Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Jesus' words in Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks 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. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus' words in Matthew 5:18-20; also in Luke 16:17
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments Jesus' words in Matthew 19:16-17 and Mark 10:17-19
Then the people as a whole answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Matthew 27:25
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse ... Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for our benefit. Paul in Galatians 3:10-13
And the Word was with God, and the Word was God John in John 1:1
Those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. John in 2John 7
Technically speaking, the term "Christian" comes from "Kristos", which is Greek for the term "Annointed", "Moshiah" in Hebrew. The Hebrew scriptures, thru prophets like Isaiah, Ezequiel, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Micah, Obadiah, Joel, predict the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom in Israel, as part of a End Times saga in which a Annointed will usher in that Kingdom, in which the rule of God will be in fully in force, in a world where Israel and all nations of the world will live in peace and honor the God of Abraham (e.g. Isaiah 2:3-4 ...out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations,... they shall beat their sords into plowshares ... nation shall not lift sword against nation neither shall they learn war anymore.). As the Jesus movement took shape in the three years before Jesus' death, his followers came to understand Jesus as the Moshiah mentioned in the Jewish scriptures who would indeed bring the Kingdom of Heaven forth. Jesus' main message, as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, was: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Mathew 4:17 and Mark 1:15). Since Jesus gave no recognition to the Roman authorities nor to their established High Priest, his movement (just as that of his predecessor Johannan the Baptizer) gained the enmity of the authorities. The opposition finally captured and crucified Jesus for blasphemy and sedition. His followers in Israel, led by his brother Jacob (James in English) continued the movement after Jesus' death and continued to expect for Jesus' return to bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven. Additionally, in the 70 years after Jesus' death (i.e. by the year 100 CE), the movement had spread predominantly in the Graeco-Roman world and thru the teachings of Saul of Tarsus (Saint Paul) it incorporated many aspects of that Graeco-Roman worldview, particularly: (a) the equation of the Jewish concept of Moschiach with the Platonic concept of a Eternal Logos responsible for acting in this world on God's behalf, (b) the introduction of the concept that the Sinai Commandments had ceased to be important for salvation, and (c) the assertion that due to Jesus' atoning sacrifice, now the only, yet necessary, requirement for salvation is trust in Jesus' Messiahship. Scriptures, written between 40 and 100 CE, contain the witnessing and letters of both the native Israelite Jesus Movement, as well as the Pauline corpus. In year 325 CE under the aegis of Roman Emperor Constantine, many of those writings became officially the New Testament canon of Christianity as we know it today. At the same time, the predominantly Torah-observant Jesus movement in Israel continued to diminish steadily, especially after the murder of James by the High Priest Ananias in 62 CE (Ananias was son of Caiphas) and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, to the point that by 300 CE Jewish Christianity was virtually extinct. By contrast, Graeco-Roman Christianity (i.e. that containing the Pauline corpus) continued to thrive past Constantine's official sanctioning of it, to the point that by 400 CE it was the only official religion of the Roman empire.
We will focus here on various key aspects of normative Christianity's beliefs and whether they are consistent, contrary, or simply neutral with respect to Torah:
- The concept of God according to Christianity
- The concept of Messiah according to Christianity
- The concept of Salvation and the end times, particularly as set forth by Saint Paul
- The message and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth
- Can there be a common purpose between Christianity and Judaism?
Regarding "What is God?", the idea of depicting God as having a specific form or as being composed of finite attributes (e.g. as human being, a trinity, etc.), is anathema to Judaism and the Torah.
The Torah instructs us not to think of God in any terms other than a Single, Unfathomable entity, as the Sh'ma of Deuteronomy 6:4 says: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is God, The Lord is One/Alone".
In addition, the Torah compells the Israelites (and those who live among them) to avoid making any type of physical (or mental) constructs that attempt to depict God:
Deuteronomy 4:25-26, When you have had children and children's children, and become complacent in the land, IF YOU ACT CORRUPTLY BY MAKING AN IDOL IN THE FORM OF ANYTHING, thus doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy; you will not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed.
Deuteronomy 4:15-19, Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for youselves, in the form of ANY figure - the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And when you look to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them...
Deuteronomy 5:8, You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
The point of these is NOT ONLY that one must avoid following other gods, but even constructing images that pretend to depict the True God is forbidden (remember the episode with the Golden Calf, where the Jews were craving for a physical icon to praise God).
Bottom line, it is not for humans to attempt to depict God.
