A Single Religion divided by 1900 years of History?

As I mentioned below, I was writing a “little” post about my experience with Rabbi Fred Morgan and Fr Francis Moloney in the ACU course “Jews and Christians reading the Bible” while I was down at the beach last weekend – when my laptop battery went flat and I found I hadn’t brought the power cord to recharge.

Probably a good thing I didn’t post what I had written thus far, because when I returned to work this Monday, I found myself caught up in a conversation about the possibility of “double belonging” among the Abrahamic religions, particularly Jews who believe in Jesus yet wish to continue to live according to the halakhic laws of modern Judaism, and Muslims who believe in Jesus, but who continue, for a variety of reasons, to live and act within the Muslim Ummah. The most common example of the former are the so-called Messianic Jews, or “Jews for Jesus”, movement. As far as I know, the latter don’t form any kind of group within the Islamic community – mainly they keep their beliefs to themselves.

Anyway, having just finished the ACU course, I was thinking a good deal about these matters, and especially about what it means to be “Jewish” in today’s context.

I realised, for instance, something more exact about a fact I already knew. We all “know” that Judaism and Christianity are two separate religions. Rabbi Fred likes to say, with apologies to Shaw, that “Judaism and Christianity are two religions separated by a common Scripture”. But of course, to the historically minded such as myself, there is the fact that these two religions we today call “Judaism” and “Christianity” arise from exactly the same source, the same point in time, the same geography, the same culture, the same language and the same community.

As an historian, therefore, I have difficulty with the description of Judaism and Christianity being described or treated as two separate religions at least in the period before 135AD. In that stage, I think it is far more accurate to describe both the Rabbinic and Christian (“Messianic”) movements as the only two living sects of Judaism surviving from the plurality of “Judaisms” or “Jewish options” in the late 2nd Temple period.

BUT after this, there comes a long and often unhappy relationship between these two groups. Due principally (in my mind) to the decision at the time of the pre-70AD Christian movement to allow Gentiles to enter into the movement without the observance of the halakhic laws, the Christian movement outstripped the Rabbinical movement both in terms of numbers and in terms of distance from their roots. The Rabbis reinforced identity in line with the 2nd Temple synagogue tradition (in effect, significantly narrowing the options for ways of being “Jewish”), whereas the Christians established a community separate from the synagogue, and ultimately unattached to ethnic Jewish-ness.

Whether my reading of this is right or not, the almost 1900 years since of separate (though for the large part parallel) existence achieved a near total division between the two communities, such that what we have today are indeed “two separate religions” rather than two versions of the one religion. (Rabbi Fred and I discovered at least one clue to the fact that the separation may not have been total – a shared way of reading scripture during both the Rabbinic and Patristic traditions – more on this in that other post I am writing).

To be “Jewish” today means to live in continuity with the specifically Rabbinic tradition. Traditions – though ethnically Jewish – apart from that Rabbinic line are not accepted as religiously “Jewish” today (any more than Catholics accept as authentically Catholic any expression of Catholicism that does not exist within the apostolic tradition and communion of the Catholic Church). An example is the work of Philo. Philo was a Jew, but was never accepted as a part of the Rabbinical tradition. Conclusion: Philo is NOT “Jewish”. Christianity too developed its own very idiosyncratic tradition. Two most notable features (aside from anything else) that – from earliest times – separated the Church from the Synagogue was the celebration of Sunday instead of the Sabbath, and Easter rather than Passover.

It is very hard for me today to see how someone who is ethnically and religiously a Jew, who “meets Jesus” and comes to believe in him as the divine and incarnate Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, could continue to expect to be accepted as “Jewish” by the modern Jewish community, even if they continued to practice according to the Rabbinical tradition. The ultimate point of division is not this faith in Jesus as the Messiah (at a stretch, that could be accommodated, I guess, as an heretical form of “Judaism” – I have in mind those Lubavitchers who are thoroughly Orthodox except claim that one of their recently deceased Rabbis was in fact the Messiah).

It is the two thousand or so years of divided tradition and history that makes Christianity and Judaism today mutually exclusive religions – even while remaining ever-so-closely related in patterns of belief and praxis due to common origins. This is necessarily and truly a point of deep sadness to me, but as an historian, I must accept it as a fact.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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36 Responses to A Single Religion divided by 1900 years of History?

