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Religion Library: Judaism


Written by: Marc A. Krell

Indeed, Judaism and Christianity emerged as defined religious communities in relation to each other during the 2nd century C.E. Both drew upon a common religious discourse inherited from the biblical and Second Temple periods that defined a people Israel and its relation to God. Each religious community identified itself with its eponymous ancestors Jacob and Esau fighting for the blessing of their father, while both defined themselves as the younger brother supplanting the older.

Whereas it has been historically assumed that Christianity evolved out of Judaism, one could argue that rabbinic Judaism was actually influenced by its slightly older brother Christianity. One could argue that in response to the formation of "orthodox" Christianity in the 2nd century C.E., the rabbis began to legitimize their leadership by establishing a chain of authority parallel to the apostolic tradition, while inventing the concept of minut or heresy and associating it with the early Jewish-Christians. This attempt at religious boundary construction by the rabbis belied the actual co-emergence of Judaism and Christianity in antiquity and reflected an ongoing tension between these religious cultures over who were really God's chosen people that would not abate until after the Holocaust.

Study Questions:
1.      How does the “folk narrative” differ from the scholarly narrative of Judaism's influences?
2.     What was the role of interracial marriage in Judaism's beginnings?
3.     How is Judaism's creation story similar to the myth of the Babylonians? How was it differentiated?
4.     Did Christianity later form out of Judaism, or Judaism out of Christianity? Why?


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