To Christians, Judaism is unique among world religions. It is to
historic Judaism, the Judaism of the Old Testament, that
Christianity traces its roots. Christianity does not supplant Old
Testament Judaism; it is the fruition of Old Testament Judaism.
One cannot hold to the Bible, Old and New Testaments, as God's
one divine revelation without also recognizing and honoring the
place God has given historic Judaism. As the apostle Paul
recited, these are some of the blessings God has given to the
... to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the
covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and
the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ
according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever.
Amen (Romans 9:4, 5, NASB).
Judaism has undergone many changes throughout its long history.
At times it has been very close to the true God, serving Him in
spirit and in deed. At other times it has ranged far from the
will of God, forsaking its promises to Him, while He has remained
faithful to Israel.
The true God, the Yahweh of the
Old Testament, the God of Christianity, is the God of historic
Judaism, the same Master, the people of Israel have long occupied
a special place in God's divine plan, and Christians should not
overlook this rich spiritual heritage.
Although Judaism as a whole has
rejected God's greatest revelation and gift in the Person of
Jesus Christ our Lord, Christians cannot deny Judaisms
vital contributions to our faith. We should earnestly pray that
the physical descendants of Abraham will recognize that their
spiritual heritage is also in Abraham and will return to it (see
History of Judaism
Judaism had its origin when a man named Abram received a divine
call from the one true God to leave his idolatrous people in
"Ur of the Chaldees" and go to the land of Canaan. This
call is recorded in Genesis 12:1-3 (NASB).
Now the Lord said to Abram,
Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
The promise made to Abram, whose name was later changed to
Abraham, included the fact that his descendants would inherit a
land which would belong forever to them. This covenant was
repeated to Abraham's son Isaac and likewise to Isaac's son
Jacob. The family of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel,
migrated to Egypt to escape a severe famine. They were soon
enslaved and forced to build mighty cities for the pharaoh.
During the years of bondage they continually cried out for a
God eventually raised up a man from among His people to deliver
them out of the bondage of Egypt; his name was Moses. Moses led
the children of Israel in the exodus from Egypt through the
miraculous power of God, which included parting the Red Sea to
allow them to escape from the Egyptians. Because of unbelief the
people did not immediately enter into the land but wandered in
the desert for 40 years. It was during this time of wandering
that God gave the Law, including the Ten Commandments, to Moses.
The Promised Land
Under the leadership of Moses' successor, Joshua, the Jews
entered into the promised land but had to conquer the inhabitants
before settling down. After Joshua, the nation of Israel was
governed by judges for 350 years. During this time they were
engaged in numerous battles with the neighboring nations, falling
in and out of subjugation to those nations.
After the time of the judges, the Israelites pleaded with God
(through the prophet Samuel) for a king to rule them. Although it
was not God's desire, He gave them their first king, Saul. Saul
did not follow the Lord but almost ruined the nation of Israel.
When he died, he had been abandoned by the people and by God.
David, called a man after God's own heart, and divinely appointed
to lead the nation, was the second king. He conquered Jerusalem
and established it as Israel's capital. David's son Solomon, upon
becoming king, built a magnificent temple to the Lord.
During the reign of Solomon,
Israel prospered greatly, becoming a leader of nations. Upon the
death of Solomon, the nation was divided into two kingdoms, the
southern, known as Judea with Jerusalem as its capital, and the
northern kingdom of Israel, of which Samaria became the capital.
Both the northern and southern kingdoms were constantly
threatened by other nations and each eventually was overcome. The
Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom in 721 B.C. and the
Babylonians defeated the southern kingdom in 606 B.C. When the
southern kingdom was captured, Solomons temple was
During the years the southern
kingdom was in exile (606 B.C. to 536 B.C.), changes took place
with regard to Jewish worship. Since the temple could not be used
as a central place of worship, houses of prayer, called
synagogues, were established. The teacher of the synagogue, known
as the rabbi, grew in importance to the Jewish people and
simultaneously the priests lost importance. By the time the Jews
returned to their land, the synagogue had become firmly
established as the place of worship (but not sacrifice).
