the
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Tanakh (Christian
Old Testament, Hebrew Bible), the creator of the universe. Both
religions reject the view that God is entirely immanent, and
within the world as a physical presence. Both religions reject the
view that God is entirely transcendent, and thus separate from the
world (although this can be argued in some Judaic thought). Both
religions reject atheism, on the one hand, and polytheism, on the
other. (Note, Reform Judaism does not completely reject atheism,
although it does encourage theism and/or deism.)
religions agree that God shares both transcendent and immanent
qualities. How these religions resolve this issue is where the
religions differ. Most of Christianity posits that God is a
trinity; in this view God exists as three distinct persons which
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.
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. Christianity teaches that God became especially
immanent in physical form through the Incarnation of Jesus, who is
believed while on earth to be at once fully God and fully human.
Judaism rejects the notion that Jesus or any physical object or
being could be God, that God could be divisible in any way, or
that God could be made to be joined to the material world in such
Jewish and Christian philosophers hold that due to these
differences, it may well be that Jews and Christians don't believe
in the same god at all. The majority Jewish view, codified in
Jewish law, is that Christians do worship the same God that Jews
do. The vast majority of Christians have always held that they
worship the same God as the Jews.
Jews believe that a descendant of King
David will one day appear to restore the Kingdom of Israel. Jews
refer to this person as Moshiach, translated as messiah in English
and Christos in Greek. The Hebrew word 'moshiach' (messiah) means
'anointed one,' and refers to a mortal human being. The moshiach
is held to be a human being who will be a descendant of King
David, and who will usher in an era of peace prosperity and
spiritual understanding for Israel and all the nations of the
world. The traditional Jewish understanding of the messiah is
fully human, born of human parents, without any supernatural
element, and is best elucidated by Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben
Maimon), in his commentary on the Talmud. The messiah is expected
to have a relationship with God similar to that of the prophets of
the Tanakh. In brief, he holds that the job description, as such,
the people Israel will come back to Torah; The people of Israel
with be gathered back to the land of Israel; The Temple in
Jerusalem will be rebuilt; Israel will live among the nations as
an equal, and will be strong enough to defend herself; Eventually,
war, hatred and famine will end, and an era of peace and
prosperity will come upon the Earth.
hold Jesus to be a different type of Messiah; the Savior. Although
both read prophecies telling of his coming in the Bible, the two
often read and interpret these same verses slightly differently.
Jesus is believed to be the son of God in a literal sense, fully
human, and simultaneously divine, fully God. In this view, Jesus
is the Messiah, the son of God who offers salvation to all humans
by his self-sacrifice, and who now sits in heaven at the right
hand of God and will judge humanity in the end days. The
liberation and peace brought by the messiah, in Christian terms,
is primarily a spiritual peace and liberation; any political
liberation is either seen as secondary or is not considered an
issue at all.
readings of the Hebrew Bible find hundreds of references to Jesus.
This takes the form in some cases of specific prophesy, but in
most cases of foreshadowing by types or forerunners.
Christian readings maintain that almost every passage was
about not only the topic of the chapter as such, but is also about
the coming of Jesus, if read according to such an interpretation.
In this Christian view, the entire Old Testament Biblical is also
a subtext about the coming of Jesus becoming more apparent over
versus good deeds
Judaism teaches that the purpose of the
Torah is to show that good deeds are considered in holiness as
much or even more important than belief in God, and that both are
required of people. An old Jewish saying captures this sentiment,
"If you hear the Messiah has come, and you are doing a job,
finish the job properly, then go and see." Although the Torah
commands 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
fundamentally in Judaism, one is enjoined to bring holiness into
life (with the guidance of Gods laws), rather than removing
oneself from life to be holy.
