The Pursuit of God

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Judaism, Christianity & Biblical Commands: Sorting Out the Confusion

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The modern Christian Bible is filled with commandments, instructions, and guidelines—many of which are not applicable to Christians.  So before you pin up a copy of the Ten Commandments or start stressing over some rule that you find God laying down in Scriptures, you need to understand some basic facts about Bible commands.  So let’s get into it.

The religion of Christianity began as a spin-off of Judaism.  Today, many Christians think these two religions are far more similar than they actually are, thus many Christians are viewing religious Jews rather like their religious cousins.  And yet the truth is that Christianity and Judaism drastically oppose each other—so much so that anyone practicing a true form of either religion would have to find the other religion blasphemous and offensive.  While these two systems of beliefs clash on many points, the most obvious issue is how they handle the Divinity of Christ.  True Judaism teaches that Yahweh is the one true God.  He is not a Triune God, He is just God.  To suggest that anyone could be equal to Yahweh is inconceivable blasphemy, thus Judaism adamantly rejects the Divinity of Christ.  Given the fact that Christ claimed to be Yahweh’s Equal, a devoted religious Jew cannot possibly accept Christ as a positive or neutral Figure.  Christ is nothing short of blasphemous and offensive—a brazen human who dared to oppose the great Yahweh.

Now while Judaism utterly rejects the Divinity of Christ, true Christianity fully embraces Christ as a Divine Being who is totally equal to Yahweh.  True Christianity is a polytheistic (or multi-God) religion, in that it views Yahweh, Christ, and the Holy Spirit as three separate yet equal Gods.  True Christianity teaches that these three Deities are the only true Deities, thus true Christianity cannot be blended with other religious systems.  A true Christian cannot possibly find middle ground with a religious Jew who must see Christ as a blasphemous human being.  So while both Christianity and Judaism teach that God wants humans to be gracious and loving towards each other, while we’re being kind to each other, there remains an enormous theological chasm which cannot be bridged.  There is simply no room for negotiating about the Divine Nature of Christ.

The formal religion of Judaism was created by Yahweh, and He first introduced it to people in the days of Moses.  Yahweh never said that Judaism was the religion of ethnic Jews.  When Yahweh first introduced Judaism, He was talking to a crowd of mixed ethnicities.  He taught that all ethnicities were welcome to come to Him, and that all Yahweh followers were to be considered equal.  Today Christians commonly confuse ethnic Jews with religious Jews—thinking they are one and the same when they are not.  An ethnic Jew is a biological descendant of Jacob who can be of any religion.  A religious Jew is an adherent of the religion Judaism, and can be of any ethnicity.  The term Israelite can either refer to a biological descendant of Jacob (who was given the nickname of Israel), or a citizen of the political nation of Israel.  If all you’re talking about is citizenry, then calling someone an Israelite says nothing about their religious beliefs or ancestry.  So then, there are two ways to define the term Jew, and two ways to define the term Israelite.  In the Bible, we find Yahweh using both terms both ways, which is confusing.  To understand when Yahweh is only talking to ethnic Jews versus when He’s addressing all followers of Judaism, you have to examine context.

Now in the Bible you will find ethnic Jews acting racially biased, massively entitled, and obsessively patriotic.  Today many Christians make the colossal mistake of thinking that Yahweh actually condoned such carnal attitudes.  He did not.  When the apostle Paul teaches that Gentiles had to be “grafted in” to the tree of God’s people, Paul is teaching pure rot.  No one had to be “grafted in” because Yahweh has always invited all ethnicities to come to Him (see More Lies from Paul: God Loves Jews More Than Gentiles (Romans 11)).  Yahweh condemned ethnic Jews’ attitude of superiority, and He was not at all pleased with the Jews caring more about the manmade city of Jerusalem and the welfare of their political nation than they did about honoring Him.  Here’s a good rule to bear in mind when you’re reading the Bible: just because a human is saying it or doing it, does not mean that God approves of it.

Now Christianity replaces Judaism and makes it obsolete.  But before Christianity was introduced by Christ, Judaism was the correct religion.  The Christian Bible describes how Judaism came into being, how it became corrupted with carnality, and how Jesus made it obsolete.  What you won’t find in the Bible is a clear description of true Christianity.  This is because the New Testament authors were all followers of Judaism who hadn’t fully transitioned to Christianity at the time of their writings.

