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Judeo-Christianity? Should This Term Be Used?

“It is notable that traditionally the West was referred to as Christendom, not Judeo-Christendom, or Islamo-Christendom.”


“What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:15)

One of the most interesting aspects of public debate is how often stuff is said with absolute certainty that is in fact complete nonsense. To be fair we have all been guilty of this at some point, simply because we can speak too quickly, with too little understanding or experience under our belt.

Depending on who you are and what philosophy of thought you are coming from, this nonsense can vary. I find it hilarious whenever I hear some evolutionary biologist talking about how they study chimpanzees or bonobos to gain insight into human behaviour. That would be like studying children on the playground to get insight into how a highly trained team of Navy seals operates.

Sure, there will be crossovers of behaviour, but they are more coincidental than useful for understanding how one group achieves its tasks compared to the other. But this concept is so ingrained in the minds of many public intellectuals that it goes largely unquestioned. People just smile and nod as complete nonsense is presented as wisdom. Many examples could be proffered.

Judeo-Christianity’ is one of those statements you hear, where if you know how ridiculous the concept is, you wince a little while other people nod along like they are hearing the golden wisdom of the ages. But this statement speaks to a historical fiction and it is definitely not connected to the wisdom of ages past. The adoption of this term amongst many prominent Christians is in fact very solid evidence that much of the wisdom of past ages is being ignored or misread. So what exactly is the issue here?  

This term, ‘Judeo-Christianity’, is used often by conservative or Christian commentators, who want to refer to the long tradition of the Bible’s influence on Western society. “Our society was built on Judeo-Christian values.” “Or society is rejecting its Judeo-Christian values.” “Our legal system is a product of “Judeo-Christian values.”

These commentators may point to things like the monuments of the 10 commandments’ on the front of American schools and universities, or the reference to the creator in the American declaration of independence, “We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”, or to the acknowledgement of God in the preamble to the Australian constitution, or other clear evidence of Christian influence on western society, as part of their case. And there is the rub, these are written or physical monuments to the Christian influence on the West, not ‘Judeo-Christianity.’  

It is notable that traditionally the West was referred to as Christendom, not Judeo-Christendom, or Islamo-Christendom. In the Kevin Costner rendition of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Moorish Muslim character played by Morgan Freeman correctly nicknames Kevin Costner as ‘Christian’, not Judeo-Christian. This is significant, because it is a historically accurate way to refer to a Westerner in this era. The Golden Age of Christianity in the West was considered by Westerners to be “the Kingdom of Christ” “Christ’s Kingdom”, hence Christendom. We had “Christian names”, as our first names, and Christian clergy, ruling Christian people, who were all listed in their local Church parish’s rolls. And Kings ruled as representatives of Christ. This was Christendom.

For much of this Western history, the Jewish people were a very tiny minority in the West. The bulk of their population was located in Mesopotamia among the Persian Empire and what became the Islamic lands after the advent of Islam[1] and also in Eastern Europe in what the Russians would one-day rename the Pale of Settlement, which overlapped with historical Islamic domains and bordered with Prussia (Germany). While the West was developing its distinctive Christian culture, the dominant population of the Jewish peoples was in the East, well away from the centres of Western civilisation, but much closer to the historical centres of Ancient Near Eastern civilisation.

Western society developed in the regions of Europe which were part of what was once the Western Roman Empire and beyond, and (post-second temple) Judaism developed in the lands that were once a part of the historical Eastern Roman Empire and beyond into Persian and then Islamic lands[2]. ‘Western’ did not refer to an ideological frame of reference, but a geographical area and the people within that area, namely the descendants of the Roman, Western Greek, Germanic and Celtic peoples. To call Western civilisation Judeo-Christian is to make many mistakes, historical, theological and social.     

