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This study examined the similarities and differences of Judaism and Christianity in terms of three critical issues to wit: Sin, Messiah, and Covenant. A visit to the synagogue was undertaken in order to further examine the culture and traditions of the Jewish community. Likewise, the author for the purpose of obtaining first-hand information also conducted an interview with a member of the Jewish community. The information derived from the said interview facilitated further understanding of the nature of the design of synagogues as well as of the various activities that are being carried out in the worship place.
On Judaism and Christianity: A Comparison and Contrast
Religion, as defined in most references, refers to the set of beliefs concerning the nature and purpose of the universe. (Unabridged Dictionary, 1998, p. 1628). It serves as a medium for us to better understand why people or societies differ in terms of reactions to various issues, ideologies, actions, etc.
This paper aims to provide an overview of Judaism.
Likewise, it also aims to present how the said religion differs from Christianity by means of examining three critical issues to wit: sin, the messiah, and the covenant.
According to Armstrong (1993), Judaism had its beginnings in Palestine. It is said to be one of the oldest and 12th among the largest religions in the world. Likewise, it is noted that Judaism is dominant in countries like the USA, Europe, and Israel.
Likewise, Armstrong (1993) stated that Abraham introduced Judaism in Palestine and its followers were globally known as Jews.
The word Jew, as cited in most references, actually means people who live in Judah.
Name, Location and Review of the site
Mr. Kristoff Frank was interviewed for this paper. He provided the author relevant information pertaining to Judaism’s nature as an institutional belief. Likewise, he also shared the Jews’ concept of sin, the messiah, and the covenant.
The Jews’ place of worship is known as the synagogue. The synagogue, according to Mr. Frank, differs from the place of worship of other religions since it serves not only as a venue for praying but also a place for studying and for social and charitable works.
As stated by Mr. Frank, a synagogue has its board of directors. The said board of directors is usually comprised of lay people. This group is in-charge of ensuring the maintenance of the synagogues as well as the management of the activities being conducted in the place.
The board of directors usually hires a rabbi, which is actually equivalent to a priest in other religions. A rabbi is a valuable member of the Jewish community because it provides leadership, guidance, and education to the Jewish people. However, it was noted that, unlike other religions, a rabbi might be absent from a synagogue on a temporary basis and that religious activities may be carried out in the absence of a rabbi.
Inside the synagogue, it can be noted that during sessions, the passing of collection baskets are absent. This is so because Jews are not allowed to carry money during holidays and Sabbath.
As per Mr. Frank, synagogues are financed by means of the payment of the members’ annual dues, voluntary donations, and via the payment for reserved seats for services during Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
Sanctuary is the term being used to refer to a portion inside the synagogue that is assigned for the conduct of prayer services. As per Mr. Frank, the sanctuary is built in such a way that it faces towards the direction of Jerusalem. This is so because certain prayers of Judaism must be recited facing the said direction.
The Sanctuary is also a seat to a cabinet found in the synagogue’s wall. The said cabinet is known as the Ark. The Ark actually holds the Torah scrolls (scriptures that are used during services written in parchment paper).
Other notable structures found inside the synagogue are the Eternal Lamp (Ner Tamid), a candlelabrum (Menorah), and a pedestal (bimah).
Based on observations made, it can be noted that the architectural design of synagogues are simpler as compared with the churches we see. This perhaps may be due to the wide range of activities that may be conducted in the place.
As cited in earlier, one of the main objectives of this paper is to provide an overview of Judaism. According to Mr. Frank, Judaism is a monotheistic type of religion and its followers are guided by the principle that history is an ongoing dialogue between God and humanity. Hence, as a Jew, it is his duty to be able to live within the teachings of the Torah. This, according to Mr. Frank, is the way by which the Jews will be able to fulfill God’s plan for them as well as realize their pre-determined contribution to their country and the whole world in general.
The Jew’s concept of sin, as cited by Mr. Frank and other references on Judaism, includes actions that tend to deviate from the teachings stipulated in the Torah. Moreover, according to Mr. Frank, sin for the Jews consists of three elements (i.e. het, avon, and pesha).
Mr. Frank explained that the Het or the missing mark has something to do with respect to the highest ideal. While Avon and Pesha has something to do with the deviation from what is right and lawful (as stated in the Torah) and the act of rebellion against the law and the authorities, respectively.
Taking these definitions into account, it can be said that the concept of sin for the Jews would actually refer to the individual’s failure to carry out his obligations in accordance with the Torah, rituals, and the Jewish social norms. Furthermore, as cited in other references, the concept of original sin in Judaism does not exist. Adam and Eve’s situation are considered not as an original sin but more of a consequence of the actions that both individuals have undertaken.
As per Cohen-Sherbok (1999), the concept of Messiah also exists in Judaism. However, it cannot be left unnoticed that in the institutional belief understudy, the Messiah can be any person with a Divine mission (i.e. priests, kings, and prophets) and is still yet to come. Hence, Jesus Christ is not considered as a Messiah but a false prophet.
In Judaism, there also exist the concept of a covenant. This is actually known as berith in their native parlance. According to Mr. Frank, the covenant is the contractual agreement between God and the Jewish people. It represents the special relationship of God with the Jews that was built in Mt. Sinai.
Judaism vis-à-vis Christianity
Christianity possesses similar attributes with that of Judaism. However, it can be
noted that both institutional beliefs differ in some aspects. This may be understood by means of reviewing Christianity in terms of its concept of sin, the messiah, and covenant.
In Christianity, sin is also referred to as an action that deviates from the teachings stipulated in the Holy Scripture. Repentance, atonement, and the need to live in accordance with the commandments given by God are pre-requisites to living a Christian life. However, despite the similarities, it can be noted that Judaism and Christianity differs in three aspects to wit: concepts of original sin and eternal life.
As mentioned earlier, Judaism does not recognize the concept of original sin. As mentioned earlier, Jews took Adam and Eve’s situation as a consequence of the choices or actions undertaken by both individuals. With this, the thinking that individuals are born with original sin is not accepted in Judaism as well as the concept of baptism.
The concept of eternal life also does not exist in Judaism. This is so because Judaism does not recognize Jesus Christ as its savior. In fact, Jesus Christ is regarded as a false prophet. Likewise, the Jews believe that their destiny depends on their good deeds.
The concept of messiah for both institutional beliefs is similar except for the fact that in Judaism, Jesus Christ is not considered as a messiah but a false prophet.
As stated earlier, the covenant is regarded as a contractual agreement between God and the Jewish people unlike in Christianity that regards Jesus Christ not only as the messiah but also the new covenant. Christianity recognizes that God gave Jesus Christ to save mankind from sin and that by means of accepting him as the people’s savior and creator reconciles an individual’s relationship with God the Father.
Taking into consideration all the information gathered pertaining to Judaism and Christianity, it can be said that both institutional beliefs are similar and that Christianity further enhances the teachings and practices of Judaism.
Armstrong, Karen. (1993). A History of God: The 4, 000- Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., USA.
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan. (1999). Judaism. London : Routledge,
Corrigan, John, Denny, F.M., Eire, C. N., & Jaffe, M.S. et. al. (1998). Readings in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Prentice Hall, Inc. New Jersey, USA.
Frank, Kristoff S. (2006, May 09). On Judaism. United States: New Jersey.
Introductory Notes in Judaism. (1997).
Peck, A.A, and Neusner, J. (2004). The Routledge Dictionary of Judaism. New York: Routledge.
Random House. (1998). Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd edition. New York: Random House Inc.
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