But the two religions are not as far apart as some might believe, beginning with their scriptures.
Torah and the Bible
According to Jewish belief, the Torah was revealed to Moses in 1312 BCE (Before the Christian Era) at Mt. Sinai. The word Torah refers to teaching or instruction, and is used as a general term to include Judaism’s written and oral laws. Referred to as the Hebrew Bible, the Torah is comprised of the first of three parts of the Tanakh, the founding religious document of Judaism, and is divided into the Five Books of Moses.
The Torah is accepted by Christians as part of their Bible. It comprises the first five books of the Christian Bible’s “Old Testament.” The Christian Bible’s “New Testament” includes the life and teachings of Jesus.
Who was Jesus?
In Jewish belief, Jesus of Nazareth was a Jewish man who preached during the Roman occupation of the Holy Land in the first century. The Romans and some religious Jews – according to some – killed him for speaking out against Roman atrocities. But the Jews do not believe Jesus was divine, the Son of God or the Messiah because he does not meet the Jewish criteria for a Messiah. In order to be the true Jewish Messiah as foretold in the Jewish scriptures, he must be an observant Jew descended from the House of David and be an ordinary man (versus the Son of God), bring peace to the world, gather the Jews back into Israel and rebuild the ancient Temple in Israel.
The Christian worships Jesus as the Son of God, who died on the cross for the sins of humanity, rose from the dead and eventually ascended to heaven. Christians believe Jesus will return to the world again in the Second Coming. Christians believe Jesus appeared as God in the flesh to show people the path to everlasting life. They believe that Jewish leaders, offended by Jesus’ popularity and claim of divinity, conspired with Roman officials to bring about his execution.
Religion or Ethnicity?
Whether Judaism is a religion or an ethnicity depends in part on whom you ask. Some Jews believe that those born to Jewish parents or who have Jews in their family tree should be considered Jewish, whether they practice the religion or not. Some say you can only be Jewish if your mother was a Jew, while others believe that anyone can be a Jew, regardless of heritage.
Chaya Berkowitz of Chabat of the Delta sees it both ways. “In a manner, you may say that it is a combination or at least not only one of them,” said Berkowitz. “Judaism is a set of beliefs and guidelines given to the Jewish people. In other words, being Jewish is not necessarily synonymous with following the guidelines or believing in the beliefs of Judaism.
“If one is born Jewish, they are Jewish no matter what their level of observance might be, while at the same time one can go through a conversion process to become Jewish.”
But according to Rabbi Ira Book of B’nai Torah in Antioch, being Jewish is all about community.
“Judaism is a civilization, a way of life,” said Book. “It has its own calendar, sacred days, Biblical days, rituals, art, dress and music. It has it’s own language, land and literature. This is a civilization and a way of life.”
Similarities and differences
While there are obvious differences between the Christian and Jewish faiths, there are also some similarities, the most basic being in the shared belief of a heavenly father, one creator and one God.
“With this belief,” said Book, “we are all one family. Jesus knew this as a Jew when he said the greatest commandments are ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our god is one. Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your might. Love your neighbors as yourself.’”
But the primary differences between Jews and Christians also stem from this, said Book. “Jews cannot believe in a Messiah – or “anointed one” – without redemption for the entire world,” said Book. “Christians refer to a Second Coming, but there is no source in the Hebrew Scriptures for this reference, and that is a basic difference.”
For more information on Judaism, check out the following sources used for this story. They include www.wikipedia.com, www.judaism.com, www.religionfacts.com and www.judaism101.com.