Judeo-Christian vs. Christian


I was lurking the forums, and I saw someone distinguish between merely “Christian” and “Judeo-Christian.”

To be frank, I’ve never really understood why the term exists at all. Christian is incorporates all the parts Judaism that are appropriate to incorporate, so it seems at best redundant to append the term. Contrariwise, there are also elements of Judaism that are not appropriate to incorporate, so at worst it muddles the terminology.

Is this some sort of post-WWII etiquette thing? A social gesture against anti-Semitism? Because it’s usually instead when referencing culture, and at a historical level I’m not even sure it’s appropriate. Or at least, not to the extent that I see it used.

So is there some specific reason why the term should be used?


The words “Judeo-Christian” are often used as a modify for the word “tradition”. By it’s nature, tradition includes a temporal aspect.

I think the point of saying Judeo-Christian is to imply that such thinking and practices developed over time and are, in fact, ancient.

The word “Christian” doesn’t have the same “ancient” aspect since some Christian beliefs and practices (perhaps ones that were not Catholic in origin but are not in conflict with Catholicism) are relatively new.


Uhhh, to be honest that sounds both ridiculous, and also somewhat disingenuous.

Also, I’m not Jewish so I can’t comment on developments in Judaism, but Judaism is an active religion. So I would imagine there are new developments in Jewish thought (I mean, there used to be so I don’t know why they would suddenly stop), so it’s not just some historical antecedent that became lost to the pages of history. It’s an active religion with active members.

Frankly, if I was a Jew I would be annoyed when the term is used. As a Christian I’m just confused by it.


Why is it disingenuous to emphasize the ancient nature of something?

Both Christianity and Judaism have had developments of doctrine over the years regarding our respective teachings, but many of the core beliefs are still the same.


Not really. (I can think of one core belief in particular, but I’ll leave that as a mystery for later)

And so what if they do? Being “like” something does not make you something. Literally in order to be a Jew, you have to be born from a Jewish mother, which is not me (and I presume is not most people who use the term). I know people of many faiths (or non-faiths) that I share beliefs with, that doesn’t make it legitimate to just append my belief system with theirs.

Unless if in the new “Thing A”-“Thing B” tradition, we’re referring to only the things that are shared, does the term make any sense to me (i.e. syncretism), but those thing shared are not enough to make us the same thing.

Jews don’t believe in Christ. Christians do. I really don’t understand how Christians can just brush side that difference as if it’s some pithy minor distinction.


It probably has to do with the Ten Commandments. They are relevant to discussions like the application of “Christian values” on law. Since the Christian use of them originates from Judaism, calling it “Judeo-Christian” is technically more correct.

Alternatively, there’s a bit of Zionism at play.


I would say it’s ambiguous as to whether it would be or not.

It’s like, I hear a lot of Thomists who endlessly refer back to Aristotle (Aquinas refers back to Aristotle himself if I understand correctly). Is it “technically more correct” to call Aquinas to have been following the “Pagan-Christian tradition” or the like?

I don’t really think so. I mean, you can do that, but I think most people would find it bizarre or at least unnecessary.


I’ve used the term to emphasize that we’re talking about the one and the same God. There is only one God. Believe it or not, some Christians don’t seem to have any awareness that Christ was a Jew, let alone that this Christian faith stems from an ancient Jewish faith with a rich history.


Well, like I mentioned in a previous response, Jesus is a Jew because his mother was Jewish. Being Jewish (as far as I’ve heard from Jewish friends of mine) is primarily an ethnic or familia distinction, wherein that set of people has a certain religious tradition. But the religious aspect is secondary.

So calling Jesus a Jew is only partly true, because while ethically Jewish, he certainly would not be viewed as a practicing Orthodox Jew or the like in the religious sense. I’m not entirely familiar with the details of what Messianic Jews believe, but he could reasonable be thought of one of my understand is correct, I suppose. But Messianic Jews are a minority of Jewish people. But again, I don’t think that’s what people mean.

Also, okay there’s one God, but are there two faiths? Unless if there are, then appending to two faiths together as if they are one doesn’t make sense.


