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ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

Analysis of Judaism and Protestantism


Vincent Corsi
University of Kentucky

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

Analysis of Judaism and Protestantism


Protestantism was conceived on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his NinetyFive Theses declaring his grievances against the Catholic Church. Since that day there has been
a divide within the Christian church, specifically between Catholicism and Protestantism. While
only Protestantism will be discussed, the background of how Protestantism was started will aid
in understanding the beliefs of its followers. Beliefs are a set of ideas and principles in which a
certain group shares. Judaism and Protestantism each have beliefs which overlap and others that
are different. Holidays and festivals play a significant role within each religion. Those holidays
and festivals are often linked back to the beliefs of that religion. Any particular group of people
has a way in which communication occurs. Judaism, much like Protestantism, is a religion that
is based around a unique set of beliefs. What makes Judaism and Protestantism similar but at the
same time each distinctly unique are the beliefs and holidays celebrated.
Any culture or religion established has a framework of common beliefs that its members
share. Protestantism is centered on the idea that there is one God, the Father, who created the
universe and continues to watch over man for eternity (Bodhinatha Veylanswami, 2015). The
Jewish people believe in monotheism, or the idea that there is one God. The Jewish people
believe in one God, named Yahweh, who has influence over the lives of all human beings. This
influence lends credence to a core belief that everything happens for a reason (Funk and
Wagnalls, 2014). While Judaism and Protestantism share the belief of one God whom influences
the lives of Earths inhabitants, there exists a difference in how Gods word is communicated.
Protestants believe that God communicates only through what is written in the Holy Bible.
Judaism believes that God spoke through the prophets and in doing established the Torah
(Bodhinatha Veylanswami, 2015). While both believe Gods words are communicated through a
written text, the Jewish faith goes beyond text, believing in communication through actions. As

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

mentioned above, everything happens for a reason. Any situation or event that occurs is a direct
result of God watching over His people. Another common belief between the two religions is the
existence of an afterlife and a Day of Judgment. Both believe that Heaven and Hell exist and
with the same purposes. Additionally, Protestants believe in Purgatory for those who sinned but
were not awaiting to be absolved of sin to enter Heaven (Bodhinatha Veylanswami, 2015).
Both religions also celebrate the Sabbath, which is defined by The Routledge Dictionary
of Judaism as the seventh day, sanctified as a day of rest, on which all work is prohibited. Rest
is extended to all inhabitants of Earth, including animals (Siegel, 1982). While the Jewish
Sabbath involves rest, prayer, worship at the synagogue, and blessings are performed (Neusner &
Avery-Peck, 2004). Figure 1 shows the
interior of a synagogue during a typical
Sabbath service. Sabbatical services
typically involve a lot of prayer. It is
mainly about building a relationship with
Yahweh and a way to show respect and
praise (Nick Willard, personal communication).

Figure 1. Jewish Synagogue in Berlin,


Germany. Note. Photo BBC.

According to the Protestantism section of Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, the
Sabbath is similar to that of the Jewish Sabbath with respect to the rest and worship that occurs.
Protestant church services are less structured than a typical Catholic mass with emphasis on
singing praises. Unlike the Jewish service where prayer is central, singing hymns and praises
and listening to the pastor speak about the glory of God is the emphasis (Clayton Meade,
personal communication). Clayton also mentioned that prayer does occur. Anyone who wishes
to is invited up to the altar to pray. The layout of a typical Protestant church can be seen in

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

figure 2. One final difference between the Jewish and Protestant Sabbath is the day of the week
on which each occurs. In the Jewish faith,
the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday
and runs through sundown on Saturday.
Christianity as a whole observes the Sabbath
on Sunday. Both Judaism and Protestantism
have many beliefs in common that make the
Figure 1. Protestant Church in North Dakota. Note.
Photo Tim Evanson/Flickr.

