When you hear the terms "Immortal Soul, Heaven and Hell, the Messiah, and Resurrection," do you automatically think of Christianity? This course will show you that these are Jewish beliefs as well! This 10-session course, containing a total of 2.15 hours of video lectures, will first provide you with a historical background to ancient Judaism and Christianity, and then will focus on one primary religious belief each session, including the topics of undeserved suffering, the immortal soul, heaven and hell, the messiah, the world to come, angels, resurrection, and forgiveness. Each session contains a video lecture, sample texts to study, and opportunities to interact with fellow classmates about these religious beliefs. After taking the course, you will be able to articulate how Judaism and Christianity are similar in their beliefs and how they differ; trace how religious beliefs are embedded in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; analyze ancient Rabbinic texts in comparison with texts from the ancient Church Fathers; and refute stereotypes about Judaism and Christianity. If you want to have a deeper knowledge of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, are interested in chaplaincy or interfaith work, or simply want to contribute to greater interfaith understanding, this course is for you!
Welcome to the course!
I wanted to first explain the content of the course and what we will be covering each session. This first session will focus on the historical background to early Judaism and Christianity, going back to the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament). For the second session, we will review who the major religious authority figures are in early Judaism and Christianity, and we will survey the major Rabbinic writings and the writings of the Church Fathers. Beginning in session 3, we will study one religious belief that is shared by both Judaism and Christianity. Topics to be covered in sessions 3-10 include: Suffering; the Immortal Soul; Heaven and Hell; the Messiah; the World to Come; Angels; Forgiveness; and Resurrection. By the end of the course, you should be able to articulate how Jewish and Christian beliefs are similar, and where they differ.
Quiz on Lecture 2
This week's lecture introduces you to the ancient religious authorities in Judaism and Christianity. You will learn who the ancient Jewish Rabbis were and the significance of the Talmud and midrash. You will also be introduced to the early Church Fathers and the significance of Patristic literature.
Each session will include comparative texts, so that you can discover the characteristics of Rabbinic sources and the writings of the Church Fathers. By studying a few selected texts each week, you will gain the ability to uncover their similarities and differences.
The most difficult question for any religious tradition is: Why do bad things happen to good people? We will address this question and see how Judaism and Christianity respond to the question. We will also discuss why there is no definitive answer to this question and why a variety of differing responses appear in Judaism and Christianity.
This session will delve into the nature of the immortal soul: What is the soul, and what are the primary teachings about the soul in Judaism and Christianity? We will trace the concept of the soul from the Hebrew Bible through the Church Fathers.
While many people assume that Jews do not believe in heaven and hell, this session will show that heaven and hell do in fact play a prominent role in traditional Jewish belief. At the same time, you will learn how the Jewish and Christian views of heaven and hell have some important differences over the question of whether or not hell involves eternal damnation.
As we noted in the last session, it is a common misconception that Jews do not believe in the Messiah. This session will explore the Jewish concept of the Messiah and its origins in the Hebrew Bible, the centrality of King David as the ancestor of the Messiah, and how the Christian belief in the Messiah develops Jesus as the Jewish Messiah to the universal Christ.
For this session I have added a brief reading that outlines the development of the Jewish Messiah into the concept of Christ as the Son of God. This article is written by a Jewish scholar, Joseph Klausner, who wrote extensively on the relationship between the human Jewish Messiah and the divine figure of Christ.
You don't need a PhD or any advanced degree to know that the world we live in is NOT perfect! Ancient Judaism and early Christianity were acutely aware of that life was not perfect and witnessed first-hand life's trials, tribulations, unfairness, violence, and suffering, because they lived in the midst of the violent and aggressive Roman empire. You will learn how Judaism and Christianity create parallel visions of a perfect world at the end of time that offers hope to the downtrodden and suffering.
Yes, both Judaism and Christianity believe in angels. In fact, angels appear in the earliest book of the Hebrew Bible, the book of Genesis. You will learn the various "jobs" assigned to the angels, how angels interact with human beings, and the role of guardian angels in both Judaism and Christianity.
Once again, you will discover that both Judaism and Christianity share a common belief - the concept of resurrection - the belief that, at some point in the future, the dead will arise from their graves and be reunited or resurrected with their immortal souls to eternal life. You will learn why this concept is so important to both religions and how the concept can be traced from the Hebrew Bible in Judaism to the major texts of early Christianity.
I believe that forgiveness is the greatest and most important concept in Judaism and Christianity. Without forgiveness, our world would descend into violence and ultimate destruction. You will discover that the stereotype of Christianity being "more forgiving" than Judaism is simply not true and that both religious traditions see both divine forgiveness and human forgiveness as vital in order for our lives to be sustained.
Rather than provide you with only a few examples of forgiveness in Judaism, you are going to be reading a larger selection of texts which underscore the importance of forgiveness in Rabbinic Judaism.
I have also provided more extensive readings on the significance of forgiveness in Christianity. You will be able to understand why this concept is so central to Judaism and Christianity after reading these excerpts.
Quiz on Sections 3-10
I'm Ruth Sandberg, and I have been teaching courses in Jewish and Christian Studies for over 30 years at Gratz College, the oldest pluralistic College of Jewish Studies in the United States. I am an ordained Rabbi, and I received my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. I have written two books, one on the Rabbinic interpretation of the book of Ecclesiastes, and one on Jewish law.