The rise of the Roman Empire was coupled by the diaspora of the Jewish religion in the Mediterranean region. When the Assyrian empire dispersed the ten tribes that comprised the kingdom of Israel (Samaria), many of the Jews settled in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Many of these Jews were merchants and as such introduced the new faith to the Greeks, Phoenicians, and the barbarians of the “north.” Roman historians would refer to the Jewish faith as a contagious disease that infects the healthy morals of the non-Jews. The Jews were however indignant to admit the accusations of the Romans and Greeks. They often view these (Romans and Greeks) as unclean and incapable of receiving the religion of Abraham. The intense contradictions of the Roman and Jewish culture made the Jewish religion an exclusive religion for the next two millennia.
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Christianity, being a spawn of Judaism made a great headway after the coronation of Constantine the Great as emperor of the Roman Empire. Unlike the Jewish religion, which can be defined as the religion which believes in the efficacy of a One True God who revealed Himself to the great patriarchs (Abraham, Noah, Moses, etc.), who loathed for non-Jews, Christianity was a permeable religion, accepting people from all walks of life (from all ranks in the society). Christianity easily spread beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire, and was becoming more and more cemented to Roman society. Even after the fall of Rome in 476 A.D., Christianity was able to convert much of the barbarian nations that replaced the old empire.
It was said that there were only two successors of the Roman Empire: the Byzantine Empire and the Papacy. Among these two successors, only the Papacy survived up to the 21st century (the Byzantine Empire collapsed in 1453 with the fall of its capital city Constantinople). Thereupon, Christianity served the ground point of Western culture and civilization. Western values were structured by the Holy Church to restrict the fatality of wars and acts of barbarism. It was as if Christianity became the foundation of Western culture. To understand the root of this foundation, an examination of the root of Christianity (Judaism) is necessary. We can only understand Christian values if they were associated with the teachings of Moses and the Jewish prophets.
Thesis Statement: The differences between Christianity and Judaism lie first on their beliefs about the nature of God (and the meaning of the universe) and their stance on faith exclusion. The similarity lies on the assumption that both religions accept the teachings (fundamentals) of the early prophets as a possible guide to a holy life.
Reality for Judaism is defined first and foremost by the existence of a transcendental God that moves the universe according to His will. Reality exists because the pine will exists, and that the universe has that speck of pine presence as a result of God’s creative powers. This One True God is omniscient and omnipresent. To be all powerful signifies the fact that this Being has no superior or limit. His powers are beyond the grasp of the ordinary mind. Nevertheless, because He created all things, he has the right to destroy. The right to create is superseded by the right to destroy. God is omnipresent because he can be found in all places of the universe. His pine presence is imbibed in His creation and thus it follows that God exists in place with His creatures.
One of the core concepts in Judaism is the story of creation in which God created the universe in 6 days and that on the seventh day he rested. His special creation is man; the embodiment of His image or likeness. He promised man eternal life, but eventually man disobeyed God and thus bequeathed to himself the so-called death. After the flood, God promised Noah that He will never destroy earth again, and that man will fill the earth again. This promise was fulfilled through God’s servant Abraham whom He promised a million fold descendants. Abraham’s descendants became the people of Israel, God’s Chosen people, whom God delivered through Moses from the scourge of the pharaoh of Egypt.
The Covenant at Sinai which was established by God, served as the basis of the Jewish Law. All traditions of the Jewish people would have to be based on the Jewish Law and all the experiences when God saved them from the enemies of Israel (Psalm 44). This Mosaic Law was not only a moral guide to the descendants of Abraham, it also served as the social framework of their society. Sinners were labeled (like prostitutes and tax collectors); priests would be marked different from ordinary followers; what is important was distinction.
Human beings are actors of the pine will imbibed in the Mosaic Law. Human beings were created by God for the purpose of glorifying Himself and attesting to the world His majesty. Although a creation of God, each human has freewill to observe the ways of God. Freewill is what actually made men distinct from animals; for freewill obedient to the pine Will shall receive its reward.
The Jewish way of life is different from that of the Gentiles. It was rooted from the first five books of the Bible written by Moses, which specify the necessary rituals and sacrifices that Jews should offer to God. This would serve as recall mechanism for Jews to remember the great acts of mercy shown by God to the nation of Israel. Nevertheless, holy living was sometimes based on the teachings of the prophets of God (God’s emissary), who in periods of crisis served as either leader or spiritual adviser to their king. Nevertheless, holy living in Jewish custom can be described as purity through a strict obedience of the Law, non-assimilation of Gentiles, and maintenance of Jewish freedom.
The promised Messiah was believed by the Jews to be their savior from the yoke of Roman imperialism. The Messiah would cure the sick, restore sight to the blind, walk the lame, and raise the dead (Isaiah 40:9-14. The Messiah was expected to be anointed by the Most High to save Israel from its enemies.
God is One, but has three personalities: the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. This is called the “Godhead.” Reality is defined by the existence of these three Persons. The Father created the cosmos through the Word (Son), with their unwavering love expressed in the Holy Spirit (Who gives life). This Trinity symbolizes the nature of God. The three Persons cannot be separated from each other because they are one in spirit. It was noted that when Jesus Christ spoke “Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani” on the cross, He referred to the existence of a singular being distinct from Himself, yet One in himself. And when God was about to create man, said “Let us make man in our own likeness” (Gen. 1:26) signifying the plurality of the Godhead. By principle, it follows that reality itself is a reference to the pine will imbibed in the Godhead. While Judaism believes in a God with a singular personality, Christianity takes into account that this God was revealed by Jesus to be of Three Person united in Spirit.
The universe was created by God through the Word. The Word here is Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, it reads “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was with God in the beginning, through Him all things were made; without Him nothings was made that was made” (John 1:1-3). The eternal Word was indispensable in the creation of the universe. While Judaism specified only that that the universe was created only by one personality, Christianity says otherwise. All the Three Persons participated in the creation. The Holy Ghost was for instance present in the creation as indicated in Gen. 1:1-3.
The Jewish people served as an example for other nation to follow God in due time, for God is not only a God of Israel but of the world as what prophets claimed centuries before the birth of Christ. Nevertheless, God’s chosen people would not last an eternity for in due time, God will establish a New Covenant, a covenant that will include Gentiles (Romans 16:26), a covenant that will be written in the hearts of men. In this covenant, Jesus Christ will serve as the lamb, to be sacrificed in order to save humanity from the bondage of sin. Christianity clearly recognizes the fact that the Messiah was Jesus Christ, Judaism until now waits for the Messiah.
Human beings possess what we call freewill. Every person has the choice to do either what is corollary or contrary to the will of God. Whatever the case, God has a ruler to measure those who call His name. Thus in order to purify oneself from sin, one must take into account his ill tidings and present it to the Lord through a faith in action (James 2:22-24). The sacrifice of lambs and other rituals in Judaism is not a necessary feature of Christianity. In order to lead a holy life, a Christian must follow God’s commandment as said by Jesus Christ. A Christian should love Gove above all and that love his neighbor as himself. A holy life is assisted by a clear and juxtaposed reading and understanding of the Holy Scripture. For Protestants, this means sola scriptura (the scriptures alone), for Orthodox and Catholics sola verbum dei (the Word of God alone) – includes traditions and laws of the church. The Scriptures serves as a guide to a holy life. The fruit of which is faith in action.
The difference between the two religions lies on the assumption that Christianity accepts Jesus as the Messiah and the writing of a New Covenant of God, and that Judaism awaits for the Messiah bounded by the Mosaic Law
New International Version. 1984. Gateway.com in biblegate.com/passage. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
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