Christianity also teaches that God wants people to perform good
works, but all branches hold that good works will not lead to
salvation. 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. However, the difference is
not as great as it seems, because it really hinges on the
definition of "faith" used. The first group generally
uses the term "faith" to mean "intellectual and
heartfelt assent and submission." Such a faith will not be
salvific until a person has allowed it to effect a life
transforming conversion (turning towards God) in their being (see
ontological faith). The Christians that hold to "salvation by
faith alone" (also called by its Latin name "sola
fide") define faith as being implicitly ontological--mere
intellectual assent is not termed "faith" by these
groups. Faith, then, is life-transforming by definition.
practical outcome of this difference is the attitudes of the two
religions to death bed conversions. According to most forms of
classical Christianity, one may lead an evil life, but on one's
death one may repent for one's sins, accept Jesus as Christian
dogma teaches, and then that person will be rewarded with a
heavenly afterlife by God; this will be the same heavenly paradise
that a comparatively less sinful person would receive. In
contrast, all forms of Judaism teach that God judges a person
based on their whole lifetime of actions and beliefs, and that
deathbed conversions are therefore meaningless and have minimal
effect on God's view of their life.
and Original Sin
In both religions, one's offenses
against the will of God are called sin (in Christianity the full
name is "actual sin"). These sins can be thoughts,
words, or deeds.
categorizes sins into various groups. A wounding of the
relationship with God is often called venial sin; a complete
rupture of the relationship with God is often called mortal sin.
Without salvation from sin (see below), a person's separation from
God is permanent, causing such a person to enter Hell in the
Sin is a slightly different concept in Christianity, it is not
part of Jewish belief or philosophy. Original sin refers to the
idea that the sin of Adam and Eve's disobedience (sin "at the
origin") has passed on a spiritual heritage, so to speak.
Christians teach that human beings inherit a corrupted or damaged
human nature in which the tendency to do bad is greater than it
would have been otherwise, so much so that human nature would not
be capable now of participating in the afterlife with God. This is
not a matter of being "guilty" of anything; each person
is only personally guilty of their own actual sins. However, this
understanding of original sin is what lies behind the Christian
emphasis on the need for spiritual salvation from a spiritual Savior,
who can forgive and set aside sin even though humans are not
inherently pure and worthy of such salvation. St. Paul in Romans
and First Corinthians placed special emphasis on this doctrine,
and stressed that belief in Jesus would allow Christians to
overcome death and attain salvation in the hereafter.
Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and some Protestants teach
the Sacrament of Baptism is the means by which each person's
damaged human nature is healed and Sanctifying Grace (capacity to
enjoy and participate in the spiritual life of God) is restored.
This is referred to as "being born of water and the
Spirit," following the terminology in the Gospel of St. John.
Most Protestants believe this salvation grace comes about at the
moment of personal decision to follow Jesus, and that Baptism is a
symbol of the grace already received.
teaches that humans are born morally neutral; Jews have no concept
of Original Sin, and do not accept it. Instead, Judaism affirms
that people are born with a yetzer hatov, (literally, "the
eye to good", in some views, a tendency towards goodness, in
others, a tendency towards having a productive life and a tendency
to be concerned with others) and with a yetzer hara, or
concupiscence (literally "the eye to evil", in some
views, a tendency towards evil, and in others, a tendency towards
base or animal behavior and a tendency to be selfish.) Because sin
is conceived for the most part in terms of a confused heart or
wrongful actions, in Judaism it is believed, all human beings have
free will and can choose the path in life that they will take.
There is always a "way back" if a person wills it.
(Although texts mention certain categories for whom the way back
will be exceedingly hard, such as the slanderer, and the malicious
rabbis recognize a positive value to the yetzer hara: one
tradition identifies it with God's observation on the last day of
creation that His accomplishment was "very good" (God's
work on the preceding days was just described as "good")
and explain that without the yetzer ha'ra there would be no
marriage, children, commerce or other fruits of human labor; the
implication is that yetzer ha'tov and yetzer ha'ra are best
understood not as moral categories of good and evil but as
selfless versus selfish orientations, either of which used rightly
can serve God's will.
Rabbi Hillel famously summarized the Jewish philosophy:
I am not for myself, who will be for me?
if I am not for others - what am I?
if not now [if I do not choose now], [then] when?
explanation of this is, without the existence of the yetzer ha'ra,
there would be no merit earned in following God's commandments;
choice is only meaningful if there has indeed been a choice made.
So whereas creation was "good" before, it became
"very good" when the evil inclination was added, for
then it became possible to truly say that man could make a true
choice to obey God's "mitzvot" (wishes or commandments).
This is because Judaism views the following of God's ways as a
desirable end in and of itself, rather than merely a means to
obtain a personal goal such as afterlife.
recognize two kinds of "sin," offenses against other
people, and offenses against God. Offenses against God may be
understood as violation of a contract (the covenant between God
and the Children of Israel). Since the destruction of the Temple
in Jerusalem, Jews have believed that right action (as opposed to
right belief) is the way for a person to atone for one's sins.
