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Judeo-Christian tradition

Judeo-Christian tradition (also spelled Judaeo-Christian) refers to concepts and values held in common by Christianity and Judaism.

Christianity emerged from Judaism in the first century of the common era. Christians brought from Judaism its scriptures; fundamental doctrines such as monotheism; the belief in a mashiach (Hebrew for messiah); this term is more commonly known as Christ (christos in Greek) and means 'the anointed one'); form of worship, including a priesthood, concepts of sacred space and sacred time, the idea that worship here on Earth is patterned after worship in Heaven, and the use of the Psalms in community prayer.

Users of the term Judeo-Christian, pointing out that Christians and Jews have many sacred texts and ethical standards in common, also generally hold that Christians and Jews worship the same God.

The term was used in the United States of America in an attempt to create a non-denominational religious consensus or civil religion that by embracing Judaism avoids the appearance of anti-Semitism. The original uses of the term have faded and now usually refers to a general western religious background and the term is commonly used by historians and academics as a shorthand for the cultural foundation of western society.

For a systematic look at this subject see: Comparing and Contrasting Judaism and Christianity

Table of contents
1 Problems with the term
2 Jewish-Christian dialogue
3 References
4 External links

Problems with the term

The phrase "Judeo-Christian" has been criticized for implying more commonality than actually exists. In The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Jewish theologian-novelist Arthur A. Cohen questions the theological appropriateness of the term and suggests that it was essentially an invention of American politics. [1]

Judaism and Christianity have many areas of agreement, as well as sharply defined ethical and religious systems that are in some areas opposites. Generally neither Jews nor Christians want to have their distinctive traits removed by an oversimplification. Opponents of this term claim that the concept collapses these important differences, and effects a modern appropriation of Jewish identity to Christian values. They point to the traditional Christian claim that Christianity is the logical progression of, and heir to, Biblical Judaism, as precedent.

The term "Judeo-Christian" is seen by some to imply a rejection of Islam, the third major monotheistic (Abrahamic) religion, though it is related to both. The term "Judeo-Christian values" is commonly used in the West, and many Muslim scholars view this term as emblematic of a disconnect between Western-culture Christianity and Islam. Attempts have been made to unite this split, followed closely by attempts to discredit them. The term "Judeo-Christian-Islamic" has been coined to describe the values shared by the common history of the three religions. This term has been used, for example, by Abrahamic faith gatherings held in various cities of the U.S., which are designed to promote mutual understanding, and have drawn the participation of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. This has been ridiculed by the American Family Association [1], an activist organization of the Christian right, as a movement promoted by "Muslim special-interest groups" to make "radical Islamist fundamentalism" appear mainstream and tolerant of Judaism and Christianity, and therefore the term appeals to people who see "all traditions as being equally valid".

Jewish-Christian dialogue

In many nations there has been a remarkable decline in anti-Semitism after the horrors of the Holocaust were made public to the larger world population. Anti-Semitism among Christians has not died out entirely, and anti-Semitic acts have been perpetrated by some Christian leaders. Nonetheless, the leaders of many Christian denominations have developed new positions towards the Jewish people over the last thirty years, and much progress in inter-faith relations has occurred. Many elements of the Jewish community have responded favorably.

Since the Holocaust, there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christians groups and the Jewish people; the article on Christian-Jewish reconciliation studies this issue.

Generally speaking, most Protestant Christians still believe that Jews must ultimately accept that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and the incarnation of God, and that Jesus is the only correct way to have a relationship with God in order to reach heaven. They see Judaism as therefore incomplete.

Some hold that Jews need not renounce their Jewishness in order to become Christians. Most notably, there is a large organization known as Jews for Jesus which sees itself as being simultaneously Jewish and Evangelical Christian. This group, and other Messianic organizations come under heavy fire from several sides - including all of the Jewish denominations, and several Christian groups.

Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism see messianic Jewish groups as hijacking and perverting Jewish symbols and rituals. Members and supporters of groups like Jews for Jesus hold that the authors of the New Testament were originally Jews, and therefore conversion to Christianity itself is not a rejection of Judaism. Jews, Catholic Chrisitians and some Protestant groups reject such claims as historical anachronims; despite the historical relationbship between Christianity and Judaism, today these are distinct religions with very different theologies.

Many Fudamentalist Christians embrace an eschatology in which large numbers of Jews will convert to Christianity as a prelude to the end of the world; in this view, those that do not convert to Christianity thus deny God, and are destroyed.

Over 120 rabbis from all branches of Judaism signed a document called Dabru Emet ("Speak the Truth") that has since been used in Jewish education programs across the U.S. See the entry on this topic for more details.

The Judeo-Christian tradition, perhaps, consists of no more than what is found in the text of the Tanakh (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible), but, even so, this is a considerable portion of the cultural heritage of the western world. Christians and Jews relate to each other better today than they have in the past, but anti-Semitism among Christians - and a corresponding hatred by some Jews - has by no means disappeared completely. Jews and Christians have much in common, but there are also many differences. Some on both sides bristle at the idea that they worship the same God, and few members of either group have suggested that they actually follow the same religion. However, many Christians are anxious to point out that their religion ultimately sprang from Judaism, and some of these wish to reclaim their roots in the Biblical, pre-Christian practice of Judaism. Then again there are Christians that see the Christian religion as a revolt, rather than descendant from Judaism and disdain the Old Testament while fully embracing the New Testament. In Catholic tradition, this view is likened to an early heresy called Marcionism.


External links