Now Moses wrote the first five books of the Christian Old Testament (which the Jews call the Torah). If we arrange the books in chronological order, we end up with the following:

  • GENESIS discusses events which occurred centuries to thousands of years before Moses’ lifetime.  So Moses was not an eyewitness to any of those events–instead, he likely got his material from oral tradition, other written records, and Yahweh’s direct revelations.
  • EXODUS, LEVITICUS & NUMBERS describe events of Moses’ life in a pretty good chronological order.  The very beginning of Exodus contains accounts which Moses did not personally witness–since he wasn’t even born yet–but after that, Moses is essentially recounting his own personal life story, and he records many specific messages from Yahweh which he received.
  • DEUTERONOMY is mostly a long speech by Moses in which he summarizes the events of the previous three books.

Once you understand that Judaism began in Moses’ lifetime, you can understand that no one living in the time of Genesis practiced Judaism, because they’d never heard of it.

Yahweh’s famous Ten Commandments are first introduced in Exodus 20.  They are joined by hundreds of other laws which describe how Judaism is supposed to work.  For example, Yahweh commanded the Jews to recognize a Sabbath Day as well as a Sabbath Year.  Today you only hear about the Sabbath Day because it was mentioned in the Ten Commandments, whereas the Sabbath Year was not.

A lot of confusion surrounds the Sabbath Day command, with some Christians believing that the Sabbath was practiced in the time of Genesis. A likely cause for this confusion is that when Yahweh first introduces the Sabbath Day law, He refers back to events in Genesis (specifically, how He rested on the 7th day of Creation).  But referring back to events in Genesis is not the same as God commanding the people who lived in the time of Genesis to obey that law.  No Sabbath laws were introduced before Moses’ time.

Sacrificing animals for the sake of atoning for sins is another point of confusion, with many Christians believing that animal sacrifices were required by God from the beginning. And yet while we find Cain and Abel presenting Yahweh with sacrifices, we do not find any mention of God requiring sacrifices until the time of Moses when He introduced Judaism.  It’s helpful to realize that animal sacrifices were not at all unique to Judaism.  Presenting gods with sacrifices for the sake of appeasing or honoring them was a very common practice that showed up in many of the false religions which were active in the biblical world.

JESUS’ COMMANDMENTS

Now when Jesus told His disciples to keep His commandments, He was not referring to Yahweh’s Ten Commandments, but rather to commandments that Jesus had given His followers during His three year ministry in Israel.  There’s no basis on which you can assume that every commandment Jesus ever gave was recorded in one of the Gospel books.  Instead, it’s obvious that the Gospel records contain only a tiny fraction of what Jesus said.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: A FEW OF MANY

Now Yahweh never gave anyone permission to treat the Ten Commandments like they were the only commands that mattered.  This is what Christians do today, but we are totally wrong in picking and choosing like this.  The Ten Commandments don’t even address the sacrificial system, which was a huge element of Judaism.  So to just talk about the Ten is absurd.  You can’t splice and dice Judaism like that.  You’re either all in or you’re just playing games.

Now in the Gospel books, Jesus was interacting with folks who were practicing a warped version of Yahweh’s original Judaism.  As a group, the Jews never did a good job of obeying Yahweh’s commands, because they didn’t really care about pleasing Him.  So the version of Judaism that was being practiced in NT times was much like the popularized version of Christianity today: it was mainly a tool for manipulating people.

THE TWO GREATEST COMMANDS: SUMMARIZING YAHWEH

Today many Christians are familiar with the Gospel story in which a man who is practicing the NT version of Judaism comes up to Jesus and asks Him what the greatest commandment is.  What the man specifically asked was which command was the greatest in the law of Moses, which was another name for the Torah or the first five books of the Christian Old Testament.  It’s important to realize what the man was really asking if you’re going to properly interpret Jesus’ answer.

Now the man asked for the single most important command, and Jesus answered and said it was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  This was not one of the Ten Commandments.  Jesus then went on to give more than the man asked for–the man just wanted to know the most important command.  Jesus went on to give him the second most important command as well: to love other humans as we love ourselves.  That second command was also not one of the Ten Commandments.  But Jesus went on to say that those two, simple commands summarize the main principles of not just the Torah, but everything Yahweh teaches throughout the entire Old Testament.

The Old Testament is filled with messages from Yahweh.  Yahweh spends a lot of time instructing people on how to they ought to treat each other, as well as Him.  Jesus’ two famous “summary” commands help us see the core principles that are being taught by the hundreds of commands we find in the OT.