Midrash Avot de Rabbi Natan states the following:
time, when Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was walking in Jerusalem
with Rabbi Yehosua, they arrived at where the Temple now stood in
ruins. "Woe to us" cried Rabbi Yehosua, "for this
house where atonement was made for Israel's sins now lies in
ruins!" Answered Rabban Yochanan, "We have another,
equally important source of atonement, the practice of gemilut
hasadim ("loving kindness"), as it is stated "I
desire loving kindness and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6).
Babylonian Talmud states:
Yochanan and Rabbi Eleazar both explain that as long as the Temple
stood, the altar atoned for Israel, but now, one's table atones
[when the poor are invited as guests]. (Tractate Berachot, 55a.)
liturgy of the Days of Awe (the High Holy Days; i.e. Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur) states that prayer, repentance and tzedakah (the
dutiful giving of charity) atone for sin. But prayer cannot atone
for wrongs done, without an honest sincere attempt to rectify any
wrong done to the best of one's ability, and the sincere intention
to avoid repetition. Atonement to Jews means to repent and set
aside, and the word "T'shuvah" used for atonement
actually means "to return". Judaism is optimistic in
that it always sees a way that a determined person may return to
what is good, and that God waits for that day too.
Both Christianity and Judaism believe in
some form of judgment.
Christian view is very well defined - every human is a sinner, and
nothing but being saved by God's grace (and not through any merit
of ones own actions) can change the damnatory sentence to
salvation. There is a judgment after death, and Christ will return
to judge the living and dead. Those positively judged will be
saved and live in God's presence in heaven, those who are
negatively judged will be cast to eternal hell (or in some
teaching is somewhat ambivalent on Judgment. Initially indeed
there was no such concept in Judaism, however over time, and
especially as exposed to other cultures' concept that every wrong
must be somehow balanced by punishment in the end, and vice versa,
a mixture of concepts and philosophies entered Judaism. At heart
though, Jews do not look for an afterlife as a reward of
motivation. The reward for a good life is simply the pleasure it
gives God, and the rightness of doing ones duty and living a holy
life in his ways. Little emphasis is given in Jewish life to the
struggle for a place in the afterlife.
said, in Jewish liturgy there is significant prayer and talk of a
"book of life" that one is written into, a metaphorical
allusion that God judges each person each year and possibly after
Jewish sages understand this to be metaphorical. For example - one
Day of Atonement prayer says it will be decided "who will be
made strong, and who weak, who will have good health, who poor,
who will be at peace and who not at peace... but prayer pentitence
and charity avert a stern decree". However others translate
this to mean, by ones decisions to change oneself, it will become
inevitable who will do good and create peace in the coming year,
and who will do ill and create lack of peace, and so on.
and attaining an afterlife
Both Jews and Christians teach that
there will be some sort of afterlife. Most forms of Christianity
teach that one can only be saved through the acceptance of Jesus
as a Savior, although some modern forms of Christianity teach that
salvation is available to followers of other faiths as well.
Catholicism traditionally taught that "there is no
salvation outside the Church", which some, particularly Fr.
Feeny in the 19th century, interpreted as saying only Catholics
can be saved. However, the Catholic Church's position is a bit
more nuanced than that. The Catholic Church teaches that God's
intended way of saving the human race is through the Catholic
Church, and there is no source of saving grace which is not
already contained within the Church. It should be noted that in
this sense, any church founded on Peter's rock, may properly be
called a "Catholic" Church - Roman Catholic is but one
of these though the largest. At the same time, it does not deny
the possibility that those not visibly members of the Church may
attain salvation as well. Jesus is the path of salvation, and
whilst some know they are on that path others can travel the same
Way without knowing the name of the street they are on. In recent
times, this teaching has been most notably expressed in the
encyclicals Singulari Quidem (1856), Quanto Conficiamur Moerore
(1863) and Dominus Iesus (2000). The latter document has taken
criticism for claiming that non-Christians are in a "gravely
deficient situation" as compared to Catholics.
