Judaism: The World’s Oldest Religion
May 31, 2012 8 Comments
To sum up Judaism in a sentence, you could say that it’s the foundation of the Christian faith, but they’re still looking for the Messiah. The Jewish faith goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve communed with God, and praised Him. It carried on throughout the Old Testament patriarchs through Abraham, Moses, David, all the way up to Jesus Christ. Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah, whether they were Jew or gentile, were born into the Christian faith. In the Old Testament there was no such thing as Christians, because Christ had not yet made Himself known as the Messiah. What God-fearing Jews were then, would have been considered what Christians are today. But Jesus Christ came and changed all that, and now there is no distinction between Jew and gentile in the Lord’s eyes.
A brief history: In A.D. 70, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans. That was significant because that meant there was no place for the Jews to offer sacrifices. When Jerusalem was destroyed, the Jews scattered to almost every nation of the world where they established communities and built synagogues to keep their faith alive.
Many centuries later the world witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust which brought about the merciless death of 6 million Jews. And in 1967, the Israelites recaptured all of Jerusalem – the first time they have held it as a free people since 586 B.C. For a complex, yet fascinating read on this subject, I recommend Six Days of War by Michael B. Oren. And now we are in the point of history where Palestine is trying to take over. That is the briefest history lesson I can give on the people of Israel.
Judaism exists in 4 different forms: 1) Orthodox, 2) Conservative, 3) Reform, and 4) Messianic. Let’s examine them all:
Orthodox Jews follow the Law to a tee. When I say the Law, I am referring to the Torah (law or teachings), which are the first five books of the Old Testament, written by Moses. They obey the Old Testament (aka, Hebrew Bible) and other teachings of famous rabbis that have been added through centuries, such as the Mishna and the Talmud. And the Sabath is strictly practiced on a weekly basis.
Conservative Jews are more lenient with the Torah, but they keep the traditions of Judaism alive.
Reformed Jews believe that teaching the principles of Judaism is more important than practicing them. Most of these Jews do not observe the strict dietary laws. But let me stress that all of them (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed) agree on keeping the Sabath.
The Sabath, as most know, begins at sundown on Friday night and ends on sundown on Saturday. After a modest dinner of challah bread and a sip of wine, Conservatives and Reformed go to the synagogue. The Orthodox go on Saturday mornings and afternoons.
Some Jewish holidays:
Rosh Hashanah – This is the Jewish New Year and it lasts from September to October.
Yom Kippur – This is the Jewish Day of Atonement which takes place ten days after Rosh Hashanah. During those ten days, Jews take part in repentance and soul-searching.
Passover – This usually takes place during Easter. The youngest children will usually ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and the Elder will tell the story of the Exodus.
Concerning Jesus, the Jews believe that He was a great prophet and teacher. Nothing more. The Jews in Jesus’ time had strayed from the purpose behind God’s laws and had become legalistic and judgmental in their practices (like some Christians today).
So what’s the difference, then between Christianity and Judaism? Well, this question hinges on another question: Was Jesus the Messiah, as He claimed, or was He an impostor? That’s really what it comes down to. Christians still study and learn from the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament and esteem them as God’s Word. Like every other religion and belief system in the world, it all comes down to one thing and one thing only: Jesus. Do you, or do you not, believe Him to be the Anointed One, the promised one, the deliverer? That is the question that will make all the difference concerning each and every individual’s eternal destiny. So then, could a Jew be a Christian today?
There is a movement that gained increasing momentum during the last decades of the 20th century, called Messianic Judaism. These people believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the promised Jewish Messiah and Savior for Israel and the world. What spawned this movement? It was at the end of the Six Day War in 1967, when Jerusalem suddenly came back into Jewish hands after nearly 2,000 years, and tens of thousands of Jewish people accepted Yeshua as their Messiah. Christians, if you meet a Messianic Jew, invite him or her into your home as a sibling in Christ, and gladly break bread with that person.
Today there are 350+ Messianic Jewish congregations worldwide and dozens in Israel. More Jewish people put their faith in Christ in the last 20 years than in 20 centuries. They welcome Gentiles yet retain Jewish forms of worship, feasts, festivals, songs, customs and even humor. Beleiveing Jesus is a very Jewish thing to do! (Acts 15, Eph. 2, Rom. 10:12)
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