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Judaism is the first of the world’s oldest religions to believe in only one god. God made a covenant of grace with Abraham, who is considered the world’s first Jew. He accepted God’s covenant by faith, and so by extension, the people of Israel (Barnes 88).
The Jewish people have been persecuted, forced into exile and dispersed for most of their history. Today there are Jewish people living in countries all over the world with several different religious branches having emerged, each with their own customs and traditions they have adapted over time. As a result, being Jewish can mean different things, such as merely being born to a Jewish woman, just being part of the culture without observing the Jewish laws or attending services, or by following a strict religious way of life daily (Langley 6, 44).
The Hebrew Bible is a record of God’s approach to His people. Israel was made to be a Holy People. Judaism is God’s quest for man, as more statements are found in the Bible about God’s love for Israel than about Israel’s love for God. There is no concept of a chosen God but there is the idea of a chosen people. It signifies not a quality inherent in the people but a relationship between the people and God (Pelikan 566).
The Hebrew Bible has no Old or New Testament. It consists of three books: the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. The written Torah is also know as the First Five Books of Moses, or the Pentateuch, and is the word of God as revealed to Moses on Mt Sinai. In the life of a Jew the Torah functions as an instrument of salvation, as it provides the laws and instructions for daily life (Pelikan 349). There are 613 Commandments (mitzvoh) found within it. These commandments state how Jews should live, and the requirement they obey each of them to keep from sinning (Barnes 92).
The Talmud is a collection of several volumes of commentaries, on-going interpretations of the laws contained in the written Torah interpreted and spelled out in greater detail by the rabbis. There are also books with sermons, prayers, hymns, stories and parables written by fallible men to assist in explaining their history, rituals and laws (Barnes 101).
The Jewish life and faith revolved around Jerusalem and the Temple prior to its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD (Charing 16).
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Temple worship was extremely ritualistic, involving sacrifices and elaborate rites performed by priests. Animals had sin transferred to them and were brought by the sinner to the priest to be sacrificed for the atonement of the sin (Leviticus 17:11). Without the temple and its sacrificial rituals the traditional Jewish people cannot keep all of the 613 commandments (Pelikan 349).
Jews view sin as breaking the law and believe most people do not have a sinful nature, yet they can chose to commit sinful acts. People are basically good and any evil inclinations to be bad can be overcome by studying the law. Since they are righteous by the law they do not recognize the need for redemption, as they are not separated from God (Caner 108). But Romans 3:10 clearly states "There is not one who is righteous, not even one" (Verbrugge 1657).
The Torah’s laws, or Old Testament, are good and holy laws as they come from God. They are commandments with restrictions and guidelines that show us how to please God. The Mosaic laws show us what we ought to do, but they are week as they come without the power to assist us in doing what is right (Kroll 3).
The major difference between Traditional Judaism and Christianity is the way we view the same God. Both religions believe God is the creator of earth and the heavens, but Jews do not believe in the Trinity, they see God as one unity. They view Jesus as a prophet, not the long awaited Messiah (Caner 107). 2 Corinthians 3:17 "Now the Lord is the Spirit" and John 10:30 "The Father and I are one" prove the trinity - Jesus is God the Father and the Holy Spirit (Verbrugge 1578, 1705).
Jesus did have a prophetic ministry with his teaching and preaching, accompanied by His demonstration of unconditional love. Jesus was also our high priest, such that the duties of the priests were to sacrifice for sin. Jesus was a priest like no other in that he was also the victim on the altar of the cross overcoming the worlds sins. Jesus took the full wrath and judgment we are due. "No God up there exacting punishment on Jesus down here" (Fackre 12).
The New Testament quotes extensively from the Hebrew Bible. In particular it quotes dozens of passages that demonstrate Jesus, "the son of Abraham, the Son of David," is indeed the "Christ", the Anointed One, the promised Messiah (Palau 17). The Bible of the Jewish people points to chapters yet to be, the story the Christian New Testament as the telling of the Good News (Fackre 9).
The Jewish people experienced slavery for 400 years when God redeemed them, Exodus 6:6. Since they view sin as breaking the law they can still be considered to be in bondage today. The Bible tells us throughout that no can chose not to sin and everyone needs a redeemer because we are powerless to free ourselves from sin. Christians understand that humans are sinful by nature (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9); we need redemption due to the fall of mankind through Adams sin. (Arnold 18). We cannot come to God full of sin, so Jesus came and died so we can be clean of sin. The only way to become clean, and the only way to God, is through Jesus Christ whom God provided as our redeemer.
This redemption, salvation, does not come through works or good deeds, only by faith in Christ. Jesus Christ, a Jewish carpenter is the way God came into the world to provide atonement (at-one-ment), the bringing together of humans and God for His purposes (Fackre 9). Titus points out in chapter 3 verse 5 "he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy" (Verbrugge 1780).
The author of Hebrews tells us of the eternal heavenly sacrifice, comparing Christ’s blood to the animal sacrifices in chapter 9 verses 11 through 14, “…but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Verbrugge 1796) thus showing animal sacrifices are no longer needed. Isaiah 43:1 of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures tells Israel that he has redeemed them, called them by name. God has gone to great lengths to provide salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. The entire chapter of Isaiah 53 describes Jesus as the Messiah and Jewish history itself proves that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy. First Peter 1:10 confirms that “the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours” (Verbrugge 1815).
The quest for immortality is common to all men. Jews not only think of the end but also of the beginning, remembering where they came from and that they were summoned (Pelikan 566). They believe in an after life, though mostly as a communal experience for all Jews as a nation, not individually. We will all stand in judgment before Christ one day to give account of ourselves and to receive our just rewards according to our deeds per Romans 14:10 (Verbrugge 1672).
It is much easier to accept Jesus as Savior than to try and adhere to numerous laws and commandments. The writings of man should not be held as infallible as man is not perfect. The book of Revelation 22:18-19 (and Deuteronomy 12:32) in the last paragraphs of the New Testament, warns against adding or subtracting from anything in its sacred pages. In Jesus Christ, God has spoken His final Word (Palau 16).
Jewish people and others who have not accepted Christ as their personal Savior need to do so soon. For when we do by the simple admission of faith and repentance we will receive His Holy Spirit as promised in Romans 1:4-5. With the Spirit God gives us the power to uphold the laws along with the desire to want to obey God and live in His will in this life (Kroll). The reward of accepting Christ’s redemption is serving and worshiping God eternally (Rev 22:3).
Arnold, Clinton E. “A Ransom for Many.” Discipleship Journal Nov/Dec. 2006:18-19.
Barnes, Trevor. The Kingfisher Book of Religions Festivals, ceremonies, and beliefs from around the world. New York: Kingfisher Publications, 1999.
Caner, Ergun Mehmet. When World Views Collide Christians Confronting Culture. Nashville: Lifeway Press, 2006.
Charing, Douglas. Eyewitness Books Judaism. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.: 2003.
Fackre, Gabriel. “Claiming Jesus as Savior in a Religiously Plural World.” Journal for Christian Theological Research Volume 8, 2003. 15 Jan 2007
Kroll, Woodrow. “Our New Position. What’s So New About the New Creation?” Daily Radio Broadcast 15 Jan 2007
Langley, Myrtle. Eyewitness Books Religion. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.: 1996.
Palau, Luis, and David Sanford. God Is Relevant Finding Strength and Peace in Today’s World. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
Pelikan, Jaroslav, ed. The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1990.
Verbrugge, Verlyn D., ed. Harper Study Bible New Revised Study Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.