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Comparison of Judaism and Christanity
There are many substantial and vital differences between Judaism and Christianity. Of course there are many similarities, because Christianity emerged from Judaism. However, the emergence was not a direct line. Christianity broke from Judaism, forming a new religion, so it is confusing, however comfortable the thought might be, to believe that the two religions are essentially the same, or to see Christianity as the continuation of Judaism (Ludwig 376).
Judaism's main belief is that the people of all religions are children of God, and therefore equal before God. All people have God's love, mercy, and help. In particular, Judaism does not require that a person convert to Judaism in order to achieve salvation. The only requirement for that, as understood by Jewish people, is to be ethical. While Judaism accepts the worth of all people regardless of religion, it also allows people who are not Jewish but who voluntarily wish to join the Jewish people to do so (Liebman, Cohen 23-24).
The Christian notion of trinitarianism [ Trinity ] is that God is made up of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke to the disciples saying “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). These few words have been translated into a deep and sacred meaning of Christianity that God is all three combined. Judaism insists on a belief of monotheism, the belief and worship of one God. As Judaism understands this idea, God cannot be made up of parts, even if those parts are mysteriously united. Such a view, even if called monotheistic because the three parts are, by divine mystery, only one God, is incompatible with the Jewish view that this division is not possible. The Jewish main idea is that God is one. This idea allows for God's unity and uniqueness as a creative force. For Jewish people, God is the creator of all that we like and all that we don't like. There is no evil force with an ability to create equal to God's. Judaism sees Christianity's trinitarianism as a weakening of the idea of God's oneness. Jewish people don't have a set group of beliefs about the nature of God, therefore there is considerable, and approved, debate within Judaism about God. However, all Jewish groups reject the idea of God having three parts. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” is the basic prayer for all Jewish liturgy (Shulman 237).
To Christians, the central tenet of their religion is the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, part of the trinity, the savior of souls who is the messiah. He is God's revelation through flesh. Jesus was, in Christian terms, God incarnate, God in the flesh who came to Earth to absorb the sins of humans and therefore free from sin those who accepted his divinity. For Christians to have salvation they must believe in Jesus as the Son of God that he had died for their sins and was raised from the dead. The book of John states “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”(John 3: 16).
To Jewish people, whatever wonderful teacher and storyteller Jesus may have been, he was just a human, not the son of God except in the sense in which all humans are children of God. In the Jewish view, Jesus cannot save souls; only God can. Jesus did not, in the Jewish view, rise from the dead (Shulman 293).
He also did not absorb the sins of people. For Jewish people, sins are removed not by Jesus' atonement but by seeking forgiveness. Jewish people seek forgiveness from God for sins against God and from other people (not just God) for sins against those people. Seeking forgiveness requires a sincere sense of repenting but also seeking directly to correct the wrong done to someone. Sins are partially removed through prayer, which replaced animal sacrifice as a way of relieving sins. They are also removed by correcting errors against others (Shulman 301, 491).
Jesus, for Christians, replaced Jewish law. For traditional Jewish people, the commandments [mitzvot] and Jewish law [halacha] are still binding.
Jesus is not seen as the messiah. In the Jewish view, the messiah is a human being who will usher in an era of peace. The Messiah should be someone that God selects and would serve Israel or to teach the people of the university of justice, brotherhood, and love (Shulman 266). They can tell the messiah by looking at the world and seeing if it is at peace. From the Jewish view, this clearly did not happen when Jesus was on Earth or anytime after his death.
Jewish people vary about what they think of Jesus as a man. Some respect him as an ethical teacher who accepted Jewish law, as someone who didn't even see himself as the messiah, who didn't want to start a new religion at all (Shulman 293). Instead these Jewish people see Jesus as someone who challenged the religious authorities of his day for their practices. Could this mean he meant to improve Judaism according to his own understanding not to break with it? Whatever the Jewish response is, one point is most important. No one who is Jewish, no born Jewish person and no one who converts to Judaism, can believe in Jesus as the actual son of God or as the messiah. For the Jewish people, there is no God but God (Ludwig 352).
Judaism does not accept the belief of original sin. Christians believe that people are born in sin and cannot remove sin by themselves but need an act of grace by the death of Jesus as an atonement for all of humanity’s sins. For Christians, there are no other forms of salvation other than through Jesus. These words written by Paul in the book of Ephesians stresses that humans are given the grace by God for salvation; “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is a gift from God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
However, the Jewish view is that humans are not born naturally good or naturally bad. They have both a good and a bad tendencies in them, but they have the free moral will to choose the good and this free moral will can be more powerful than the evil tendencies. Indeed, Jewish ethics require the idea that humans decide for themselves how to act. This is because of temptation, and with it the possibility of sin. This should allow people to choose good and therefore have moral merit. The Jewish view is not that humans are helpless in the face of moral error (Ludwig 356).
Jewish people have focused on the ways to lead a good life on Earth and improve this world. Concerns about death and beyond are not even thought of until the appropriate time, this means that no funeral arrangements were to be made in anticipation of death. Judaism has stressed the natural fact of death and its role in giving life meaning. The issues of death are very important to Jewish people. The fear of death, concern about the fate of our own soul and those of our loved ones, ethical concerns that some people die unfairly, all these and many other issues are discussed in Jewish literature. Since God is seen as ultimately just, the seeming injustice on Earth has propelled many traditional Jewish thinkers into seeing the afterlife as a way to reflect the ultimate justice of human existence (Shulman 549-550).
Jewish people wondered how individuals would be rewarded or punished after their death. Many Jewish thinkers figured that since God is filled with mercy and love, punishment is not to be considered to be eternal. There are many different ideas of paradise, such as that paradise is the place where we finally understand the true concept of God. It is also possible that there is no separate Heaven and Hell, only lesser or greater distance from God after death. Therefore, punishment might be self-determined on the basis of suffering in the kind of suffering the person brought about. That is, Judaism doesn't have a clear sense of Heaven and Hell, with different places in Hell for different punishments. Rather, the idea is that God uses the afterlife to provide ultimate justice and for the wicked to seek some sort of final redemption (Shulman 292).
Judaism does not believe people who are of other religions will automatically go to Hell or that Jewish people will automatically go to Heaven on their basis of their belonging to the faith. Instead, ethical behavior is what is most important. Many traditional Jewish people believe that Judaism provides the best guide to leading such an ethical life (Ludwig 360).
Christianity stress the belief that an individual must except that Jesus is the Son of God, died for all man kinds sins, and was resurrected from the dead. This is the basis of Christianity, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven by good works or just being ethical. Rather, it is solely on the basis of God’s mercy that an individual shall be delivered from his sins. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy He saved us, through the washing of generation and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).