The term Judeo-Christian really is historical rhetorical revisionism writ large. It obscures the relationship these two divergent faiths, Christianity and Judaism, and divergent peoples, the Jews and Europeans, have had in history. It also conceals the truth of the distinctiveness of Western civilization, which is founded on the intersection of Greek Philosophy, Roman Law, Christian Theology and their influence on the peoples of the Western Roman Empire and the peoples of Northern Europe. These four pillars make up the West.[3]

So, what I want to do in this piece is show you the various reasons why the idea of Judeo-Christianity is philosophically ridiculous, biblically ridiculous, culturally ridiculous and historically ridiculous. There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian values for the same reason there are no Buddhist-Christian values, or Hindo-Islamic values, or Satano-Christian values. Judaism and Christianity are not co-religions or even similar religions. Judaism is not the elder brother of Christianity. They have a very different perspectives, and believe it or not, a divergent origin and development. Many people have forgotten this, but it is clearly taught in both the New Testament and in Jewish history and writings like the Talmud.  

Before we go much further, look at this google ngram in figure 1.1, if you want to quickly evaluate the historical usage of the term Judeo-Christian, or any other descriptive term, this tool is useful:  

figure 1.1, source: Google ngram viewer.[4]

If Judeo-Christian was an accurate description of how the West historically conceived of itself and was an integral aspect of describing how the West was forged, why is the concept barely a bump in the history of Christendom? Indeed, if you look up these noted 17th-century uses of the word, they are often obscure quotes from sparse writings. So it was hardly a foundational aspect of how the West thought of itself before the 1940s.

In fact, look at this ngram:

figure 1.2, source: Google ngram viewer.

Aside from the Roman Empire of antiquity, there was no period in history when the West was more influential in the world than the 19th century. The explosion of Christendom’s power across the world in the 19th century gave us the empire of Napoleon, the English Empire on which the sun never set, the growth of many other lesser European powers, and the spread of Christianity and its literature across the world.

But the idea of Judeo-Christianity was barely a blip on the radar of this advancing Christian culture. As figure 1.1 shows, except for a tiny blip in the 17th century, the entire rise of the West as a global centre of power did not correspond to people of the West conceiving of themselves as Judeo-Christian. In fact, the converse is true. The usage of the word Judeo-Christian coincides with the post-World War 2 decline of Christianity in the West. So, the usage of the term is directly correlated with a weakening of the West’s traditional Christian identity, not its historical dominance in the West.

That is not to say that the term did not exist before the modern era, it did. It referred originally to a Jewish Christian.[5] There have always been Jewish believers in Jesus, from the moment Jesus addressed Andrew, but they were not always called Judeo-Christian. Peter himself refers to Jewish and Gentile believers as just ‘Christian’ (1 Peter 4:16). It has also been used polemically by Protestants to refer to the Catholic Church, which was viewed by some as having sanctified the Old Testament forms and priesthood and dragged them into the New Covenant era, as well as other elements of the Church.[6]

The online Encyclopedia explains the history of the word:

“The Judeo-Christian tradition ( JCT) is a concept that has played a shifting role in the construction of American religious identity since the eve of World War II. Originally invented to designate connections between Judaism and Christianity in antiquity, “Judeo-Christian” began to be used to signify the common religious inheritance of the West by left-wing authors in the 1930s—a time when “Christian” had become a political code word for fascism and anti-Semitism (e.g., the Christian Front of Father James Coughlin). Liberal Protestants and Catholics in particular stressed the existence of the Judeo-Christian tradition to indicate their spiritual solidarity with the threatened Jewish population of Europe.

During World War II, “Judeo-Christian” was taken up by liberal intellectuals as an umbrella term to designate the religious dimension of the Allied cause. But as a shibboleth, the term fully came into its own in the early years of the Cold War, when it was employed by pastors, politicians, and pundits to mobilize the spiritual forces of America against the “godless Communist” foe. As Daniel Poling, president of the Military Chaplains Association of the United States, asserted at the association’s 1951 convention, “We meet at a time when the Judeo-Christian faith is challenged as never before in all the years since Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees.” The following year, in a speech before the Freedoms Foundation, President-Elect Dwight D. Eisenhower declared, “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us, of course, it is the Judeo-Christian concept but it must be a religion that all men are created equal.”[7]  

This is ironic if you understand the strong Jewish influence in the Bolshevik movement in Russia, and that Karl Marx was a German-Jewish man. But, as you can see, claiming a Judeo-Christian heritage is a re-interpretation of Christian history for political reasons. Originally used predominantly in the West by liberal theologians. As the Atlantic’s James Loeffler notes, “The “Judeo-Christian tradition” was one of 20th-century America’s greatest political inventions.”[8] It was never real. Western thinkers may have spoken, “of Athens and Jerusalem, but the latter was exclusively embodied in the Christian Church, not the rabbinic tradition.”[9] The Jerusalem of which they spoke was the heavenly city of Hebrews, to which the Christians have come, not the earthly city of David. 