John Paul II on October 2 of 2000 emphasized that this document
did not say that non-Christians were actively denied salvation:
"...this confession does not deny salvation to
non-Christians, but points to its ultimate source in Christ, in
whom man and God are united". The Pope then, on December 6,
issued a statement to further emphasize that the Church continued
to support its traditional stance that salvation was available to
believers of other faiths: "The gospel teaches us that those
who live in accordance with the Beatitudes--the poor in spirit,
the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of
life--will enter God's kingdom." He further added, "All
who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do not know
Christ and his church, contribute under the influence of Grace to
the building of this Kingdom." On August 13, 2002, American
Catholic bishops issued a joint statement with leaders of Reform
and Conservative Judaism, called "Reflections on Covenant and
Mission", which affirmed that Christians should not target
Jews for conversion. The document stated: "Jews already dwell
in a saving covenant with God" and "Jews are also called
by God to prepare the world for God's Kingdom." However, some
U.S.-led Baptist and other fundamentalist denominations still
believe it is their duty to engage in what they refer to as
outreach to "unbelieving" Jews (see Jews for Jesus).
Eastern Orthodox Christianity emphasizes
a continuing life of repentance or metanoia, which includes an
increasing improvement in thought, belief and action. Regarding
the salvation of Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians, the
Orthodox have traditionally taught the same as the Catholic
Church: that there is no salvation outside the church. People of
all genders, races, economic and social positions, and so forth
are welcome in the church. People of any religion are welcome to
convert. Orthodoxy recognizes that other religions may contain
truth, to the extent that they are in agreement with Christianity.
(Some of the early church fathers pointed to Socrates' belief in
one God; a few more modern Orthodox Christian theologians have
found traces of trinitarianism in the writings of Lao Tzu.)
Orthodox theologians believe that all people will have an
opportunity to embrace union with God, including Jesus, after
their death, and so become part of the Church at that time. God is
thought to be good, just, and merciful; it would not seem just to
condemn someone because they never heard the Gospel message, or
were taught a distorted version of the Gospel by heretics.
Therefore, the reasoning goes, they must at some point have an
opportunity to make a genuine informed decision. Ultimately, those
who persist in rejecting God condemn themselves, by cutting
themselves off from the ultimate source of all Life, and from the
God who is Love embodied. Jews, Muslims and members of other
faiths, then, are expected to convert to Christianity in the
afterlife. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also
holds this belief, and holds baptismal services in which righteous
people are baptized in behalf of their ancestors who, it is
believed, are given the opportunity to accept the ordinance.
Judaism holds that whatever salvation
may exist is found only through good works and heartfelt prayer.
The majority of Jewish works on this subject hold that one's faith
or beliefs alone play a minimal role. However, for a contrary
Jewish position see Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed, which
limits the afterlife only to people who attain a relatively high
level of intellectual perfection, thereby allowing the active
intellect to be made eternal through God.
teaches that all gentiles can receive a share in "the world
to come". This is codified in the Mishna Avot 4:29, the
Babylonian Talmud in tractates Avodah Zarah 10b, and Ketubot 111b,
and in Maimonides's 12th century law code, the Mishneh Torah, in
Hilkhot Melachim (Laws of Kings) 8.11.
has no strong tradition of offenses being punished by eternal
damnation (the Hebrew Bible itself has very few references to any
afterlife, and the word Sheol that is often translated as
"Hell" is as often as not simply translated as "the
grave"). Some violations (e.g. suicide) would be punished by
separation from the community (e.g. not being buried in a Jewish
view is summed up by a biblical observation about the Torah: in
the beginning God clothes the naked (Adam), and at the end God
buries the dead (Moses). The Children of Israel mourned for 40
days - then got on with their lives. No reference is made in the
Torah to anything beyond, and this is true even for Moses of whom
it is said "nobody has arisen like him, who knew God face to
Biblical conception of God is that his covenant is with the Jewish
people, not individual Jews. In the context of this covenant, the
death of individual Jews is inconsequential and various older
Biblical passages suggest that individual death is final. It is
the continued existence of the Jewish nation that is emphasized
and the way that a human life should be led. With the rise of
Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) thinking, and later the rise of
Christianity, Jews became more concerned with the problem of
individual death and an afterlife. The Pharisees, and then the
Rabbis, made it an essential element of their faith that upon the
arrival of the messiah the dead shall be resurrected. This is
still a central belief in Orthodox Judaism and to a lesser extent
in other branches of Judaism. A crucial difference between Jewish
and Christian beliefs is that Jews believe it is the body that is
resurrected. The "soul" or "spirit" has no
life or meaning independent of a living body.