Does Christianity attempt to depict God ? Here we will examine two common beliefs of Graeco-Roman Christianity and whether they are actually based in the Christian scriptures (OT and NT). First we examine the concept of the Trinity, and then specifically the relationship between Jesus the Son of God and God itself.
In terms of the Trinity, the Christian canon (as assembled in its current form by Constantine's bishops in the early fourth century), never identifies God as a trinity, per se. In other words, not once does the Christian New Testament explicitly say the number 3 in association with God. Never is the word "Trinity" used either. The reference to God as "Father" ("Abba" in Hebrew) is made numerous times in the New Testament yet its use is always consistent with the usage in the Torah (i.e. as a sinonym for "God"). There is never any statement that the use of the term "Father" should imply that God is divided into a God-the-Father and a God-the-Son. In fact Jesus' words to Mary Magdalene in John 2-:17 clearly identify "The Father" as a sinonym for "God": But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'.. Furthermore, the usage of the term "Son of God" in the New Testament is actually specifically in keeping with the usage of that same term in the Torah (Christian Old Testament) to apply to King David and his kingly line of descent, all the way to the Messiah. One of the main references to David as a Son of God is in fact the exact same wording that is used to describe Jesus in the New Testament, Psalms 2:7 where David says "I will tell the decree of the Lord: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have begotten you." " Also in Psalms 89:20-29 we read " I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have annointed him [i.e. made him messiah] ...He shall cry to me, 'You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!'. I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm. I will establish his line forever, and his throne as long as the heavens endure." Also, in 2 Samuel 7:12-14 God declares the sonship of David's son Solomon and the entire Davidic line, when God says to David: "When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.." In summary, the Christian use of the term "Son of God" should be understood in the same usage as in the Torah, namely as a title for the Messiah and all the Davidic line. It should also be noted that the term "Son of God" is used in other instances too, and again, nowhere is there any implication of Son of God having deity status. For example the use of "Son of God" appears to describe Angels in Genesis 6:1-2 " When the people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wifes for themselves of all that they chose." Finally, "Son of God" is also a title assigned by God to ALL of Israel, as in Exodus 4:22 "Then you [Moses] shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord: Israel is my firstborn son. I said to you, "Let my son go that he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son.' " As the reader can see, in no instance is the term used to imply deity of anyone who has the title Son of God (whether that be David, the David line up to the Messiah, or Angels, or Israel as a whole). So too can Christians refer to Jesus as Son of God, in line with Christianity's belief that he is Messiah, without having to step into polytheistic implications that God has children or that God is composed of multiple beings (e.g. "Father" and "Son").
Continuing on the topic of the Trinity, let us now consider the "Holy Spirit". In the Torah (Christian Old Testament) the term is simply meant to describe one way in which God influences the physical world. The actual Hebrew term is "Ruach HaKodesh" and means "Divine Wind". Nowhere is there an implication in the Torah that the divine wind is a separate deity with its own mind or separate power. The usage of the term Divine Wind in the New Testament also does not contradict the usage given in the Torah. Rather, it is only in the Christian creeds, invented by the Graeco-Roman Constantinian institutions in the Fourth Century, that we see the declaration of the Divine Wind (or Holy Spirit as it is more commonly translated into English) as a separate entity, with God as a Trinity composed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Calling the Divine Wind as a separate entity is akin to saying that references to "God's Anger" should imply to us that "The Anger of God" is a separate entity. It is simply not in accordance with the intent of the language of the Torah (not to mention that it goes against the prohibitions against depicting God, which we have already mentioned above).
With respect to Jesus being God or equal to God, by far the vast majority of the Christian canon considers Jesus to be different than God, AND not equal to God; click here for details . Exceptionally however, we find two references (both in the gospel of John) that unambiguously state that Jesus is God, and we also find a number of references where the meaning is arguable; click here for details.
Nevertheless, Christians eventually did develop thru the Graeco-Roman church a set of beliefs that God is composed of a Trinity of Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Regarding how Christians came to adopt the dogma of the trinity, click here for details.