So, why then today do so many public intellectuals, really mostly of the conservative persuasion, use this term as if it was the historical way the West conceived of itself when this is easy to demonstrate as false? If you went by the modern usage of the term you would think Judeo-Christianity was an ancient concept expounded by Jesus, applied by the apostles, defended by Augustine, and reformed by Martin Luther. But it is not, so why then do so many use it?

Well, I think the answer is very simple: there has been a subtle deception about the actual nature of the West. Since World War 2, the Christian nature of our history has been downplayed, mocked, abandoned, and now redefined as something it never was, all towards the purpose of de-Christianizing the once Christian West to create a more “inclusive” multicultural self-perception.

This is not just my opinion, there was a deliberate attempt to redefine Western values after World War 2, particularly in the United States, “In a world divided by totalitarianism abroad and racial segregation at home, the notion of a shared American religious heritage promised racial healing and national unity” (emphasis added).[10] The usage of the term Judeo-Christianity was one step in this process, but one progressives have even begun to reject,

“As it did duty on the conservative side of America’s fin-de-siècle culture wars, the JCT lost its capacity to stand for the country’s common religious heritage. This was not only the result of its appropriation by the Religious Right. Given greater awareness of the presence of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and other religious communities within American society, the idea that the United States was a “Judeo-Christian” country was felt to be as exclusionary as “Christian” had seemed after World War II. The Western religious tradition itself had to be characterized in a way that included Muslims; in some ecumenical religious circles “Judeo-Christian” began to be replaced by “Abrahamic”—a term expressing the common ancestry of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the patriarch Abraham of the Hebrew Bible.”[11]

This term has been but one of the planks in the progression of reframing the identity of Christendom into the multicultural West. Ironically, even this concept is now seen as bigoted, but more on that below.

It should already be clear, from what we have just read, that Judaism and Christianity are not co-pillars of the western foundation, they are opposing elements in the history of our civilization, just as Islam and Christianity were opposing elements. To accept this you will need to see much more than my historical analysis so far, so I will show you from several different sources. But before I do I want to address two natural objections to this point.

First, some might say that Judeo-Christian is a reasonable term to apply to the Christian values of Christendom because the Bible is based on the Old Testament, often called the Jewish Scriptures, and the New Testament, which was written by Jews who believed in Jesus who was of the tribe of Judah. Now obviously these two basic assertions are correct. Paul tells us,

“4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5)

And again he writes,

“4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)

So the assertions are correct, yet the conclusion is not.

The ‘Judeo’ in Judeo-Christian is not a reference to the ancient Judaic heritage of Christianity. It is a term that implies that the West was based on both Jewish and Christian ideas. However, this idea is ahistorical, because remember Jewish people made up only a tiny minority of the populations of Christendom. The centre of the Jewish population was far from the centres of western Christianity, which was based in Italy, France, the Germanic states and then later in England.

But even more fundamentally, this idea fails to account for this important fact; Judaism as we know it is a post-ministry-of-Christ faith that has defined itself in opposition to the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, and the ministry of Jesus. Many Christians think that Jews just follow the Old Testament, and Christians follow the New and the Old interpreted through the New. This is where some get the idea that Judaism is the elder Brother of Christianity. But this is wrong. Jesus’ ministry caused a cataclysmic event – in more ways than one – which created two very different faiths.

Christians follow the Old Testament as interpreted by Jesus and the Apostles through the lens of Jesus and his ministry and teachings. This is what the New Testament is. It is not a new religion, but the fulfilment of the Old Covenant, the culmination of its teaching and the hope of Israel (cf. Acts 26:5-8). It is the faith of Abraham fully revealed, the fulfilment of the law, and the law correctly interpreted. As Jesus tells us in Matthew: 

“17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)

What Jesus is saying here is that he is not here to do away with the law but bring it to its proper purpose and goal. To incorrectly interpret the law was to destroy it or abolish it, but Jesus is not doing that. He is showing the correct interpretation of the law, and he is showing to all the law in its most perfect form, in himself. Therefore, he is interpreting it properly. He both fulfils it in his righteous life, achieves its purpose in his act of redemption and resurrection, and he correctly teaches it. So, Christianity is not a rejection of Old Testament Judaism, Christianity is the correct fulfilment of the trajectory of the Old Testament message and prophets.