  1. Peregrinus says:

    It is very hard for me today to see how someone who is ethnically and religiously a Jew, who “meets Jesus” and comes to believe in him as the divine and incarnate Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, could continue to expect to be accepted as “Jewish” by the modern Jewish community, even if they continued to practice according to the Rabbinical tradition. The ultimate point of division is not this faith in Jesus as the Messiah (at a stretch, that could be accommodated, I guess, as an heretical form of “Judaism” – I have in mind those Lubavitchers who are thoroughly Orthodox except claim that one of their recently deceased Rabbis was in fact the Messiah).

    It is the two thousand or so years of divided tradition and history that makes Christianity and Judaism today mutually exclusive religions – even while remaining ever-so-closely related in patterns of belief and praxis due to common origins. This is necessarily and truly a point of deep sadness to me, but as an historian, I must accept it as a fact.

    I take your point, but isn’t it a bit more than that? The difference between the Lubavitchers (recognising a Messiah, but still definitely Jewish) and groups like Jews for Jesus (recognising a Messiah, and observing the Law, and practising according to the Rabbinical tradition, and Jewish by descent and nationhood but definitely not, in the eyes of mainstream Jews, practising a religions which is even a heretical form of Judaism) is not so much how they live, or how they are descended, or that they believe in a Messiah; it’s what they believe about the Messiah – and, by extension, what they believe about God.

    Trinitarian and incarnational theology is, from a Jewish perspective, polytheistic and idolatrous. These are pretty fundamental objections. That’s why Jews for Jesus are definitely not practising any form of Judaism, while the Lubavitchers are. I think that, rather than the two thousand years or so of divided tradition and history is what makes Christianity not-Judaism. After all, the Jews for Jesus don’t have the two thousand years of division; the movement is less than fifty years old and most of its adherents started out as mainstream Jews, and their religions practice has a huge amount in common with rabbinical Judaism. But their religion is not a Jewish religion.

    The corollary of what I’m saying, I think, is that it didn’t take two thousand years for Judaism and Christianity to grow into separate religions. Once trinitarian and incarnational theology were placed at the heart of Christian orthodoxy, I think it was no longer really possible for rabbinical Jews to see Christianity as an unorthodox or heretical variant of Judaism. And the two communities grew apart because they had different religions, rather than the other way around.

    • Schütz says:

      The interesting question is “when did they become two separate religions”? There is strong evidence, even with the New Testament itself, that the new Way saw itself as something quite different from “Judaism” (eg. 1 Thessalonians) and the religion of “the Jews” (eg. John).

      Nevertheless, the fact is that the two communities remained in close relationship for centuries even after 135AD, and today, despite claims about the nature of God, can still talk in religious terms that are remarkably similar.

    • SonofTrypho says:

      Peregrinus

      I would agree with the concept of the Trinity as being a major deal breaker – esp. after Maimonides’ 13 Principles.

      As to the Lubavitch movement – their distinction is that some of them suggest that the late R.Schneerson was the Messiah, but was not God. That is why they primarily differ from Jews for Jesus.

      • Peregrinus says:

        As to the Lubavitch movement – their distinction is that some of them suggest that the late R.Schneerson was the Messiah, but was not God. That is why they primarily differ from Jews for Jesus.

        Sure. And I think that, in a nutshell, is the reason why a Lubavitcher can be seen as a kind of religious Jew, while a Jew for Jesus cannot.

        • Schütz says:

          Not that many Jews are well disposed toward those who follow that particular Rabbi/Messiah, either. Messianism remains a problem for modern Judaism. Remember that the divinity of Christ, though claimed and taught by Christians in one form or another from the very beginning, was not defined until Nicea. Whereas the Messianic status of Jesus of Nazareth in the Church was clear from the very beginning. I still think this was the major historical cause of the earliest division, not the claim that Jesus was divine (which wasn’t so clearly defined).