Christians who identify Jesus with God may offer the following counterargument: "Since God is all-mighty it is therefore very possible for God to have decided to take human form in Jesus, or for that matter to exist as a Trinity". A Torah-compliant response to this argument would be: "Well, it is true that nothing is impossible for God, however the Torah commands us repeatedly not to concern ourselves with trying to depict the nature of God in any form. It is simply arrogance to try to pretend that we can know what God is." As if to test this point, even the Torah itself records many instances when God took on specific forms to interact with human beings, but never does Judaism fall into the trap of using those forms as a mental (or physical) icon of God (that would be idolatry). Some examples of these forms taken on by God are given below:
Genesis 18:1, " The Lord appeared to Abraham by oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. " The three "men" stay with Abraham and discuss various topics with Abraham, including Sarah's upcoming pregnancy and the destruction of Sodom and G'morah after which, in Genesis 18:22-23, we have: " So the [two] men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham came near [the Lord] and said 'Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?' " In other words, two of the "men" were the angels who would later destroy S'dom and G'morah. The third of the "three men" was God.
Genesis 32:22 " The same night he [Jacob] got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." So he said to him, "what is your name?" And he said "Jacob". Then the man said, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have wrestled with God and with humans, and have prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peni-el [the face of God], saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved." "
Exodus 3:2 "There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush..." "When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called him out of the bush...".
Exodus 12:4-5 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, "Come out, you three, to the tent of the meeting." So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward.
Exodus 12:6-7 And he [God] said: "Hear my words: When there are prophets among you, I the Lord make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face - clearly, not in riddles; and he beholds the form of the Lord.
In Exodus 24:9-11 we also have a account of Moses having a meal with God and seeing God in plain consciousness, literally face to face: Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay down his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also, they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
We also have the example where in Genesis God is described in the plural (and Christian apologists sometimes use as a hint that the Trinity is made possible by this): Gen 1;26 Then God said "Let US make humankind in OUR image, according to OUR likeness" , and Gen 3;22 Then the Lord God said: "See, the man has become like one of US, knowing good and evil".
In all of the above instances we see God in a physical, real world, form or we see God described in a language suggesting some kind of attribute (e.g. plurality). Yet never does Judaism fall into the trap of worshipping any of these forms or using these forms or attributes as a physical icon or mental construct to depict God. As far as God's teaching in the Torah is concerned, none of the above forms, manifestations, or attributes truly expresses to the limited human mind the actual nature of God, hence the prohibition of Deut 4: 15-19 "Since you saw no form, do not make an idol in the form of any figure" (paraphrased). Thus, ALL and ANY attempt to use physical or mental constructs to depict God is explicitly forbidden in the Torah, and considered idolatry.
Is it possible that God could have taken human form in other occassions not recorded in the Torah?, e.g. by coming down to earth in Jesus, similar to how God came down as a human form to visit Abraham? The Torah does not preclude it, but it DOES preclude us from the arrogance of pretending to know God's nature. For example, if you would think of God as that specific man who came to visit Abraham in Genesis 18:1, then you are falling into idolatry, for God is much more unfathomable than the temporary form he took when he showed himself to Abraham, or when he wrestled with Jacob, or when he dined with Moses. Equally then, for a person who upholds the Torah, Jesus must remain different and unequal to God.
The concept of Moschiach according to Christianity:
The Christian canon clearly states the belief in Jesus as Moshiah. The notion by Christians that Jesus will fulfill the role of Moshiah is not in-and-of-itself heretical to Judaism, although most arguments on this topic often point to the fact that Jesus did not complete the Messianic expectations by the time of his crucifixion. For example, the Torah indicates that the Moshiah will bring peace to the world (and thus establish God's Kingdom on earth). Christians of course believe that Jesus WILL fulfill the role in full upon a second coming. There are other examples of Jews believing in the Moshiahship of people. A small number of Jews have a shared belief that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is Moshiah (and that he will fulfill the promises of Moschiah, including ushering to earth God's Kingdom and world-wide peace). See http://www.rickross.com/reference/lubavitch/lubavitch1.html
Jesus as Cosmic Moshiah:
The New Testament does make repeated reference to a supernatural nature of Jesus. However the existence of supernatural beings (Angels) or people who acquire a supernatural/divine power thru the Holy Spirit (like Moses, Elijah) is well documented in Torah. As long as a Jew does not worship these beings which have a part of God's divinity in them, recognizing that there is divinity in them is only recognizing what the Torah is already saying, and is not idolatry. Likewise, if a Christian believes that there is some of God's divinity (or Divine Wind, aka Holy Spirit) in Jesus, without equating Jesus to God or worshiping Jesus (or worse, worshipping Jesus as if he was a form or icon of God), then that in-and-of-itself is not idolatry.
