The Roots of Judaism and Christianity

Essay by jherigstadUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, October 2004

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The Roots of Judaism and Christianity

Jews and Christians have the same roots but have developed very differently throughout time. The basis of these two religions shares some similarities, but also differences. They both stem from different places and over time have developed on their own to have their own identity.

The Jews are a people who trace their descent from the biblical Israelites and who are united by the religion called Judaism. They are not a race; Jewish identity is a mixture of ethnic, national, and religious elements. An individual may become part of the Jewish people by conversion to Judaism; but a born Jew who rejects Judaism or adopts another religion does not entirely lose his Jewish identity. In biblical times the Jews were divided into 12 tribes: Reuben, Simeon (Levi), Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, and Manasseh.

The word Jew is derived from the kingdom of Judah, which included the tribes of Benjamin and Judah.

The name Israel referred to the people as a whole and to the northern kingdom of 10 tribes. Today it is used as a collective name for all Jewry and since 1948 for the Jewish state. (Citizens of the state of Israel are called Israelis; not all of them are Jews.) In the Bible, Hebrew is used by foreign peoples as a name for the Israelites; today it is applied only to the hebrew language.

The origin of the Jews is recounted in the Hebrew Bible. Despite legendary and miraculous elements in its early narratives, most scholars believe that the biblical account is based on historic realities. According to the Book of Genesis, God ordered the patriarch Abraham to leave his home in Mesopotamia and travel to a new land, which he promised to Abraham's descendants as a...