Since Jews and Christians both claim to have God’s Word, do they basically have the same religion?
The faith of most religious Jews is called Judaism. It is the oldest of the world’s three great monotheistic religions (that is, religions serving one God). Judaism is the parent of both Christianity and Islam. It proclaims that there is only one God, whose name is Yahweh, and He is the creator and ruler of the universe. He revealed His law, the Torah, to the Jewish people (who were known as Hebrews at that time) and He chose them to be a light for all humanity. The Torah contains some 613 commands which are summed up in the Ten Commandments.
A very important concept in Judaism is that of the Messiah. Originally the Jews believed that God would send a powerful messenger (the Messiah) who would deliver Israel from her oppressors and usher in a reign of peace and prosperity. Today many Jews no longer hold to a personal messiah, but hope for a messianic age of justice and truth. For the Jews the coming of the Messiah or the messianic age still lies in the future.
The sacred Scriptures of Judaism consist of three groups of documents: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (such as Psalms and Proverbs). These Scriptures also form the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Judaism does not accept the inspiration of the New Testament or its account of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.
There are many areas of agreement between the two faiths, for Christians also accept the Old Testament and all its teachings as inspired. Among the basic truths accepted by both faiths are the perfect creation of the world out of nothing by an infinite God, the entrance of sin into this world via the temptation of another transcendent being called Satan, the judgement of God on sin, and the necessity of atonement for sin. In Judaism this atonement is accomplished through sacrifices, prayer, righteous acts, and God’s mercy.
Judaism, however, does not accept the central Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. This watershed point is made throughout the New Testament and forcefully stated in Galatians 3:13-14, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ Through the work of Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham�”(New Living Translation).
All the differences in ceremonies, Kosher food, dress, festivals and worship are not as basic as the messianic expectation and its fulfillment in Christ. Christianity has received from Judaism its basic understanding of God, his covenant relationship with His people, and assembling together for worship. There is a divine plan for history and it is moving toward a wonderful goal when Yahweh will be the King not only of the Jews but of all the earth. Separation from the corrupting influences of the pagan world is important, but Judaism is not a religion that focuses on a spiritual world somewhere down the road. Its focus is on this present world, where life is meant to be rich and full.
Some Jews who have become Christians refer to themselves as “completed Jews.” In fact, the Old Testament is filled with hope, and the fulfillment of this hope is wonderfully described in the New Testament. Text after text relates how Jesus Christ fulfills all that the prophets foretold. In Him the great promises of the Old Testament become the inheritance of all who accept His salvation. The stream of God’s favor broadens now to embrace believers from every tribe and nation.
We all owe a tremendous debt to the Jews. We have inherited so much from them, and from them came God’s own Son, the Messiah. Faith in Him, that is, in His once-for-all death and resurrection is the key to peace of heart now and hope for the future. We can now not only look back on a marvelous history, but forward to the day when His kingdom enfolds people from every land. Is this Messiah also your very own Savior for time and eternity?