Paul himself makes the same point in Galatians,

“7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…

…23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:7-9, 23-29).

And Hebrews drives this message home as well,

“1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Heb. 3:1-6).

Those who believe in Jesus, that is Christians, are part of the same house as Moses, and Jesus is the builder of that house. There is only one house, one people of God, and all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are part of that house, from Moses to the Christians of today. Why? Because Moses pointed to Jesus, and looked forward to him, and Christians look back at him. So, Christianity is the correct interpretation of the law, as fulfilled in Jesus.

Judaism, or more accurately Rabbinical Judaism, is a faith that developed in direct opposition to the Christian interpretation of the law. The Rabbis interpret the law through the lens of the oral tradition of the elders, which they believed traced back to Moses, just as did the written law. In their reckoning, their faith is based on these two “Mosaic” streams. This interpretation has its roots back before the time of Christ, though it became the dominant form of Judaism after the destruction of the temple in AD70. Jesus explicitly challenged this interpretation of the law in his ministry. For example,

“7 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:1-9) (emphasis mine)

The Rabbinical Judaism of Jesus’ day was not the faith of the Old Testament, it was a faith that nullified the Old Testament in favour of man-made traditions. This is the clear position of Jesus and the position of the Church. But I understand if you do not accept my accounting on this, even if I quote clear scriptures like Mark 7:1-13. So how about a prominent Jewish scholar, Peter Schafer?

Schafer writes in his work, Jesus in the Talmud,  

“This book is about the perception of Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of Christianity, in the Talmud, the foundation document of rabbinc Judaism in Late Antiquity. What do these two – Jesus and the Talmud – have in common? The obvious answer is not much. There is, on the one hand, the collection of writings called the New Testament, undisputedly our major source for Jesus’ life, teaching, and death, most of it written in the second half of the first century C.E. And there is “the” Talmud, on the other, the most influential literary product of rabbinic Judaism, developed over centuries in its two versions in Palestine and in Babylon (the first, the Palestinian or Jerusalem Talmud, was edited in fifth century Palestine, and the second, the Babylonian Talmud, reached its final form in the early seventeenth century in Babylonia). Both documents, the New Testament and the Talmud, could not be more different in form and content: the one, written in Greek, is concerned about the mission of this Jesus of Nazareth, who, regarded as the Messiah and the Son of God, was rejected in this claim by most of his fellow Jews, put to death by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and resurrected on the third day after his crucifixion and taken up into heaven; the other, written mostly in Aramaic, is a huge collection of mainly legal discussions that deal with the intricacies of a daily life conducted according to the rabbinic interpretation of Jewish law.”[12] (emphasis mine)

Shafer argues very clearly here that the Talmud, not the Mosaic law, again let me emphasize the Talmud, is the “foundation document of rabbinic Judaism in Late Antiquity.” It bears no similarities with the teachings of Jesus or the New Testament. The Talmud consists “of mainly legal discussions that deal with the intricacies of a daily life conducted according to the rabbinic interpretation of Jewish law.” Schafer also notes that these two Talmuds, the Jerusalem and the Babylonian versions, developed over centuries. We see Jesus reflecting on an earlier stage of these teachings in Mark 7, and possibly Matthew 5 as well.[13]

How well does Schafer’s interpretation of the Talmud comport with how the gospel of Mark describes the tradition of the elders; “a huge collection of mainly legal discussions that deal with the intricacies of a daily life”? This is because the traditions of the elders held sacred by the Pharisees, which Jesus was challenging in Mark chapter 7, eventually developed into the Talmud. Rabbinical Judaism, therefore, is simply the continuation of the development of the religion of the Pharisees. This should be a key reason why we do not confuse Christianity with Judaism; the Pharisees and Christianity were and are diametrically opposed.[14]

