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Christianity and judaism

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Christianity and judaism

"In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters." And so, believe many, the earth's history began. This quotation from the Bible and the stories that follow it have spawned so many different sects in the Christian Tradition. But what spawned Christianity? Most would say the Christian Tradition was brought about by the belief that Jesus Christ was the messiah. This is, in essence correct. However, Christianity in itself can be looked at as a sect of Judaism, because, Judaism, in essence, gave birth to Christianity. Jesus was, after all a Jew.

It is a simple fact that the Christian Tradition finds its roots in Judaism. Jewish men founded some of the first Christian churches. Because Christianity came about from the teachings of Jesus, it is important to understand where Jesus came from and what inspired His preaching. Most historians agree that Jesus probably attended the local synagogue and "gained there at least an oral familiarity with the Hebrew Scriptures and the demands of Pharisaic Judaism." As He grew older, He was influenced by the teachings of John, a preacher from a nearby town. John explained that in order to pass from Earth to the Kingdom of God, one had to be baptized. Because of his teachings, John was executed by the State.

Jesus soon began his own path in preaching. He took much of John's preaching to heart, but Jesus set out to show that the Kingdom of God was present on earth. He showed this by performing miracles of healing and exorcism. Like John, Jesus was executed for his words. But he had developed a following. His apostles, after the resurrection, preached the good news. Their words were directed at Jews. In fact, the leaders of the movement, which would later turn into Christianity, saw themselves as Jews. "Therefore, the 'Jesus movement' could quite properly be seen as a sect within Judaism."

Why though, is it important to understand Christianity's root in Judaism? It is important to know the connectedness of these two religions for the same reason it is important to know who one's own parents are. Judaism is the parent of Christianity. It, in essence, gave birth to the Christian Tradition. By truly understanding where these traditions came from, a Christian can better understand why they are practiced. Furthermore, through mutual understanding, different religions can live in peace together. This idea of peace between religions is called ecumenism. "The spirit of ecumenism has produced a conspicuous increase in the amount and quality of fraternization."

This paper sets out to show what unbreakable links tie Christians and Jews together, as well as what has set them apart so violently. An understanding of these two deeply connected religions can heighten understanding and ecumenism. It can make clear the ignorance of such religious hatred, which even now, in perhaps the most successful age of ecumenism, continue to destroy nations.

The history of Judaism and the history of the Christian Tradition are heavily intertwined. For centuries the two have lived together side by side. It is important to understand exactly how the two survived together around the time of the birth of Christianity before we look at how the two survive in each other's shadows today.

"Long before the second century the Jews had been granted a number of unusual concessions by the Romans - for example, the right to observe Sabbath, to refuse military service, and to substitute prayers for the emperor in place of participation in the imperial cult." While Jews seemed to be given special treatment, this in no way implied religious harmony. The community at large was fairly segregated and Jewish peoples settled with their own. There were, inevitably, outbursts of violence stemming from religious bigotry. However, all factors considered, the Jews were very secure, and a strong force. There were an estimated sixty million Jews in the Roman Empire during the first two centuries. By the end of the second century, the Christians in the Roman Empire are estimated (very roughly) to be approximately 1.5 million. From this we can conclude that "Christianity was a small and insignificant movement during the first hundred years of its existence and even some seventy years later, it had advanced only numerically in only a modest way." The end of the second century and the beginning of the third century saw the continued expansion of the Christian Tradition in what had been Judaism's proverbial backyard.

Now, while Jewish communities were isolated, this does not mean they were geographically separated from Christian communities. In fact, Jews and Christians often occupied the same towns and cities and were in direct competition. This competition fed resentment between the two traditions that filtered out through Rome. However, each were strangely similar. By the end of the second century "the social and economic range in their membership would eventually have been much the same." Furthermore:

The cohesion, intimacy, and self-supporting

charity of the typical synagogue would have

been matched by the local church, and certain

fundamental beliefs (monotheism) and ethical

principles (the Decalogue) would, at least to an

outsider, have looked much the same, as would

their wariness of, and communal attempts to

demarcate themselves from, the outside world.

While conflict did exist between the early Christian church and believers of Judaism, the two were quite similar, from fundamental beliefs to the way the church/synagogue appeared to outsiders. Christians were much more active in recruiting newcomers to the Church, and wrote several apologies. This is a direct result of the fact that the early Romans considered the Jewish tradition to be much more acceptable then Christianity. What was ancient and founded, or well established, was often venerated. This made the Christian Tradition difficult to jumpstart.

Most will recognize that Christianity is the flower and fruit of Judaism, that Judaism gave birth to the Christian Tradition. We have examined how the early Christian church related to the Jewish synagogues and vice versa. Now let us examine what specific Christian traditions or practices can be understood to be the flower and fruit of Jewish traditions of practices. These are remnants of Judaism that can be found in modern day Christianity. Why do they exist? They exist because the first Christians were actually Jews. Their Jewish upbringing undoubtedly affected this giant step into a new religious tradition.

"The pattern of early Christian worship - in timing and content, fasts and prayers, private and communal - shows the pervasive influence of Judaism." The Jewish Sabbath seemingly paved the way for the Christian Sunday. However, this Holy Day is also seen as a way ...

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