‘Judeo-Christian’ Exposed - The truth of a misrepresented idea
The term “Judeo-Christian” has been thrown around with relative abandon by right wing politicians and commentators of all stripes and sizes.
Most commonly they say that America is a nation founded on “Judeo-Christian” principles and based on “Judeo-Christian” values. But what does this oft used term actually mean?
Although it sounds like something that’s been around for centuries, the term “Judeo-Christian” did not come into use until the mid 19th century and at that time, it was simply meant to refer to a Jewish person who converted to Christianity.
A simple definition, as given by the wikipedia page for the term is:
Judeo-Christian (also Abrahamism) is a term used in a historical sense to refer to the connections between the precursors of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism in the Second Temple period.
A broader definition, derived from analysis of several different sources cited below, is that Judeo-Christian refers to a specific set of values and beliefs shared by followers of both Christianity and Judaism.
The most central of these are:
- A belief in the Abrahamic God of Israel as being the one and only Deity with dominion over the earth.
- A belief that the nation and people of Israel are “God’s chosen people”
- A belief in the early Jewish messengers and prophets used by God, including Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Joseph
The Old Testament of the Christian bible is largely composed of translated Jewish Holy books. That being said, it is a bit simplistic to say: “Both Jews and Christians believe in the Old Testament”.
While both groups may agree on the events that occurred and the people involved in them, there are different perceptions and reasoning for the purposes behind those events depending on who you talk to.
And then there’s Jesus.
Many of the positions advocated by those who use the term “Judeo-Christian” are specifically Christian in nature and have little, if anything at all, to do with Judaism.
Consider this Jewish man’s experience with “Judeo-Christian teachings”:
As one who identifies with the ‘Judeo’ part of Judeo-Christian, I felt invited to click on my home state of Georgia to see whom I should vote for. The links directed me to Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum and the American Family Association—a major player on the Christian right whose issues with racism and abuse Sarah Posner recently wrote about on RD. These groups, and numerous others, have moved from describing the values they fight for as ‘Christian’ to ‘Judeo-Christian’—which is intended, presumably, to sound more inclusive.
Along with other students and scholars of Judaism I had to come to realize that this irksome and quintessentially American term had considerable political value, if not intellectual or spiritual weight.
When discussing the relationship between Christ and the Jewish faith, the above author quotes an essay by Arthur A. Cohen titled “The Myth of the Judeo-Christian tradition”. In it, Cohen stated:
The Jews expected a redeemer to come out of Zion; Christianity affirmed that a redeemer had come out of Zion, but that he had come for all mankind. Judaism denied that claim.
On a simpler level it boils down to this: Jews (except for those who identify as Messianic Jews) reject the idea that Christ was the Messiah prophesised about in the Old Testament.
Christianity, on the other hand, is based on the exact opposite belief: Not only was Christ the Messiah, he was God in human form and he came not just for the nation of Israel but for all mankind.
The wikipedia entry for the term notes:
Some secularists reject the use of “Judeo-Christian” as a code-word for a particular kind of Christian America, with scant regard to modern Jewish, Catholic, or Christian traditions, including the liberal strains of different faiths, such as Reform Judaism and liberal Protestant Christianity.
This is where we find ourselves today. The current usage of “Judeo-Christian” is a misnomer. Conservatives use the term in an attempt to make their beliefs and philosophy seem more inclusive than it actually is while quietly offending many who are on the “Judeo” side of the term in the process.
It should come as a suprise to almost no one that it’s primarily Christians who use the term “Judeo-Christian”. Its usage by a Jewish person, except in the context of an analysis such as this article, is quite rare.
It’s also pertinent to note the term takes on a certain level of absurdity when you consider that Christians and Jews have not exactly had the most friendly of relations for the past 2000 odd years.
As a matter of honesty and logic, “Judeo-Christian” should realistically ONLY be used in its one truthful context: The particular set of beliefs shared by Christians and Jews.
It’s simply inappropriate and inaccurate anywhere else.
Source article here