          • Peregrinus says:

            Well, I think the elephant in the room is the acrimonious history of Christian/Jewish interactions. Undoubtedly at least part of the reason why become a Jew for Jesus is seen as a fundamental apostasy from Judaism while becoming a Lubavitcher is not is that becoming a Jew for Jesus means becoming a Christian. And for far too long Christians demonized and victimized and sometimes murdered Jews whenever they were in a position to do so (which was most of the time), and professed the desire to convert all Jews, which from the Jewish perspective was little better than a non-violent form of genocide. (And not always that non-violent, what’s more.)

            Happily things are rather better today, but centuries of this kind of relationship has to leave its mark, and has undoubtedly contributed to an atmosphere in which adopting any form of Christianity cannot be seen but as a comprehensive rejection of Judaism and even of Jewish identity. In this context, a movement like Jews for Jesus could look like a particularly insidious form of proselyitism.

            Those perceptions may be reinforced by the theological arguments about polytheism and idolatry and so on, but perhaps really it’s a combination of the two which feeds into the contemporary Jewish understanding of conversion to Christianity.

            For present purposes, I suppose the relevant question is, when did this particularly toxic relationship between Christians and Jews begin? On one view, it couldn’t predate the time which Christians acquired significant political power, or at least significant political influence, within the empire, because until they had that power/influence they couldn’t get really nasty towards Jews.

            But, actually, it could go back earlier. After the Jewish revolts it was distinctly disadvantageous to be a Jew in many parts of the empire. It’s possible that at least part of the rapid growth of the church in this period is attributable to large numbers of Jews opting to become Christians to escape the ignominy associated with being Jewish. Of course, those who remained Jewish despite the inducements to convert would despise those who converted, and would see the Christian church as largely a bunch of Jews who had apostatized for social advantage. And that could well lay the foundation for a good deal of bad blood in later years.

  2. Alex Caughey says:

    Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived and died a practising Jew leading me to believe that it is very easy to be a follower of Jesus’ way and remain a Jew, who lives in faith of God rather than in observance of The Mosaic Laws.

    • Schütz says:

      But the problem with this, Father, is that “Jewish” today is defined by living according to those laws. No other definition of “Jewish” really fits anymore, except a purely secular, ethnic definition.

      • Alex Caughey says:

        My definition of Jewishness is based entirely upon the Jewishness, demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth who when observing The Mosaic Laws, also lived by the spirit that imbues those laws with life.

        To believe that Judaism relies solely upon observance of The Mosaic Laws, without acknowledging the presence of The One who is the life giver would, in my humble opinion insult all Jews whose faith in God is their raison d’être.

  3. Felix the Cassowary says:

    Everyone I’ve met who calls themself Jewish, doesn’t believe in God: some are atheists, others agnostics. Some also say they’re “half-Jewish”, in the same way a child of an immigrant country might call themself “half-Italian” or “half-Chinese”.

    If Messianic Jews are not Jewish, then are atheist/agnostic Jews likewise not Jewish?

    From my experience, Jewishness is about culture and descent, not any particular theological beliefs. Perhaps some groups will try to reserve the term for themselves, but what gives them the authority to? Why should I respect the Rabbinic Jews instead of Messianic or Atheistic Jews?

    This is a question I actively ponder, and—I know there’s a certain logic in reserving the term for the practising Rabbinic Jews—but I don’t know the answer. In fact, when I meet someone who calls themself a Jew but who doesn’t believe in God, I think it’s odd: but who am I to decide who is a Jew? If they want to call themself that, that’s got to be fine I guess.

    But then, I’m uncomfortable with non-Trinitarians, like Mormons, calling themselves “Christian”.

    I don’t know the answer. I suspect the concept doesn’t correspond to a something we could surround with a Venn diagram or draw as a graph. I think it’s best for me to use the term however my interlocutor is using it, and not worry about what it means.

    • matthias says:

      I worked with a great doctor who was also Jewish. His parents- refugees from the Holocaust- sent him to a Congregationalist Sunday School because it was near their home and ,the synagogue was too far away . i said why did he not go to the Progressive Synagoue.He said ,they are halfway between Christianity and Jewish and besides his parents felt that the congregationalists were closer to Judaism ni their worship than the Progressives.

    • Peregrinus says:

      “Everyone I’ve met who calls themself Jewish, doesn’t believe in God: some are atheists, others agnostics . . .

