Book: Judaism— Revelation of Moses Or Religion of Men?

The Judeo-Christian Myth

One of the greatest contradictions in modern Christianity is the belief in a so-called “Judeo-Christian” tradition. America is proudly touted as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles; evangelical prophecy buffs weave complex eschatological scenarios around an imagined “Christian-Zionist” brotherhood; and, well-intentioned Christian pastors present their congregations with an apologetic view of their “Jewish brothers” that utterly misrepresents the stark differences between Judaism and Christianity. Is it any wonder that Christians typically look at Jews as spiritual “first cousins”? After all, Jews are only one step away from becoming Christian—if they would only accept Jesus as the Messiah. So goes the theory.

But is Rabbinical Judaism really compatible with Christianity? Most Christians naively think so. In Judaism Discovered, Michael Hoffman notes that the term Judeo-Christianity is “an oxymoron found on the lips of many Christians” (p. 139). Indeed, when one really understands the true nature of Judaism, it becomes obvious that the two religions are utterly incompati-ble—and quite at odds on numerous key issues. As the apostle Paul asks, What fellowship has light with darkness? (II Cor. 6:14). What connection is there between Jesus Christ and those who promote the Talmud?

Two misguided beliefs are behind the Judeo-Christian concept. First, there is the idea that both Judaism and Christianity are genuinely based on the Old Testament. However, in practice (which, after all, is what religion is all about), the Old Testament plays only a minor role in Judaism. As this book has shown, Judaism only appears to be based on the Scriptures while it is actually subservient to Talmudic law. Faring just as poorly, nominal Christianity largely rejects the Old Testament as “obsolete” while it attempts to build a liberalized theology almost exclusively on misapplied Pauline teachings. Second, there is the popular mainstream teaching that Christianity was derived from Judaism—that Christianity is somehow the final development of what was started under Judaism.

Was Judaism the Precursor to Christianity?

In scholarly circles, Christianity is generally held to be a messianic sect of Judaism. Many see Christianity as the logical progression of and heir to Judaism—insisting that Christianity exists only as a religion built upon Judaism. For example, conservative Presbyterian theologian Douglas Jones writes: “One of the best ways of beginning to think about the nature of Christianity is to think of it in the light of Judaism. Today, we so often think of Judaism and Christianity as two distinct religions.... But early Christianity never saw itself in that way. The earliest Christians saw themselves as faithful Jews simply following Jewish teachings.... Christianity selfconsciously saw itself as the continuing outgrowth, the fulfillment, of Judaism” (Why and What: A Brief Introduction to Christianity; quoted by Hoffman, p. 180; emphasis added). Some Jewish scholars also believe that Judaism was the precursor to Christianity. For instance, in What is a Jew? , Rabbi Morris Kertzer writes, “Christianity grew out of Judaism and defined itself with reference to those Jewish beliefs and practices that it accepted and those it did not. Judaism spawned Christianity.” (p. 269).

But both Jones and Kertzer (and hundreds of scholars like them) err because they carelessly assume that Judaism equals the “religion” of the Old Testament—that first-century Jewish religion was the continuation of the “religion” of Moses and the prophets. Genuine apostolic Christianity (before it became corrupted into a Babylonian-styled Romish religion) is indeed based on the Old Testament (John 5:39; II Tim. 3:15-16; Eph. 2:20; etc.), but the “religion” of the Old Testament was not Judaism.

As this book has demonstrated, it is a grave error to ascribe the term Judaism to the ancient “religion” delivered to the nation of Israel by Moses. As Hoffman notes, the “erroneous assignment of the name 'Judaism' to the Old Testament religion” only creates confusion and misunderstanding. “The reader is given the distinct impression that modern Judaism bears within it the seeds of the religion of the Old Testament, that [Judaism] is [in effect] the Old Testament religion without Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth” (p. 181).