Below we list a number of references where Jesus is stated to be of a supernatural nature:
Paul states simultaneously that Jesus is different than God, but yet still a supernatural being that is superior to all other created beings:
1 Corinthians 8:6 " ...yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."
1 Colossians 1:15 "He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together." [Note that the term "the image of the invisible God" should not be interpreted as Paul equating Jesus with God here, since this is the same language that Torah uses to apply to ALL human beings: Genesis 1:27 So God created humankind in his image.]
The concept of Salvation and the end times, particularly as set forth by Saint Paul.
Normative Christianity incorporates the teachings not only of Jesus, but also incorporates the Apostles' (particularly Saint Paul's) interpretation of the meaning of Jesus' inauguration of a messianic age.
While Jesus performs a ministry which he claims is that of Moshiah, Saint Paul sets forth in his letters a specific doctrine which is fundamental part of normative (Graeco-Roman) Christianity. Paul proclaims the Good News of the Resurrection. For Paul, not only has Jesus been resurrected (which for him is proof in-and-of-itself of Jesus' moshiaship), but more importantly the Good News is that, thanks to Jesus' mission and martyrdom, God has opened a new era (The Last Days) in which people can simply open their heart to request God's salvation as a pure gift ("by grace" means "as a gift") and, coupled with this gift, God imparts the new law of Love into their hearts.
Paul's preaching seems very aware of what will happen at the end of days and is a preparation for what is prophesied in Jeremiah and Ezequiel: Jeremiah 31:31 "The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt - a covenant that they broke, though I was their master, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord", for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will have forgiven their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.", Ezequiel 36:24-28 "I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanliness and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, and you shall be my people and I will be your God." Paul knows that this renewal of the Kingdom of God upon Israel has not yet been realized as of Jesus' Resurrection, but he considers it a impending event (to happen at Jesus second coming), and therefore Paul sets out to pave the way for the second coming which will end the Last Days and bring forth that full implementation of God's Kingdom on earth. By asking people to open their hearts to receive the Gift from God, Paul is essentially preparing people to be admitted into the remnant that will form part of the Kingdom of God. However, as we will see, Paul understands the new Kingdom to be based on the ethical precepts of Judaism (driven by Love of God and Love of neighbor), but completely eliminating the importance of the ritual laws (e.g. circumcision, making burnt offerings, eating Kosher, keeping Sabbath, observing special days and feasts) for all people (including Jews!!). In eliminating the relevance of the ritual laws as a requirement for salvation, Paul seeks a world of the Last Days in which all people of the world must come together (e.g., "there is neither Jew nor Greek...", "there is no benefit in circumcision or uncircumcision") under a single homogeneous relationship under God: that of opening one's heart to receive the gift of salvation, upon which God sets in one's heart the law of preeminent Love of Neighbor (as in Leviticus 19:18 "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"). Some examples from Paul's letters: Galatians 4:10 (where he chastises Gentiles for wanting to adopt Jewish ritual laws): "You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted", Galatians 5:6 "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working thru love.", Galatians 4:21 "I do not nulify the grace of God; for if justification comes thru the Law, then Christ died for nothing.", Galatians 5:14 "For the whole Law is summed up in a single commandment: 'You shall Love your neighbor as yourself.' ".
Interestingly, the early conflicts that Paul faced came not from normative Judaism, but from the original Jewish followers of Jesus, led by Jesus' brother Jacob ('Iakobos' in Greek, 'James' in English, 'Sant Iago' in Latin, 'Santiago' and 'San Diego' in Spanish), which Paul calls "those of the circumcision". For these Torah-abiding Jews, there is no reason to expect exclusion of any commandments from what God would expect during the Last Days. What is going on here is a disagreement about what is needed for Salvation. For James (before the council of Jerusalem), what is needed for Salvation by Jews and Gentiles alike is Faith in the God of Israel which manifests itself thru earnest desire to follow ALL God's comandments to Israel, including circumcision, Sabbath, kosher eating, etc. For Paul (before the council of Jerusalem) what is needed for Salvation is Faith in God, which manifests itself thru works of Love of Neighbor, (i.e. the ethical aspects of the Law) while the relevance of all the ritual laws is made optional for Jews and even forbidden for Gentiles!).