Both Jews and Christians correctly
regard pregnancy as a gift from God, and hold children to be
statements in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Protestant Old Testament)
about the status of a fetus state that killing an infant does not
have the same status as killing a born human being, and mandates a
much lesser penalty (a fine); it should be added that the instance
cited in the Tanakh contemplates the accidental, rather than the
deliberate, causing of an abortion.
Law states that the fetus is not yet a full human being until it
has been born (either the head or the body is mostly outside of
the mother), therefore killing a fetus is not murder, and abortion
- in restricted circumstances - has always been legal under Jewish
law. Rashi, the great 12th century commentator on the Bible and
Talmud, states clearly of the fetus 'lav nefesh hu--it is not a
person.' The Talmud contains the expression 'ubar yerech imo--the
fetus is as the thigh of its mother,' i.e., the fetus is deemed to
be part and parcel of the pregnant woman's body." Judaism
prefers that such abortions, when necessary, take place before the
first 40 days where the Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 69b states that:
"the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth
day." Afterwards, it is considered subhuman until it is born.
Christians who agree with these views may refer to this idea as
abortion before the "quickening" of the soul by God in
are two additional passages in the Talmud which shed some light on
the Jewish belief about abortion. They imply that the fetus is
considered part of the mother, and not a separate entity:
section states that if a man purchases a cow that is found to be
pregnant, then he is the owner both of the cow and the fetus.
Another section states that if a pregnant woman converts to
Judaism, that her conversion applies also to her fetus.
also generally agree that abortions are not permitted on the
grounds of genetic imperfections of the fetus, nor are they
permitted for family planning or convenience reasons. Each case
must be decided individually, however, and the decision should lie
with the mother, father, and Rabbi.
branches of Christianity have historically held abortion to be
murder of a human being, referring to Old Testament passages such
as Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1, as well as New Testament passages
concerning both Jesus and John the Baptist while they were in
utero. Also, the Didache, an early Church document, explicitly
forbids abortion along with infanticide, both common practices in
the Roman Empire, as murder. Many Protestant Christians claim that
the Ten Commandments prohibit abortion under the heading of
"Do not murder". Others reject this view, as they hold
that the context of the entire set of Biblical laws includes those
laws which restrict them to already born human beings.
of the Bible
Jews and Christians seek authority from
many of the same basic books, but they conceive of these books in
significantly different ways.
Jewish Bible is comprised of three parts:
Torah - the five books of Moses
Nevi'im - the writings of the Prophets, and
Ketuvim - other writings canonised over time, such as the Books of
Esther, Jonah, Ruth or Job.
these are known as the Tanakh, a Hebrew acronym for the first
letters of each. Rabbinical Judaism traditionally believes that
these written works were also accompanied by an oral tradition
which taught how to perform commandments that are not stated
explicitly in the Torah (i.e. what a Menorah looks like and what
is meant by "Frontlets" in the Shema), and that it was
revealed to Moses at Sinai and passed down through generations and
eventually written down in the Talmud (see below).
the Torah, Jews find 613 Mitzvot (formal divine commandments), of
which some are positive obligations, and others negatives to that
must be avoided. These form the basis of their understanding of
the law. The in-depth examination to understand the commandments
and their true significance forms a major thread within the Talmud
and other Jewish writings.
not accept the "New Testament" (nor do they accept the
characterization of their sacred texts as an "Old
Testament"); they do accept as sacred certain texts that are
not included in the Tanakh especially the Mishnah, which was
written down around 200 C.E., and a Babylonian and a Jerusalem
Talmud, which were edited around 600 C.E. and 350 C.E.,
respectively. Many Jews believe that these texts were revealed to
Moses at Mt. Sinai, that the Torah was written and that the
teachings of the Talmud were transmitted orally. Since the
transcription of the Talmud, notable rabbis have compiled law
codes that are generally held in high regard: the Mishnah Torah,
the Tur, and the Shulchan Aruch, which is generally held to be
authoritative by Orthodox Jews. The Zohar, which was written in
the thirteenth century, is generally held as the most important
mystical treatise of the Jews.