The Jewish religion of Jesus' day—Pharisaism, which evolved into Judaism—was based on traditions of men, not the Scriptures. Contrary to Jones, etc., the earliest Christians did not see themselves as Jews “following Jewish teachings.” Rather, they were faithful followers of the written Torah of Moses as exemplified in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. How can it be claimed that the “Jews' religion”—a religion that persecuted early Christians (Gal. 1:13-14) and was notably based on human traditions (Mark 7:7-9)—formed the foundation of Christianity? The idea is oxymoronic. On this point Hoffman writes, “Judaism was not viewed [by the early church] as the repository of the spiritual truths or knowledge of the Old testament, but as a post-biblical, Babylonian cult totally at variance with [genuine] biblical Christianity” (p. 144).

Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18)—not upon the groundwork laid by the religionists of His day, but upon the sure foundation of the “apostles and prophets” with Himself as the very “corner stone” the scribes, Pharisees and priests had rejected (Eph. 2:20; Matt. 21:42). In fact, Jesus made it clear that the corrupt Jewish leadership—and, by extension, Judaism itself—was fully disqualified from having any meaningful role in the establishment of the Kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation [the Church] bringing forth the [required] fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:43). This is proof positive that the church did not “grow out of Judaism,” but was formed deliberately and separately while unambiguously rejecting the “Jews' religion.”

Ultimately, Christianity's roots are Abrahamic, but they are decidedly not Judaic.

The Politics of the Judeo-Christian Tradition

The so-called “Judeo-Christian tradition” is in reality a myth created purely for political and social reasons. In fact, the concept has more to do with post-1945 “anti-Semitic public relations” than it does with historical or religious reality. Apparently, the catch-phrase began to be used in the 1920s by the National Conference of Christians and Jews in an effort to combat anti-Semitism and to balance the then-dominant rhetoric that America was a “Christian-Protestant” nation. Essentially, the term “Judeo-Christian” was coined in an attempt to create a cross-denominational religious consensus that, by including Judaism, avoided the appearance of anti-Semitism. The Internet site Wikipedia notes: “Promoting the concept of America as a Judeo -Christian nation became a political program in the 1920s in response to the growth of anti-Semitism in America.... [Ultimately, the] phrase 'Judeo-Christian' entered the contemporary lexicon as the standard liberal term for the idea that Western values rest on a religious consensus that included Jews” (

By the early 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower was using the term to refer to the religious faith upon which the country was founded. In the politics of the 1990s, the idea of “Judeo-Christian values” was widely used to further the agenda of the “conservative right” movement.

Today, the term “Judeo-Christian” is used to refer to values and ideals that are thought to be common to both Judaism and Christianity. And granted, the two religions do share certain common values and ideals—but so do Christianity and Buddhism, or Judaism and Hinduism. However, the term Judeo-Christian implies a singular, common heritage or tradition upon which the two religions are founded—an idea that is contrary to both secular and religious history.

If America was founded on so-called Judeo-Christian values, then why did our founding fathers fail to recognize it as such? Many of them wrote extensively of their religious heritage and faith—but not one of them makes use of such a term. If the Judeo-Christian tradition is so fundamental to America's history, why did it take until the 20th century for writers and theologians to recognize its importance?

The Jewish View of the Judeo-Christian Tradition

While Christians may be blissfully ignorant of the huge incongruity between their religion and Judaism, Jews are not. In his book, Jews and Christians: The Myth of a Common Tradition, Rabbi Jacob Neusner contends that “there is not now, and there never has been, a dialogue between the religions of Judaism and Christianity” (back cover). Neusner, one of the world's foremost authorities on Judaism, writes that “Judaism and Christianity do not form a common tradition, the 'Judeo-Christian tradition.' They are not compatible. This is because the Christian Bible and the Judaic [oral] Torah [the Talmud] are not the same thing.... Each is possessed of its own integrity and autonomy, and if one is right, the other must be wrong.... [At] no point do Judaism, defined by the [oral] Torah, and Christianity, defined by the Bible, intersect. The [oral] Torah and the Bible form two utterly distinct statements of the knowledge of God” (Introduction, p. xi).

