Personal God In Judaism And Christianity By Dr. Faydra Shapiro

My dear friends,

Today it is my honor to introduce you to my friend and colleague Dr. Faydra Shapiro. She is Jewish like myself, but unlike myself she is an Orthodox Jew. Faydra directs the Galilee Center for Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, in northern Israel. She grew up in Canada and completed her PhD at McMaster University. For many years she was a university professor in a department of Religion and Culture in Canada. Her wonderful family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago and she now directs the first program of its kind in Israel. She is also a proud mother of six young children. I invited her to contribute to our Jewish Studies for Christians study group on regular basis because I am persuaded that her voice, in looking at the Christian movement today as an Orthodox Jew, offers a much-needed perspective. I know that she will offer a friendly, at times corrective but balanced insight about Judaism that Christians need to hear.

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg


Faydra Shapiro[dropcap color=”#ffffff” background=”#66a3bf”]I[/dropcap]
ntroductions are funny things – sometimes it’s what is unsaid, what is assumed, that can tell you the most. Several years ago I gave a talk at a church in North America about Israel and Jewish-Christian relations. The listeners were very encouraging and as the talk drew to a close I felt I had really done a superb job of teaching and inspiring the audience. Until the moment when one elderly gentleman stood up to ask me a question. He said: “Thank you very much, Dr. Shapiro. That was a great talk. But one thing you didn’t really speak about was the role of your faith in Jesus Christ”. “Oh, dear”, I thought, my heart sinking. Clearly I had done a brilliant job, but I had missed an essential point. Since that day I take the time to state it plainly and for the record: I am a Jew. Admittedly a Jew with an out-of-the-ordinary interest in Christianity and the New Testament, but still, simply, an “Orthodox” Jew.

That doesn’t necessarily matter much, but it’s always useful to know where a person is coming from.

Today I want to discuss an issue that comes up often in my conversations with Christian – almost always evangelical – friends and students. This is the matter of “having a relationship with God”, and the belief that this is one of the benefits of the Jesus path. While I do recognize that the whole rhetoric of “relationship not religion” is a product of 1970s popular American evangelicalism, it is an attiude that has important implications even if it might not be mobilized by many Christians. Now again, let’s pay attention to the unsaid. Having a relationship with God as opposed to what? The other (clearly undesirable) option is “religion”. So with Jesus one can ostensibly have something true and immediate – a personal relationship with God, whereas Jews only have “religion”.

Let’s unpack this a little. “Relationship” is understood to refer to something intimate, experiential, mystical, personal, friendly, deep, spiritual. “Religion” is ascribed the associations of being rule-oriented, man-made, legalistic, formal, distanced and superficial. Given these resonances, clearly having a relationship is something desirable whereas religion is something to progress past. And it is not uncommon for Christian readings of the gospels to assume precisely this – that what Jesus offered people was a personal (intimate, deep) relationship with God specifically in distinction to the Jews who only offered (formal, sterile) religion.

You can imagine the impact that this kind of slogan has for Christian understandings of Judaism.

It’s also interesting how this emphasis resonates with the current wave of people who insist that they are “spiritual, not religious.”

The fact is that Judaism takes the idea of the individual’s relationship with God very seriously. It is obvious to Jews that both fear of God and love of God are important, and that emphasizing one over the over leads to an unhealthy imbalance. But the Jewish love of God and personal relationship with Him ends up looking quite different than that of contemporary evangelical Christianity for several reasons.

First, most Jews find popular evangelical lyrics and expressions like “My Saviour, my closest friend” and “Jesus take the wheel” to be far too casually intimate with the Holy One Blessed be He, to be comfortable. The concern is that this approach casts the sovereign, powerful, Master of the Universe into a being dangerously much like ourselves.

Second, Jews believe that doing His will is the highest expression of love, gratitude and clinging to God. In short, good relationships are expressed in action. Because performing mitzvoth (commandments) often looks so foreign to outsiders, it is very difficult for Christians to recognize things like keeping the dietary laws or Sabbath observance for what it is supposed to be – a declaration of love for God.