The disagreement between Paul and James is finally settled at the famous council of Jerusalem, where it is agreed that the Saving Faith in God translates into different behaviors for Jews versus for Gentiles. James and Paul agree that James will continue to preach adherence to the whole Torah to the Israelites, and that Paul will preach Love of Neighbor and only four ritual laws to the Gentiles: Acts 15:19 "Therefore I [Jacob, the brother of Jesus] have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood." Interestingly these four "ritual laws for Gentiles" are almost the same as the Noahide Laws which God imparts to all humankind as part of the covenant made after the Flood. In other words, amazingly, Paul and James reach an agreement that is entirely consistent with the view of normative Judaism today: that the Torah contains a covenant for all people, Gentiles and Jews alike (the Noahide Covenant), as well as a covenant (Mosaic or Sinai Covenant) that is specific to the descendants of of Israel, AND that these covenants are still valid unto the End of Days (which, for Paul and James, would include the preceding period called "The Last Days" which the world has entered into). Unfortunately it seems that Jacob did not sufficiently press Paul on Isaiah 56 and Zechariah 14, where God fully expects that in anticipation of God's Kingdom on earth even non-Jews will observe the Sabbath, participate in ritual burnt offerings, celebrate festivals like Sukkot (Tabernacles):
Isaiah 56:1, 56:3, 56:6-8: "Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance revealed. ... Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say 'The Lord will surely separate me from his people" ... And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant - these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God who gathers the outcasts of Israel: "I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.'"
Zechariah 14:16 Then all who survive of the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the festival of Booths.
Now, if the doctrine agreed upon by Paul and James at the Jerusalem Council is not inconsistent with normative Judaism, and if belief that Moschiah dies and comes again at the end of 'The Last Days' is not in-and-of-itself heretically contrary to the Torah, then why was Paul persecuted by the Torah-abiding Israelites of the time ? There are several factors:
A) In spite of Paul's agreement with James, and even though Paul had agreed to focus on ministering only to Gentiles and to let James minister to Israelites, Paul teaches with a patronizing attitude about the Law (e.g. that it is basically a curse and a slave master) and about how Judaism adheres to the Mosaic Law (e.g. that Jews follow it like robots, mechanically, to score points with heaven mainly thru rituals). Paul makes this evident when he addresses Jews, as in his letters to the mixed churches that he writes to (e.g. Romans). What is this 'attitude'? Basically, Paul tells Jews that they focus exclusively on the letter of the law, thereby rejecting the gift that God is now making available (since Jesus' death and resurrection): the gift of Grace that instills preeminent Love of Neighbor. Paul reminds them that it is foolish to put so much focus on following the Mosaic Laws because in the end they will anyways be unable to follow ALL of it and therefore, if they want to be saved, they will anyways need to ask God for his Gift of Grace and Forgiveness. Romans 2:17-25 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the Law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the Law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? You that boast the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law?. So, Paul is not telling Jews to brake the Law (e.g. Corinthians 7:17 let each of you lead the life the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? let him not seek to circumcision. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. But obeying the comandments of God is everything. Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.) but he IS telling them that as long as they have Faith working thru Love, they need not be SO keen on following the Law (especially the ritual Laws).
In summary Paul did not keep his full agreement with James. Sure, Paul no longer tells Jews to avoid the Law, but he tells them that it's really just optional as long as they have Faith working thru Love. In some cases, like with dietary laws, he actually does tell Jews to forego Kosher when in Gentile company (so as to not alienate Gentiles).
On the one hand, even normative Judaism will agree that following the Law requires first and foremost a inner Loving disposition to God (it's even the First Commandment!), from which joyfull acceptance of the remaining commandments follows, together with the trustful expectation of the Messianic Promise of the Kingdom to Come. Jews also know that without Love of Neighbor (Lev 19:18), the ritual sacrifices are unacceptable to God (e.g. Hosea 6:6 "For I desire steadfast love and sacrifice; the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.", Micah 6:6-8 " 'With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' [Micah responds:] He has told you, oh mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? "). Knowing this, a part of Paul's message to the Jew is actually very Jewish: He warns a Jew that if you put ALL your energy only on the Law (and you forget that one follows the law because one Loves God and that Love of Neighbor is priority over rituals) then you end up putting your trust in the literal document and you have turned it into an idol. However Paul takes this to a extreme, teaching that the Jews are under a burden (literally a "curse") which is not even necessary any more for salvation. He is specifically telling his congregations NOT to refer to the writings of the Torah anymore, but rather to now ask by Grace for the law of the heart (as in Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezequiel 36:24-28) which will anyways make one follow the commandments that are "really" (according to Paul) important (as if the law of the heart was going to differ from the known Torah; i.e. Paul ignores that the Torah covenants are eternal ). Ironically, this message is indeed a slippery slope even for his Gentile audience and Paul has to repeatedly remind his congregations that they must sill take care of avoiding sin (e.g. Romans 6:14-15 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!). In summary Paul's disdain for the written law was (appropriately) feared by all Jews as a serious threat to a nation that put its faith in a specific promise thru a specific, eternal, covenant made with God, and Paul's teaching eventually proved to be disastrous for the Jewish nation for the next 2000 years.