During the period of the restoration, the Jews became exposed to
Greek culture (Hellenism) when Alexander the Great conquered the
world (336-323 B.C.). Upon Alexander's death, the land fell under
the rule of the Ptolemies of Egypt. The Hellenic influence was so
strong during this time that many Jews no longer understood
biblical Hebrew. Aramaic and Greek became the dominant languages
in Palestine. During this period the Old Testament was translated
into Greek (this text is commonly called the Septuagint,
abbreviated as LXX), for the benefit of those Jews who did not
The people soon became part of the Syrian Kingdom, and when one
of the kings, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, tried to suppress the
Jewish religion, the people revolted. In 167 B.C. a rebellion led
by Judas Maccabaeus resulted in the independence of the Jewish
nation, celebrated to this day by the festival of Hanukkah.
The Roman Rule
The independence was short-lived because the Roman general Pompey
made Israel a vassal state of Rome in 63 B.C., placing puppet
leaders over the people, Rome dominated the people and the land,
causing unrest and rebellion among the people. The Roman general
Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., scattering the
inhabitants. Several rebellions arose after that in an effort to
reconquer the land, the last being the Bar Kokhba Rebellion (A.D.
When Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire
(325 A.D.), the Jews were seen as an accursed race and the center
of Jewish life soon moved to Babylonia, a non-Christian country.
The Jews did not regain an independent homeland in Israel until
1948 after a long history of persecution which reached its height
in the Holocaust of World War II.
The land of Israel has a very special place in the history of the
Jewish people. Leo Trepp comments:
From the very beginning of history, Jewish destiny has remained
inextricably linked to that of the land of Israel. To the Jew,
his history starts as Abraham is bidden to migrate to the
promised land, for only there can he fulfill himself as the
servant and herald of God. The land of Israel always remained the
promised land. Only there could Torah be translated freely into
the life of an independent nation (Leo Trepp, Judaism:
Development and Life, Belmont, CA: Dickenson Publishing Company,
1966, pp. 4, 5).
Statement of Faith
One of the great figures in Jewish history was Moses Maimonides,
a Spanish Jew who lived in the 12th century A.D. Maimonides, a
systematic thinker, tried to condense basic Jewish beliefs into
the form of a creed. Although criticized afterward by some, his
creed is still followed by the traditional forms of Judaism. The
creed is expressed in these 13 basic beliefs:
1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been
created; and He alone has made, does make, and will make all
2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like unto
His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.
3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, is not a body, and that He is free from all the properties
of matter, and that He has not any form whatever.
4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, is the first and the last.
5. I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, blessed be
His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is
not right to pray to any being besides Him.
6. I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the
prophets are true.
7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses, our
teacher, peace be unto him, was true, and that he was the chief
of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who
8. I believe with perfect faith that the whole Torah, now in our
possession, is the same that was given to Moses, our teacher,
peace be unto him.
9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be
changed, and that there will never be any other Law from the
Creator, blessed be His Name.
10. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, knows every deed of the children of men, and all their
thoughts, as it is said. It is He that fashioned the hearts
of them all, that gives heed to all their works.
11. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His
Name, rewards those that keep His commandments and punishes those
that transgress them.
12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah;
and, though he tarry, I will wait daily for his coming.
13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of
the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, blessed be
His Name, and exalted be His Fame for ever and ever.
For Thy salvation I hope, O Lord.
Jewish Holy Days
The cycle of Jewish holy days is called the sacred round. Based
on the ancient Jewish calendar, these holy days serve to remind
Jews regularly of significant historical events in which God
displayed his covenant with them and to give them regular
opportunity to display their commitment to God.
This is a holy day of rest, in commemoration of God's completed
work of creation and in His later liberation of the Israelites
from the bondage in Egypt. It is a day of joy and thanksgiving to
God for His many blessings.
