Judaism is the smallest of the five major world religions: Christianity; Islam; Hinduism; Buddhism; Judaism (A World religion is an internationally widespread religion – Wikipedia). It numbers almost 14 million (Largest Religions in the World, worldatlascom). Most of these live in the U.S.A. and Israel (List of religious populations, Wikipedia). There are more Jews in the U.S.A. than there are in Israel. More than 6.5 million live in the U.S.A.
The origin of Judaism is found in the Bible. The foundations of their law were laid at Sinai, c. 1491 B.C.
However, much has changed since then (example: animal sacrifices are no longer made by modern Jews). This should be kept in mind.
What Is Believed?
A Jewish Rabbi in Spain, Moshe ben Maimon (c. 1135-1204 A.D.) – also known as Maimonides or Rambam – set forth a summary of basic Jewish beliefs. This is known as the “Thirteen Fundamental Principles” of the Jewish faith. “Although criticized afterward by some, his creed is still followed by the traditional forms of Judaism” (Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 367). Here is the list:
- I believe… that the Creator… is the Creator and Guide for all created beings. He alone made, makes and will make all that is created.
- I believe… that the Creator… is one. He alone is our God, who was, who is, and who is to be.
- I believe… that the Creator… is not a body, and that He is free from all properties of matter…
- I believe… that the Creator… is the first and last (eternal).
- I believe… that the Creator… to Him alone is it fitting to make prayer (worship) and to another prayer (worship) shall not be made.
- I believe… that all the words of the prophets are true.
- I believe… the prophecy of Moses, our teacher… was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him (primacy of Moses words, and the Torah)
- I believe… that the whole Torah, now found on our hands was the exact same one given to Moses… (Divine origin).
- I believe… that this Torah will not change, and that there will never be any other Law from the Creator…
- I believe… that the Creator… knows every action done by each human being as well as all of their thoughts.
- I believe… that the Creator… rewards all who keep His commandments and punishes all those who transgress His commandments.
- I believe… in the coming of the Messiah, and, though he tarry I will wait daily for his coming.
- I believe… that there will be a resurrection of the dead at the time that will be pleasing before the Creator…
(Wording compiled from different sources. See: McDowell, pp. 367-368; Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Jewish Faith, oru.edu; Chabad.org; jewfaq.org).
Other Common Beliefs:
- Judaism does not accept the doctrine of original sin and Total Hereditary Depravity. “Jews do not believe that the body or its natural appetites are to be looked upon as sinful, since they were created by God” (Editor David Brown, Judaism – From God or Man?, p. 511).
- Some believe that when the Messiah does come, the sacrificial system will be reinstituted in Israel (Brown, p. 511).
Judaism rejects Jesus as the Messiah, and certainly as God in the flesh, for many reasons. The reasons are far more than can be discussed in this writing. Michael L. Brown has written 5 volumes entitled Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. However, here are several common ones:
- If Jesus were the Messiah, there would not be such widespread Jewish rejection. Answer: The truth is the Biblical record indicates that Israel time and again rejected God’s prophets (Exodus 17:4; Numbers 14:10; 1 Kings 18:4, 13; 19:2, 10, 14; 2 Kings 9:7; 2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Nehemiah 9:30; Jeremiah 2:30; 6:16-17; 11:21; 38:4; Ezekiel 2:1-8; Matthew 23:29-36; 23:37; Acts 7:51-53).
- If Jesus is the Messiah, then there should be peace on earth. Answer: It is true that the Messiah is described as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). He made peace possible between God and man (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:11-13; Colossians 1:20). He made peace possible between man and man (Ephesians 2:11-13). A perfect peaceful existence is still to come (Revelation 21-22).
What about Isaiah 2:1-4; Isaiah 11:6-9; and Micah 4:1-5? The peace spoken of here exists in God’s holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9 cf. 2:1-2; 4:1-2). I believe that this refers to man being changed in Christ (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Others believe that this refers to that peace which is to come in heaven.
- Jews do not need a middleman. Answer: the Law of Moses had a distinct priesthood. “Uzzah learned the hard way that even kings needed a middle man to offer their incense to God (2 Chronicles 26:16-18)” (Brown, p. 342).
- God did not want a blood sacrifice. Answer: While some have so argued (based on Psalm 40:6; Isaiah 11:11-14; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Micah 6:6-8), the Law of Moses did instruct such (e.g. Leviticus 16).