The Pharisees were one of several influential streams of Jewish thought in the second temple period, alongside the Sadducees and the Essenes.[15] The Sadducees tended to come from the priestly class, and the Essenes were generally reclusive ascetics. The Pharisees became more dominant in Judaism after the destruction of the temple because the temple was the centre of the Sadducees’ power, and the Essenes appear to have never been very influential.[16] Christians make an erroneous assumption when they think the Pharisees disappeared after the time of Jesus, or even after the destruction of the temple. No, they still exist today in the religion of Rabbinical Judaism:

The Pharisees (/ˈfærəsiːz/; Hebrew: פְּרוּשִׁים‎ Pərūšīm) were a social movement and a school of thought in the Levant during the time of Second Temple Judaism. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the foundational, liturgical, and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism.[17]

Rabbinical Judaism is founded on the teachings of those who opposed the teachings of Jesus the most.

The most significant hub of Judaism after about the mid-second century was in Babylon, not even in Jerusalem, and certainly not in the West. So, it is hardly credible to say that it is a pillar of a civilization forged far away, even if Christianity itself did originate in the Ancient Near East and migrate towards the West.

The term Judeo-Christian is at best confusing because it obfuscates the history of the divergent origins of Christianity and Judaism. Because of this, it should really just be described as deceptive. Like many other rhetorical concepts, often those who use it are not intending to deceive, but have been misled themselves. They are generally well-meaning Christians who are intending to defend the biblical basis of Western Civilisation, and they are simply repeating what they have heard more influential Christians say. And the word has a technical sounding ring to it, for the uninformed. Judeo-Christian values sound like substantial and  important principles that must be upheld. The problem is that the term is just incorrect.  

There is already a better term for the values which influenced Christendom that were based on the Old and New Testament: Christian. Because it was precisely the Christian interpretation of these texts, with their infusion with Greek philosophy[18] and Roman law, upon which our Western civilization was built. Indeed, one of the purposes of the Talmud, as it developed after the ministry of Jesus was to oppose the Christian message.

Schafer reminds us, “Taken together, the texts in the Babylonian Talmud, although fragmentary and scattered, become a daring and powerful counter Gospel to the New Testament in general and to John in particular.”[19]

This is important, Schafer is noting that one of the purposes of the Talmud is to actively reject Christianity and give the Pharisees’ descendants the rhetorical foundation for reinforcing their rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and hence Christianity as truth. A noted Jewish scholar is making this point. He is very clear in the divergence between Christian and Jewish thought, and really we should not be surprised.

Christianity is different not just to Judaism, but to Islam, Buddhism, Mithraism, Hinduism, and many other religions that existed contemporaneous to its birth and afterwards. It is insulting to any of these two faiths to just lump them together. The acknowledgement of the Lordship of Jesus Christ creates a very different faith than any of these others. In fact, it actively undermines their tenets.  

Note above what is the more influential Jewish scripture? The Babylonian Talmud. And where was Babylon? In ancient Persia. Rabbinical Judaism developed far away from the centres of Christianity, and the West and separate from it. There is no one today that considers modern Persia (Iran) a significant part of the West is there? Schafer notes again,

“[The] Jewish Dispora community could argue – a new and self-confident Diaspora community, far removed in time and place from both the turmoil of the emerging Christianity in Asia Minor in the late first and early second centuries C.E. and of the strengthening Christian power in the Palestine of the fourth and fifth centuries. The Babylonian Jews in the Sassanian Empire, living in a non-Christian…environment, could easily take up, and continue, the discourse of their brethren in Asia Minor…”[20]

So, Judaism and Christianity were largely separated in both philosophy and geography. Of course, they interacted from very early on, there were many Jews in ancient Rome and there were Christians in Babylon. But the centre of their respective religions developed very separately over the later stages of the Roman Empire, and it shows in the nature of the two faiths. Christianity and Judaism are thus two truly diametrically different systems of thought.

One is Christocentric, the other is anti-Jesus Christ (if you don’t believe me, read the New Testament or Schafer’s Jesus in the Talmud). One is claiming to be the message of the Messiah, the other asserts that this claim is false, that Jesus suffers in hell[21] and the Messiah is still unrevealed. One is the heritage of Moses, David, and Jesus, and the other claims and admits to being an oral tradition not found in the Mosaic law but claims to have existed alongside it from some unknown point.