Passover (Pessah), the festival of spring, is celebrated one
month after Purim. It constitutes the beginning of the time of
harvest; therefore, it is a time of celebration. However, there
is a deeper reason for the people to observe this holiday, as the
Scriptures plainly reveal. This feast celebrates the deliverance
of the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt.
The story of the Passover is
given in Exodus 12: God sent the final plague on the Egyptians;
the death of the firstborn. However, those who put blood on their
doorposts were passed over by the angel of death. This plague was
instrumental in convincing the pharaoh to allow the children of
Israel to leave. Consequently, it is to be celebrated as a
permanent memorial by the Jewish people. Deuteronomy 16:1-4
(NASB) tells how it is to be observed:
Observe the month of Abib and
celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of
Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.
And you shall sacrifice the
Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd, in the
place where the Lord chooses to establish His name.
You shall not eat leavened bread
with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the
bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in
haste), in order that you may remember all the days of your life
the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.
For seven days no leaven shall be
seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which
you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain
overnight until morning.
Shabuot, the feast of weeks, comes seven weeks after the
Passover. Shabuot commemorates the giving of the Ten
Commandments. During ancient times the farmer would bring his
first-fruits to the temple on Shabuot and offer them to God. The
day is also celebrated by the reading of the Ten Commandments and
the recitation of the book of Ruth.
Rosh Hashanah literally means "head of the year. " It
is the Jewish New Year, celebrated on the first two days of the
month of Tishai (September--October). It is a solemn day of
reflection on both the deeds of the past year and the hopes of
the upcoming one.
The ram's horn (shofar) is
sounded in daily worship for an entire month before Rosh
Hashanah, calling the people to repentance. Moses Maimonides, the
great Jewish theologian and philosopher, explained the message of
Wake up, ye sleepers, from your sleep; and ye that are in a daze,
arouse yourselves from your stupor. Reflect on your actions and
return in repentance. Remember your Creator. Be not as those who
forget truth in their chase after shadows, wasting their year
wholly in vanities which neither help nor bring deliverance. Look
into your soul, and mend your ways and deeds. Let everyone
forsake his evil ways and worthless thoughts (Teshubah 3, 4).
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, the day of atonement.
It is celebrated ten days after Rosh Hashanah and is devoted to
confession of sins and reconciliation with God. Problems with
enemies must be reconciled before one can be right with God, and
forgiving and forgetting is the order of the day. The day is
spent without touching food or drink, the mind being devoted to
God on this holiest of days. During this day of confession of sin
and fasting, the following passage from Isaiah is read:
Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble
himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed, and for
spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a
fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord? Is this not the fast
which I chose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the
bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break
every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and
bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked,
to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
(Isaiah 58:5-7, NASB)
Yom Kippur has a long Jewish and biblical tradition and is the
most important Jewish holy day. Usually even liberal or
non-practicing Jews consider the day holy and devote themselves
to contrite contemplation and prayer on this day.
Milton Steinberg effectively summarizes the Jewish concept of Yom
... Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, a solemn white fast, during
which from dusk to dusk the faithful partake of neither food nor
drink in token of penitence, but through prayer and confession
scrutinize their lives, abjure their evil-doing, and seek
regeneration, a returning to God and goodness (Milton Steinberg,
Basic Judaism, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1947,1975,
pp. 130, 131).
Sukkoth is the feast of tabernacles, or booths. This festival,
which commemorates the ingathering of the harvest, is one of the
three pilgrim feasts in ancient times where yearly trips were
made to the Temple of Jerusalem. It is known as the feast of
booths because the people lived in tabernacles, or temporary
shelters, during its duration (Exodus 34:18-26). In modern times
the people, for the most part, only take their meals in these
tabernacles rather than living in them for the duration of the
Hanukkah, observed for eight days in midwinter, is the only major
feast that does not have its source in the Bible. The feast is
based upon the story of the Maccabees, recorded in the Apocrypha.
When Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C. introduced the worship of
the Greek gods as the state religion, a small group of Jews led
by Judas Maccabee staged a revolt.
Antiochus, who, among other
things desecrated the temple by slaughtering a pig in the Holy of
Holies, was finally overthrown and freedom of religion returned
to the land. Hanukkah is celebrated in observance of the heroic
acts of the Maccabees.
The eight-branched candlestick,
the Menorah, is integral to Hanukkah worship and commemorates a
miracle that took place when the temple was cleansed from the
idolatrous acts of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The tradition states
that only enough holy oil was found in the temple to light the
lamp for one night. However, because of the providence of God and
as a sign that He blessed the Jewish cleansing and rededication
of the temple, God miraculously kept the lamp burning for eight
days and nights.
Since Hanukkah is celebrated near
the Christian Christmas holiday, it has borrowed some ideas from
Christmas, including the giving of gifts (traditionally one to
each child each of the eight nights), and family gatherings.
Especially among non-practicing and reform (liberal) Jews,
Hanukkah is a very important holiday.
The Three Branches of Judaism
Very simply stated, modern-day Judaism can be divided into three
groups: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.
Orthodox Judaism designates the traditionalists who are united in
their upholding of the Law. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion
Though Orthodoxy is widely diversified among its many religious
groupings and nuances of belief and practice, all Orthodox Jews
are united in their belief in the historical event of revelation
at Sinai, as described in the Torah; in their acceptance of the
Divine Law, in its Written and Oral forms, as immutable and
binding for all times; in their acknowledgment of the authority
of duly qualified rabbis-who themselves recognize the validity of
the Talmud and all other traditional sources of the Halakhah- to
interpret and administer Jewish Law (Encyclopedia of Jewish
Religion, New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1966, p. 293).
Orthodox Judaism observes most of the traditional dietary and
ceremonial laws of Judaism. It adheres to the inspiration of the
Old Testament [although greater authority is given the Torah
(Law), the first five books, than to the rest].
Conservative Judaism is sort of a happy medium between Orthodox
and Reform Judaism. Founded in the 19th century, the Conservative
movement quickly gained strength in both Germany and the United
States. In 1918, six months after the Balfour Declaration, the
Conservative movement announced:
We hold that Jewish people are and of right ought to be at home
in all lands. Israel, like every other religious communion, has
the right to live and assert its message in any part of the
world. We are opposed to the idea that Palestine should be
considered the home-land of the Jews. Jews in America are part of
the American nation.
The ideal of the Jew is not the
establishment of a Jewish state -not the reassertion of Jewish
nationality which has long been outgrown. We believe that our
survival as a people is dependent upon the assertion and the
maintenance of our historic religious role and not upon the
acceptance of Palestine as a home-land of the Jewish people. The
mission of the Jew is to witness to God all over the world.
Reform Judaism is the liberal wing of Judaism. Leo Trepp traces
Abraham Geiger (1810-1874) stands out as the towering genius of
Reform Judaism, and is essentially its founder. To him the
scientific man cannot accept revelation, for science offers no
proof of any revelation. Mendelssohn had seen Judaism as revealed
law; Geiger rejected this idea, as he equally rejected any
revealed doctrines. He refuted the hope for a return to the Land,
for the land of citizenship is the land of the Jew. This was an
attack on the validity of Torah, of Mitzvot, and of the Land.
What remained, then, was the deep-seated sense of kinship with
the Jewish people (a feeling of which Geiger himself may have
been unaware, but which kept him from suggesting the dissolution
of Judaism in favor of a general religion of ethical conduct).
Thus, Torah to him becomes a
source of ethics, performance of Mitzvot becomes a matter of
individual decision, but not binding, the Talmud and Shulhan
Arukh have no power of commitment, and the messianic hope has
been fulfilled in Jewish Emancipation. However, the genius of the
Jewish people as teachers of ethics was strongly emphasized. The
Hebrew language of prayer was to be retained in part, at least,
for its emotional appeal. Education, sermon, and worship now were
to form Torah in this new interpretation, and Mitzvot were to be
understood as the missionary ideal of spreading ethics throughout
the world. For these the Jew must live. The effect of Geiger's
ReformJudaism was to be strongly felt, especially in America (Leo
Trepp, op. cit.,pp. 50, 51).
