I keep being told that Jews and Christians share a common heritage. I am very unsure that is true.
I think there are some ethnic commonalities among a very few number of Jews who became Christians, but the number of them is so small to be insignificant among the numbers of Christians.
Culturally, there are very few similarities too. Most cultures derive from geographical locations rather than religous beliefs. Christians in the UK have a different culture to Christians in Nigeria or Peru, for example. Some of their religious practices also differ. Has nobody noticed this? Among Jews who have been expelled from their homeland and lived all over the planet, there is still a lot of commonality and we have been praying to return to our homeland for 2000 years. If you think of us as Native Americans or Aborigines, you would understand us better.
In terms of belief, the difference between Christians and Jews are immense. Jews are not Christians who don’t believe in Jesus. Christianity comes out of Imperialism and the Roman Empire. However, among most people, and I include highly academic ones, there is little understanding of this fact. Most people seem to think Judaism is a precursor religion to Christianity, just without Jesus, and, on top of that, the Jewish God is the same as the Christian one and that the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, has hints of Jesus in it, a bit like a crystal ball or predictions.
So let us summarise:
- Judaism does not believe in Original Sin. Adam and Eve had to eat from the Tree of Knowledge or they would not have free will and be able to be grown ups, leave Eden and attempt to finish creation. The creation story shows a God who allows humans to interact in creation.
- Judaism does not believe that you can die for another’s sins. You die for your own sins. Occasionally, the children have to die too as they are so amoral/immoral, but usually, you die for your own sins. Nobody can die or sacrifice themselves for another’s sins.
- Judaism does not believe in a human God. End of.
- Judaism defines what a messiach may be and as the term messiach /messiah is a Hebrew term from Judaism, it seems best to let Judaism and Jews decide rather than appropriate the term.
- The term ‘virgin’ that is thought to be hinted at in later books of the Tanakh is, in fact, ‘young woman’ (almah). A different word is used for virgin. So there is no foreshadowing of a virgin birth in the Tanakh. In Judaism, sexual intercourse is not frowned upon and the physical body is also important. There is a prayer for everything, even going to the toilet. The idea is to raise everything into holiness/praise, not avoid eating, drinking, fornicating etc. Just to do it appropriately, healthily.
- The God that the Jews believe in is one of Compassion. There are 13 attributes that God uses to describe God in a way humans could understand and Compassion ranks high amongst them. These 13 attributes are called the Attributes of Mercy. Mercy trumps Justice. The God of the Old Testament is not the God of the Tanakh.
- Adam and Eve are not Christian. They are not Jewish or Muslim either. They are the first humans. No rules, morals or beliefs have been given at this stage apart from not to eat from a certain tree. But you need to eat from the Tree to move onto the choice stage, to be able to choose, to be adult. God learns that too. God learns about humans in the Torah!
- Chosen because they chose God. It is a two way street.
- There is no foreshadowing of Jesus or Mohammad in the Torah or in the entire Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). They are not there because the Tanakh was written BEFORE they were born, by about 1000 years. The prophets are not predictors of the future. They are speaking to their now, what is happening. They are there to remind us of the Torah, not to invent some saviour. We are meant to save ourselves (be adult) by following the Torah, a blueprint for how to live in societies, a guidebook and self-help book.
- The word for ‘Sacrifice’ in Hebrew is Korbanot. It means ‘to draw closer’ and does not mean ‘to give up’. The sacrifice is shared with God. We share the table. It is about hospitality. God creates a place for humans and in return we make the place we were given by God as beautiful and hospitable (holy) as possible in return in the hope that God will visit. We have not, so far, done a great job at our side of the agreement given the amount of our filth and trash and pollution on the planet. Shame on all of us.
- Judaism forbids human sacrifice. So sacrificing your child for others is unthinkable and forbidden. ‘Do not give your child over to the Molech’. No human sacrifice and certainly not to atone for somebody else’s sins (see point 2 above).
- The God of the Jews forbids eating blood, any blood of any animal. So the flesh and blood of a human are repulsive ideas. The blood libel is ludicrous. Matzos are made of flour and water. Christians and Muslims did not exist for 1000 years after the exile so what were we making Matzos from all that time? We don’t eat human flesh or any blood. Get over it.
- Christians eat the flesh and drink the blood of their God each week. This is a Roman practice. The Romans used Christianity to push back against Israel, which they renamed Palestine in an act of Colonialism and enslavement. To be a Palestinian you had to be a Jew. That you have colonised the ancient homeland, Israel and renamed it is the same act as the Romans.
- Shabbat is not a punishment. It is a holiday and celebrates creation every week by stopping creating. We are commemorating creation every week in appreciation and gratitude for being her.
- Things get separated into kosher (useful/appropriate) and not kosher (inappropriate for humans). That’s it. It is to do with sparks (energy) that can be used by humans and sparks that can’t.
- Judaism has practice as central (living a kosher/appropriate life) but it has a huge spiritual exploration to explain the practices. It is not a fundamental religion and has used a system of exegesis and hermeneutics for 2000 years at least, before others existed, which is called by an acronym: PARDES. Judaism has spent the last 3000 years interpreting these words, making them relevant and useful to human life. You have not understood it and have read it through a distorted, colonialist lens.
- Victimhood as a culture is not part of Judaism even if Jews have been victims and are preferred when they are victims and lose (are dead)! How very cruel. The idea of the victim as being deserving is very useful from a Roman Imperial perspective. How to tame a rebellious population? Delay reward until death. Judaism thinks the reward is being alive, here, now on the planet and that this is such a wonderful gift that we should make our homes and lives as good as possible so as to welcome God as a visitor into them as thanks for being here, now. Judaism works to avoid poverty and oppression and to celebrate this planet as a home for all.
- Jesus seems to have been a Jew living in Israel under Roman occupation. The Romans killed him.