Theology

Judaism Is More Than The Old Testament

Every year (except 2020), a Christian friend will share on social media about a Passover seder held at their church. I’ve addressed the many issues with that, so I won’t rehash them again. But I did realize something as I was reminded, once again, why these church-hosted seders are so attractive to Christians in the first place. 

As Christians, we believe that Jesus’ metaphorical fingerprints are all over Scripture, not just in the New Testament. We know that he was a devout Jew, and that Christianity was born out of Judaism. But many Christians aren’t aware that modern Judaism looks nothing like what Jesus practiced. In fact, it bears little resemblance to what we read about in the Hebrew Bible.

Going Beyond The Bible

To many Christians, Judaism = the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible. This is why, growing up, many of my Christian peers still believed that Jews participate in animal sacrifices for their sins. They had no concept of Judaism existing outside of the Levitical laws. Small wonder, then, that they thought Jews were a strange bunch (which we are, but not for that reason). 

The little-known truth is that the Judaism of today did not develop until long after Jesus – and it’s still on-going. Judaism evolved over centuries in many different cultures, continents, and circumstances. It’s experienced many shifts, in response to the teachings of various sages and political upheavals. The Hebrew Bible is considered more of a history of our people than canon.

For a more accurate understanding of what Judaism is all about, you’re better off consulting the Mishnah or Talmud than the Hebrew Bible.

Understanding Judaism Today

This complex history of Judaism isn’t typically taught in churches. Consequently, Christians aren’t aware that many Jewish feasts observed today actually did not exist in Jesus’ lifetime, including the Passover seder. So I feel I’m doing a disservice by not speaking up as a killjoy for their plans. I care not only about historical accuracy but also about the integrity of my ancestral faith. As much as I appreciate seeing interest in Jewish practice, if it’s not done accurately, then it’s not worth it. 

Liturgy Envy Is Real

I think the attraction of a seder points to a larger issue within Protestantism: a lack of liturgy. Many Christians hear that word and think “Catholic,” but it doesn’t have to be.

If you’re craving more ritual with your worship, allow me to plug my tradition. We Anglicans have plenty of our own feasts to celebrate between Easter and Christmas without having to appropriate a culture that does not belong to us. 

Photo by David Weber on Unsplash

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