Reform Judaism is so culture and race-oriented that it easily can
neglect the spiritual and religious side of Jewish life. Rather
than assuming that the religious life produces and molds the
culture, Reform Judaism assumes that the cultural and racial
heritage of the Jews produced and molded the religious life.
While belief and doctrine may be changeable or even dispensable,
the cultural history of the race is vital to any continuation of
Jewishness. There is little consensus on doctrinal or religious
belief in Reform Judaism.
Judaism and the Messiah
While Christianity recognizes that the promise of a personal,
spiritual savior is the core of biblical revelation, Judaism has
long vacillated in its concept of messiahship. That Jesus Christ,
the true Messiah predicted in God's Word, would be rejected by
the Jews of the first century shows that even at that time there
was divergence of opinion on the meaning and authority of
messianic passages in Scripture.
In the course of Jewish history the meaning of the Messiah had
undergone changes. Originally it was believed that God would send
His special messenger, delivering Israel from her oppressors and
instituting peace and freedom. However, today, any idea of a
personal messiah has been all but abandoned by the majority of
Jews. It has been substituted with the hope of a messianic age
characterized by truth and justice.
Within the history of Judaism,
from the time of Jesus of Nazareth until Moses Hayyim Luzatto
(died A.D. 1747), there have been at least 34 different prominent
Jews who have claimed to be the Messiah (James Hastings,
Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 8, New York and London:
Scribner's and T & T Clark, 1919, pp. 581-588).
Carrying on one Jewish tradition,
most of these self-proclaimed messiahs promised salvation from
political, economic and cultural oppression, rather than
spiritual salvation. Only Jesus of Nazareth perfectly fulfilled
the Old Testament passages concerning the Messiah and only He
validated His claims by His victory over death, displayed in His
glorious resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:22-36).
The orthodox Jewish concept of God is based upon the Old
Testament. The Hebrew scholar Samuel Sandmel summarizes the
The heritage from the Bible included a number of significant
components about the Deity God was not a physical being: He was
intangible and invisible. He was the Creator and Ruler, indeed,
the judge of the World. He and He alone was truly God; the
deities worshipped by peoples other than Israel were not God.
Idols were powerless and futile; they were unworthy of worship;
and in- deed, to worship what was not God was a gross and sinful
disrespect of Him. Scripture contains an abundance of divine
terms: Elohim, El, El Elyon, Shaddai. Insofar as God might be
thought of as having a name, that name was Yahve. But so holy and
awesome was He that His name Yahve itself had force and power,
and it was unbecoming or even sinful for men to pronounce it, as
was expressed in the words "You shall not take the name of
Yahve your God in vain" (Exod. 20:7, Deut. 5:11). Only the
High Priest might pronounce it, and only on one day in the year,
that on the Day of Atonement.
God was, as it were, above and
over the world. His dwelling was in heaven. At high moments, such
as at Sinai, He had descended to reveal Himself. Accordingly, He
was both in the world and also over and above it. He had very
early revealed Himself to the patriarchs; He had later revealed
Himself to the prophets. To some of these prophets, such as
Zechariah, He had disclosed His divine will and intention by
sending an angel to bring His desires from the distance to earth.
Apart from sending an angel, He could, and did, pour His
"holy" spirit onto selected men. In heaven there were a
host of beings, subordinate to Him, who constituted His heavenly
council. Among these was Satan who could with divine consent test
a man such as job; a lying spirit who could on occasion delude a
presumptuous king or prophet (Samuel Sandmel, Judaism and
Christian Beginnings, London: Oxford University Press, 1978, pp.
