Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The Distinctive Themes of Judaism: Where Judaic Themes Overlap with Christianity and Where They Diverge
Where do the themes of Judaism overlap and diverge from Christianity? Well, one must first distinguish to which Judaism one refers. In this case, I'll say traditional Judaism in its ideal state (i.e. New Covenant Judaism or Orthodox Messianic Judaism). But one must also distinguish to which Christianity one refers. In this case, I'll survey different Christianities within the system of Christianity.
And which Judaic themes shall I select? I'm just going to focus on several of the primary distinctives. For this post, let's just examine (1) separation (i.e. holiness) and (2) complementary asymmetry in the realm of male/femal relations in private and public life.
When one talks about holiness, one is talking about separation. But separation from what?
Genesis provides a clue. In the beginning there was chaos. And G-d brought order. He separated matter/energy throughout the universe, created our planet. He then separated land from water.
So separation has something to do with order...
The Mosaic Torah provides another clue. G-d tells Israel to be set apart. Why? Because the other nations were pagan. But there's more to being set apart than just being non-pagan. One had to be set apart from paganism and also set apart FOR G-d.
G-d has a very specific way that He wants His people to set themselves apart. He wants them to imitate Him. But can one imitate G-d directly, a being who is completely transcendent?
In fact there are some things about G-d that we can imitate. We can imitate His creative force when we form relationships or produce offspring. We can imitate His desire to separate things when we begin Shabbat with a seder and end it with havdalah.
G-d wants order in so many different realms. There are essentially three realms: Person, Place, and Time. You could say that many of the Jewish rituals help to accomplish this. We separate our homes as Israelite homes when we place a mezzuah on the doorpost. We separate ourselves when wear tzitzit. We separate time when we mark the beginning and end of Shabbat. We also separate ourselves respectfully from G-d when we refuse to make graven images of Him. [This idea of separating oneself probably sounds strange to Christians but consider this: if one is not separate from G-d then one ceases to exist. Thus, separation is necessary and good.]
Christianity struggles with this theme of separation. There are some sects of Christianity that take separation to an extreme; other sects which advocate blending in with the secular culture. In any event, no sect of Christianity (unless one considers Jewish Roots Christians a sect) uses Jewish/Biblical ritual for the purposes of becoming holy/separate. Christians simply don't see Jewish ritual as necessary for holiness.
So, Christian, I ask you this: if Jewish (Biblical ritual) is not necessary for holiness then why were the rituals given? And if they are helpful for holiness for ancient Israelites (even gentiles like Caleb or Ruth) then why wouldn't they be helpful for you now?
Well, I apologize for the length of this post. I'll write about the theme of complementary asymmetry next time!
Posted by Peter at 12:13 PM