Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The invisible gulf between Judaism and Christianity

I want to begin this by first saying: I am not an expert on this. There are subtleties in the relationship between Judaism and Christianity that I've skimmed or skipped over. This is just what I have learned so far. Hopefully when I look back at these posts a year or two from now, I won't be embarrassed by them. The list of posts for this series can be found here.

So there is this invisible gulf between Judaism and Christianity.

A lot of different things have gone into that, according to my reading in "In the Shadow of the Temple" and other places:

  • Judaism and Christianity both had Gentile God-fearers, non-Jews who attended temple or their local synagogue and who believed in the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, Christianity started to attract pagan Gentiles and that new generation of Christians was a step away from Judaism as they hadn't been raised in the Jewish faith.
  • There was this Jewish council of Jamnia that may or may not have actually happened, but there they declared that if one couldn't say the "blessing" that basically cursed Christians, then they would be ex-communicated from the synagogue
  • The whole idea that grew that Jesus was also divine
  • The differentiating between the Christian group and the rabbinic group as to their post-Second-Temple-destruction theology, that we find in the gospels later becoming an excuse for horrific anti-Semitism.
  • The Roman Empire declaring Christianity as not an official religion and so the persecutions opened another gap between "acceptable" (Judaism) and "unacceptable" (Christianity).
  • The Roman Empire declaring Christianity as the religion of the Empire (thanks Constantine)
  • The transition from the bread-and-the-wine being a continuation of being at the table with Jesus into a more atoning sacrifice that is common today.
All of the above is very in a nutshell (as is the below) and no doubt lacks the subtleties of what I have read and how it was! 

What I have realized about Judaism and Christianity is that Judaism isn't our "parent" religion, but are sibling religions. Jesus was (and is) Jewish. His early followers were Jewish and Gentile God-fearers. The early Christian theology is based deeply upon scripture (the prophets especially), the same scriptures treasured by Jewish theology (although not as deeply treasured as the Torah, the first five books of the Bible). Our early worship was much the same. Our early baptisms were much the same.

We share so much. There is so much to learn from Judaism about God the Father and the sheer Jewishness of Jesus' words and parables that gets lost because Christianity has come so far from that ancient Jewish culture that we lay our culture on top of that (and the cultures of centuries between the 1st century AD and now).

Hence this review and exploration over the next 31 Days.

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