B)Paul's language is often very close to implying that the Good News (that God is now offering a renewed opportunity for people to open their hearts to receive God's salvation as a pure gift) is conditional on acceptance of Jesus as Moschiach. For example, Paul in Romans 10:9 If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. He doesn't quite say "you won't be saved unless you believe in Jesus as Moschiach" but the inuendo is there. Taken to its full extent, Paul's language takes Salvation, which Jews always understood from the Torah as something between God and each individual, and now puts Jesus in the middle as a intermediary who enables intercession and atonement on our behalf. Certainly there is precedence in the Torah regarding the Jewish people relying on humans for intercession and atonement (e.g. as in the case of the High Priest atoning for Israel on Yom Kippur, or when the people asked Moses to intercede with God to spare their destruction in the desert), but going as far as placing the ultimate Salvation in the hands of someone other than God is basically tantamount to dissolving the covenant between God and the Jew. As important as Moschiach is in Judaism, the covenant with the Jews at Sinai is not between the Jews and Moshiah. It is between the Jews and God. Recall Hosea 13:4 : And I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt, and gods beside Me you should not know, and there is no savior but Me. Paul's approach would have been problematic, not just to Jews who did not believe in Jesus Moshiahship, but also to the Jews that were part of the Jesus movement.
With respect to the Jews, in the bottom line, Paul is too eager to lead a Jew into relaxing adherence to the Law (and this almost cost him his life several times); A Jew yesterday and today knows very well that (a)one follows the law out of Love and Faith in God, (b) that salvation comes from the Grace of God in the measure of one's repentance (Teshuva), earnestness in Loving God, and submitting to following His commandments (and certainly NOT in the measure of how successfully one can mechanically follow the laws), and (c) that Leviticus 19:18 takes precedence over ritual laws. But a Jew also knows (d) that God has not done away with the ritual laws and that the Torah covenants are eternal. Paul is so eager to avoid mechanistic adherence to the Law, that he ends up doing away with it (misusing Jeremiah 31:31 in the process!). Paul's attitude to Jewish religion is patronizing and in the hands of Graeco-Roman Christians, his teachings eventually became a serious threat to the identity and survival of the Jewish nation (especially after Israel was dispersed after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and after the War of 125 CE.).
With respect to the Gentiles, Paul's doctrine is extremely powerful and enabled turning a whole world away from Paganism. For Gentile followers of Jesus, Paul teaches the (correct) doctrine that in the End Times the nations will display preeminent Love of Neighbor. Whatever good deeds have come out of Gentile Christianity, they are in no small measure a result of Paul's emphasis on Love. On the unfortunate side, Paul never stresses the Noahide Laws (which he agreed to abide by, per the Jerusalem Council) and even discouraged Gentile observance of special days as a whole, even when in Isaiah 56 God expects Gentiles to also observe the Sabbath. Because of this, Gentile Christians are unaware that there are Torah injunctions incumbent on them which they are not following (e.g. avoiding to eat blood, to follow the Sabbath). Even more ironically (i.e. adding insult to injury), Constantine and the subsequent Graeco-Roman Christian Church would eventually establish all kinds of alternate days and rituals for observance for Christians, e.g. the Sun-day as a day of rest (the Sun God was Constantine's other religion), baptism as a Christian rite of entry (a kind of "circumcision for Gentiles" ?? !!), Easter instead of Passover, Confirmation, Last Rites, etc. etc.).
And for both Jews and Gentiles, Paul's Good News is conditional on acceptance and trust in Jesus as Moschiah. This helped turn Graeco-Roman Christianity into a exclusivist religion, denying the Jew's salvation (and that of all people of other religions who put their trust only in the One God). How ironic, when one considers Jesus' own words in Mathew 12:32 : Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Jesus can say this, yet Paul's doctrine is not as forgiving.
