1. Compare Judaism and Christianity

Mon 9 Aug, 2004 08:39 pm
I thought this would be worth looking into so I am creating 3 threads. What are the similarities between Judaism and Christianity? What are the differences?

In all three threads I am looking to explore theological, mythological, moral, structural, and ritual differences as well as any other differences that do not fall into these categories.
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Mon 9 Aug, 2004 08:43 pm
Well for starters, its the same God. The Old testament of the Bible is accepted by Jews as well. The differences are the whole Jesus thing and the doctrines.
Mon 9 Aug, 2004 08:55 pm
How does accepting the same book make it the same God? Do Judaism and Christianity emphasize the same parts of the book? Does either religion ignore parts of the book? Do either religions have other books that supplement this book?

I don't think it can be said yet whether it is the same God. Later in this thread maybe there will be an answer to the question of whether they both have the same God.
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Mon 9 Aug, 2004 08:59 pm
Good point. And the old testament God and the new testament GOd are VERY different. One was moody violent and jeolous. The other was compassionate and helping and more mysterious.
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Mon 9 Aug, 2004 09:04 pm
There are far more differences between Christianity and Judaism than similiarities.
Culturally, they are extremely similiar.
Religiously, they are not.
The cultural similiarites are obvious - they do both originate from a Jewish theology.
Religiously, they may appear similiar - to those outside of Torah observant Judaism.
That is because most of the planet is familiar with the basics of Christianity and therefore of the "old testament."
But there is only a teeny tiny minority that is familiar with Torah observant Jewish Law and customs.
And many of the religious laws are antithetical to Christian practice. Or visa versa.
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Mon 9 Aug, 2004 09:24 pm
Ed: That's a generalization. Actually, these are God's attributes according to Judaism:

merciful to one who is about to sin but has not yet sinned
merciful to the sinner who has repented
Powerful to act as His wisdom dictates
slow to anger
abounding in kindness
extending kindness for a thousand generations and placing the merits of the fathers to the credit of the children
forgives all iniquity
pardons all transgression
forgives accidental sin
cleanses those who repent

It's based on when God reveals Himself on Sinai. It starts at Exodus 34:6. Also, Judaism also has a supplement book. It is called the Talmud and is believed to be an oral tradition that was then written down.

Biblical fundamentalists who believe only in Tanakh and not the Talmud are called Karaites. They're actually fascinating people. Tanakh is an acronym for the hebrew for torah, prophets, and writings.
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Mon 9 Aug, 2004 10:33 pm
I think this can end up being a neat thread, along with the other two.

I can't come to the threads with much knowledge of Jewish life/history, except from a Christian viewpoint--but I guess, if everyone brings their own particular viewpoint, this could prove interesting.

As a Christian, I was taught that Jews are God's chosen people, they were constantly disappointing God--but this was likely due to their impossible laws. And, it was largely due to their inability to please Him, that He decided to become human, and relieve them of the burden of having to earn their salvation. He earned it for them.

In roughspeak, Jesus was Plan B--or a fair social program for all of us heathens, who just couldn't meet the initial mark.

The salvation aspect, I guess, is the big thing. Jews, as I understand, must earn their salvation through works, while Christians have to accept it, through faith.

Hope you gets lots of responses.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 06:35 am
Sofia wrote:
The salvation aspect, I guess, is the big thing. Jews, as I understand, must earn their salvation through works, while Christians have to accept it, through faith.

That's an interesting point, but what do make of this:
There is a famous debate in the Torah (Gemora) which asks the question is it better to Learn Torah (that is study all the Books of the Torah and Commentaries, ad infinitum), or is is better to perform the Commandments (mitzvos - in Judaism, there are 613 plus additional customs)?
The conclusion is that is it better to Learn Torah because this will lead to performing the Commandments.
In a sense, this is a statement that says Faith is higher than Works.

In any event, in order to perform the Commandments, a Jew must have the Faith that his actions are what G-d requires.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 08:34 am
Moishe, I have to disagree there. It's not that you're wrong, but I just think that what you've said is misleading. If a Jew does not have that faith, shouldn't he follow the commandments first in order to invite that faith in?

Or, if he does not have faith that the commandments are what God requires but is in complete awe of God and sees them as a sacred approach to God, isn't that also of merit?

Even on days when we cannot gather the appropriate kavvanah ( intent or mindfulness, attentiveness to God in our actions ) aren't we still required to follow the commandments?

I agree that faith is important, but without faith one is still a Jew. Struggling to attain faith can be beautiful as well.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 04:34 pm

I'm glad you're here to answer questions about the Jewish religion, because I am sorely lacking knowledge in that area.

