Judaism is defined as the philosophy, religion, beliefs and customs of the Jewish people. It is regarded as monotheistic religion based on the Hebrew Bible also referred to as Tanakh. It is considered by the Jewish people as an expression of a covenant relationship that God had developed with Israelites in the past. This religion holds that God gave a revelation of his commandments and laws to his servant Moses at Mount Sinai through a written as well as oral Torah. Actually, it is one of the oldest historical religions traced to have spanned for more than three thousand years, thus being the oldest monotheistic religion and the longest to have survived to the present times. On the other hand, Christianity is a religion practiced by Christians who base their customs, norms, beliefs and way of life on the teaching and principles of the Bible as depicted in the life of Jesus Christ who is believed to have been the savior meant to reconcile all mankind with God through his death on the cross for remission of the sins of mankind. Christianity directs worship to triune God while Judaism lays emphasis on solidarity and oneness of God (Lewis 1984, p. 57). Historically, these two religions have common roots traced from Second Temple Period. Judaism bases its entire conducts on Mosaic laws that God made with the children of Israel as depicted in Talmud and Torah just in the same way Christianity primarily bases on the New Testament between man and triune God through Jesus. Therefore, this essay aims to present a detailed highlight of the similarities and differences (comparison and contrast) between Judaism and Christianity based on beliefs and doctrines of Christians and Judaists.
To begin with the similarities, ultimate reality becomes the first point of commonality. This implies that both Judaists and Christians believe in existence of one God, Jehovah the God of Abraham and the creator of heaven and earth. This belief is entirely based on the truth derived from the Hebrew Bible for the Judaists made of Torah (law), Ketuvim (writings) and Nevim (prophets) (Day 1979, p. 118). It is in the same way that the Christians also derive their entire belief on the Bible made up of the New Testament and the Old Testament whereby most similarities exist in the Old Testament.
Belief in the existence of other spiritual being apart from God is the same for those practicing Judaism as well as those practicing Christianity. This negates that both agree with existence of angels and demons which are invisible beings operating in invisible realms (spiritual realms). Christians acknowledge that angels are special messengers from God and are normally sent to mankind with special oracles. For example, in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it is clearly accounted that an angel was sent to deliver a message to Mary and Joseph about the imminent birth of Jesus Christ. It is in the same way accounted in the Hebrew Bible in the Torah of how an angel appeared to Moses in different instances in his mission to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Concerning demons, both sides came to a consensus that demons are fallen angels from heaven who were once servants of God but were cast out of heaven, after Lucifer had sinned, to the earth. They both consider that demons cause adverse effects on the lives of human being, for example, causing diseases, deaths, sicknesses, violence and all evil on the earth. Besides, Judaists and Christians also recognize ill-activities of the demons always associated with dark world and they are not acceptable in their lives at all costs. In addition, both Christians and Judaists reject the notion that God is wholly transcendent and so separate from this world but rather accept that God is omnipresent and omniscient. Therefore, both religions share the whole belief that God is transcendent and immanent. They also commonly refute atheism as well as polytheism (worship of many gods).
Despite the above points of commonality, numerous differences exist as far as beliefs and doctrines that govern, dictate and command the will power and day to day lives of the Christians and Judaists. The first point worth noting is the concept of the nature of God. Christians believe in existence of a triune God (trinity) in distinct three persons; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit who share one divine essence in such a way that one God is indivisible. On the other hand, Judaists believe in unity composed of only one person and that is only God the Father. Christianity spread a teaching that God became immanent in human when God the Son was incarnated and born to become the Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is believed to be fully God and, on the other hand, fully human. The opposite of this is that Judaism regards God as a single entity and thus shares the whole view of trinitarianism as violation of basic biblical teachings and absolutely incomprehensible (Jacobs 1973, p. 236). It totally differs from Christianity that any person or living being could ever exist as God. And there is no possibility for God to be divided into three forms or manifest in human form and at a single moment join the physical world in such a way. Actually, this point has formed the fundamental point of difference between these two world famous religions.
