Jewish & Christian?

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem - What happened here?
Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem – What happened here?

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about Judaism and Christianity – specifically, is it possible to be both Jewish and Christian?

And I know there are people who assert that they are, indeed, both, or who say they are raising children as both.

Here’s my difficulty with that: For a Christian, Jesus of Nazareth is God, and he’s alive. For a Jew, he is not God; he died almost 200 years ago and hasn’t been back.

It’s called “Christian” because in that way of understanding the world, Jesus is (present tense) the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God, the ultimate revelation of God, and he is, in fact, God.

In the Jewish way of understanding the world, Jesus was a rabbi who was executed by the Romans. There is only One God, and that God is completely, utterly Other: not human, never has been human. There are some Jews who do not believe in any kind of personal God; they identify as Humanistic Jews or secular Jews.

When you have people in a family with different beliefs, it can be complicated. I have relatives, whom I love, for whom Jesus is the Christ. I have relatives who think belief in God is basically fairytales. We love one another, and we deal with one another kindly and with respect. My son does not say to me, “Mom, you sell fairytales for a living” even though I am aware that from his point of view, that’s what I do. My Christian relatives do not say to me, “You are going to Hell,” even though I suspect some of them fear that’s where I’m headed. And I do not preach at them, either.   We coexist with love and occasional amusement.  I like to think that God finds us amusing, too.

If you are considering raising a child as both Jewish and Christian, I would like you to think about a question you may very well get from a child:  Is Jesus alive, or dead? God or not?

This isn’t about Christmas trees. It isn’t about bacon or bagels. There are many varieties of Christian, and many varieties of Jews, but when we say “there’s no real difference” that’s simply not true.

Image: Copyright All rights reserved by AAAPOE and 1China1 Photos at flickr

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

9 thoughts on “Jewish & Christian?”

  1. Categorically, without question, you CANNOT be Jewish and Christian. I just wish someone would tell the “Jews for Jesus” that…sigh.

  2. They are called Messianic Jews.
    Jesus is the son of G-d.
    There have been periods in Jewish history when it was thought that G-d had a wife. Read about Ahab and Elijah.

    1. There have been various speculations about the nature of God, but Jewish tradition is quite clear that any writing about God having corporeal aspects (“Hand of God” etc) is metaphorical language only. That would extend to God “fathering” children, sons or otherwise, or having relations with a wife. There were pagan influences in the very early period (Asherot, etc) which we firmly rejected as idolatry. Cherry-picking the Bible for incidences of idolatry and trying to pass them off as normative Judaism is either dishonest or naive.

      So-called “Messianic Judaism” got started less than 50 years ago as a blend of evangelical Christian theology with elements of Jewish practice and terminology tacked on as window dressing. Its deeper roots lie in an campaign to proselytize at Jews by the American Board of Missions to the Jews. While some have been lured in by the Jewish window-dressing, it rejects the most essential item in Jewish thought: absolute monotheism with a God who is utterly Other.

      Born Jews who become “Messianic” are converting out, pure and simple.

  3. That is exactly the dilemma we faced as a Jewish/Catholic couple when we decided how to raise our daughter. We came to the conclusion that a child can observe two sets of religious practices handily, but cannot follow two divergent faith-beliefs.

    In the end, though, it is important to remember that God is the destination, and everyone goes to Him his own way. The different religions are, or should be, no more than separate paths to the same God.

    1. Bette, that is beautiful: God is the destination, and everyone goes in their own way. Honoring the integrity of the path will get us to our destination.

      I’m glad that you made a choice for your daughter, and whichever choice it was, I know it was the right one for your family.

      I wish you and your family all the blessings of this complex and beautiful life!

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