- Isaiah 53 is about the nation of Israel, and not about the Messiah. Answer: Wayne Jackson points out: “(a) The context plainly deals with an individual (cf. verses 2, 3, 4, ff). (b) The victim described in this section is innocent; He is not suffering as a result of His personal transgressions… (c) Isaiah’s suffering servant passively endures the abuse heaped upon Him… (d) The essence of the suffering depicted in Isaiah 53 is vicarious, i.e., substitutionary in nature (cf. 4-6). The benefits of the servant’s death were passed on to others. How in any sense, could such be applicable to the nation as a whole? (e) The inspired writers of the New Testament clearly applied the prophecies to Jesus Christ… (f) Finally, it is admitted that the earliest Jewish writers accepted Isaiah 53 as having a Messianic thrust. It was only when early Christian apologists began to press the case for the application to Jesus of Nazareth that a new ‘interpretation’ was sought” (Jackson, Isaiah, p. 106). Many have a real problem with having a spiritual savior. Wayne Jackson records the words of Joseph Klausner, who was a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, “Each man is responsible for himself, and through his good deeds he must find atonement for his sins. He cannot lean upon the Messiah or upon the Messiah’s suffering and death (Jackson, p. 115 quoting The Messianic Idea in Israel by Joseph Klausner, p. 530).
- God is not man. Answer: B.J. Clark has written, “Jews point to Number 23:19 as proof for this objection. This passage affirms that ‘God is not a man.’ The specific way in which God is not a man in this text is in the area of lying… Number 23:19 does not say that God would never dwell in the body of a man; it affirms that God does not behave like man, specifically in the area of lying… Even the Old Testament mentions occasions where in God appears in human form (Genesis 18-19; Joshua 5:13-15)” (Brown, pp. 336-337).
Types of Judaism
(1) Orthodox. The name ‘Orthodox’ is a broad term which includes at least 13 sects of traditionalists Jews (Brown, p. 531). “It was the modern ‘progressive’ Jews who first applied the name to ‘old , backward’ Jews as a derogatory term” (ucalgary.ca.elsegal/Rels369). Orthodox Jews believe “the Torah, both written and oral, as literally revealed by God on Mount Sinai and faithfully transmitted ever since. Other key doctrines include belief in a future resurrection of the dead, divine reward and punishment, the election of Israel and an eventual restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem under the Messiah (orthodoxjudaism, Wikipedia). “The orthodox Jews observe most of the traditional Dietary and ceremonial laws of Judaism. It adheres to the inspiration of the Old Testament [although greater authority is given to the Torah (Law), the first five books, than the rest]” (McDowell, p. 371). “These Jews usually observe the Sabbath quite strictly… separate pews are maintained for the women in their synagogues, and only Hebrew is used in their prayer and ceremonial services. A head or skullcap is worn by the men at all times during their worship, and often even when they are not at worship” (Brown, p. 503).
(2) Conservative (or Masorti) conservative Jews have much in common with orthodox Jews. They both believe in the inspiration of the Hebrew Bible (what we refer to as the Old Testament). They both believe in an afterlife and in reward and punishment (Brown, p. 507-ff). However, they differ on other points. The conservative Jew believes, “The ideal of the Jew is not the establishment of a Jewish state… The mission of the Jew is to witness to God all over the world” (McDowell, p. 37). Prayer is offered in English and languages other than Hebrew. Males cover their heads usually only during acts of worship (Brown, p. 504). Men and women are allowed to sit together; and Jews are permitted to drive a car on the Sabbath or holiday in order to attend synagogue (Doctrinal Differences, myjewishlearning.com).
(3) Reform (or Progressive or Liberal). Reform Jews accept as binding only moral laws of the Old Testament (Brown, p. 556). They tend to believe that things in Jewish law can be changed to meet the needs of modern man (Doctrinal Differences, myjewishlearning.com). “They do not follow customs believed to not adapt to the views and habits of modern civilization. There is complete equality of the sexes in the temple (Reform name for synagogue, B.H.). Prayer is largely in English or the common vernacular. Instrumental music is permitted in the temple and male worshippers usually do not wear a prayer shawl” (Brown, p. 504). Many are very liberal on homosexuality and abortion (Brown, p. 558-561). Neither the Sabbath nor kosher food are bound (Judaism, Wikipedia/, many are very liberal on homosexuality and abortion (Brown, p. 558-561). Many no longer look for a Messiah but a Messianic age (Do Reformed Jews believe in the Messiah?, judaism.org)
(4) There are other smaller types of Judaism including: (a) Reconstructionalists. They view the Jewish law as non-binding, but should be upheld unless there is reason to the contrary. They reject the inspiration of scripture. Many are deists (Reconstructionalist Judaism, Wikipedia). (b) Karaite. They accept the Hebrew Bible but reject the Mishnah and Talmud (Karaite Judaism, Wikipedia).
The Old Testament without the New seems incomplete. If Jesus was not the Messiah then who was, is, or will be?