I’m really pressed for time but just to clarify, Jesus was a Jew by both birth and by practice. He completely submitted himself to the Law. He established the Church and afterwards his followers followed the teachings of the Church… the Christian faith. As far as I know, all Jews were considered Orthodox back then as the term itself is relatively new. Sorry this is brief… hopefully others will fill in the gaps.


The English word Judeo-Christian (earlier Judæo-Christian), like the corresponding German word Judenchristlich, can be used to convey two different meanings. The older meaning, dating back to the 1820s or thereabouts, is what is now usually called “Jewish Christian,” contrasting with “Gentile Christian,” when the writer’s purpose is to draw attention to differences between the two groups, usually in the context of the early Church. The later use, on the other hand, emphasises the shared heritage that Judaism and Christianity have in common. The first writer to use the term in this sense, as far as I know, was Nietzsche, whose purpose, of course, was to attack it. He wished to see European civilization free itself from the adverse influence, as he saw it, of the religious beliefs based on the Old Testament and the New Testament together. Some years later, in the 1930s and 1940s, other writers―George Orwell may have been the first, but that would need checking―picked up on Nietzsche’s use of the term Judeo-Christian to designate Judaism and Christianity together, but without using the term in a negative or pejorative way. They used it simply as a label to identify a certain strand in the development of Western civilization, without necessarily wishing to judge it either as a bad thing (like Nietzsche) or as a good thing.


I’m not going to split hairs on whether Jesus was a Jew by “practice” or not, as I think it’s plainly clear that neither the Jews of today nor yesterday felt that he was. And I think it’s also plainly clear that the two faiths are distinct enough to be separate from Judaism as a general statement. If you want to hold that Jesus was of a practice that held that he was not divine, while teaching a practice that he was divine, I’ll just leave you to it.

Not really sure what bearing the fact that Nietzsche and Orwell used the term has, (unless you’re saying that it’s done just to refute them), but this point was interesting.

I’d be curious to hear what those distinctions are, as this was the sort of reasoning I was curious if it actually existed.


Quite a lot of books have been written on the subject that seems to have become known, in recent years, as “the parting of the ways.” The first Christians were Jews, who clearly saw themselves as loyal and faithful Jews, worshiping in the Temple and faithfully observing the dietary laws, the Sabbath, and so on. At an early stage they seem to have morphed into a clearly distinct sect within Judaism, alongside other sects such as the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, and then, at a later stage still, they split off from the parent religion to become a separate and rival religion. The primary text for this history, of course, is the book of Acts. Recent books on the subject include

  • Richard Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church

  • J.D.G. Dunn, The Partings of the Ways.

Another writer who has covered the same period is Cardinal Jean Daniélou. He contributed two very interesting chapters, titled “That the Scripture Might be Fulfilled” and “The Word Goes Forth”, to this book, which I can warmly recommend, though it’s quite old:

  • Arnold Toynbee (ed.), The Crucible of Christianity.


The two situations aren’t really comparable.

In the case of Thomism, it’s understood that he took a lot from Aristotle. However, St. Thomas Aquinas more referenced Aristotle to build his own relatively unique arguments. In these cases, we refer to it as Thomism, but what he took from Aristotle we still call Aristotelian X (e.g. Aristotelian metaphysics).

In the case of the Ten Commandments, we generally take it directly from the book of Exodus. It isn’t so much that we’re reference Paul’s teachings which use the Ten Commandments as a reference point, as Aquinas did with Aristotle. It is that we are literally quoting the commandments as found in the Jewish scripture.

In other words, the Aquinas(A)/Aristotle(B) is like us(C):

  • A references B
  • C references A

For the Ten Commands (A - NT, B - OT, C - us):

  • A references B
  • C references B

Again, the scenarios aren’t comparable.


The earliest Christians were Jews, so not all of of the descendants of Israel are Jews. The two faiths are distinct, now… in that Christ fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, but the Law has not been abolished, rather we now see it through a different lens in our Christian faith.


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