Judaism Today

One might rightly ask, “What form of Judaism should a follower of Jesus pursue?” In the times of Jesus, there were a variety of Jewish sects such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. The life and teachings of Jesus were consistent with some of the theological elements found in each of these four sects. He was a legalist (even taking the laws of Moses a step further), yet he taught tolerance, compassion, grace, and mercy (consider the story of the prostitute, John 8:1-11).

The life and teachings of Jesus are reflected in various ways among present day expressions of Jewish faith (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform). Orthodox Judaism continues to preserve the more literal interpretation of scripture reflected in the teachings of Jesus. Also found in Orthodox Judaism is the observance of various festivals and recognition of the mystical side of Judaism. Within Conservative Judaism, an individual is free to pursue more legalistic forms of Judaism and adhere to disciplined religious and spiritual practices, however, they are not required to, nor are people shunned or stoned for not being religious enough (a concern that is reflected in the teachings and life of Jesus). This dualism is rarely found in today’s religions. Most religions today are either conservative or liberal. Reform Judaism seems to have room for both conservative and liberal thought. In reform Judaism the role of women in religious life and leadership is expanded (another concern that is reflected in the teachings and life of Jesus). A balanced and fair analysis might well reveal that today’s forms of Judaism more closely reflect the teachings and life of Jesus than many expressions of Christianity today.

Today, various expressions of Christianity adhere to some teachings and practices that would be an offense to Jesus and his followers. In some cases it may very well be that Christianity’s adoption of pagan, non-Biblical, and non-Jewish customs and traditions has made Christianity (and subsequently Jesus) an offense to the Jewish community. For this reason, the idea of conversion to some forms of Christianity is not a matter of theological debate or spiritual enlightenment, but an impossibility for someone who has sworn to walk in the ways of God as outlined in the Old Testament, as upheld in the lives of Biblical spiritual leaders, and as expressed the teachings and life of Jesus. Sadly, the teachings and life of some Christians (past and present) are contrary to Jewish thought, Biblical teaching, and even contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus. For this reason, Jewish people have rejected Christianity. It is fair to ask, why should Jews convert from the faith that Jesus lived, to another faith?