Secondly, some might see this term as fair and useful because it looks to what these two faiths have in common. But note what Schafer said, “What do these two – Jesus and the Talmud – have in common? The obvious answer is not much.” This is obvious to all who look at what the respective faiths teach. I recommend you read Schafer’s book, Jesus in the Talmud, because it is a short and succinct explanation of the clear differences, and the Talmud itself is too large, and too complex for the layperson[22] to work through.

Unless of course, you have the time and inclination to read this:

Christianity and Judaism are not similar in any significant way. How can a religion that centers around Jesus and a religion that considers him anathema be in any way similar? It does neither religion justice to confuse the one with the other. They make thoroughly diametric claims about their most central ideas: who God is, and how he is known. Everything diverges from this point.

The Apostle John tells us, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’” What you believe about this statement made by Jesus is the crux of the matter: either Jesus is telling the truth, that he perfectly reflects the Father, or he is blaspheming. There is no middle ground. Christianity and Judaism diverge on this point.

So historically this term was not used to describe the Christian heritage of the West. It also does not make sense to use it because it is confusing and inaccurate and obscures the deep and important differences between the Hebrew religion of the Old Testament and Moses, and the religion of the Pharisees. And frankly, the term makes no sense. What would a Judeo-Christian religious philosophy actually consist of? Two diametrically opposed belief systems would cancel each other out if you mixed them together.[23] The Judeo in Judeo-Christian rejects the Christ in Judeo-Christian, and the Christ in Judeo-Christian tells the Judeo to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus of Nazareth.

This is why Augustine has a chapter in his city of God, titled: “Of the Coming of Elias Before the Judgment, that the Jews May Be Converted to Christ by His Preaching and Explanation of Scripture.”[24] It has always been the Christian position that Jews, as well as any other person on the earth, must believe in Jesus to be saved. This is why I think the term Judeo-Christianity has increased in this time of great apostasy in the Church. Much of the Church has forgotten its distinct nature, it has forgotten just how unique its influence on a society is, and it is increasingly forgetting its exclusive claims to salvation.

These are not minor points, and this is not just my opinion. I have shown this from Scripture, and history and I have shown you that Peter Schafer, an eminent Jewish philosopher, argues that Christianity and Judaism have nothing in common. Now I want to turn to other Jewish voices.  

This first piece is titled: The Myth of ‘Judeo-Christianity,’ Explained: Not only is the term “Judeo-Christian” inaccurate, it’s also antisemetic and Islamaphobic.[25]

Notice, first the author, Burack’s, agreement with my explanation of the rise of this term:

The idea of Judeo-Christianity, and “Judeo-Christian values,” is a relatively new one, borne out of World War II and the Cold War. It is a term that has been adapted by many Christians and American political leaders in an attempt to talk about the “shared values” between the Jewish and Christian religions — but in reality, it erases Jewishness and excludes people of other faith backgrounds, particularly Muslims.[26]

Remember also that we showed how the term originally referred to Christian converts to Judaism. Well, here she quotes an early use of the term from a Christian missionary to Jewish communities, “From all I can see there is but one way to bring about the object of the Society, that is by erecting a Judæo Christian community, a city of refuge, where all who wish to be baptized could be supplied with the means of earning their bread.”[27] To which she responds, “Baptizing Jews, oof,”[28] because she finds the idea of Jews being Christianized as highly offensive.

It is interesting to observe that converting Jews to Christianity today can still provoke the same response that Paul got when he preached Jesus to first-century Rabbinical Jews; outrage, or offense. Remember Paul said, “23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles…” (1 Cor. 1:23). The cross is a stumbling block, a scandal, and an offense from the Jewish perspective. As I have consistently noted, these faiths are inherently different and theologically opposed.

Indeed, Burack notes,  

Soon, Judeo-Christianity became a way of Christianity to absorb Judaism in a way, erasing the very real differences that keep the two religions separate.

