Judaism & Christianity

Judaism and Christianity:
A Side-by-Side Comparison

by pragerfan

December 11, 2019

This is based on Dennis Prager's article What is Judaism?. In this table, I attempt to show how much common ground Christianity has with Judaism and vice versa, by taking Dennis' article, point by point, and showing from the New Testament how closely our beliefs and values do in fact line up.

There is one universal God. One God (in Three Persons). Both faiths believe in One God. Christians believe in a Trinity that Judaism does not believe in. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
This God is the Creator of the world and the God of all humanity. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3)
One universal God means there is one universal morality. Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 19:18-19)
God is incorporeal. (i.e. not physical) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:4)
God is Eternal: All matter has a beginning and an end. But God exists outside of time. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Rev. 21:1)

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Rev. 1:8)

Note: See Greg Ganssle's book God and Time for arguments about God's relationship to time. God existing "outside of time" would correspond to God's existence as timelessly eternal. This has been the traditional Christian position; however, arguments have been posited for God existing in time at least since the Incarnation because Jesus Christ existed in time while here on earth. It is not clear how Jesus would transition from existing in time to not existing in time, e.g. at the Ascension.
God is outside of nature: God is not in nature. And nature is not divine. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse...[they] changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature [i.e. creation] more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, Amen (Romans 1:20,25)
God is personal: God knows each of us. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. (John 4:17-18)
God is Good: God is moral (righteous), just and compassionate (merciful). And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. (Rev. 16:5)

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5)

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. (Matt. 19:17)
God is the God revealed in the Torah — the God of Creation, the God of Israel, the God of the Ten Commandments. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Since God was first revealed by the Torah, there is no way to duplicate this unique event in Christianity; we can only speak of it. The God of the New Testament is the God of the Ten Commandments. The Evangelists quote from the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:18, above).

"Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds," Hebrews 1:2, and "In the beginning was the Word..." John 1:1, closely paralleling Genesis 1:1 ("In the beginning, God created...").

For Christians, the God of the New Testament is identical to and the same as the God of the Old Testament. To believe otherwise is Marcionism, which is a heresy.
God's primary demand is that people be good. To be good is to act morally, to act justly. As Christians we sometimes put correct faith above acting morally or showing mercy (being good). But St. James writes,

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (2:14-18)
Therefore, God cares more about how we act toward one another than how we act toward Him — just as we humans care more about how our children treat one another than how they treat us. While it's true that Jesus said, "love your neighbor as yourself," He also said, "love the Lord with all your mind, soul, and strength." I am not sure that the Christian position would be that God cares more about how we treat others than how we treat Him, but it could be posited that He cares at least as much. I once heard that "love your neighbor as yourself" is actually a mistranslation of the Scriptures. The passage should read, "love your neighbor as God loves you." Also parents should care how their children treat them (the parents). If children are allowed to treat their parents badly, they will treat others badly, too. So I'm not sure the two faiths are aligned on this.
Therefore, right behavior matters more than intentions and even more than faith. In Christianity, motivations count for little. "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only..." (James 1:22), but faith, being the subtance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) is important: "The just shall live by faith," (Romans 1:17). I do not think behavior matters more than faith, but it is a mistake to say that behavior doesn't matter. Just look at the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 24-25. The N.T. Christian ethic however is heavily focused on charitable works, and doesn't seem to address ethics, e.g. the N.T. ethic doesn't tell me to be honest in my business dealings, not to cheat on exams at school, not to equate humans and animals, etc. Much of this type of ethic comes from the Old Testament, which is nevertheless considered Scripture by Christians.
There is an afterlife — God rewards the good and punishes the bad. This is pretty obvious from perusing the New Testament. The proof is left to the reader.