      If Messianic Jews are not Jewish, then are atheist/agnostic Jews likewise not Jewish?

      From my experience, Jewishness is about culture and descent, not any particular theological beliefs. Perhaps some groups will try to reserve the term for themselves, but what gives them the authority to? Why should I respect the Rabbinic Jews instead of Messianic or Atheistic Jews?”

      This is a complex area, since “Jewish” has more than one meaning. There’s
      “Jewish”, pertaining to Judaism, the religion and there’s “Jewish”, pertaining to the Jewish people. It’s possible to be one of the Jewish people and yet not practice the Jewish religion. As we know, the Jewish (religious) view is that the Jewish (by descent) people are called to observe the Jewish religion, but they don’t cease to be Jews (by descent) if they fail to do so. And, if they practice another religion, that doesn’t become a Jewish religion merely by virtue of the fact that the people who practice it are Jews (by descent) or that they import some Jewish (religious) practices into it.

      But we complicate this still further by (unwittingly) importing Christian notions of “religion”, and assuming that they are apt for discussing the Jewish religion. They aren’t, necessarily.

      In particular, the question of faith. Christianity lays great stress on faith; Judaism, by contrast, is more interested in how people live than in what they believe. And this leads to the surprising (to Christians) result that it’s perfectly possible to be a (religious) Jew and yet not believe in God. You’ll find no shortage of impeccably Orthodox rabbis who will affirm this.

      A religious Jew is one who observes the Law. It is of course much easier to observe the law if you are motivated by a strong religious faith, but your motive in observing the law is not central. If you observe the Law because you feel it is morally or culturally important, or you wish to identify with and participate in the Jewish community¸ or you wish to respect your spouse’s religions convictions and desire to live in a Jewish home, or whatever, you are still observing the Law.

      Not necessarily fully or perfectly, of course. The Law is embodied in (by the usual count) 613 commandments and, while most of them make no explicit reference to God, a few do. And it may require some nifty intellectual footwork to explain how somebody loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and all his mind, and all y his our strength (for example) if he doubts or denies the reality of God. But if you take the view that love is shown by what he does and how he lives rather than by what he thinks, you can make that leap.

      And even if you can’t, it’s not fatal. Few, if any Jews, successfully observe all of the mitzvoth all of the time. If you have difficulty with the mitzvot which refer explicitly to God, but observe them as best you can and observe all the others, your are pretty observant and the religion you are attempting to observe is definitely Judaism.

      Where faith becomes relevant is when you have a [i]different[/i] faith – one which is [i]inconsistent[/i] with the Jewish mitzvot. In particular, if you have a Christian faith, you are probably a polytheist and definitely an idolator (worshipping a man as God). And polytheism and idolatry are fundamentally inconsistent with the Jewish religion.

      Which means that, though you are still a Jew, the religion you are observing cannot be considered a variant of Judaism; it is inconsistent with Judaism (in the eyes of mainstream Jews, naturally). Which is why the Lubavitcher Judaism is Judaism, but the Jews for Jesus movement is not.

      Of course Jews for Jesus adherents would disagree that they are either polytheists or idolators, and a Christian must have some sympathy with their position. But this is not our concern. Jews (by descent) may disagree over what constitutes authentic Judaism, but that is not a disagreement that we have any authority to resolve. It would be like the Australian government passing a law to decree who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and who is not.

      So, why should you respect rabbinic Jews rather than Messianic Jews or atheistic Jews? You should respect them all, of course. And one way you show that respect is by not taking it on yourself to decree which of them is, and which of them is not, a manifestation of authentic Judaism.

      • Felix the Cassowary says:

        Well, that was my conclusion too. Essentially I think we agree, but you know more than me (e.g. that belief-practice distinction, which I hadn’t thought of).

  4. Kate says:

    I’m a little puzzled by your timeline David – what is so significant about 135 AD in your view?

    In fact the Church would say the two religions separated at the death of Christ, and perhaps more particularly with Pentecost. The sense of distinctiveness was clearly built up by the early waves of persecution, while the decisions on circumcision etc are generally dated to around 50 AD, not much later as you seem to imply.