As Warren Zev Harvey notes in “The Judeo-Christian Tradition’s Five Others,” “The liberal ecumenical campaign on behalf of the term ‘Judeo-Christian tradition’ was successful in the United States beyond all expectations. Indeed, for many Jews, it was too successful. Far too successful! The differences between Judaism and Christianity were being forgotten. Judaism was beginning to be seen as a Christian sect that had one or two idiosyncrasies — like preferring the menorah to the Christmas tree, or the matzah to the Easter egg.”

Say it with us: Not Great. Soon, the very progressives who championed the use of the term a decade earlier as a means for Jewish inclusion in mainstream American culture began to campaign against it.[29]

So, Burack’s opinion is clear.

Here is another article, which as you will see, leads off from the first one very well. This one is titled, There’s No Such Thing as Judeo-Christian Values: The label “Judeo-Christian” tends to assume, at the expense of Judaism, that Christians and Jews believe essentially the same things.[30]

The author, Yanover, notes,

For me, this joke illustrates the essence of Rabbinic Judaism. Hardly interested in developing uniform answers or dogmas, Rabbinic Jews love dispute, which enshrines all opinions. We actually celebrate the Talmud’s pluralism with the declaration: These and these, too, are the words of a living God (Eruv. 13b, Gitin 6b, to name just two out of hundreds).

How can Klinghoffer say that he represents a tradition of 3000 years of rabbinic interpretation and in the same breath claim that there’s such a specific thing as “Scripture’s vision?” (emphasis authors).[31]

If you want to read the joke, I recommend reading the article, because it is informative. But note the clear demarcation here between the Bible and the Talmud. The Bible is an internally coherent text, and the Talmud is an inherently “pluralistic”, or contradictory text. This is because it enshrines the debate of ancient Rabbis as a key aspect of Judaism. Whereas the Bible claims to have objective answers, the Talmud has subjective and contradicting answers, “These and these, too, are the words of a living God.” In other words, in claiming to represent the rabbinical tradition, the author that Yanover is critiquing is misunderstanding that rabbinical tradition.

So, as you can see, both Christians and Jews, who know their faiths, know that Judeo-Christianity is a non-sequitur, a complete non-starter, an oxymoron. Yes, Christianity owes a great deal of respect to the Israelites of the ancient era, as Paul notes in Romans 9:1-5. But according to the New Testament Christianity is the continuation of their faith, Judaism is not. Christianity is the heritage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  

The title of Yanover’s article also hones in on the most prominent problem with the term Judeo-Christian, it tends to incorrectly assume that Christianity and Judaism are basically the same. This is why the term must be utterly rejected, it creates a false sense of brotherhood faiths that is not based in reality.

Christianity is an exclusive religion that does not submit its tenets to any other faith. It claims one Lord, one way of Salvation through Jesus Christ, and one community of faith which includes those who believe in him and only those who believe in him. Judaism rejects all of these claims out of hand.

Christendom, for all its faults, was founded on the principle that Jesus was Lord. It was not founded on opposing pillars of faiths that diverge on this key principle of the historic West. Judeo-Christianity, as a term and a concept, should be rejected by all; Jew, Greek, barbarian or Scythian.  


[1] “During the central period of the Middle Ages (c. 800–c. 1100) the vast majority of worldwide Jewry was found in the Islamic lands, which stretched from Mesopotamia westward across the eastern, southern, and western shores of the Mediterranean. The dominant Jewish community at the time was in Mesopotamia—it had a large Jewish population, a flourishing Jewish economy, and a vigorous Jewish intellectual life. The Jewish community in Palestine—once the center of the Jewish world but by then considerably reduced—was also part of the realm of Islam. But newer Jewish communities also sprang up across the southern and western shores of the Mediterranean Sea.” Robert Chazan, 2016, The Arc of Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, https://www.publicmedievalist.com/arc-of-jewish-life/#:~:text=During%20the%20central%20period%20of%20the%20Middle%20Ages,eastern%2C%20southern%2C%20and%20western%20shores%20of%20the%20Mediterranean.

[2] Their most influential religious text is called the “Babylonian Talmud” for a reason.