The sacred scriptures of Judaism consist of documents arranged in
three groups known as the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
These books were originally written in Hebrew, except for parts
of Daniel and Ezra and a verse in Jeremiah which were composed in
Aramaic. These books are synonymous with the 39 books of
Christianity's Old Testament. Their composition was over a period
of some one thousand years, from 1400-400 B.C.
The Jews do not hold each part of
their writings in equal importance. The Law, the Torah, is the
most authoritative, followed by the Prophets, which have lesser
authority, and lastly the Writings.
Salvation in Judaism
Judaism, while admitting the existence of sin, its abhorrence by
God, and the necessity for atonement, has not developed a system
of salvation teaching as found in Christianity. Atonement is
accomplished by sacrifices, penitence, good deeds and a little of
God's grace. No concept of substitutionary atonement (as in
Christianity in the Person of Jesus Christ) exists.
Scholar Michael Wyschogrod explains the difference:
A Jew who believes that man is justified by works of the law
would hold the belief that man can demand only strict justice
from God, nothing more. Such a man would say to God: "Give
me what I deserve, neither more nor less; I do not need your
mercy, only your strict justice."
If there are Jews who approach
God in this spirit, I have never met nor heard of them. In the
morning liturgy that Jews recite daily, we find the following:
"Master of all worlds: It is not on account of our own
righteousness that we offer our supplications before thee, but on
account of thy great compassion. What are we? What is our life?
What is our goodness? What is our virtue? What is our help? What
our strength? What our might?"
The believing Jew is fully aware
that if he were to be judged strictly according to his deeds by
the standards of justice and without mercy he would be doomed. He
realizes that without the mercy of God there is no hope for him
and that he is therefore justified -if by "justified"
we mean that he avoids the direst of divine punishments -not by
the merit of his works as commanded in the Torah, but by the
gratuitous mercy of God who saves man in spite of the fact that
man does not deserve it (Tanenbaum, Wilson, and Rudin, eds.,
Evangelicals and Jews in Conversation on Scripture, Theology, and
History, Grand Rapids, ME Baker Book House, 1978, pp. 47, 48).
So then, Jews do believe in the mercy of God but they do not
believe in any substitutionary atonement that once and for all
time cleanses them from all sin. Contrast this with the great
passage of assurance in Hebrews 7:22-28 (NASB):
So much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better
covenant. And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in
greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from
continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever,
holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save
forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always
lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we
should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled,
separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does
not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices,
first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people,
because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For
the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the work
of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made
Judaism holds no concept of original sin. According to Christian
belief, all human beings are born into the world with a sinful
nature because of the transgression of Adam (Romans 5:12-21).
Judaism's emphasis is not on original sin but original virtue and
righteousness. Although Judaism acknowledges that man does commit
acts of sin, there is not a sense of man being totally depraved
or unworthy as is found in Christian theology. Atonement for sin
is achieved by works of righteousness, which include repentance,
prayer and the performing of good deeds. There is no need for a
savior, as is emphasized in Christianity.
