Name of Group: Judaism.

Other Names of Group: Jewish religion. (Judaism can be understood as a religion, a race, and a culture.) The three main branches of religious Judaism are the Orthodox, Reformed, and Conservative traditions. Reconstructionist and Hasidic Jews are smaller in number. Ultra-Orthodox Jews (“Haredi”, which includes the anti-Zionist “Naturei Karta” sect) are very strict in their practices and with about one million followers.

Membership: Approximately 14,000,000 worldwide (with over 80% living in Israel and the United States).

Year Began: About 4,000 years ago.

Founder: Abraham was the fist Jew, and is the physical and spiritual ancestor of the Jewish people. Along with his descendants Isaac and Jacob, he is one of the three Patriarchs (avot) in Judaism.

Leadership: There is no central leader in Judaism. Rabbis (teachers) lead congregations at local synagogues and temples.

Sacred Scriptures: The Torah (the first five books of Moses) is authoritative and contains the 613 commandments (mitzvoth) and the Ten Commandments. The Tanach is the Hebrew Bible and is made up of the 39 books of the Old Testament.

Other Sources of Authority: The Talmud (composed of the Mishnah and the Gemara, and which totals over 6,200 pages in length in some editions) is a collection of rabbinical writings about Jewish law, history, ethics, and theology. The Zohar is a text of mystical interpretation and is the authoritative source of Kabbalah, but has come to have an enormous influence on modern day Judaism.

Meeting Places: Orthodox and Conservative Jews meet at Synagogues. Reformed Jews go to Temple.

Symbols: The Star of David (the Magen David) and the Menorah (a seven branched candelabrum) are common Jewish symbols. A Mezuzah is a small case that contains a small parchment and which is affixed to the doorpost of Jewish homes.

Early History: 1st Century Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. The Pharisees held to the entirety of the Tanach and also to an additional Mosaic oral tradition. The Sadducees only held to the Torah (Law of Moses; the first five books). The Essenes, largely responsible for the composition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, were part of a sect that left Jerusalem for Qumran (c. 250 BCE to 67 CE). According to Josephus there were some 4000 Essenes throughout the Land of Israel in the first century.

Claim: The religion includes revelations of G-d by His prophets to His chosen people.

Occult Dynamics:  There are none in traditional Judaism. Kabbalah is a mystical tradition within Judaism, and has most strongly influenced many in the Orthodox and Hasidic movements.

Attitude Towards Christianity: Rejection except for Messianic Jews who consider Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah as predicted in the Tanach. Many Jews are concerned with a perceived anti-Semitism that comes from Christianity, with the Roman Catholic Church’s Crusades and Inquisitions and spreading the idea that the Jews are “Christ killers.”


Comparative Doctrinal Chart

God:  Judaism is strongly monotheistic. God (referred to as G-d or sometimes Gd) is One (The Shema states “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One.”) and not Triune. G-d is a divine agent with personal characteristics or attributes including: self-existence, immortality, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence and is knowable.

Jesus:  A first century Jew who was an imposter, a false Messiah.

The Christ: The Messiah (mashiach) is “the annointed one” who is prophesied to come. This figure is not to be understood as a Savior, but as a future political and spiritual leader who will establish a worldwide political rule from Israel.

Holy Spirit: G-d is singular in nature and the Holy Spirit is His power or influence.

Trinity: A heresy since G-d is one (it is considered that any belief in the trinity is tri-theism; three G-d-ism belief. However, this is not the Christian position since the New Testament and all creeds clearly state that God is one “indivisible” essence consisting of three “persons” that share the ontological divine essence of oneness).

Salvation:  Salvation is generally understood in terms of the destiny of Israel as the chosen people of G-d. Since man is not inherently sinful, he does not have to be saved from sin. There is no need for personal salvation, yet forgiveness, atonement, and repentance are still important concepts. The notion of salvation in Judaism does not refer so much to the afterlife, but salvation from our daily problems or from calamities such as war.

Man: Man is not divine but only created in G-d’s image. This image is not physical but is mental and spiritual.

Sin: Sin is the act of breaking of one of the 613 commandments of G-d, and not as a state of being. Most Jews believe that man is born innocent, but develops an inclination to sin in his youth. Since man has free will, he can choose to sin or not sin.

Satan: Not a personal or sentient being, but rather is a metaphor for or a personification of our evil inclination (the yetzer hara) that lives in every person.

Second Coming: There is no Second Coming of Jesus as held by Christians/Messianic Jews. There is a single Coming of the Messiah which some Jews pray for and is yet to appear.

The Fall: The doctrines of the Fall of Man and Original Sin are rejected by most Jews. Only a small number of Jews believe that sin has been inherited by Adam’s descendants.

Bible: Traditional Jews hold to the Tanach (The Old Testament). The New Testament is rejected.

Death: All persons will die; all created things are mortal.

Heaven/Hell: Judaism states that the Tanach does not really have anything to say at all about the afterlife. There are a number of views that have developed over the centuries including beliefs in Olam Ha Ba (the world to come), Gan Eden (paradise), and Gehenna (a place of punishment). The enormous influence of the Zohar upon modern Judaism has caused many Jews today to adopt a belief in reincarnation.