    Of course there continued to be lots of interchange between the two communities, each intent on making the dividing line clearer, including as necessary defining or redefining just what their respective Scriptures were (such as the Rabinnic decisions to drop some of the books that had been regarded as more or less canonical, and come up with new Greek and Hebrew text versions). The work of Starke on this period is worth reading or rereading, but also Margaret Barker.

    • SonofTrypho says:

      Kate

      I think David is referring to the failed Bar Kokhba revolt being the splitting point between the 2 faiths?

      I personally would suggest that the better splitting date is c.200 CE with the poublication of the Mishnah which codified a normative rabbinic Judaism under a recognised Jewish leader (the Nasi).

      • SonofTrypho says:

        Although in saying that I should note that even in the Mishnah there are references to the Samaritans which indicates that Jews and Samaritans, although having distinct differences, were still in very close contact and interacting even in the religious spheres.

    • Schütz says:

      I have read Starke’s work, but not Barkers.

      The two dates that can be pinpointed are 70AD, the destruction of the Temple, and 135AD, the end of the Jewish rebellion against Rome.

      It is quite within the realms of possibility (given the way, for eg., Luke’s gospel ends, and the writing of the Letter to the Hebrews) that Christian Jews continued to visit the Temple (we know that Paul did, as did Peter and John earlier, according to Acts), and perhaps even offer sacrifices there, right up until the time of its destruction in 70AD. That destruction marks the major “thick black line” in the history of the division of the two sects of Judaism, Rabbical and Christian.

      SoT is right to note the formation of the Mishna around 200AD, but really that came about because 135AD, the defeat of the Bar Kochba rebellion, marked the final “no-going-back” point for Judaism. From there on, they had to get used to living as Jews without a Temple. Two groups were well furnished to do this: the Church and the Synagogue, both of which had ceased to become dependant upon the Temple. (Interestingly, Qumran, which was also anti-Temple, did not survive beyond this period either).

      That’s why I see 135AD as significant. Most Jews would see it in a similar way.

  5. Christine says:

    There is a dividing line, I think, that cannot be reconciled. To be Jewish is, as others have observed above, is an ethnic as well as a religious identification. That is not true of Christians, who come from all manner of ethnic backgrounds.

    Historically, at least among observant Orthodox/Conservative Jews descent from a Jewish mother gave one a legitimate claim of being Jewish. If I recall correctly that is not always the case with Reform Jews.

    Israel was waiting for a Messiah who did not fit the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He was not expected to be divine and he was supposed to restore Israel to her former political greatness. The grafting of the Gentiles onto the “root” branch of Israel was a blessing beyond all comprehension.

    I think I’m with Kate and Peregrinus on this one, especially as regards the importance of faith for the Christian. As Christians we can’t squeeze the mold to make Jewish paradigms and Christian ones “fit”.

    • SonofTrypho says:

      I think we need to be careful about ethnic identity as a part of Judaism – it is understood as a person becoming a part of the Jewish tribe (tribes really) and identifying as such with or without religious belief.

      They can come from any ethnic/cultural background much as Christians – this is why historically you can find Jewish sub-ethnic identities eg. Ashkenaz, Sephardi, Mizrahi. Although in saying that, even these identities had distinct cultural/ethnic sub-identities eg. Ashkenaz contained Litvaks, Galitzianers etc.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Historically, at least among observant Orthodox/Conservative Jews descent from a Jewish mother gave one a legitimate claim of being Jewish. If I recall correctly that is not always the case with Reform Jews.

      All Jews, including the Orthodox, accept the possibility of conversion. Conversion, once effected, is complete (theologically, if perhaps not always socially, a convert is every bit as much a complete Jew as the descendant from thirty generations of Jews) and irrevocable (you can’t “deconvert”; you simply become a non-practising Jew). And if a woman converts, any child she bears after her conversion is Jewish by birth and descent.

      It’s just that they don’t particularly encourage conversions, and to some extent are suspicious of them. Judaism is not a missionary religion, and their world-view does not include the notion that God wants gentiles to become Jews. To be Jewish is a burden; Jews are subjected by God to a variety of commandments, injunctions and prohibitions from which gentiles are largely exempt. And, if God does not expect it of you, why would you want to subject yourself to all this? So, if you turn up seeking to convert, they will not fall on you with glad cries, as Christians might; they can seem disconcertingly uninterested, even discouraging. And they don’t make conversion an easy process. There’s a good deal of study involved, not to mention – for the blokes – the prospect of adult circumcision. Without a local anaesthetic.

