Comparison of Christianity and Judaism


Christianity has a close relationship with Judaism, both historically and theologically. Jesus, the twelve disciples, the author of most of the New Testament, and the members of the earliest Christian churches were all Jews. Jesus' family followed Jewish customs and Jesus frequently quoted the Hebrew Bible. Jesus' followers believed him to be the messiah, a Jewish figure predicted in the Jewish Bible.

Despite its Jewish origins, it was not long before Christianity regarded itself as something other than a new Jewish sect. The first Christian council, convened by the apostles, concluded that pagan converts to Christianity did not have to follow Jewish ritual laws. Soon, converts to Christianity were almost exclusively pagans and Christianity moved further away from Judaism.

In the 2,000 years of history since Jesus, the relationship between Christianity and the ancient faith in which it is rooted has often been strained. Christians have criticized Jews for rejecting Jesus as their messiah, and Jews have criticized Christians for corrupting the concept of one God and following a false messiah. The New Testamant reports that Jews were the first to persecute Christians, and after Christians became the more powerful group, they frequently persecuted Jews.

Today, theological disagreements between Christians and Jews remain, but efforts are being made towards greater understanding and respect between the two great faiths. The following chart compares the origins, beliefs and practices of Christianity and Judaism.

History & Stats
date founded
c. 30 AD
c. 1300 BC
place founded
founders & early leaders
Jesus, Peter, Paul
Abraham, Moses
original languages
Aramaic and Greek
major location today
Europe, North and South America
Europe, Israel, North America
adherents worldwide today
2 billion
14 million
adherents in USA
159 million
5.6 million
adherents in Canada
21 million
adherents in UK
51 million
current size rank
12th largest
major branches
Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant
Orthodox, Conservative, Reform
Religious Authority
sacred text
Bible = Old Testament (Jewish Bible) + New Testament
Tanakh (Jewish Bible)
inspiration of sacred text
views vary: literal word of God, inspired human accounts, or of human origin only
views vary: inspired human accounts or of human origin only
status of biblical prophets
true prophets
true prophets
status of Jewish Bible
status of Jewish Apocrypha
canonical (Catholic);
useful but noncanonical (Protestant)
noncanonical but useful
status of New Testament
noncanonical, not useful
other written authority
church fathers, church councils, ecumenical creeds (all branches);
papal decrees, canon law (Catholic)
Talmud, halakhah
modern human authorities
pope (Catholic);
each Christian with aid of Holy Spirit (Protestant)
summaries of doctrine
Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed
13 Articles of Faith
Beliefs & Doctrine
ultimate reality
one God, Jehovah, the God of Abraham
one God, Jehovah, the God of Abraham
nature of God
Trinity - one substance, three persons
unity - one substance, one person
other spiritual beings
angels and demons
angels and demons
revered humans
saints, church fathers
identity of Jesus
Son of God, God incarnate, savior of the world
false prophet
birth of Jesus
virgin birth
normal birth
death of Jesus
death by crucifixion
death by crucifixion
resurrection of Jesus
second coming of Jesus
divine revelation
through Prophets and Jesus (as God Himself), recorded in Bible
through Prophets, recorded in Bible
human nature
"original sin" inherited from Adam - tendency towards evil
two equal impulses, one good and one bad
means of salvation
correct belief, faith, good deeds, sacraments (some Protestants emphasize faith alone)
belief in God, good deeds
God's role in salvation
predestination, various forms of grace
divine revelation and forgiveness
good afterlife
eternal heaven
views vary: either heaven or no afterlife
bad afterlife
eternal hell, temporary purgatory (Catholicism)
views vary: either eternal Gehenna, reincarnation, or no afterlife
view of the other religion
Judaism is a true religion, but with incomplete revelation.
Christianity is a false interpretation of Judaism.
Rituals & Practices
house of worship
church, chapel, cathedral, basilica, meeting hall
synagogue, temple, schul
religious leaders
priest, bishop, archbishop, patriarch, pope, pastor, minister, preacher, deacon
rabbi, rebbe
sacred rituals
mitzvot (commandments)
major sacred rituals
baptism, communion (Eucharist)
observing Sabbath, wearing tallit and tefilin, prayer services
head covered during prayer?
generally no
generally yes (especially men)
central religious holy days
Lent, Holy Week, Easter
Yom Kippur, Days of Awe, Passover
other holidays
Christmas, saints days
Chanukah, Purim
major symbols
cross, crucifix, dove, anchor, fish, alpha and omega, chi rho, halo
Star of David, chai, hamsa, tree