The Jewish gospel of Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus' principal message to the Jewish people was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15). It is a exhortation to contrition and submittal to the will of God, i.e. to the commandments of the covenant between God and Israel. When asked specifically on the requirement for salvation and eternal life, he responds "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:16-17 and Mark 10:17-19). In other words, the Kingdom of Heaven will come upon us when we repent and submit to the commandments of the covenant. It is a very simple, very Jewish message.
Furthermore, contrary to the Pauline doctrine that the Law is not important for salvation, Jesus' message is always specifically upholding the Law. Although one can argue about Jesus' interpretation of certain commandments (e.g. 'the sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath', 'let the dead bury the dead', 'it is not what comes into your mouth that makes you unclean, as much as what comes out of your mouth', etc.), Jesus' message never questions the validity of the Torah and its applicability to the Jewish nation until the End of Days; quite to the contrary, the Law is reasserted numerous times, both by Jesus and his Jewish-Christian followers:
Jesus in Matthew 5:18: : For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks 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.
Jesus in Matthew 7:21 : Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Jesus in Matthew 19:16-17 (also in Mark 10:17-19) Then someone came to him and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him... "If you wish to enter into life, keep the Commandments."
Jesus in Matthew 22:35 : ...and one of them [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked him a question to test him: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He [Jesus] said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Jesus in Mark 12:28 : One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,' --this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."
James the brother of Jesus, in Epistle of James 2:8 : You do well if you really fulfill the royal Law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself". But if you show partiality, then you commit sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole Law but fails in ONE point, has become guilty of failing ALL of it. ... So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; Mercy triumphs over judgement. Here again we see the Jewish concept of Repentance and seeking God's grace, even in the context of the ENTIRE Law (as opposed to Saint Paul's notion that part of the Law have become irrelevant).
James the brother of Jesus, in Epistle of James 2:14-18 : What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? ... So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works'. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
James the brother of Jesus, in Epistle of James 2:19 : You believe that God is One; you do well. But even the demons believe that, and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called a friend of God. You see, then, that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. ... For just as a body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
Can there be a common purpose between Christianity and Judaism?
It is clear that people will continue to disagree on whether or not Jesus is the Messiah (Christians and Jews all know that the Messianic promise of World Peace has not yet been fulfilled, although Christians believe this will be accomplished upon Jesus' second comming). However, does this disagreement mean that Christianity and Judaism are condemned to diametrical opposition in their approach to reach salvation?, or is there a basis for the two religions to find a common purpose that leads to salvation? The answer to this is that it IS possible to have a common purpose, when we ask Christians to focus on Jesus' message and to strip away the notion introduced by Paul and expanded in the book of John (written around 90 CE) that since Jesus' ministry and death, Salvation is no longer thru faith in God working thru obedience to God's commandments, but rather only thru confessing Jesus as Messiah. Here are the verses that expound that terrible notion:
Paul to the Gentile Jesus followers in Galatia (Galatians 2:15) : Yet we know that a person is justified, not by the works of the law but thru faith in Jesus Christ. ; Gal 4:10 You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted ; Galatians 4:21 I do not nulify the grace of God; for if justification comes thru the Law, then Christ died for nothing.
Paul to the Jesus followers in Rome (Romans 10:9) : If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The book of John, although not specifically doing away with the importance of the Law, does state confessing Jesus as Messiah as a pre-requisite for Salvation:
Jesus according to John 3:18 : Those who believe in him [Jesus] are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John in John 3:36 : Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath.
Jesus according to John 8:24 : I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he [the Messiah].
John 14:6 : No one comes thru the Father except thru me.
1 John 2:22-23 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the anti-christ, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father, also.
1 John 3:23 And this is his [God's] commandment: that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they arise from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
1 John 4:6 We [the believers in 1John's community] are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1 John 5:4 And this is the victory that conquers the world: our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God ?
1 John 5:10-12 Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
2 John 7 Those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; and such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. ... anyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God.