    • Schütz says:

      yes, Christine. Jesus was “the wrong sort” of Messiah. Or at least, a kind of “messiah” they hadn’t previously been aware of.

  6. SonofTrypho says:

    As to Philo – I think that he missed out from a greater reception because of (unfair) suspicions from the rabbinic authorities and other Jewish teachers relating to a number of issues – roughly;
    1. His work uses a bunch of methodologies which were inspired by Greek thought/ideas and differed from “traditional” methodologies,
    2. His work was involved with the Septuagint translation which became the Christian text and some of his work was similarly used by Christians,
    3. His Judaism was practiced in Greek and differed from that of the Palestinian forms,
    4. His nephew was involved in the Great War (66-74CE) and was a Roman military commander. (

    Being a convert from Judaism to Catholicism I must admit that this topic is particularly interesting for me at least!

  7. Christine says:

    Peregrinus, point taken, but a Gentile who converts is Jewish in his religious affiliation but does not cease to be ethnically Italian, Greek, French, etc. Judaism is unique in being simultaneously a religion as well as an ethnic identity.

    As for your other comments, yes, conversions have not historically been encouraged although if I recall correctly Gentiles who observed the seven laws of Noah are considered Righteous and will have a share in the world to com.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Yup, in the Jewish view the Law (given to Moses) is addressed only to the Jews, but the commandments given to Noah are addressed to us all, since we are all descended from Noah. Fortunately for us, the commandments given to Noah are fairly sketchy by comparison with the Law.

      But I don’t think there is any particular reward promised in return for observing the Noahide commandments. You should observe them because it’s “the right thing to do”, and that should be all the incentive you need. The “world to come” is not really a concept found in Genesis (which, unsurprisingly, is where the Noahide commandments are found); the notion of an afterlife is a relatively late arrival in Judaism, and the notion of an afterlife which would provide reward and punishment arrives even later (and it never acquires the importance that it does in Christianity).

      For that matter, even for Jews observing the Law there is no promise of a reward in the afterlife; “I will be your God, and you will be my people” is the deal, and the benefits of God being with his people are very much expected to be seen in this world, not the next.

      Righteous gentiles may hope for God’s favour, but it is not a hope which the are expected or encouraged to defer until the world to come.

      • Schütz says:

        Jewish eschatology is a tricky and complicated subject.

        • Peregrinus says:

          True, and I am unquestionably oversimplifying, and possibly misrepresenting, it here.

          But I think it is true to say at least this: the question of an afterlife, and the idea of an afterlife as a place of reward or punishment, receives considerably less attention in the Jewish tradition than it does in the Christian tradition.

          • Schütz says:

            Today, yes. In the time of the Patriarchs, certainly. In the time of the apostles and early church… Depends who you talked to. Christianity is, of course, entirely posited on the resurrection of the dead, so it is not surprising that there is a lot of attention given to this aspect of our faith.

            • Peregrinus says:

              Well, yes. I’m no expert but, as I understand it, in the time of the Apostles (and of Jesus) different movements or traditions within Judaism had different perspectives on this. The Saducees and the Temple priesthood discounted or flat-out denied the idea of an afterlife; the Pharisees favoured it. But each, significantly, recognised the other as authentic, faithful Jews, so neither considered that their particular stance on the afterlife was essential.

              As you point out, the centrality of the resurrection to the Christian tradition naturally means that Christians accept an afterlife, and attach considerable importance to it. But, even before the Resurrection, the gospels record Jesus as referring to the afterlife in his teachings, so during his public ministry he clearly lined up with the Pharisees on this question.

              This sits oddly with the fact that the gospels suggest that there was a good deal of tension between Jesus and the Pharisees. But it was in fact the Temple priesthood that had Jesus arrested and executed, and I can’t avoid feeling that Jesus’s differences with the Pharisees were sharp precisely because they were differences between friends; if we have to theologically categorise the Judaism of Jesus of Nazareth, it was the Judaism of the Pharisees rather than the Judaism of the Priests.