J.H. Hertz writes:
Note that the initiative in atonement is with the sinner (Ezekiel
18:31). He cleanses himself on the Day of Atonement by fearless
self-examination, open confession, and the resolve not to repeat
the transgressions of the past year. When our Heavenly Father
sees the abasement of the penitent sinner, He sprinkles, as it
were, the clean waters of pardon and forgiveness upon him. And
again: On the Day of Atonement the Israelites resemble the
angels, without human wants, without sins, linked together in
love and peace. It is the only day of the year on which the
accuser Satan is silenced before the throne of Glory, and even
becomes the defender of Israel .... The closing prayer (on the
Day of Atonement) begins: "Thou givest a hand to
transgressors, and Thy right hand is stretched out to receive the
penitent. Thou hast taught us to make confession unto Thee of all
our sins, in order that we may cease from the violence of our
hands and may return unto Thee who delightest in the repentance
of the wicked." These words contain what has been called
"the Jewish doctrine of salvation" (J. H. Hertz, The
Pentateuch and the Haftorahs, London: Socino Press, 1938, p. 523
A Common Heritage
Although there are marked differences in many areas of belief and
practice between Judaism and Christianity, there is a common
heritage that both religions share. The Jewish writer, Pinchas
We Jews and Christians are joined in brotherhood at the deepest
level, so deep in fact that we have overlooked it and missed the
forest of brotherhood for the trees of theology We have an
intellectual and spiritual kinship which goes deeper than
dogmatics, hermeneutics, and exegesis. We are brothers in a
manifold "elective affinity"
-in the belief in one God our Father,
-in the hope of His salvation,
-in ignorance of His ways,
-in humility before His omnipotence,
-in the knowledge that we belong to Him, not He to us,
-in love and reverence for God,
-in doubt about our wavering fidelity,
-in the paradox that we are dust and yet the image of God,
-in the consciousness that God wants us as partners in the
sanctification of the world,
-in the condemnation of arrogant religious chauvinism,
-in the conviction that love of God is crippled without love of
neighbor, - in the knowledge that all speech about God must
remain in a stammering on our way to Him (Pinchas Lapide
Israelis, Jews and Jesus, Garden City, NJ: Doubleday and Company,
1979, p. 2).
The book of Galatians gives us God's view of Jews and Gentiles
today. Chapter 3 shows forcefully that God's blessings on the
Jews were a means of showing His grace, which was fully expressed
in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, on the cross for the
sins of all, Jewish or Gentile. The gospel was preached
beforehand to Abraham, the Father of the Jews (5:8) and was given
to the Gentiles in Jesus Christ (5:14).
The heritage of the Old Testament, preserved for all mankind by
the Jews, points all of us, Jewish or Gentile, to Jesus Christ
(5:22-24). Each man, whether of Jewish or Gentile heritage, must
come to God through Jesus Christ. There is no other way to true
peace with God. As Galatians 3: 26-29 concludes, "For you
are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you
who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with
Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave
nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all
one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are
Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."
Diaspora-The dispersion of the Jews arter the Babylonian
Captivity. Gemarah -The commentary based upon the Mishnah.
Hannukah -The feast of dedication celebrating the Maccabean
victory in 167 B.C.
Midrash -A commentary of the Hebrew scriptures, especially the
Mishnah -Oral law in general to be distinguished from scripture.
Passover-An annual feast commemorating the deliverance of the
firstborn in Egypt when the angel of death took all those who did
not have blood on the doorpost.
Pentateuch-The first five books of the Old Testament.
Pentecost -The feast of weeks observed fifty days after the
Passover. Also called Shabuoth.
Purim -The feast commemorating Esther's intervention on behalf of
the Jews when they were in Persia.
Rosh Hashanah -The Jewish New Year.
Seder-The festival held in Jewish homes on the first night of the
Passover commemorating the Exodus from Egypt.
Sukkoth -The feast of tabernacles celebrating the harvest.
Torah -Refers to the first five books of the Old Testament (The
Law). It also can refer to the entire corpus of the Jewish law.
Shofar-The ram's horn that is blown during services on Rosh
Talmud-The Jewish library of oral law and tradition consisting of
Mishnah and Gemara.
Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion, New York: Holt, Rhinehart and
Hastings, James, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 8, New
York and London: Scribner's and T. & T Clark, 1919.
Hertz, J. H., The Pentateuch and the Haftorahs, London: Socino
Lapide, Pinchas, Israelis, Jews and Jesus, Garden City, NJ:
Doubleday and Company, 1979.
Sandmel, Samuel, Judaism and Christian Beginnings, London: Oxford
University Press, 1978.
Steinberg, Milton, Basic Judaism, New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1947, 1975.
Tanenbaum, Marc, and Wilson, and Rudin, eds., Evangelicals and
Jews in Conversation on Scripture, Theology, and History, Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978.
Trepp, Leo, Development and Life, Belmont, CA: Dickenson
Publishing Company, 1966.