Thinking of Christianity as 'a Judaism'

Knight Ridder’s Bill Tammeus writes,

Research suggests that what Christians have taken to be Paul’s criticism of Judaism was not about or aimed at Jews at all. Nor, these Pauline scholars say, did Paul mean to be critical of Jews who follow the rules known collectively as “the law.” Paul, they say, always understood himself to be part of Judaism – the part that believed the long-awaited Jewish Messiah had come in the person of Jesus.
This new work prompts what may seem like a foolish and radical question – but one worth asking: If Paul considered followers of Jesus to be within Judaism, what would happen if Christianity today revised its self-image and thought of itself as “a Judaism”? And what would happen if Jews (who, like Christians, are divided into various branches) were willing to imagine that Christians are part of their extended family in a much closer way than is common today?

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7 thoughts on “Thinking of Christianity as 'a Judaism'

  1. Yes, the thinking goes that Paul was just arguing that gentiles need not become Jewish to follow Jesus. That taking on the yoke of the Torah was an unnessicary burden for them. This is very similar to the way Rabbis traditionally try to talk people out of converting to Judaism on the growns that 1) its not nessisary to be Jewish to be considered rightious and 2) Entering into the Jewish covenent with God involves a lot of responsability and should not be entered into lightly.
    However, I think many would argue that over the past 2 millenia Christianity has changed too much to still be considered a Judaism by anyone. But that is open to debate, I;m sure.

  2. There’s an old riddle (Lincoln allegedly was fond of it.)
    Q: If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse have?
    A: 4. Calling a tail a leg, doesn’t make it a leg.
    But saying one doesn’t need to be Jewish to be righteous, is very different from saying one doesn’t need to be Jewish to be part of Judaism. I have no problem saying there are some Righteous Christians. As long as they are following the Noahide laws, they’re fine.
    Of course, one of those Noahide laws is monotheism. So belief in the Trinity, and Satan put them on shaky grounds. But there are arguments that neither controverts monotheism.

  3. “But saying one doesn’t need to be Jewish to be righteous, is very different from saying one doesn’t need to be Jewish to be part of Judaism.”
    Absolutely correct. I’m at a loss why my mind skipped that groove. Thanks.

  4. The thing is, most Christians today do consider themselves the present-day incarnation of Israel. Ask any evangelical Christian and they will tell you that when JC came along, the Covenant with the Jews was abrogated, and begun anew with the followers of Jesus.
    But he is right: Paul worked as a Jew, within a Jewish system. See the collected works of Leo Baeck (Introduction by Walter Kaufmann) for an extensive treatment on Paul, his background and context.

  5. I actually have a Christian friend who considers Christianity as some kind of perfectly valid variant of Judaism, no more different from traditional Judaism then Reform, for instance. The debate ended when i asked him what he would say to a Muslim who claimed that Islam is a kind of Christianity, and should be accepted as such by Christians. His answer, of course, was ‘no’.
    Identity is all about boundary maintenance.

  6. Isn’t this exactly what “Jews for Jesus” says?
    Christian docterine teaches that Christians are the next step of the relationship with God after Jesus.
    I’m sorry your friend rejected Islam when you equated it to Christianity, but I would bet you that he doesn’t know the first thing about Islam. As a Christian who at least has a basic understanding, that doesn’t offend me at all. I may disagree with hsi belief, but it’s not offensive

  7. I have read that Christianity and Muhammedanism is gods way of teaching Torah to humanity, i believe it was Maimonides. I personally dont prescribe to that. All though i can see his point. I say its based of course. But highly muddled.

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