  8. Antonia Romanesca says:

    “It is the two thousand or so years of divided tradition and history that makes Christianity and Judaism today mutually exclusive religions – even while remaining ever-so-closely related in patterns of belief and praxis, due to common origins.”

    ~~~~~ Yes, Rabbi Applebaum of Sydney has taught that one cannot be both a Jew and a Christian at the same time and this seems to the conventional view through almost all of international Jewry. One thing which has long interested me, is that the Messianic Jews nearly always seem to head to Pentecostal Protestantism, as ‘the One True Faith’….this seems to be happening in Australia also. I mentioned orthodox Christianity [specifically Catholicism] to an eminent ‘Jews for Jesus’ person a few years back [in Australia], just in the course of a general conversation about Jewish Messianism – and it had the effect of throwing a big can of petrol on a fire. One was simply not permitted to enquire ‘why [in the view of that person] one variant of Protestantism within Christianity, had found such favour with this group?’

    • Peregrinus says:

      Historically, the messianic Jewish movement doesn’t arise from within (religious) Judaism, but from within Christianity. At various times there have been concerted Christian efforts to target Jews for conversion, e.g. the very graphically-titled Anglican Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews, founded in 1809.

      But the idea of Christian congregations made up of (ethnic, converted) Jews who would retain much of their Jewish religious apparatus originated in the US, and specifically among evangelical Protestants, most of them Baptists. Jews for Jesus, for instance, was founded by Moishe Rosen – born Jewish, grew up irreligious, converted to Christianity in 1953 at the age of 20, went to bible college, ordained a Baptist minister in 1957. He didn’t found Jews for Jesus until 1969, by which time he had been a Christian for 16 years and a Baptist minister for 12. Unsurprisingly, the Christology of Jews for Jesus is basically the same as the Christology of American evangelical Baptists.

      And something similar is true of most of the other Messianic Jewish institutions. They were largely shaped by Jews who had converted to Christianity and participated in American evangelical Protestant Christian traditions, and then committed themselves to Messianic Judaism.

      So it’s not that Messianic Jews have “headed towards” or gravitated towards evangelical Protestantism from the range of Christian traditions. Rather, to a large extent messianic Judaism emerged from within evangelical Protestantism.

      These things acquire a momentum, and if you are now a Jew considering conversion to Christianity but anxious to retain much of your Jewish practice, then it won’t be long before you find your way to messianic Judaism. In theory you might wish to blend a more Catholic Christianity with your Jewish practice, but there aren’t that many groups out there offering that.

      (And, in any case, that analysis ignores the dynamics of conversion. While some converts embark on an intellectual, philosophical quest that brings them to this or that Christian tradition, they are a small minority. Most conversion stories start with personal relationships and personal encounters. And if the existing Messianic Jews are all evangelical Protestants, theologically speaking, then those are the ones you are going to encounter.)

      • SonofTrypho says:

        There is also the Association of Hebrew Catholics which has members who retain Jewish practices while professing Catholic Christianity.

        -Their case is an interesting one from the Catholic perspective because they have had a very mixed reception within the Church generally.

      • Schütz says:

        A kind of Jewish Ordinariate in the Evangelical church perhaps, Perry? Just my little joke…

        Actually there is a group which calls itself the “Association of Hebrew Catholics”, but they are very different from the Jews for Jesus.

        Most Catholic Jews I know are happy simply to be Catholic.

  9. Christine says:

    As for the Jewish concept of an afterlife, which is not as defined as the Christian view, seems to me it depends whether one is addressing Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform traditions. An Orthodox or Conservative Jew is more likely to believe that the righteous dead go to a place similar to the Christian view of Heaven, referred to as Olam Ha-Ba (the world to come) or Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden).

    Fortunately for us, the commandments given to Noah are fairly sketchy by comparison with the Law. Exactly. The minimum required for a Gentile to be considered righteous.

    Christine

  10. Christine says:

    In theory you might wish to blend a more Catholic Christianity with your Jewish practice, but there aren’t that many groups out there offering that.

    Here in the States there is a group called The Association of Hebrew Catholics.

    Christine

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