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  • Writer's pictureJewish Examiner

The Biggest Theological Differences Between Judaism and Christianity

Much of my work consists of pointing out the ways that Jews and Christians can learn from each other, based on their shared history in Scripture. Today, however, I want to point out some of the ways that the two faiths differ in their theologies. These differences go a lot deeper than simply “Jesus” and “No Jesus.”

But let’s start with Jesus.

Who — or what — is the Messiah?

Perhaps the biggest reason missionaries have a hard time convincing Jews that Jesus is the Messiah is because they don’t realize that the very word “Messiah” means two different things to Jews and Christians. In the Christian view, the Messiah is God Himself. But this is a heresy in Judaism, as no man can be human and divine at once.

The Messiah, in Jewish teaching, must fulfill the following expectations laid out in the Torah:

  1. Rebuild the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26–28).

  2. Gather all Jews back to Israel (Isaiah 43:5–6).

  3. Establish world peace: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4). “God will be King over all the world — on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9).

That Jesus didn’t create lasting peace is arguably the biggest indication that he isn’t the Messiah, and every Old Testament verse that suggests otherwise will be disregarded as a mistranslation. For Jews, the messiah’s main purpose is to establish peace and return the Jews to Israel. Anything to do with restoration of personal sins doesn’t really enter the picture.

For Christians, everything in the Bible points to Jesus. For Jews, everything points toward Israel.

Satan isn’t who you think he is

The name “Lucifer” is Latin for “star” or “light bringer.” No Latin word would have appeared in any of the original texts. When the Catholic Church translated the Bible into Latin, it was believed that the text was referring to Satan, so the Hebrew equivalent of “star” or “light” was added — and thus translated as Lucifer, the name of the devil.

Take a look at the difference in translation of this text from the book of Isaiah 14:12–15. The first is from the New King James Version:

The Fall of Lucifer

12 “How you are fallen from heaven,

O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ 15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,

To the lowest depths of the Pit.

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