[3] Christianity did not just spread into the West. Indeed, the centre of Christian civilisation for about a Millennia was in the Eastern Roman Empire and beyond. So, a study of the West is not the study of the history of Christianity. Christianity originated in the Middle East, in Jerusalem where the Lord Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again. The development of the West is not synonymous with the development of Christianity. The development of the West, as noted is the history of the development of Christianity in the regions of and beyond the Western Roman Empire. So, if you are thinking: Christianity itself is eastern in origin, this is absolutely accurate and correct. But the way that Christianity interacted with the people of the West is very different to how it interacted with the people of the East. This divergence grew over time, until you have the splintering of the Western and Eastern churches. For our purposes we are simply evaluating the validity of the usage of the term “Judeo-Christian” to refer to the West

[4] Note, sometimes google updates how you should put the terms in the search field. This is an older image.

[5] “The term “Judæo Christian” first appears in a letter by Alexander McCaul which is dated October 17, 1821. The term in this case referred to Jewish converts to Christianity.[3] The term was similarly used by Joseph Wolff in 1829, in reference to a type of church that would observe some Jewish traditions in order to convert Jews.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Christian

[6] Brett D. Hirsch, From Jew to Puritan: The Emblematic Owl in Early English Culture,  https://hcommons.org/deposits/objects/hc:10798/datastreams/CONTENT/content

[7] Judeo-Christian Tradition https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/legal-and-political-magazines/judeo-christian-tradition

[8] James Loeffler, 2020, The Problem With the ‘Judeo-Christian Tradition’, The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/the-judeo-christian-tradition-is-over/614812/

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.  

[11] Judeo-Christian Tradition, https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/legal-and-political-magazines/judeo-christian-tradition

[12] Schafer, Peter, 2007, Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press, p1.

[13] “You have heard it said” repeated by Jesus is likely a reference to the oral traditions (cf. Matt 5).

[14] See for example Acts 15 or Philippians 3, or the book of Galatians, which all deal with the judaizing efforts of the party of the Pharisees and their influence on the early Church. Acts 15 is particularly striking, because it shows how diametrically opposed the Apostles and the Pharisees were on the questions of the application of the law.

[15] Josephus, The Wars Of The Jews, Kindle Edition, chapter 8.

[16] Those who hold that John The Baptist was an Essene may dispute this, but this cannot be established. The New Testament writers obviously did not consider them a major concern as they do not even appear in the Scriptures, explicitly.

[17] Pharisees, Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees#:~:text=The%20Pharisees%20%28%2F%20%CB%88f%C3%A6r%C9%99si%CB%90z%20%2F%3B%20Hebrew%3A%20%D7%A4%D6%B0%D6%BC%D7%A8%D7%95%D6%BC%D7%A9%D6%B4%D7%81%D7%99%D7%9D%20%E2%80%8E,foundational%2C%20liturgical%2C%20and%20ritualistic%20basis%20for%20Rabbinic%20Judaism.

[18] For those who are concerned with me noting that Greek Philosophy has a remarkable impact on the development of the Christian West, I would note a couple of things. First, this is just what happened, it is the history, and it was unavoidable, the Old Testament the Apostles largely used was written in Greek, and the whole New Testament they wrote was written in Greek as well. It was the milieu within which early Christianity was forged. Second, the long running debate between so-called Calvinists and Arminians, can be traced back through Augustine and the Church fathers into an even longer standing debate between the Greek determinists and proponents of free-will. This is just one example of this influence, and how the Western mind developed a different take to the Scripture, than the Oriental mind and the Palestinian mind.   

[19] Schafer, p129.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] I include myself in this too.

[23] Perhaps this is why the West is living up to its description as “clown-word” more and more everyday? Because it is increasingly seeking to reframe itself on contradictory beliefs and principles.

[24] “It is a familiar theme in the conversation and heart of the faithful, that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ, by means of this great and admirable prophet Elias who shall expound the law to them.” St. Augustine of Hippo. St. Augustine of Hippo: The City of God (p. 359). Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition.

[25] Emily Burak, 2020, The Myth of ‘Judeo-Christianity,’ Explained, Heyalma, https://www.heyalma.com/the-myth-of-judeo-christianity-explained/

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Yori Yanover, 2012, There’s No Such Thing A Judeo-Christian Values, Jewish Press,  https://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/yoris-news-clips/theres-no-such-thing-as-judeo-christian-values/2013/12/26/

[31] Ibid.

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