Jews see Christians as having quite an ambivalent view of the
Torah (or Old Testament as it is known to Christians), on the one
hand it is God's absolute word, on the other hand at times
treating commandments very selectively. As it seems to some Jews,
Christians cite from the Old Testament commandments to support one
point of view but then ignore other commandments of a similar
class which are also of equal weight. Examples of this are certain
commandments where God states explicitly they shall abide
"for ever", or where God states a particular thing is an
"abomination", but which are not undertaken by most
reject the Talmudic oral tradition (Matt. 15:6); although the
Catholic hierarchy makes a similar claim to inherit the correct
interpretation for their respective written law: contrast with
sola scriptura. Christians also disagree with the Jewish order of
sacred texts (and some Christian traditions have included in their
Old Testament books that are not included in today's Jewish canon,
although they were included in the Jewish Septuagint).
Historically, the Jewish oral tradition was not written down until
the Babylonian Exile (Babylonian Talmud Jerusalem Talmud) and
later developed more thoroughly through codification. Most
importantly, Christians reject the covenant with God embodied in
traditional Jewish scriptures and oral traditions as obsolete, and
thus refer to their canon of Hebrew books as the "Old
Testament." Christians believe that God has established a new
covenant with people, and that this new covenant is established in
an additional set of books collectively called the New Testament,
together with the oral teachings of Jesus to the Apostles which
have been handed down to this day.
violence and pacifism
Jews and Christians accept as valid and
binding many of the same moral principles taught in the Torah.
There is a great deal of overlap between the ethical systems of
these two faiths. Nonetheless, there are some highly significant
has a great many teachings about peace and compromise, and its
teachings make physical violence the last possible option.
Nonetheless, the Talmud teaches that "If someone comes with
the intention to murder you, then one is obligated to kill in
self-defense". The clear implication is that to do anything
less would be tantamount to suicide (which Jewish law forbids) and
it would also be considered helping a murderer kill someone and
"placing an obstacle in front of a blind man" (making it
easier for another person to falter in their ways). The tension
between the laws dealing with peace, and the obligation to
self-defense, has led to a set of Jewish teachings that have been
described as tactical-pacifism. This is the avoidance of force and
violence whenever possible, but the use of force when necessary to
save the lives of one's self and one's people.
Judaism focuses on this life, many questions to do with survival
and conflict (such as the classic moral dilemma of two people in a
desert with only enough water for one to survive) were analyzed in
great depth by the rabbis within the Talmud, in the attempt to
understand the principles a godly person should draw upon in such
Testament records that Jesus taught that if someone comes to harm
you, then one must turn the other cheek. This has led four fairly
sizable Protestant Christian denominations to develop a theology
of pacifism, the avoidance of force and violence at all times.
They are known historically as the peace churches, and have
incorporated Christ's teachings on nonviolence into their theology
so as to apply it to participation in the use of violent force;
those denominations are the Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and the
Church of the Brethren. Many other churches have people who hold
to the doctrine without making it a part of their doctrines, or
who apply it to individuals but not to governments. The vast
majority of Christian nations and groups have not adopted this
theology, nor have they followed it in practice.
Judaism is not an evangelistic religion.
Orthodox Judaism in fact deliberately makes it very difficult to
convert and become a Jew, and requires a significant and full-time
effort in living, study, righteousness and conduct over several
years. The final decision is by no means a foregone conclusion. A
person cannot become Jewish by marrying a Jew, or by joining a
synagogue, nor by any degree of involvement in the community or
religion, but only by explicitly undertaking (under supervision) a
formal and intense work over years aimed towards that goal. Some
less strict versions of Judaism have made this process somewhat
easier but it is still far from common.
distant past Judaism was more evangelistic, but this was still
more akin just to "greater openness to converts" (c.f.
Ruth) rather than active soliciting of conversions. Since Jews
believe that one need not be a Jew to approach God, there is no
religious pressure to convert non-Jews to their faith.
contrast, Christianity is an explicitly evangelical religion.
Christians are commanded by Jesus to "go forth and Baptize
all nations." At some times and in certain places joyful
evangelism has veered into high-pressure coercion, resulting in at
best significant ill-will and at worst human rights abuse.
broadly in line with the distinction made elsewhere that Jewish
conversion is more like adoption to a family and people, Christian
conversion more like a declaration of personal faith.