Another sharp and striking point of contrast is the channels God used to pass divine revelations to humans. Christians strongly affirm that divine revelation came through Jesus and prophets as outlined in the their Bible while the Judaists strongly proclaim that divine revelation only came through prophets and this is well written in the Bible. Christianity teaches that in the Old Testament God raised prophets who acted as the mediators between mankind and God and that God used them to speak about the future and also pronounce judgments for example, such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah prophesied the birth of Jesus Christ. All these are affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament who became the mediator of the old and the new covenant. In other words, He came to fulfill law and prophecy and it is believed that He released a number of divine revelations some concerning the future, hell as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is not what Judaism goes by as they strongly stand to the point that divine revelations were released only through prophets raised by God such as the Ten Commandments which they still cling to date (Speigel 1993, p. 128).
The entire concept about Jesus Christ is also developed and depicted differently by the two sides. Christians believe in Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah, God incarnate and savior of mankind. Christianity teaches that Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit and was born through the Virgin Mary, and lived with Joseph in Nazareth as a carpenter. He was baptized by John the Baptist, healed the sick and performed so many miracles. Jesus was crucified on the cross by the Jews, died and resurrected after three days and then ascended to heaven. Also they believe that He will come for the second time to pick his church and rule for a millennium. However, for Judaists, all these are just fallacies and phantom stories. Judaists believe that Jesus was a false prophet who just went through normal birth and later died through crucifixion in the hands of Pontius Pilate, but never resurrected as insinuated by Christians, thus there is nothing like the second coming of Jesus Christ, rapture and millennium reign on earth. Therefore, while Christians set their strongly beliefs in Jesus Christ, Judaists think of him as a false prophet and does not form part of the single entity of God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Means of salvation is also spotted as a warring point of difference between Judaism and Christianity. Christian doctrine spells out that salvation happens through correct belief in the triune God and believing that Jesus Christ came to save mankind from sins and to promote the confession of sins accompanied by repentance that gives birth to good deeds and sacraments in memory of great sacrifice of Jesus Christ through painful suffering and death on the cross. On the other hand, Judaism teaches that salvation is centered in total belief in God and living a life characterized by good deeds. According to Judaism, good deeds are measured on the scale of the Ten Commandments brought by Moses while Christian doctrine affirms that the laws are written in their heart and Christ delivered them from the slavery and penalty of living under the authority of law.
Christians practice the doctrine of eternal life after death. This implies that after death, one spends his or her life in heaven or in hell. According to the New Testament, those who do good deeds and live in accordance to the will of God will go to heaven for eternal life when they die, while inveterate sinners will spend all their eternal life in hell full of sufferings. Nevertheless, Christians bring in temporary purgatory a place where saints pass through to pay for their sins before they can be allowed in heaven. For Judaism, this is a false doctrine as their teachings state that when one who led a good life dies, he or she goes to heaven after life while a person who led a bad life dies his/her soul either goes to eternal Gahenna or reincarnates. This is a bit different from what is taught in Christianity (Herberg 1951, p. 91). To crown it all, these two religions also differ on their views on other religions. Christians regard Judaism as a true religion with incomplete revelation especially the Bible. On the other hand, it is believed by Judaists that Christianity has wrong interpretation of Judaism.
In conclusion, this essay presenting a detailed highlight of the similarities and differences (comparison and contrast) between Judaism and Christianity based on beliefs and doctrines of Christians and Judaists. These two religions are not known as those that have employed a lot of extremism or conflict with one another. They co-exist in harmony enhanced by various points of commonalities. Christians still have a strong attachment to Jews since most of their rituals and religious activities are symbolic and relevant to most of the practices and beliefs based on the New Testament. Besides, most Christians currently pay homage to Israel to experience a bit of Jewish culture more than any other religion such as Islam and Hinduism. This affirms the fact that despite the differences, the Bible joins up Christianity and Judaism in a remarkable way.