Judaism and Christianity are both part of the Abrahamic religions, and although they have many similarities, there are much greater differences separating their beliefs and practices. Judaism is an extremely influential religion, and it stands as the root of Christianity.
The Hebrew people originated in Ancient Mesopotamia in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans. Around 2000 BCE, Abraham was a nomadic leader wandering the region, when according to the Book of Acts 7:1-4, God gave Abraham his first calling to leave the city of Ur and travel to the promise land of Canaan (Israel). The land of Canaan was arid and wrought with famine, forcing Abraham to travel to Egypt in search of a better life. In the book of Genesis, which consists of the first five books of the Torah, it was the Abrahamic Covenant that first explains the contract between God and Abraham. It stated that if Abraham and his people followed God’s rules, consisting of circumcision and do as he commanded, he will in turn take care of them and give unto Abraham and his people the promised land of Canaan. The land will be occupied by Abraham’s descendants and they will rule over it. At this time, it was already understood that Abraham believed in a monotheistic God known as Yahwe, one true God and the only God who was all powerful and all knowing.
The foundation for Judaism is renewed with the Mosaic Covenant. Moses was asked by God to deliver his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt. Upon their liberation, Exodus, God speaks to his chosen people and gives Moses the tablets with the 10 commandments. Israelites are to follow the commandments, live a life of obedience to God, and worship him. In return, God will set Israel apart as the Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation, (. )
At the time when Jesus was born, 4 BCE, it is believed that Judea was in turmoil while under Roman control. Revolts from the Jewish people led the Romans to destroy the Temple and disperse the Jewish people, known as the diaspora. Conflicts within the Jewish communities were also causing major divisions. According to the prophecies, Jews had long believed that a savior will someday return to the world and reunite the kingdom and his people. Jesus was a Jew, he lived as a Jew and he never started a new religion, but there was a movement within Judaism that developed during and after Jesus died. Jesus was known as a prophet, teacher, messiah, and to some, the son of God. He was a Jew, but did not fit in with any other Jewish sect. He often spoke against them and against the established leadership. Jesus talked about opening the religion to non-Jews and how circumcision was not required to follow God’s will. According to the Book of Acts, Saul (later changing his name to Paul) was a Jewish Pharisee tentmaker with Roman citizenship who hated the followers of Jesus Christ. He believed they were breaking the Mosaic Law and corrupting his people. After Jesus’s death, Saul would persecute Christians. One day on his way to Damascus to capture more Christians, the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to Saul and asked him to stop persecuting Christians, to help convert Jews and Gentiles toward Christianity and to spread the word and teachings of Jesus Christ. He was then given the name of Paul, and from that day forward, he travelled all over Mesopotamia spreading the word of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is said to be most influential apostle of the Christian faith. Additionally, his letters have been the most important foundation for what is now the largest religion in the world, Christianity.
There are many similarities within the Jewish and Christian faith. The most basic one is that they’re monotheistic religions that believe in one single all powerful God, in the same one God with a different name. Yahweh is the God of the Jewish people and for Christians is God. They both follow directions and guidance from their Holy Books. The Holy Book in Judaism is the Tanakh which is divided into three sections. First section is the Torah (first Five Books of Moses) which means teaching and contains the Law, next is the Nevi’im which means Prophets, and lastly the Ketuvim known as Writings. For Christians, their Holy Book is The Bible which is also divided into two sections, The Old Testament, which is the same as the Torah, and the New Testament. In addition, both Christians and Jews can trace their descendants back to Abraham and are known as Abrahamic religions. It is through Isaac, Abraham’s son and the Abrahamic covenant that Jews believe they are the chosen people. Christianity was a sect of Judaism that split upon the arrival of Jesus Christ. Jesus’s followers, Christians, believed he was the messiah sent by God to save his people. Both religions believe in the creation story and the original sin through temptation, they also believe that humans have free will, and in a final day of judgement. In both faiths, the City of Jerusalem is held as a Holy Land. For Christians, Jerusalem is the place that holds special significance as a Holy Land because that’s where Jesus grew up as a child, would preach, was crucified, and resurrected. For the Jewish people, Jerusalem has an even greater significance. During the Kingdom of David 1003 BCE, Jerusalem became the capital city of Israel. It was on the top of Mount Moriah that Abraham would try to sacrifice Isaac to prove his devotion to God. In 957 BCE, King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount and it became a place of worship and considered to be The House of God, Gate to Heaven (Gen.28:17, Deut.12:3). For 3000 years Jerusalem has been the spiritual and political center for the Jewish people.
With many significant similarities, there are also a number of vast differences that have divided these two faiths for the last 2000 years. Many believe that the main point that divides these two faiths is the believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God, but that’s only one difference. A significant argument for Judaism is the fundamental question of who we are as people. Christians believe men are corrupted individuals with no ability to function under free will, which is the reason why Adam betrayed God’s commandment. We are sinners and our essence is bad, but with the help of our faith, devotion to God, baptism, and following the teachings of God and Christ, we will someday be able to reach Heaven and be saved. Judaism, in contrast, believes that through repentance, one can reconcile their actions with God. Jesus is rejected as a messiah, and he is not considered the son of God in the flesh or even seen as a prophet. He was not of any relevance to their believe in the coming of a messiah. Jews are still waiting for the messiah to come and unite their people. In Christianity, Jesus Christ is the messiah who was resurrected after being crucified. The son of God died on the cross to erase original sin from his people. Another major difference between the two is the issue of admittance into heaven. Christians believe that merely believing in God and Jesus Christ grants you entrance into heaven. Judaism teaches that living a good and righteous life may get you into, but that is to be determined upon judgement. Jews do not believe in a guaranteed salvation, and Christians rely on the assurance of salvation while still here on Earth.
Armstrong, Karen. A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994. Print.