religions appear closer than when initially

observed.
There are several beliefs which are completely different between the two religions.
Unlike the Jewish people, Protestants believe that that you are born in a state of sin and that
through choosing to follow the actions of Christ, salvation can occur. The Jewish people believe
that sin may occur in life only if Gods will is not followed. Several other beliefs that differ
between the religions are evident below. To begin with, the overall focus of the two religions is
slightly different. While both seek to follow the word of God, Protestantism also remembers the
work of His son, Jesus Christ. Christianity as a whole is based on the principle that Jesus died
for our sins and we attend church service in remembrance of the work He did as the Son of God.
Due to the sacrifice he made, the cross has become the universal symbol of Christianity.
According to Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, the cross serves as a reminder of
Gods love for His people considering He gave His only son to save humanity from sin. In
Judaism, King David is a prominent figure who united the Jewish people under one nation. He
had a shield which was in the shape of todays Star of David (Nick Willard, personal
communication). Since David was a strong leader, his presence was well known and through an

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

unclear series of events the shape of his shield became popular. Eventually, the shape began to
manifest in Jewish places of worship and the symbol, the Star of David, became the symbol for
the Jewish faith. Figure 3 shows both the Cross
from Christianity and the Star or David from
Judaism. There were several beliefs that were
shared between Protestantism and Judaism and at
the same time many beliefs which are unique to each

Figure 3. Cross and Star of David.


Note. Photo Agustinc/Getty Images.

religion.
Holidays are special occasions and events within a religion where an occurrence from the
past is celebrated. Holidays are unique to a specific religion, however the premise of the holiday
and what is celebrated may overlap. An example of this would be Lent and Easter in the
Christian church and the High Holy Days in the Jewish religion. Lent and Easter are seen as
times of great reflection in the Christian church, regardless of the denomination. In Christianity,
Easter is seen as the most holy day of the year where churches that do not typically follow the
liturgical year calendar will observe Easter (Melton, 2011, p. 267). Easter is known as the day
that Jesus rose from the dead, in accordance with scripture, in order to enter Heaven to save
humanity from sin. For that reason, Easter is the most holy holiday in the Christian church.
Much like Lent, the High Holy Days are spent in deep reflection and to asking forgiveness for
wrong-doing (Epstein, 1969, p. 3). Yom Kippur, much like Easter, is the holiest day of the year
in the Jewish calendar year. Both holidays involve fasting and prayers. The premise for both
Easter and Yom Kippur is to seek forgiveness from God for various wrongdoings committed by
the individual throughout the year. Unlike Easter, Yom Kippur involves Yahweh judging the fate
of every Jewish follower. Christianity doesnt involve judgement, but rather only repentance for

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

wrongdoings. For Easter services, Christians usually attend church services where the
sanctuary is newly adorned in the colors of Easterthe cross is no longer draped in blackit is
covered in flowers (Melton, 2011, p. 268). Also, the church begins to accept new members
by the performance of baptisms.
Easter usually parallels yet another Jewish Holiday, that of Passover. While the two
holidays are distinct, they share one common feature of being held around the same time period.
Easter typically falls sometime in the spring, falling between March 22 and April 25, depending
on the lunar cycle (Melton, 2011, p. 267). Passover typically falls before Easter and, like Easter
has a date that moves around every year. Aside from those two similarities, the two holidays are
very different. Passover commemorates the Jewish escape from the slavery of their people in
Egypt while Easter commemorates Christs death and resurrection to save humanity from sin.
How the holidays are celebrated are different as well. In Judaism, Passover is celebrated by
eating specific foods, reading a special book, and travelling to Jerusalem. Easter is mainly
celebrated by deep reflection through prayer, attendance at church services, performance of
baptisms, and the decoration of the church in a unique way described in the previous paragraph.
The final holidays which have a slight overlap are those of Christmas and Rosh
Hashanah. Christmas time in Protestantism, and subsequently Christianity as a whole, marks the
beginning of the church year (Melton, 2011, p. 9). The season is characterized by preparing for
the birth of Christ. This time of the year is filled with deep reflection and preparation for the
New Year to come. In Judaism, the New Year is known as Rosh Hashanah. Similar to
Protestantism, Rosh Hashanah is filled with reflection, but also celebration of the year to come.
How Rosh Hashanah is celebrated makes it unique from Christmas. Rosh Hashanah involves
going to the synagogue to celebrate through blowing the shofar, or rams horn, to think about