Neusner's frank assessment represents the overall Orthodox Jewish mindset. Following suit are a number of rabbis and Jewish scholars. Chief among them is Jewish theologian-novelist Arthur A. Cohen. In his widely read book, The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Cohen questions the theological validity of the term and suggests that it was essentially an invention of American politics. He contends that the Judeo-Christian concept does not accurately reflect the religious realities of the two religions, and points to unbridgeable differences that make such a tradition impossible. “The Jews expected a redeemer to come out of Zion; Christianity affirmed that a redeemer had come out of Zion, but that He had come . for all mankind. Judaism denied that claim” (p. xi). Here, Cohen strikes at the heart of why Christianity and Judaism can never be reconciled: Judaism relentlessly rejects the very Messiah that makes Christianity possible.

Addressing the question of why Jews cannot accept Jesus as the Messiah, Neusner writes, “Christians want to know why not. To me as a rabbi, the answer to that question is simple: Judaism and Christianity are completely different religions, not different versions of one religion (that of the 'Old Testament' or 'the written Torah'). The two faiths stand for different people talking about different things to different people.... If we go back to the beginnings of Christianity in the early centuries of the Christian era, we see this picture very clearly. Each [religion] addressed its own agenda, spoke to its own issues, and employed a language distinctive to is adherents. Neither exhibited understanding of what was important to the other” (p. 28).

While Christians ponder the reasons for the Jews' rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, the whole Judeo-Christian concept has proven to be a source of consternation for Jews. Of primary importance to Jews is the fact that the concept has tended to gloss over the distinctions between the two religions. Years before Neusner and Cohen penned their books, other Jewish writers were attempting to stress the differences between Judaism and Christianity. For example, Abba Hillel Silver's Where Judaism Differs and Leo Baeck's Judaism and Christianity were both motivated by a perceived need to clarify Judaism's distinctiveness “in a world where the term Judeo-Christian had obscured critical differences between the two faiths” (Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism, p. 266; quoted at

Taking a defensive posture, Rabbi Gershon Winckler writes that the Judeo-Christian concept “is purely a Christian myth.... The term 'Judeo-Christian tradition' and 'Judeo-Christian morality' are wrong and misleading. They are a slap in the face for all the great [Jewish] teachers throughout history, whose responses to today's moral questions would in no way resemble those of the Vatican or the Christian Right.....” (The Way of the Boundary Crosser: An Introduction to Jewish Flexidoxy, p. 221; quoted at

Jewish law professor Stephen Feldman points out what he considers the dangerous element of “supersessionism” extant in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In his book, Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the Separation of Church and State, he writes: “Once one recognizes that Christianity has historically engendered anti-Semitism, then this so-called [Judeo-Christian] tradition appears as dangerous Christian dogma (at least from a Jewish perspective). For Christians, the concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition comfortably suggests that Judaism progresses into Chris-tianity—that Judaism is somehow completed in Christianity. The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition flows from the Christian theology of supersession, whereby the Christian covenant (or Testament) with God supersedes the Jewish one. Christianity, according to this myth, reforms and replaces Judaism. The myth therefore implies, first, that Judaism needs reformation and replacement, and second, that modern Judaism remains merely as a 'relic.' Most importantly, the myth of the Judeo-Christian tradition insidiously obscures the real and significant differences between Judaism and Christianity” (quoted at

In contrast, Reform and Conservative Jews typically embrace the Judeo-Christian concept as part of their ongoing alliance with conservative Christians. Messianic Jewish groups are also quite comfortable with the idea of a Judeo-Christian tradition.

Ultimately, the Judeo-Christian tradition is but a myth kept alive by misguided Christians who imagine significant agreement between the two religions. But as Hoffman quips, “Christ and His gospel are betrayed by those who declare an alleged Judeo-Christian tradition” (p. 145).