Christianity is founded on the life and teachings of Jesus, a first century C.E. Jew. Christianity became an independent religion as it spread beyond its Palestinian borders. However, since during its first few decades, it was a sect within Judaism, there must be a relationship of Judaism to Christianity. In the “independent religion”, two elements of its doctrine are essentially Jewish. First, Jesus is the messiah, or anointed king, who is spoken of in Jewish prophetic writings. Second, the message of Jesus is the kingdom of God. Keeping with Jewish apocalyptic notions of the messiah, early Christians expected that the kingdom would be established by cataclysmic events.
The primary body of scriptures in the Christian tradition is the Bible, containing an Old and New Testament. The Old Testament is the Jewish Tanakh, which means that Christianity is carrying forward the teachings of Judaism. The dominant message that emerges from the sayings of Jesus, in the Gospels, is the kingdom of God. The concepts of both a future and present kingdom of God can be found in Jewish apocalyptic literature.
Christianity may seem to depart from Judaism as, in Christianity it is accepted that Jesus is God in human form, and that by his work, teachings, death, and resurrection, Jesus became the savior of the world. However, Jesus did not see himself as the messianic ruler of the kingdom he proclaimed, and it was after his execution that he was seen as the crucified and risen messiah who would return from heaven at any moment and begin an apocalyptic reign.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains how citizens of the kingdom must distinguish themselves through obedience to a new law, principally one of love for others, forgiveness, and trust in God. The discourse opens with a description of how the kingdom of God will involve a dramatic reversal of conditions for the oppressed and faithful, but later it turns into a discourse whose motif is similar to the story of Moses receiving the Law at Mount Sinai. Jesus says, “As you know, our ancestors were told, ‘You must not kill’ and ‘Whoever kills will be subject to judgement.’ But I tell you: those who are angry with a companion will be brought before a tribunal” (327). This idea is just an elaboration of “You shall not murder” of the Mosaic Law, the Ten Commandments. Jesus’ discourse also include issues of adultery, divorce, swearing, love for neighbors, revenge etc., which are also part of the Mosaic Law, therefore, it may be believed that Jesus’ viewpoint is Jewish.
From my reading and understanding of the text, I am not able to decide if Paul’s views on Judaism are consistent with those of Jesus. Paul interprets Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection as the end of the old Jewish law and the beginning of a new era of divine grace. He also argues vehemently that obedience to Jewish law will not absolve one’s sins, and that righteousness could come about only through faith in Christ. These ideas lead to the notion that Christianity and Judaism are two totally different religions. However, in the parable of prodigal son told by Jesus, the dutiful older brother represented Jews and the younger son represented non-Jews. This implies a totally different idea than Paul’s. By symbolizing Jews by the dutiful brother, Jesus is implying that what he has been teaching is not different from Judaism, and those who are Jews are the one on his side. Thus, Christianity is not an independent religion. Therefore, it may be concluded that Paul and Jesus have different views of Judaism.