I believe that the ideal for both Judaism and Christianity is a balance and an integration of heart and hands, relationship and religion, informal and formal, spontaneous and fixed. Our challenge is to look for the unseen behind the slogan, and behind our assumptions – to learn to see the “spiritual” in Judaism and the role of “practice” or “holy living” in Christianity.

Soon Jews around the world will be marking the holiest day of the year – yom kippur (the Day of Atonement). It is a powerful day, dedicated to intensive prayer and fasting, with some of the most profound and moving liturgy of the Jewish tradition. Several times on that awesome day we will describe our relationship to God with these words:

For we are your people, and you are our God.
We are your children, and you are our Father.
We are your servants, and you are our Lord.
We are your community, and you are our Portion.
We are your heritage, and you are our Lot.
We are your flock, and you are our Shepherd.
We are your vineyard, and you are our Keeper.
We are your work, and you are our Maker.
We are your companions, and you are our Beloved.
We are your treasure, and you are our Friend.
We are your people, and you are our King.
We are your betrothed, and you are our Betrothed.

(Click here to hear it sung and to see the words in Hebrew)

About the author

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

You might also be interested in:

Three Plus Four: Jacob

By Julia Blum

Three Plus Four: Isaac

By Julia Blum

Join the conversation (101 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. D H

    I was looking at this (for the first time), not registering in my head that 2014 was 3 years ago at this point! Oh how time flies! 🙂

    Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I found the hymn at the end incredibly moving, and even as a Christian (Orthodox Christian, actually) I was able to relate to it immensely, as I believe most in my Church community would. We also put a heavy emphasis on the “we” and “our” aspect of our relationship with God, and it’s something I greatly respect and cherish. Having community, fellowship, and oneness in our Lord is such a strengthening experience, and actually brings us so much closer to Him. I guess one thing I don’t agree with you as much on (in relation to this post) is that the song “Jesus take the wheel” too casual and intimate. For me that song represents the realization that I can’t do life on my own, and that If I try to take control for myself, I won’t be able to handle it. Since every ounce of strength I have comes from God, and not from myself I need to work in Him and more importantly, I need Him to work in me. It is important that I learn to let go of my life and submit to the authority and control of God in everything. So when I cry out, “Jesus take the wheel” I am declaring my inherent need for Him in my life. Like, “God, I am not strong enough to handle this on my own. I am yielding to Your control over it.”

  2. Devorah Tucker

    I know this is a comment from a couple of years ago, but if you are able to see this response, or for others who may come across this, a great book outlining many of the answers to this is, “Why the Jews Rejected Jesus,” written by David Klinghoffer. Excellent book.

  3. Jane Z. Mazzola

    Yes, it is an old post which I had missed until tonight, almost May a year later, & I am adding to the comments!

    I liked Dr. Shapiro’s post very much: she captures w/clarity some of our dividing lines of perception. However, I, now worshiping in a more liturgical tradition of Christianity, have experienced that concern from other of my Christian friends of “the personal relationship” in my faith life. So it is not unique to the Jewish/Christian relationship or understanding, I don’t think. Frankly, I’m always rather amused, having lived in “both camps”!
    The special assuredness that Jews enjoy, which encompasses the personal, is as Covenant graced people of G-d. Following the Law in the right spirit, seems to me, is as LOVING obedience rather than rote, & would be the ideal for a people or individual in our spiritual relationship, as much as humanly possible, w/God’s grace & mercy, Jew or Christian.
    I did like that symbolic analogy/imagery of Bethany in Sept. 2014, @ (paraphrase) reverencing the Almighty God & experiencing the mercy covering by God, like the cloak covering of the gentile Ruth by Boaz.
    Many other interesting comments & as one person stated, took on “a life of its own”! But truly wonderful to have such a forum. Generally, one hears the weekly sermon (if that) & that is the end of reflection or discussion. It has become more acceptable/comfortable to discuss even politics than the questions of God!
    Also, the utube clip was inspiring.
    Thank you, Dr. Shapiro & Dr. Eli. 🙂

  4. Sheila Dale

    Dear Bethany, my response is in reference to your comments on Sept. 18, 2014. You said that we as Christians had a different experience from that of the Jews – we did not have a Mt. Sinai experience. As I learn more about the Hebrew scriptures and also the Feasts of the LORD given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, I also have come to understand how these Feasts are a picture of Jesus (Yeshua) and how He fulfilled the Spring Feasts and will also fulfill the Fall Feasts. We as Christians celebrate Pentecost which in actuality is the Feast of Shavuot….commemorating God giving the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. I believe God gave the written Word to Moses and completed that ‘giving’ by imparting the Holy Spirit on that same day (Feast of the LORD – Shavuot) so many years later. We receive the Holy Spirit when we place our faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, are given His power to live a life holy (separated) unto God through His resurrection, and His Living Word is placed in the inward parts of our being. Hence, I believe we have had the same and yet distinct experience as those who received Torah on Mt. Sinai.

    If I have this wrong, or if there are others of you who might add to this comment, I welcome your thoughts. Shalom : – )
    By the Way….my daughter’s name is also Bethany : – )

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Shalom, Sheila. This is an old post so I don’t how much continual engagement it will get :-). But I wanted to thank you for your contribution to this discussion.

  5. Dan O'Connell

    In doing so, he undid the linking of faith to obedience in the New Testament. As noted above, Jesus repeatedly said to love him is to obey his commandments, that is to do mizvoth. As a Catholic, I submit, respectfully, that de-emphasizing doing what he commands, is an incomplete reading of the scriptures. As to “faith” vs. “religion” I believe this comes from Karl Barth. His idea was that faith is a supernatural gift from God; whereas “religion” is humans self-made attempt to reach God which must ultimately result in false worship. Again, I think something is lost here. We can only respond to God’s gift of grace as what we are, humans. I hope this perspective helps. Thank you Dr Shapiro

  6. Dan O'Connell

    It seems to me that something is missing in this discussion, that is the perspective gained from looking at the origin of this “relationship” vs. “obedience” and “faith” vs. “religion.” It is good to keep in mind that Evangelical Christianity is part of the tradition that grew out of protesting against the Church of the 15th century. One of the main issues was indulgences. This in turn was tied to ideas of merits and expiation of guilt. Luther and Calvin were discovering ways to break away from these ideas. Luther’s three axioms, only scripture, only grace and only faith formed the basis of this break. He emphasized faith to the exclusion of works to undercut the existing order.

  7. Omar Figueroa Torres

    Me interesa saber y conocer más de todo esto. Pero quisiera que me mandaran todo en español ya que yo no se nada de inglés. Por su atención muchas gracias. Dios los bendiga mucho. Atentamente. Omar Figueroa Torres.

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      Shalom Omar.

      puedes buscar este mismo artículo en español.
      Guíate por la bandera en la parte superior.


  8. Bill

    Dr. Shapiro, Thanks you for being willing to take your time to help those outside the Jewish faith understand it better. I assume you may be aware, but there is a not insignificant number of Christians that do not hold to the trinity doctrine, and therefore have perhaps a bit more understanding of the Jewish perspective. It is my sincere belief when confronted with the reality that the laws theybattrbute to Moses will be enforced in the Millennium, they have to either agree these laws are from G_d, not a man or their entire religious construct fails. And the ones I see them right most about are the Sabbath, clean meats, and the Holy Days. Just my two cents worth.

    1. Bill

      Fight, not right

  9. José Hélder Saraiva Bacurau

    Shalom RJ Sim !
    Gostei muito do seu comentário sobre Abraão e o Rei Davi, para mim o SENHOR chamou Abraão de amigo pela lealdade do patriarca,um amigo de verdade é leal,em uma época politeísta Abraão se mostrou leal ao ETERNO,por isso foi chamado amigo de D-US.
    Já o Rei Davi,acredito que foi chamado de um homem segundo o coração de D-US,pela sua intimidade profunda,sua sensibilidade com o SENHOR,quando cortou um pedaço da manto do Rei Saul, o texto diz: seu coração pesou,ou seja o Rei Davi, tinha um coração alinhado com o SENHOR, ele foi acima de tudo um adorador incondicional,esse amor do Rei Davi pelo SENHOR está expresso nos salmos,Davi atribuía tudo em sua vida vitórias ao SENHOR.

  10. Kat

    Some have confused good gospel circumstances as “savable”. Is accepting Jesus into your heart your works or God’s work? My heart was tested prior to hearing the gospel. When was your heart tested? Repentance prepared my heart for God’s truth. (Matthew 3:3) The Commandments did exactly what God intended them to do – brought me to faith so I could be justified by “faith” in Christ (Gal 3:24). The Tablets were God’s work (Ex 32:16) John 6:29 says Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Can we trust God’s work? Those he predestined (freewill) he called (Rom 8:29). Does God call only those in good gospel circumstances, or can he draw us near?

  11. R J Sim

    I think this thread of comments has developed a life that is differennt from the original from Dr Faydra, a life with its own aenda. Is that fair?
    But I would still be interested in a comment made before [16 Sep by PatriceMarker-Zahler] , that Abraham is God’s friend and David is a man after God’s own heart. About Abraham, we can read in 2 Chronicles 20.7 that a prayer includes Jehoshapat’s words, calling ‘Abraham your friend’. The remark about David in in “New Testament” not “Old Testament”. I would still like to hear from Dr Faydra a response to the idea of Abraham as friend and David as after God’s heart. Dr Faydra, please your perspecitve would interest me very much.

  12. Holly Holmstrom

    Shalom, wondering about the tradition of kaparot on the eve of Yom Kippur….. I do not understand how anyone can honestly believe that money given to charity or the blood of animals or even our heartfelt prayerful repentance can ever be enough to satisfy G-d’s requirements for justice & righteousness & holiness. Isaiah 52:3 G-d has sent the Messiah & redeemed us with his own arm!! Now when the nillah (gate) is open, we need to open the eyes of our heart &believe that Jesus is the Gate to Abba b’shamiyam & the only perfect sinless sacrifice to atone for our sins.

  13. José Hélder Saraiva Bacurau

    Shalom Dr faydra!
    Que o ETERNO continue a te abençoar1
    Suas palavras transmitem sinceridade,creio que judeus e cristãos tem mais incomum do que imaginam.Creio que o cristianismo tem muito a aprender com o judaísmo.
    Moshê preparou o povo de Israel para a terra prometida, mas foi Y`hoshua que os introduziu na terra prometida. Moshê os conduziu até a fronterira do Yardem,mas foi Y`hoshua quem completou a travassia do Yardem,porquê não Moshê?mas Y`hohua?
    Um grande abraço Dr Faydra seja bem vinda!

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      Shalom JOsé!

      Obrigado pelo tuo comentário.
      Eu quero te redirecçaonar e recomendar o bloge em Português:


  14. Michelle

    Shalom, Dr. Shapiro,

    I loved your article. Your words stirred so, so many thoughts. I could talk about this for hours.

    As a Christian, my heart’s desire is to follow my Lord Yeshua in the way His earliest followers did. I desire to walk with Him the way Moses did, to have faith in Him the way Abraham did, to commune in worship with Him the way King David did, to walk righteously before Him the way Noah did, to speak boldly for Him the way the prophets did, to remain steadfast for Him the way Daniel did, … you get the idea. All of this requires relationship. Through the relationship, obedience to commandment flows.

    So much more to say. Email, perhaps?

  15. A Passionate Worshiper

    Dr. Eli
    I agree with you; Faydra Shapiro is a valuable addition to your team! It is refreshing and enlightening to have the Orthodox perspective of a daughter of Israel, which gave Scripture to all the nations of the world. And I agree with Faydra. The lack of holiness in the (specifically American) Church is appalling. It is encouraging to hear a creditable voice crying ‘to love God is to obey His Word…ALL of it!’ So be it!

  16. Bernard

    Without Jesus nothing is beautiful

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      This depends on what you mean.

  17. Rita Howard

    Thank you Dr Shapiro,
    Yes so many Christians are too pally towards G-d without remembering that He is the creator of the universe and so Holy that if we saw Him we would die. We need to learn that He is our abba but also the Holy One of Israel.
    By the way I am a Christian (Gentile) but prefer to be called a Messianic believer.

  18. Lisa

    Thanking so much for posting this article. Being Catholic and following a liturgical year I understand what you mean about religion and relationship. I think one does not negate the other. Personally, I have learned to appreciate my own faith by learning about Jewish liturgy. Thanks again. Wonderful article. I also loved the youtube video with the singing of the prayer at the end of your post. It is very beautiful.