In addition to each having varied views on the other as a
religion, there has also been a long and often painful history of
conflict, persecution and at times, reconciliation, between the
two religions, which have influenced their mutual views of their
relationship over time.
genocide and forcible conversion of Jews (ie hate crime) were
common for many centuries, with occasional gestures to
reconciliation from time to time. Pogroms were common throughout
Christian Europe, including organized violence, restrictive land
ownership and professional lives, forcible relocation and
ghettoization, mandatory dress codes, and at times humiliating
actions and torture. All had major effects on Jewish
recently, even within the last century alone, some Jews remember
the Holocaust and the current wave of evangelism as yet more
reasons to doubt goodwill, while others look to the many peaceful
gestures towards harmony since that time, likewise some Christians
are at peace and others suspicious of Jews.
clear is that formally, there is strong inter-dialogue at many
levels to reconcile past differences between the two groups, and
many Christians emphasize common historical heritage and religious
continuity with the ancient spiritual lineage of the Jews.
Jewish views of Christianity
view of Jesus
Jesus plays no role whatsoever in
Judaism. Jews are familiar with Jesus only due to their being
immersed in a Christian-oriented society. Most Jews believe that
Jesus was a real person. Many view him as just one in a long list
of failed Jewish claimants to be the messiah, none of whom
fulfilled the tests of a prophet specified in the Five Books of
Moses. Others see Jesus as a teacher who worked with the gentiles
and ascribe the messianic claims they find objectionable to his
later followers. Because much physical and spiritual violence was
done to Jews in the name of Jesus and his followers, and because
evangelism is still an active aspect of many churches activities,
many religious Jews are uncomfortable with discussing Jesus and
treat him as a non-person. Finally, to still others, perhaps to
most Jews, Jesus is simply irrelevant, a central figure in a
religion that isn't theirs, much as Muhammad might seem to many
religious level, Judaism does not believe that God requires the
sacrifice of any human. This is emphasized in medieval Jewish
traditions concerning the story of the Akedah, the binding of
Isaac. In the Jewish explanation, this is a story whereby God
wanted to test Abraham's faith and willingness, and Isaac was
never going to be actually sacrificed. Thus, Judaism rejects the
notion that anyone can or should die for anyone else's sin. As a
religion, Judaism is far more focused on the practicalities of
understanding how one may live a sacred life in this world
according to God's will, rather than hope of spiritual salvation
in a future one. Judaism does not believe in the Christian concept
of Hell, nor that only those following one specific faith can be
"saved". Judaism does have a punishment stage in the
afterlife (i.e. Gehenna, a one year maximum purgatory) as well as
a Heaven (Gan Eden), but the religion does not intend it as a
and other Christian festivals have no religious significance in
Judaism and are not celebrated. Celebration of non-Jewish holy
days is considered Avodah Zarah or "Foreign Worship" and
is forbidden; however some secular Jews in the West treat
Christmas as a secular (but not religious) holiday.
Christian views of Judaism
In general, Christians view Christianity
as the fulfillment and successor of Judaism, and Christianity
initially carried forward (and still does albeit in slightly
modified form) much of the doctrine and many of the practices from
that faith, including monotheism, the belief in a Messiah, and
certain forms of worship (such as prayer, and reading from
religious texts). Other beliefs around original sin atoned for by
God giving his son, or the Son (who is God) coming down to earth
for the sake of humanity, and a subsequent sacrifice of that Son,
and the belief in the triune nature of God, are essential
differences introduced in Christianity that have no counterpart in
consider that the Law was necessary as an intermediate stage, but
once the world was able to understand the significance of the
Crucifixion, then adherence to Law was superseded by faith in
Christ as the path to God, and that many of the laws in the Old
Testament (the Jewish Five Books of Moses) are no longer required
to be applied in life, since humanity is now able to understand
and be saved by Jesus directly.
Christians today hold to super-sessionism, the belief that the
Jews' chosen-ness found its ultimate fulfillment through the
message of Jesus: Jews who remain non-Christian are no longer
considered to be chosen, since they reject Jesus as the Messiah
and Son of God. This position has been softened or even completely
abrogated by some churches where Jews are recognized to have a
special status due to their covenant with God, so that this
continues to be an area of on-going dispute among Christians.
forms of Christianity which view the Jewish people as close to
God, seek to understand and incorporate elements of Jewish
understanding or perspective into their Christian beliefs as a
means to respect their "parent" religion or to more
fully seek out and return to their Christian roots. More
evangelistic Christians tend to see Jews as essentially misguided
by not choosing Christ, and as a people whom there is a more
specific duty to evangelize or convert.