WHY THE TEN COMMANDMENTS CLASH WITH CHRISTIANITY

Now because Jesus was summarizing the commands of Judaism, and not Christianity, when He says the greatest command is to love “the Lord your God,” He is referring specifically to Yahweh.  Yahweh was the only God being worshiped under Judaism, and according to the laws of Judaism, it is a terrible sin to acknowledge any God other than Yahweh.  But according to Christianity, we are supposed to be worshiping Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as three equal Gods.  This is why it’s so absurd for Christians to cling to the Ten Commandments, because the first commandment (“You shall have no other gods besides Me”) condemns the whole idea of worshiping Jesus as Yahweh’s Divine Equal (which He is).

So then, you can’t just carry the Ten Commandments into Christianity, because they do not all apply.  Since all of the OT and NT writers were practicing Judaism and not Christianity, you need to be asking God for wisdom before you decide that their commands and instructions apply to you today as a Christian.  Much of what the NT writers teach is incorrect theology for a Christian–and we give many examples of this in our in-depth studies on NT books.  The NT writers aren’t just a little off in their teaching, they are way off.  Peter’s sermons in Acts are peppered with wrong beliefs about Christ and major misapplications of OT passages.  The Gospel writers demonstrate a lot of confusion about who Christ is and they also insert a lot of wrong assumptions in their accounts.  So you need to be cautious.

JUDAISM IN THE BIBLE: NO ROOM FOR CHRIST

Here’s a useful way to view the history of Judaism.  Pull up a list of all of the OT books in the Christian Bible.  Cross off Genesis and Job.  The rest of the books are describing history during which Judaism was an active religion.  Now go to the NT.  Realize that all of the authors of the NT books –from the Gospels to Revelation–grew up personally practicing Judaism.  From Acts to Revelation what you find are Jews trying to find a way to fit Christ into Judaism–and of course this can’t be done, because recognizing Christ as God violates Yahweh’s command to “Have no other Gods besides Me.”  So in Acts and in the epistles, you find Jews spinning out some pretty delusional teaching as they try to hang onto Judaism while also embracing a Man who claimed to be Yahweh’s Equal.

On some very essential issues, Judaism and Christianity totally clash, which is why you really can’t straddle both camps.  If you accept Jesus as God, you’re no longer practicing true Judaism. If you refuse to submit to Yahweh and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as three Divine Beings with equal abilities, then you’re not practicing true Christianity.

When it comes to the specific rituals and commands of Judaism, many do not apply to Christians today.  The Sabbath laws are irrelevant for Christians, as are the sacrificial laws (which include tithing), the dietary laws, and many other laws.  In the Church today, Christian leaders are trying to preserve certain laws which they feel are beneficial and lucrative (such as tithing and telling everyone to go to church on Sunday), while they discard laws which they find inconvenient (like animal sacrifices).  Well, no, it doesn’t work like this.  If the sacrificial system has been discarded by God (which it has), then tithing, priesthoods, and the whole concept of having to come to special buildings to worship God also have to go.  These things are interlinked concepts–you can’t just keep tithing because it lines your pockets while you chuck the rest.  So, as we said before, you need to ask God for wisdom when you’re wondering which biblical commands still apply to you today.  You also need to realize that God can revise His laws at any time.  When He does, we need to adjust our actions and attitudes to align with the changes He’s making without giving Him a bunch of guff.

For centuries it was totally correct for Yahweh followers to believe that He was the only true God.  But then Christ came, and suddenly it was no longer okay to say that Yahweh was the only true God.  The fact that Judaism still exists today is a testimony to how many people refused to acknowledge who Christ really was and how wild Yahweh is.  The fact that so many Christians are trying to identify themselves as monotheists demonstrates how uncomfortable humans are with having Gods who are wild and unpredictable.  Well, we don’t get to define the Nature of the Ones who created us.  Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have a long history of shocking humans, and They will continue to do so in the future.  If you are wise, you will ask Them to help you stay in alignment with Them, no matter how distressing Their actions might be.

FURTHER READING:
Applying the Ten Commandments: Guidance for Christians
Present Convictions vs. Past Commands
Why God Doesn’t Obey His Own Laws
Soul Attitudes That Please God: What They Are & How We Develop Them
Choosing the Right Priorities: How does God want us to treat our brothers?
How the Cross Broke the Law
Beyond Atonement: Understanding the True Purpose of the Cross
Being Commanded by God

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