Judaism and Christianity Term Paper

Pages: 26 (7257 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] Christians believe in divine intervention and miraculous healing as an integral part of their faith. The New Testament and the various gospels are replete with innumerable miraculous episodes of Jesus.

God and his attributes

Judaism and Christianity are both religions of Abrahamic origin. Judaism can be rightly attributed as the mother of Christianity. They both accept the 'Old Testament' even as Christians subscribe to the 'New Testament'. Christianity, which evolved from Judaism, as an independent religion is entirely based on the teachings of Jesus. Many Jews consider Jesus as a reformative Prophet, rather than as a radical individual, who disagreed with many of the accepted doctrines of Judaism. The fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity is their basic understanding of the attributes of God. While both these religions are monotheistic, there are some vital differences in their perception and explication of the nature of God. Judaism, as we understand, is very simple and straightforward in its conception of divinity. Judaism exhorts God as a single, non-divisible, immutable eternal principle. Its purely monotheistic philosophy disallows or disclaims the existence of demigods or other intermediaries.

Judaism (The concept of God)

Judaism is one of the ancient religions whose origin is traced back to the period of Moses and it is generally accepted that it was only around 5th century BCE that Judaism evolved in its classical form. Jewish religion is strongly monotheistic with one god. To the Jews god represented a totality and an indivisible power. God is perceived as a complete facet without any identifiable attributes. Since any personification of godhead meant a limitation Jewish religion does not ascribe a form to god. All creations were perceived to be created and under the direct control of god. Judaism takes for granted the existence of god and the religious texts do not offer any proof for the same. Instead the very existence of the created world is considered to be an automatic proof for the existence of god.

God is considered as the eternal source of all that exists beneath and above, and of light and darkness. Even the so-called evil that exists in this world is assumed to be the creation of the god. To quote the Isaiah, "I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil. I am the Lord, that does all these things." (Is. 45:6-7) The main concept of the Judaism is that there is nothing apart from god and god is the source of all good and bad. That is, behind all the diversity there is an underlying unity, that everything is derived from the same source. [Tracey R. Rich]

Christianity on the other hand, while still a monotheistic religion, has an entirely different perception of Godhead. Christianity is firmly entrenched on the belief of the principle of trinity. That is to say that God is manifest as three different aspects i.e., God as the father, God as the son and God as the Spirit. Jesus Christ is widely acknowledged as the 'Holy Son' and the link between God and man. That Jesus, was the incarnation of God is widely accepted by the Christians and he is looked forward to as the intermediary one, the connecting link between men and the realm of the eternal father. It is here that we find another important distinction between Judaism and Christianity. Judaism does not accept or acknowledge the prospect of divine incarnation and any kind of intermediation between God and man is strictly ruled out. Having said this we still have to account for the Jewish belief in 'Arrival of Messiah'. Though the concept of the Messiah seems contradictory to the Jewish belief [no intermediation], it is clarified by the entirely different messianic concept as opposed to Christianity. We will discuss later when we refer to the idea of Messiah.

Monotheism

Monotheism, in effect refers to a single, primordial divine principle. The notion of God in a monotheistic religion is that of an all encompassing one without a second. Judaism views God as the eternal creator of the universe. There is no gender orientation of god. The godhead is neither male nor female. The divine principle is the power behind, the creation, sustenance, and even the destruction of life. So God is in every bit an intrinsic as well as an extrinsic part of the universe. God is ascribed to as eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent and infinite. Because Christianity considers three different aspects of god, though it refers to the single godhead it is drastically different from the purely monotheistic approach of Judaism. Hence we see that there is fundamental difference in the concept of god between Judaism and Christianity though they both subscribe to the monotheistic belief.

Apart from the basic difference in understanding the nature of the divine principle (Godhead), there is a fundamental similarity in the appreciation of different attributes of God as explained by the two religions. Let us briefly analyze the different attributes of Godhead as defined by these religions.

God as the eternal principle

Fundamental to the religions is the staunch belief that God is eternal. The notion that God is eternal clearly differentiates between the demigods that the pagan mythology expounds. The ninetieth psalm declares "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God...For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night." So there is no beginning and no end to God and he is unaffected by time. Though God is considered to be specially manifest in certain places like the Temple there is no place in the universe where he is not immanent. That is to say, that God is eternal, infinite and omnipresent.[Goldberg, 237]

Omnipotent

God is not only eternal and omnipresent but he is in full control of all things in the world. There is nothing impossible for God. So, the concept of God's omnipotence extends his omnipresence.

God as incorporeal

Though Judaism and Christianity emphasize the nature of God as pure Spirit, There is a considerable difference between them. Judaism expounds God as being complete incorporeal and considers idolatry as a detestable practice. That God cannot be physically manifest is central to the Jewish religion. This thought is reflected in the divine reply to Mosses who wanted God to reveal himself before him. "I will make all my goodness pass before you... But, He said, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." This principle is in stark contrast to Christianity, which accepts the divine manifestation in human form.

Anthropomorphism and Incarnations

As we had discussed above, Judaism strictly objects idolatry and any idea relating to the incarnation or the manifestation of divinity in human form. But when we study Jewish literature, in particular the Rabbinic Aggerdah, there is a frequent mention of anthropomorphism. But these controversial ideas are always disclaimed as mere metaphorical presentations rather than realities.

God as a Transcendental

Judaism considers God as a supreme transcendental power. This implicates that there is an essential difference between God and the world that he created. Since Judaism does not approve incarnations and any kind of divine intermediation the idea of a transcendental divine being implies a huge void between God and his creation.

Christianity, on the other hand, does not have any such problems in dealing with the transcendental reality of Godhead because it fully endorses the concept of divine incarnation as an effective link between God and man.

Judaism, however, strikes a balance by accepting the notion of God's immanence in correlation with his transcendence. Thus God is both above as well as a part of nature. The notion of transcendence and immanence present two different qualities and seems to be a paradoxical concept. Since God transcends time he is eternal and since he is immanent, he very much permeates the world at any point of time. So we see that the concept of transcendence and immanence fully explain and account for the omnipresence and omnipotence of God. In the words of psalmist, 'Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to Heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me' (139:7-10).

The fundamental principle of Judaism is that God is pure and unsullied. He is the eternal manifestation of righteousness and moral conduct. This is expounded in the Jewish belief that 'There is none Holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee' (Samuel 2:2).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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