On what basis can anyone expect Christians to even consider foregoing the above canonical language? On the following basis:
Regarding the validity of the Law: Christianity is built on the foundation of the Torah and therefore it must ensure consistency with the Torah. Now, the Torah tells us that the covenant with Israel is eternal (i.e. until the End of Times, which means: until the complete fulfillment of the Messianic promise of world peace, establishment of the Kingdom of God, and the advent of the Kingdom described in Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezequiel 36:24-28.). Yet Paul is telling Jews not to bother with it anymore. That the end is near and that Jesus' death has rendered the Law as unimportant. Perhaps he believes Jeremiah 31:31 is already being made real and that God IS already putting the New Covenant into peoples' hearts. However, even if that were the case, Jeremiah 31:31 never talks about the Commandments changing, and in fact Ezequiel 36:24-28 is very clear that the appointed festivals will still be in force (Ezequiel 36:37-38 "Thus says the Lord God: I will also let the house of Israel ask me to do this for them: to increase their population like a flock. Like a flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals, so shall the ruined become filled with flocks of people. Then they shall known that I am Lord. "). In fact Isaiah and Zechariah say that upon Kingdom Come, not only Jews, but EVEN ALL GENTILES will follow the Sabbath, offer burnt offerings at the Temple, and even celebrate Sukkot (Tabernacles): Isaiah 56:1-8: Thus says the Lord... soon my salvation will come and my deliverance be revealed. ... Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say "The Lord will surely separate me from his people". ... And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants; all who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant - these I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyfull in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Zechariah 14:16 Then all who survive of the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the festival of Booths. In summary, Paul is simply so eager to bring Gentiles away from paganism that he has institutionalized a denial of all the ritual commandments of Judaism. Just like Isaiah, Zechariah, Ezequiel, Jesus' vision of the Kingdom never excludes any part of the Law, but rather it is the Faith in God working thru the Works of the Comandments that enables a person to enter the Kingdom of God: Matthew 19:16-17 (also in Mark 10:17-19) : Then someone came to him and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him... "If you wish to enter into life, keep the Commandments." and Matthew 14:17 (also in Mark 1:15) "repent, for the Kingdom is near".
The reader will also bear in mind that the Torah prescribes a Law not only for Jews (the Sinai Covenant), but even for Gentiles (the covenant with Noah as well as other injunctions like Isaiah 56:1-8 and Zechariah 14:16 calling non-Jews to Sabbath, burnt offerings, and celebration of feasts like Sukkot. Thus, even Gentile Christians have a covenant prescribed by the Torah and such Laws can not be cancelled and replaced by Paul's informal list of virtues. Why? because Jesus, the leader of the Jesus movement himself, is telling people to follow the Commandments (Matthew 19:16-17).
In conclusion, both the Torah and Jesus' own message contradict Paul's notion that the ritual law has ceased to be important to God.
Now we discuss the above quotes from John's gospel. The unfortunate notion that belief in Jesus as the Messiah is a pre-requisite for Salvation is very clearly expoused by John. However, these statements are not consistent with the statements of Jesus elsewhere. In Mathew and Mark (much earlier books than John), Jesus' message is clear: "Repent for the Kingdom of God is near", and "If you wish to enter into life, keep the Commandments. ". What this means is that everywhere except John's Gospel, Jesus emphasizes Salvation thru Repentance and The Law, not Salvation thru his own glorification. In fact in Mathew 12:32 Jesus says: "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." Also, "For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) and "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. " (Matthew 7:21). Our conclusion is that if we are not to discard the statements in John's Gospel, then at least we must interpret them to mean, not that Salvation requires glorification of Jesus, but rather following Jesus's exhortation to Repentance, and Following God's Commandments.
Saint Paul would have argued at this point: "but if salvation is thru the Law, then Jesus' death was for nothing" (Galatians 4:21). But we are not suggesting it is thru "the Law" only, rather thru Repentance (Teshuva and asking God for His Grace) which leads to Submission to God's Law. In this way Christians can be instrumental in the salvation of humankind as they preach Jesus' own message to implement the Kingdom of God: Repentance before God and Submission to His Commandments. It is that, and only that, ministry (as opposed to encouraging folks to dispense with Torah Commandments or putting Glorification of Messiah as a prerequisite for Requesting the Father's Grace) which can help bring about the Kingdom of God and it is completely consistent with the Torah. The news that God has opened such a new era should be Good News, indeed... much better news than "Confess Jesus as Messiah, or be damned", as Paul and the author of John would have it.
So, yes, Christianity and Judaism CAN find common purpose.... Repent Before God, AND Submit to God's Commandments (for Gentiles: the Noahide Laws and Isaiah 56; for descendants of Abraham (e.g. Jews and Muslims): the laws of the covenant with Abraham found in Genesis; and for Jews: the 613 Commandments given at Sinai).
Are there modern Christian institutions which reject Saint Paul's doctrine of Vicarious Sacrifice (which makes the Law obsolete), and the (not-found-in-the-NT) concept of the Trinity?
Below we provide some links which may be useful in answering the above question: