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Renewing Your Mind


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Cults and World Religions


Genesis 12:1-3
Now the Lord had said to Abram: 1 “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you  And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 18:10
And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

John 4:22
You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

The Christian religion claims its roots in the history of Judaism. God came to Abraham and, dealing through him, created the nation of Israel. Abraham’s son of Sarah was Isaac. Isaac gave birth to Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. Indeed, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, a word which means “he strives with God.” 169

The early prophecies show that God’s chosen would come from the house of Judah (Gen 49:10). 170 Over time, David came from this lineage. And, over some more time, Jesus came from the house of David, of the house of Judah. Indeed, all of Israel traces its roots to their “father Abraham” (cf. Acts 7:2; John 8:53). Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, and He came to bring salvation to all people. Salvation is truly of the Jewish race and nation.

The Old Testament so loved by Christians is nothing more than the Jewish Scriptures. While during the early years of the church, the actual structure of the Old Testament and the Jewish scriptures would have looked different, today they are virtually identical in structure.

And, is the nation of Israel a religion, a race, or, simply a nation? Clearly, it is a combination of a race and a religion, and the Old Testament shows the two are closely intertwined.


Under our definitions, Judaism should not be considered a cult, for the Jews clearly do not claim to be Christian. They are our transition to world religions. While the Jews do not accept Jesus as the Messiah, they acknowledge His presence in history and the world. Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century even mentions Him.

Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; (64) and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. 171

So, it is clear that world religions, upon being asked the same questions about essential doctrine, will produce very different answers. Indeed, they clearly will not see Jesus as God. They may or may not believe He was crucified. Most, but not all, will not believe He was resurrected from the dead. Salvation will become many different things, with good works and deeds leading the list.

Why Did The Jews Reject Jesus?

The Jewish nation clearly looked forward to the coming Messiah. 172 The Rabbis found some 456 references to Messiah in the Old Testament, many of them “visual” not verbal. Ancient Rabbinic literature has more than 558 references. The Jews looked forward to the Messiah. But, who is this Messiah they were looking for?

There really are two problems with the Jewish outlook of Messiah. First, they seem to have misread their own Scriptures and failed to comprehend the Servant nation of the Christ. As such, they continually equated the Kingdom/King passages as coming simultaneous with any Servant passage. Effectively, they failed to take the Servant aspect into account. Their Messiah was a great King, with a sword in hand, riding a swift mount, ready to drive the enemy away and establish Israel as the great nation of the world.

Israel also fails to understand sin and salvation. “All that Israel needed: ‘study of the Law and good works,’ lay within the reach of everyone; and all that Israel hoped for, was national restoration and glory. Everything else was but means to these ends; the Messiah Himself only the grand instrument in attaining them. Thus, the picture presented would be of Israel’s exaltation, rather than of the salvation of the world. . . . But in such a picture there would be neither room nor occasion for a Messiah-Saviour, in the only sense in which such a heavenly mission could be rational, or the heart of humanity respond to it.” 173

It is easy to take this picture of Judaism and carry it into the New Testament. One sees why the Messiah was rejected. Jesus failed to match the vision of man!

Judaism Today

Sadly, little has changed over the past 2,000 years. The world of the Jews took a severe and devastating blow in the 60s (and I do not mean the 1960s!). In response to guerrilla warfare tactics of Jews dissidents, the Roman army under Titus declared “enough was enough.” The army marched on Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple while burning a part of the City in A.D. 70. Many Jews fled the country in the face of this persecution. The land of Israel ceased to exist as any form of a nation.

History had prepared the Jews for this moment. God had earlier sent the nation into exile for its disobedience. The Old Testament book of 2 Kings details the carrying of the Northern kingdom into captivity by the Assyrians and the Southern kingdom by the Babylonians. Jeremiah lived through this latter event and prophesied the return of the Nation to the land. Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the return and the rebuilding of the Temple. History after that is “iffy” from the Jewish perspective. Palestine became the battle ground for various forces. Many conquerors treat the Israelites well. Others not so well.

But, during the captivity the concept of the synagogue apparently arose. The sacrifices required by the Temple law were “converted” into sacrifices of work and obedience to the Law. These works were structured in the concepts of ritual, prayer, and study of the Law. This would lead to a moral life committed to the Law. Ten Jewish men could form a synagogue. At the time of the Babylonian captivity, many Jews had fled to Egypt, rather than face the Babylonians. Egypt, especially the area around Alexandria, developed a large Jewish population. Many Jews elected to remain in Assyria and Babylon following Cyrus’s decree allowing their return. The structure was in place both to support and to provide the pattern for the final dispersion.

Titus drove the Jewish population from Rome. Judaism spread across the world. When persecution drove Christians from Palestine, the Christians took their Gospel message of salvation and built the Church. Contrary to this, the Jews stayed to themselves, maintaining a distinctness and an almost hatred on the part of the host countries. This hatred is not consistent, but is ever present, even down to this century. 174


Little has changed in Judaism since the time of Moses, and, yet, much has changed. The synagogues have replaced the Tabernacle. The Temple does not exist. The Jews still see themselves as God’s uniquely chosen people. In the time of Jesus, Judaism had two ruling “parties,” the Sadducees, who came from the rich and constituted the body from which the high priests were drawn, and the Pharisees, the representatives of the common people. Out of the Pharisees came the scribes, the lawyers of the law. The Sadducees held some beliefs differently from the Pharisees. In other words, Judaism was not a united body.

Today is no different. Judaism may be broken down into three groups: conservative, orthodox, and reform. What has not changed is that Judaism is built around the Old Testament in general, and the Pentateuch in particular. The Law or Torah is the heart of Judaism, and one’s views toward the Law determine where one sides in the modern break down of Judaism.

The Orthodox Jews are the true ancestors of the Pharisees. They follow the Torah and give little use to the balance of the Old Testament. In addition, the Orthodox Jew observes the traditions and interpretations handed down by prior generations. In this sense, the Orthodox Jew is the ancestor of the scribes and Pharisees, studying the Law to assure they are in compliance.

In about A.D. 200, the traditions and teachings of the scribes were committed to writing in what is now known as the Mishnah. The Mishnah contains the “way to walk,” known as the Halakah. The Mishnah was expanded upon about A.D. 500 with the compilation of the Talmud. The Talmud includes the entire Old Testament plus all of the commentaries or interpretations thereon, including the Mishnah. These three volumes – Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud – rule every aspect of the Orthodox Jew’s life. 175 This includes the dietary laws, for example, which forbid the eating of pork. This group is extremely observant of the Sabbath and will not travel or work on the Sabbath.

In the twelfth century, a Spanish Jewish philosopher, Maimonides developed a creed which is still the basis for beliefs of the Orthodox Jew. The creed taught the omnipotence, omniscience, eternality, and oneness of God, emphasizing He is the only One entitled to worship.176 God is an invisible spirit, Creator, and Source of Life. Moses is seen as the greatest prophet and the Law as the highest revelation. Maimonides’ philosophy was built around a series of punishments and rewards, the coming of the Messiah, and the resurrection of the dead. 177

Conservative Jews are more lenient than the Orthodox group. While committed to the Torah and tradition, they are less observant of many of the fine details of interpretation observed by the Orthodox Jews. One of their prime concerns is keeping alive the Hebrew language. This group is the intermediate version of Judaism. The Law is generally observed, but carefully reinterpreted to make it relevant for the modern culture and thought.

The Reform Jews are the liberals or reformers of Judaism. Their approach is to believe in the “principles” of Judaism more than the practice. They generally do not observe the dietary laws nor do they fret over the concept of work or travel on the Sabbath. This group is driven by a desire to fit Judaism into modern society. Doctrine is spiritualized and only the ethical system remains. The Sabbath has even been moved to Sunday!

All three groups do, to one degree or another, observe the Sabbath and the high holy or feast days. This includes Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) followed by ten days of penitence ending with Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, and Passover. Most also observe Purim celebrating Esther’s saving of the Jewish nation in exile from the evil Haman. The Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the non-biblical holiday of Hanukkah (Feast of Lights), which highlights the cleansing of the Temple by the Maccabees after they had defeated Antiochus Epiphanes and recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians around B.C. 167, are also celebrated. 178

Beliefs that Divide

While there is seemingly only one true difference between Jew and Christian, there is a vast degree of difference of views on many topics.

The Jews do not see Jesus as Messiah. The Jews clearly hold to the concept of only one God, but in practice, this view point denies the existence of any Trinity, for Messiah is not truly seen as God and the Holy Spirit is not a Person/manifestation of God.

The Jews do not believe in original sin. They see man as “born free, with the capacity to choose between good and evil. Each man is accountable for himself.” 179   A failure to accept original sin translates into the ability of man to keep the Law.

Salvation is acceptance of God. The Jew views His promises as being here on earth and does not stress the afterlife. Anyone may find this salvation through commitment to the one true God and by living a moral life in obedience to the Torah. This approach does not require the need for repentance or redemption. Since one is born a Jew and is not born into original sin, there is no repentance needed. Since man does not need a savior, this makes the Messiah a political hero and social deliverer.

169. Others see the meaning as “prince of God” or “God strives.” The given meaning seems closer to the probable Hebrew and accurately describes both Jacob and the Nation of Israel.
170. Genesis 49:10: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from betweenhis feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
171. Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Josephus, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. As, indeed, does Philo (20 B.C. - A.D. 50), a Greek-Roman historian living in Alexandria, Egypt, writing Jewish history about the same time. He was known as Philo the Jew.
172. “Messiah” means “anointed” and is Hebrew. “Christ” is the Greek word meaning anointed. The two terms are biblically interchangeable.
173. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New Updated Edition, Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, nc: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, originally published 1883, Book 2, 115.
174. The Jewish people became official occupants of Palestine in 1948. This is seen by many Christians as one of the necessary closing steps in the movement toward the Rapture, Tribulation, and entrance of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ portrayed in Scripture.
175. Fritz Ridenour, So What’s the Difference?, Glendale, CA: G/L Regal Books, a division of G/L Publications, 1967, 71.
176. The creed contains 13 basic beliefs and is set out in full in Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, San Bernardino, CA:, Campus Crusade for Christ, Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1983, 367.
177. Black flowing cloaks, long beards, and full black hats trademark the ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish movement. These are the conservatives of the conservatives.
178. Judaism also has its mystics. This esoteric school is known as the Kabbalah (also spelled Cabala, Cabbalah, or Cabala). This is really a pantheistic system which seeks a mystical experience on oneness with the cosmic universe. Kabbalah means “reception,” thus, “tradition,’ but not the social/legalistic traditions of Orthodox Judaism. These are the teachings of the metaphysical and are the result of the “secret religious doctrines.” The more practical followers of the Kabbalah use magic in the ceremonies. The Kabbalah is not properly a single book, but is rather a series of doctrines. The Kabbalah contains hints of gnosticism and sees the existence of female deity. For a fuller, still brief description of the Kabbalah, see Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions, and the Occult, USA: Victor Books, 1977, 1990, 173.
179. Ridenour, So What’s the Difference?, 80.




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