Christianity vs. Judaism: What’s the Difference?

Christianity and Judaism, two significant world religions, share a rich historical connection yet diverge on key beliefs and practices. The relationship between these faiths has shaped theological, cultural, and social dynamics for centuries.

By comparing their doctrines, traditions, and influences, we gain a deeper understanding of their unique identities and the threads of commonality they share.

This comparative analysis not only helps to demystify the complexities and nuances of these two religions but also enlightens our perspective on their profound impact on shaping human civilization and thought throughout history.

Are Christianity and Judaism monotheistic? See below

Comparing Christianity and Judaism: At a Glance

Christianity believes in the Holy Trinity and salvation through Jesus Christ, considering the New Testament as sacred scripture and the Old Testament.

T rooted in monotheism, Judaism awaits the Messiah, adheres strictly to the Old Testament (Tanakh), and follows Mosaic Law.

SizeApproximately 2.3 billion adherentsApproximately 15 million adherents
Date Started1st century ADAround 2000 BC
FounderJesus Christ is considered the central figure. However, the Apostle Paul also played a major role in spreading Christianity.Traditionally, Judaism is believed to have been founded by Abraham, but Moses is also a key figure due to his role in the Exodus and the writing of the Torah.
Key BeliefsBelief in the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit); Jesus is the Messiah and the Savior of humanity; belief in life after death; salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.Belief in one God (monotheism); God has a special covenant with the Jewish people; the Torah is the central text; belief in a coming Messiah; belief in life after death.
Key PracticesWorship services; sacraments like baptism and communion; prayer; reading of Scripture; acts of charity.Worship services in a synagogue; prayer; observing Sabbath and Jewish holidays; dietary laws (kosher); circumcision; acts of charity.
DivisionsMajor divisions include Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.Major divisions include Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism.
Central LocationThere’s no central geographical location in Christianity, but Vatican City is the seat of the Pope for Roman Catholics.Jerusalem is the historical and spiritual center of Judaism.
Sacred TextsThe Bible, which includes the Old Testament (similar to the Jewish Tanakh) and the New Testament.The Tanakh (similar to the Christian Old Testament) and the Talmud, which includes Rabbinic commentaries on Jewish law and tradition.

What’s the difference between the Christian Old Testament and the Tanakh?

The Christian Old Testament and the Jewish Tanakh contain largely the same set of books. Still, they are arranged differently and there are some variations in content due to differences in translations.

The Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, consists of three parts: the Torah (Law), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings). The Torah includes the first five books, known in Christianity as the Pentateuch.

The Christian Old Testament, while largely including the same books, arranges them differently, often dividing them into categories such as the Law, History, Wisdom books, and Prophets.

Furthermore, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Christian Old Testament include additional books known as the Deuterocanonical books or Apocrypha, not found in the Jewish Tanakh or the Protestant Old Testament.

Christian cross
Does Judaism teach the doctrine of the Trinity? See below

Christian and Judaism Beliefs: Similarities and Differences

Grasping the distinctions between Christianity and Judaism is important for educational purposes and for providing insights into historical and sociocultural trends. Moreover, it allows individuals to better comprehend their own faith or the beliefs of others.

GodBelief in one God, the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.Belief in one God (monotheism), Yahweh. Unlike Christianity, Judaism does not believe in the concept of the Holy Trinity.
The UniverseThe universe is created by God and is governed by His laws. It is seen as good because God created it.The universe is created by God and is fundamentally good. God is intimately involved in the world but is separate from it.
Ultimate RealityUltimate reality is God, who is perfect, all-knowing, and omnipresent. God is personal and desires a relationship with humans.Ultimate reality is God, who is unity, all-knowing, just, merciful, and compassionate. God is beyond human comprehension, but He reveals Himself in the Torah.
The Problem with the WorldThe problem is sin, which separates people from God.Both a lack of adherence to God’s laws and injustices in the world are considered problems.
The Solution to the ProblemThe solution is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins.Observance of God’s laws (mitzvot), repentance, and acts of kindness. The ultimate solution is believed to arrive with the coming of the Messiah.
Human BeingsHuman beings are created in the image of God and are inherently valuable. They are fallen due to sin, but can be redeemed through Christ.Human beings are created in the image of God and have an inherent dignity. They are responsible for their actions but can always return to God through repentance.
The AfterlifeBelief in heaven and hell. The saved go to heaven, while the unsaved to hell. There is a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, and a final judgment by God.Belief in the World to Come and the resurrection of the dead. However, views on the afterlife can vary, with a focus on living a righteous life in the present.

Comparing the Bible and the Hebrew Bible

Understanding the differences between the Christian Bible and the Hebrew Bible offers deeper insights into the foundations, doctrines, and interpretations of these significant texts.

It enhances scholarly research, enriches personal faith journeys, and facilitates a more comprehensive grasp of historical and cultural influences embedded in these scriptures.