"He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead," from the Nicene Creed.
If good people and bad people have the same fate, there is either no God or a God that is not just. This is not explicitly called out or stated in the New Testament. We do know from the New Testament that God is just (1 John 1:9). The Western Church would likely agree with the statement. Would the Eastern (Orthodox) Church? I don't know. Personally, I tend to agree with it, but all have at least the possibility to be saved. God decides, in His absolute divine freedom, who will be saved and who will not be saved. We humans cannot set limits on that divine freedom. For example, if God wanted to save Adolf Eichmann, He could — but that does not mean He will — we are told in the New Testament that murderers will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:8).
Though there is an afterlife, God wants us to be preoccupied with this life. Some may take John 10:10 ("I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly") as evidence that God wants us to be preoccupied with this life. I am unsure. On the one hand, eternal life is perfect, so having perfection "more abundantly" seems superfluous, and so the passage may be referring to living more abundantly in terms of joy, happiness, or even prosperity (though I reject the teachings of the prosperity gospel). On the other hand, there are numerous passages in the New Testament that refer to the afterlife, perhaps the most notable being Matthew 6:19-21.

However I would also argue that there is a death cult in our society. Death is fashionable; death is kisch. Witchcraft and devil worship are making a comeback. We have to get people — especially young people — focused on life, not death. Jesus, whilst He was present here on earth, was certainly oriented toward life. He healed the sick; He raised the dead. It stands to reason that God wants us to be at least as focused on this life as the next one. Only that, He reminds us that everything temporal is temporary. Eventually it will all pass away (Revelation 21:1). We believe an excessive focus on death or the afterlife is unhealthy. Hence in the Orthodox Church we do not make predictions about the world to come. We only say that Christ will "come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end."
Reward in the afterlife ("heaven") is available to all good people, not just good Jews. This is a tough one for Christians, because of the exclusive claims that Jesus makes about Himself, e.g. John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."

Nevertheless, ultimately as I explained above, God, not we, decides who will have a reward and who will not have a reward. For example, although I have no New Testament basis for doing so, I strongly believe that Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, will not share the same eternal fate as Adolf Hitler, regardless of whether Schindler personally believed in Jesus or not. While Jesus tells us that He is "the way, the truth, and the life," I pray there will be room for men like Schindler at God's table.

It should be remembered here that so far, I have quoted exclusively from the New Testament to try to demonstrate that Jewish values are shared between the faiths, from an exclusively Christian text, the New Testament. However, the Old Testament is also Christian Scripture, divinely inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), on par with the New Testament. And in the Old Testament, God does reward or punish people and nations based on righteousness or unrighteousness, whether they do good, or do evil. Because the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament (to believe otherwise is Marcionism — a heresy), I have to allow for the possibility that, although Jesus tells me that He is the way, the truth, and the life, that doesn't preclude Him from saving whom He will in the way that He wishes. What He tells me doesn't mean He can't save Oskar Schindler. But this is a deep mystery that I do not understand.
Human beings are not born basically good. Therefore, evil comes primarily from within the human being, not from external causes, such as poverty. Jesus said, "That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." (Mark 7:20-23)

If Christians believe what Jesus says is true, then it stands to reason that people cannot be born basically good. But that does not mean people cannot be good: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) With God, all things are possible.

So it is that, in this fallen world, we are not born good. But we can be good, even perfect. Goodness must be taught and learned.
Therefore, the most important task of society must be to make good people, which is Judaism's primary task. The New Testament does not opine on the most important tasks of societies. The New Testament focuses on the individual believer's relationship with God and with other believers, love of God and neighbor. This is where we need the ethics of the Old Testament — the Ten Commandments — as mediated by Christians, what we call Judeo-Christian values.
All people are created in the image of God. That people are created in the image of God may be implied from the story of the woman with an infirmity where Jesus says to the ruler of the synagogue:
The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? (Luke 13:15-16)
Jesus teaches here that people are more precious than mere animals. Now this doesn't prove from the N.T. text that people are created in God's image, but it certainly points in that direction, and taken together with Genesis 1:27, would form a basis — though certainly not the only one — on which Christians believe that people are created in the image (and likeness) of God.
Therefore, racism is theologically impossible. I am not sure what Dennis means by this statement, so I'll skip it.
Therefore, the most important distinction among human beings is not their race, religion, nationality, class or sex; it is their behavior. In the words of Viktor Frankl, "There are only two races, the decent and the indecent." This is partially true: St. Paul writes, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28).

There are no longer distinctions, but not because of our behavior, but rather because of our "oneness in Christ Jesus." But if we are in Christ, behavior isn't an issue. If we are in Christ, we should act decently, and we should not act indecently.