  19. Holly Holmstrom

    Thank u Dr Shapiro. I appreciate your reply & have learned a lot from everyone’s comments. There is so much I love about Judaism especially the concept of The righteousness of G-d that surpasses our understanding &has made a way for the Jews to be with Him. I believe the security you have in the knowledge of the covenant and the promises & the belief that you already have been chosen and redeemed, us a wonderful thing that has helped keep you strong as individuals & a nation thru all the strife the world has thrown at you. I have that feeling that my Father loves me and will never leave me but Christianity does not give that assurance in this life….. I wonder why that changed with Jesus?

  20. Gidon Ariel

    Well, thank you Faydra for posting this on our Facebook group, “Jews Who Love Christians Who Love Jews (and The Christians Who Love Them)”, thank you Dr Eli for hosting this wonderful place, and then you ask you comments for this high level, civil discussion! I invite you all to that Facebook group for similar interaction, and to reach out to me by email for more friendship and discussion with an Orthodox Jew who looks for these things!

  21. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

    Hi Tracey! I’m all in favor of productive, positive, gentle challenges. Wishing you well on the journey.

  22. Margarita Sabate Arias

    What a wonderful sing., a love poem. I am catholic and I feel the same. Thanks Dr Shapiro for sharing it. The word religion comes from latin I think and means “join, link together”. I think that from the beginning G-d wants people is joining with him, but loving him, freely.

  23. Bethany Yagci

    I enjoyed your article Dr. Shapiro, and building bridges between Judaism and Christianity I think is very important in our generation especially. I must say that I cringe at some of the things Christians say too, even though I am a Christian. Many are much too comfortable for my own sensibilities. But we have to understand that Gentiles have had an utterly different experience than Mount Sinai. Still, when I read about it, it sticks with me, and it’s important to have a balance between the One who is to be highly revered, and the One who covers the needy gentile as Boaz did Ruth and calls you his very own. Because they are one and the same Spirit when it all comes down to it. Bless you.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      I appreciate your point about balance! Well said.

  24. BJ

    Thanks Dr. Shapiro,
    You see what is not obvious to some.
    Some Christians have been doing what “is right in their own eyes” when, if they would simply read the Hebrew scriptures they certainly would get a sense of right and wrong directly from God. “To obey is better than… (sinning and having to)… sacrifice” 1st Sam.15:22. It is a way to love God. “Legalism” in the way that some Christians use the word today as “bad” is legalistic in itself, by condemning those that follow laws, and by breaking them themselves and claiming it’s fine, they become like the Pharisees who excused themselves from honoring their parents. Relationship comes when you can feel the heart of God in his provision.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Thank you for this comment. Beautiful last sentence!

  25. Dr. Stefano Giliberti

    Dear Dr. Faydra, it seems to me that the core of the question is whether or not spirituality is equivalent to religiosity.
    As the space allowed for comments here is too short, can you indicate me an email for sharing a more detailed discussion?


    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      We would need to begin with you defining the difference for me. How do you understand “spirituality” and “religiosity”?

      1. Dr. Stefano Giliberti

        Dear Dr. Faydra, I have read your message just now…Well, It is difficult to say in a few words what spirituality is… Notwithstanding, I can try, taking into account that the Lord – who is spirit (see John 4: 24) – created human beings in His own image as spiritual beings (see Genesis 1: 27), who share with animal only the bodily and socio-psychological dimensions, as they were not created in the image of God. This means that animals are not responsible of their behavior, while human being are. So we can say that spirituality is intimately related to responsibility… To complete my thought I need more space than that allotted here for comments…
        Best regards anyway…

  26. Bernard Hadebe

    According to the bible, no one will justified by observing the law as in Galatians 2:16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Perhaps that’s the difference between Judaism and Christianity

  27. Bernard Hadebe

    I don’t know which Christianity you are referring to that has mistaught Judaism . In the bible there is no religion called Judaism. The Old Testament is about God revealing himself to the the children of Israel which led to the birth of Jesus the author of the New Testament. It is expected of both Jews and Gentiles to believe in Jesus for salvation. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

    Ephesians 2:14-16 | NIV

  28. Tracey Haase

    Thank you for the introduction Dr Faydra Shapiro gave. Every time I read something from a Jewish perspective, my thoughts about christian living and worship are challenged.