I guess a good starting point to help me respond to your question is: In the Torah, or any other religious Jewish document, what does it say a Jewish person must do to enter Heaven?
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 04:59 pm
Moishe can flesh out what I say, but there is no heaven and hell in Judaism. The rabbinic model is of Gehinnom and Gan Eden. Almost everyone goes to Gehinnom. It's a place like a forge where people are reshaped until they are ready to move on. There are many views on how this happens. They are there for no more than 12 months -- this corresponds to the Jewish period of mourning. If they have not been transformed -- very few people -- their souls are extinguished. Otherwise, they move on to Gan Eden.

Moishe can explain it better, I'm sure, and correct any mistakes I made.

The question that comes up for me at this point then of why not to sin has a different answer. It's not so much about the suffering you will face as it is putting something between you and God (that can be removed through proper repentance), nevermind the effects it will cause in many cases between you and other people. Judaism is primarily based in this life and not the next one.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 05:13 pm
WOW! Boy, was I in the wrong ballpark...

Looking forward to anyone expounding on 'the ultimate ending' of Jewish people, and what it takes to 'be forgiven'.

Very interesting!
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Portal Star
Tue 10 Aug, 2004 06:58 pm
Re: 1. Compare Judaism and Christianity
dauer wrote:
I thought this would be worth looking into so I am creating 3 threads. What are the similarities between Judaism and Christianity? What are the differences?

In all three threads I am looking to explore theological, mythological, moral, structural, and ritual differences as well as any other differences that do not fall into these categories.

Don't forget Jews for Jesus, the "Jews" who swear they aren't Christians.

Judaism is the basis of Christianity (And also islam.) The main difference comes from the splitting of sects - there were many messiahs before (and some after) Christ but Christ had one of the largest followings, and managed to catch on (with the help of history.) The Jews who believed Christ to be the messiah predicted in the old testament became Christians. Many peagans were converted to christianity which is part of why christianity is largely different from judaism now - the new religion of Christianity took on the character of the religions of the people it absorbed.

Followers of Judaism continued to believe that the new messiah was not Christ, or had already come in the form of someone else.

Modern day practices differ mainly based on the text that is used: the old testament (in Hebrew/English) for followers of Judaism and the old and new but focusing on the new for followers of Christianity.

Jews practice in Hebrew, Christians practice in English and until recently, latin. Jews are very much bound to tradition out of respect for ancestry and have a culture of an opressed people (we are respecting our ancestors, those poor suffering things.)

In a lot of ways, the practices of the Jews are much like the Chinese - they are both cultures that were consistently opressed and heavily linked to ancestry.

Christianity tends to be more modern (than judaism) in its beliefs and their g-d is one that is generally less harsh than the Jewish g-d. By the way, Jews don't have text on hell and belief in an afterlife is widely varied on an individual basis. Christians believe in both heaven and hell.

Oh, and Rabbis are expected to marry - priests are expected to be celibate.

Of course, Jews and Christians still vary widely based on location and sect - but that's a general overview.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 08:34 pm
Well no one here is going to "grade" you for your casual survey on "religion comparisons"...although sticklers may object to your casual lumping of Judaism with Chinese practices as somehow similar...one being a religion and the latter typically categorized as a "philosophical ethic" at least in many of its permutations. Word merchants may fault you for laziness when comparing Judaism with Catholicism in terms of marriage. "Expected" really won't do for characterizing the rule sets applicable to each.
But enough with nit picking. Enjoy your quest!
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 08:45 pm
Portal, you left out that the supplementary Jewish text, also significant in shaping, is the talmud.

Also, Jews pray in Hebrew and English depending on the denomination. Some prayers are even in Aramaic.

And Jews are not bound to tradition out of respect for ancestors. Most of these traditions are mitzvot, divinely decreed commandments. The commitment to these mitzvot is due to an everlasting covenant. Secondary traditions are minhag, they are customs, and in this sense it is important to continue as one's ancestors did, but this has more to do with the way they observed the mitzvot that anything else. This has nothing to do with suffering.

However, when Judaism moved from cyclical to linear time it began to mark events and remember them, both good and bad. That is why we still observe the rededication of the Temple during Chanukah and mourn the destruction of both Temples on Tisha B'av. (There were not two temple at once, but one was destroyed and one built later.)

I wouldn't say Christians are more modern either, just more Western. There are too many Jewish doctors, lawyers, scholars, etc to say otherwise. I know, stereotype, but there's truth to it.

I also don't see how the Jewish God is more harsh than the Christian one, unless you care to back that up. Jews consider their God the one God of everything. Christians consider their God the one God of everything. The Rabbis as a model said God is just and merciful, and even say at times that His mercy is greater than His justice.

True though, about afterlife. It's not much of an issue in Judaism. I wouldn't say it's entirely individual, just plenty of room for debate. Lots of ideas and no fixed answer. I did explain the rabbinical view and transmigration appears later in mysticism.

Sofia, this is exactly why I started these threads. I believe that exploring each other's religions, their similarities and differences, will lead to a greater understanding. Of the three religions the one I know least about is Islam, but to be sure there are things that are unclear in Christianity that will hopefully come up once things get moving. I expect to see many similarities and many differences in any of the threads that stay active.