Christian BibleHebrew Bible
AKAOld and New TestamentTanakh
ComponentsComposed of the Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament is similar to the Tanakh, while the New Testament focuses on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.Composed of three parts: Torah (Instruction/Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).
SizeThere are 66 books in the Protestant Bible (39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament). Catholic and Orthodox Christian Bibles include additional books, known as the Deuterocanon or Apocrypha.Contains 24 books, divided between the Torah (5 books), Nevi’im (8 books), and Ketuvim (11 books).
LanguagesOld Testament originally written in Hebrew, with some portions in Aramaic. New Testament written in Greek.Primarily written in Hebrew, with some portions in Aramaic.
ThemesGod’s creation of the world and humanity, the fall of mankind into sin, the story of the Israelites, prophecy of the coming Messiah, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and the establishment of the Christian Church.Creation, the covenant between God and the Jewish people, the story of the Israelites, prophecy, wisdom literature, and poetry.
AuthorityChristians consider the Old and New Testaments as the inspired word of God. The New Testament, focusing on the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, has a special significance.The Tanakh is considered the inspired word of God by Jews. The Torah, particularly, has paramount importance as it contains the fundamental laws and teachings.
Hebrew Bible
What did Paul write? What did Moses write? See below

Comparing the Lives of the Apostle Paul and Moses

The Apostle Paul is pivotal to Christianity because his missionary work and epistles significantly contributed to the early spread of Christianity, especially among the Gentiles.

Moses holds a central role in Judaism as the prophet who led the Israelites out of Egypt and received the Torah from God at Mount Sinai.

Apostle PaulMoses
Name“Paul” means “small” or “humble” in Latin. He was originally named Saul (which means “asked for” or “prayed for” in Hebrew) but changed his name after his conversion to Christianity.“Moses” means “to pull out/draw out of water” in Hebrew, as he was drawn out of the Nile River as a baby.
LifetimePaul lived in the 1st century AD. Exact dates are debated but are commonly accepted as around 5 AD – 64 AD.Moses is traditionally believed to have lived in the 13th century BC, but exact dates are uncertain and the historical existence of Moses is a subject of academic debate.
HomePaul was a Roman citizen and traveled extensively through Asia Minor, Cyprus, Greece, and Rome. He was born in Tarsus, in modern-day Turkey.Moses is believed to have lived in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.
FamilyPaul was born into a devout Jewish family of the tribe of Benjamin. Specific family members are not detailed in the New Testament.Moses was a Hebrew, the son of Amram and Jochebed, and the brother of Aaron and Miriam. He was raised in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s palace by the Pharaoh’s daughter.
MessagePaul preached that faith in Jesus Christ provides salvation and forgiveness of sins. He was instrumental in spreading Christianity to non-Jews (Gentiles).Moses conveyed the laws and commandments of God to the Israelites. His central message was the observance of these laws, known as the Torah, and the belief in one God.
Sacred TextThe life and teachings of Paul are contained in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, particularly in the Book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles.The life and teachings of Moses are recorded in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), particularly in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

10 of the Most Important Events in Christianity and Judaism

Understanding the main historical events in Christianity and Judaism is essential as it provides context for their teachings, rituals, and traditions.

This knowledge enriches one’s comprehension of religious texts, facilitates academic research, and informs our understanding of historical, cultural, and societal shifts influenced by these faiths.

1The birth of Jesus Christ (circa 4 BC)The covenant between God and Abraham (circa 1812 BC)
2The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ (circa 30 AD)The Exodus from Egypt and receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai (13th-12th century BC)
3The Council of Jerusalem, where it was decided that Gentile converts to Christianity were not obligated to keep most of the Law of Moses, including circumcision (circa 50 AD)The construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem under King Solomon (circa 957 BC)
4The conversion of Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan, which legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire (313 AD)The destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians and the beginning of the Babylonian Exile (586 BC)
5The First Council of Nicaea, which resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, the Nicene Creed (325 AD)The return from Babylonian Exile and the construction of the Second Temple (516 BC)
6The Council of Chalcedon, which defined the two natures (divine and human) of Jesus Christ (451 AD)The Maccabean Revolt and the rededication of the Second Temple, commemorated by the festival of Hanukkah (167-160 BC)
7The Great Schism, which split the Church into the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches (1054 AD)The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans (70 AD)
8The Protestant Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517 AD)The Jewish-Roman Wars and the dispersal of the Jewish people in the Diaspora (66-135 AD)
9The translation of the Bible into vernacular languages during the Reformation (16th century AD)The founding of the modern Zionist movement (19th century AD)
10The Second Vatican Council, which brought significant changes to the Catholic Church (1962-1965 AD)The establishment of the state of Israel (1948 AD)

Also see: Religion Statistics by Country

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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