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

Godand to act noblywe dip apples and hallah into honey (Epstein, 1969, p. 3). The
dipping of food into honey helps the Jewish people to symbolize the sweetness of the New Year.
For Christmas, Protestants attend church services where the birth of Christ is proclaimed and the
joy of His birth is celebrated. Christmas is also characterized by the idea of gift giving. Gift
giving is meant to symbolize Gods gift to humanity, his son, Jesus Christ. One Jewish holiday
which typically occurs around Christmas is Hanukkah. Like Christmas, Hanukkah is
characterized by gift giving. While Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Hanukkah is a
holiday which commemorates when the Hasmoneans recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrian
Greeksthey cleansed the Temple and re-lit the Menorah (Epstein, 1969, p. 4). A miracle
occurred when the Menorah, which should have only burned for one day, burned for eight
consecutive days. While holidays are days specific to a particular religion, there may be
similarities between the premise or customs of one religion and a different religion.
After conducting research about Protestantism, the types of communication utilized are
evident. The same types of communication utilized in Judaism are also present in Protestantism.
Judaism is about establishing a relationship with God and communicating to Him via prayer.
Protestantism also pursues a relationship with God, mainly using prayer to communicate.
Interpersonal and Intrapersonal modes of communication are evident within both religions as a
result of prayer. Having a defined relationship between two specific entities via prayers shows
interpersonal communication. Like Judaism, prayer can be spoken or silent in Protestantism.
Speaking to God through thoughts instead of spoken words establishes intrapersonal
communication. Both religions also rely heavily on small group and public communications. In
Judaism, small group communication is mainly evident within families. Families celebrate
several holidays as a family, oftentimes levelling praise and blessings on each other. In

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

Protestantism, while families are a part of the religion, small group conversation takes place
through Bible studies and prayer circles. In the studies and circles, a few individuals meet to
discuss the Bible and sound praise to God through spoken prayer. Public communication is
evident through worship at synagogues and churches. In Judaism, Jewish faithful attend services
at the synagogue where the rabbi or other clergy discuss how individuals should live their lives
and the religions beliefs. Protestants attend church where a pastor typically delivers a speech
tying a Bible story to a life situation. Both religions use public communication to deliver how
the faithful should live their lives through use of a holy text. A wide range of communication is
evident in both Judaism and Protestantism, with each religion utilizing a specified form of
communication in similar and unique ways.
Judaism and Protestantism are two distinct religions which have similar, yet unique
beliefs and holidays. Beliefs are ideas and principles which are present in any group of people.
Judaism and Protestantism are two religions which share certain beliefs (such as monotheism),
but differ on others (such as how Gods will is communicated). Holidays are another point of
which the two religions are similar and different. While holidays are exclusive to the particular
religion, both religions may share the same basis for a holiday. The communication practices of
Judaism and Protestantism were examined and found to be exactly the same with a few minor
differences. While Christianity may have become more unique through the work of Martin
Luther, today the religion continues to maintain similarities with Judaism.

ANALYSIS OF JUDAISM AND PROTESTANTISM

References
Bodhinatha Veylanswami, S. (2015). Nine Core Beliefs of Twelve World Religions and Three
Revealing Comparisons. Hinduism Today, 37(1), 36-41. Retrieved February 17, 2015
Epstein, M. (1969). The Jewish Year. All about Jewish Holidays and Customs, Rev. ed., 2-6. New
York: Ktav Pub. House. Retrieved February 20, 2015 from
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Melton, J. (2011). Easter. In Religious celebrations an encyclopedia of holidays, festivals,
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Siegel, S. (1982). The Sabbath and Conservative Judaism. Judaism, 31(1), 45. Retrieved
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