On forgiveness, I spoke about this a little in another thread. There are two things that must be forgiven: sins against man and sins against God.

A sin against man is forgiven by the individidual who was wronged. They are approached on up to three separate occasions. It is upon them to forgive by the third approach. If they do not, then they have sinned by being stone-hearted (I could have the name wrong) and the other person is forgiven.

A sin against God is forgiven by admitting what was done, asking forgiveness, and sincerely commiting not to do it again. Forgiveness for sins against God is finalized on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, when we atone our sins openly as individuals and as a community in a communal setting.

"Ultimate Ending" I think you mean some sort of end time. There is a lot that Judaism says on it and it doesn't always agree. Traditionally, there will be a messiah. This messiah will be a person. This person will fulfill certain criteria such as the ingathering of the Jewish people and establishing world peace. Afterwards there may be a time when all people everywhere observe the mitzvot or when Jews fully observe the mitzvot or when reality is somehow different, etc etc. The messiah will be some sort of human leader who will have no sort of divinity. M'shiakh is the Hebrew and it means annointed one, like a high priest or a king. There were non-Jewish annointed ones who were kings of other places.

So I can't say there will truly be an ultimate ending. Some prophesies say the dead will rise, etc etc. Someone else can go into more detail on this or if you wish we can discuss it further. I suppose this idea is a pretty relevant difference.

Jews wait for the coming of the Messiah, but we don't hold our breath. Some modern ideas stress a messianic age that we as humans will bring about together. My old rabbi thought it was possibly all about the type of people who rise in systems where things are really going wrong and offer hope, like Gandhi, and that there are truly many messiahs.

What Portal said about messiahs is true. There have been many messiahs. But if they don't fulfill the prophesies they don't qualify, and so once someone dies most Jews move on. These people are called false messiahs.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 08:53 pm
Oh, and about Rabbis marrying, this is because the view of sex is different. Judaism has no doctrine of original sin. Sex is seen as something for both procreation and something joyous to help bring a man and his wife together. It can at times be spiritual. But perhaps that should be set aside because there's enough on the table.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 10:14 pm
Well, as you all are engaging in a civil exchange, I have little to offer in terms of "corrections." Dauer seems to basically have it right.
I am not sure that the idea of everyone going to Gehinnom is accurate.
The idea is that the mitzvohs of a Jew are weighed against his aveirahs (sins) and if mitzvohs outweigh the aveirahs, he goes on the the Heavenly World.
However, Judaism is resplendent with the idea that G-d's mercy is overwhelming and it is Hashem's (G-d's) wish that everyone enter the Heavenly world.
The idea being that one really only ends up in Gehinnom if one is really deserving due to having been pretty bad in Life.
However, these are still very loose concepts that are not as clearly defined as they might be in Christianity.

This world is called Olam Hazeh and it is considered the world of illusion or false values.
The next world (or previous one) is called Olam Habah and it is considered the real world.
Just food for thought.

Now, I offer my semi-educated, very cryptic, OPINION on what Judaism means.
It's all about the Jews.
All of History. All of world events. All of what happens. Is centered on Israel.
It is a bizarre and often frightening thought, but, through my own observations, I have found this to be true.
As Tevya said, in "Fiddler on the Roof:" G-d, I know we're the Chosen People, but once in a while, couldn't you choose somebody else?
I find no other explanation for the total obsession with Jews, with Israel, with Judaism for the entire history of Man.
It makes no sense otherwise.
Jews are Chosen by G-d and our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to do what G-d has commanded us to do.....
This nation will self destruct in five minutes.
Good luck!
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 11:19 pm
On "earning salvation" - that was what I was always taught as I grew up Jewish, and also that studying torah was not, in fact neccessary as long as you followed all the important laws. There's also a lot more varied and infinitely strange ideas about death and reincarnation and the Messiah and so forth in a lot of sects of Judaism. It always seemed to me that even though there were 7 billion different types of Christian, they all seemed more unified in their beliefs than the 3 or 4 different types (maybe "degrees" is a better word) of Jew.

And I think the cultural aspects are pretty unique, in particular some Jewish customs followed by more orthodox Jews are incredibly archaic since they take the OT much more literally than Christians. But I'm sure there's some archaic practices in Christianity too, that I don't know so much about.
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Tue 10 Aug, 2004 11:23 pm
Moishe - I heard from my Rabbi (who liked to lecture on what happened after death, for some reason) that everyone goes to Gehena (or Gehinnom?) for however a short period of time, the time there being determined by how well (or badly) you lived your life. But no one can be there for longer than 6 months (I think? Or a year or something) so that's why when someone dies, you mourn for that length of time. Or something.
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Wed 11 Aug, 2004 03:34 am
Practice Acceptance and Toleration here. It seems to serve us well to explore our structures of belief together. It is Good.
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