  29. Kat

    Some of us only had crumbs from Judaism. I would ask Dr. Faydra and Dr. Eli what part God plays in their beliefs?

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Hi Kat. I’m not completely sure how to answer that question. Perhaps if I knew more about where you wanted to go with it, I could give a more helpful answer….

      1. Kat

        My form of Judaism crumbs = 10 Commandments + Exodus 19:8 (moral reverence). My question was “Does God lift a finger or is the burden mine to carry (works)”? The Western Christians would say Jesus died for my sins.

        My Western Christian crumbs = accepting Christ (Judaism not taken into consideration) . Problem – I wanted to keep the Commandments. Therefore, my question still was “Does God/Jesus lift a finger to help me keep the Commandments.

        But what about the wheel? Do I make the wheel? How does God (oops Jesus) take control of the wheel without giving me Commandments ? 🙂

        1. Brad Thompson

          Kat I know you didn’t ask for my opinion, but GOD has recently lead me to the book of Hebrews. It’s amazing how much light is within the first chapter alone. You can research the concept of teshuvah and G_D name Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (written with great respect). It’s a wonderful study and contains the plan of salvation for Israel and for us. G_D and HIS Son are intricately inter-twined together and can not be separated. Israel to is intricately inter-twined with G_D and can not be separated. When we attach ourselves to “the Messiah” we are being grafted into Israel. Psalms 51 is an illustration of one important aspect of spirituality in G_Ds eyes. I Pray GOD will bless us with understanding.

          1. Kat

            Brad, thank you.
            Before I had a word or a concept for teshuvah I repented. I wanted forgiveness, but my word forgiveness did not convey the Name of God. I believed God had to be just too. I prayed for “a way” (provision) for the forgiveness of my sins. The second time I repented it was for a different reason. I had added submitting to authorities to my form of Judaism (I had never been in any religious teachings). I didn’t repent because I broke a law, I repented because the law did not point me to God’s Commandments.
            Psalm 51 – I have always wondered if King David broke a law or if the laws failed to point him to the Commandments. 🙂

  30. Sharon Rothrock Dodge

    That is a beautiful song and verse. Todah for sharing.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      My pleasure. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  31. Bill Gaffney

    What you should be aware of is Christianity has mistaught Judaism and its components for over 1800 year. Christianity was originally a sect of Judaism who believed in Jesus as messiah. The original

    BillChristians were Jews who practiced Judaism.

  32. Bill Gaffney


    I hope Dr Shapiro and/or Dr Eli will respond with more detail to your questions.

    First of all miracles weren’t unique to Jesus. Remember Elijah.

    You are dealing with different messianic expectations in Judaism than Christianity. To begin with there are a number of different ones held. The most prevalent is the messiah will be a great man who will overthrow the oppressors. In Jesus’ day that was the Romans.

    From a Jewish perspective Jesus was not the first, nor the last, to “claim” messiahship.

    As far as the pharisees Jesus’ teaching was mostly pharisaical. The pharisees believed in the spirit of the law. Yes, there were a few, such as Paul, who believed in the letter.

  33. Holly Holmstrom

    Loved this article and do believe Judaism and Christianity have so very much in common but I think the way to better understand each other is to explore our differences instead of ignoring them. Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life. No one cometh to the Father except by me. Is this not true for Jews also? Was Christ a sacrifice for the sins of All people? Or do Jews do not need an advocate with the Father? If one does not need to repent and believe on Jesus Christ as their Saviour if one can have a relationship, righteousness , religion whatever u want to call it without the atoning blood of the Messiah I would like to know the truth. How can I worm that I am Be with G-d?

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Too many questions, not enough space available! I think the best answer – I am sure some will disagree – is that what mediates the Jews’ relationship with God is the people of Israel. We share each others’ merits and each others’ sins. God saves and preserves the people of Israel, of which we are each a critical part. But the role of the individual is less pronounced. I hope this helps..

  34. Brad Thompson

    What a blessing. Thank you. Another Jewish writer, I forget who but it’s in my list of interesting thoughts, wrote, “…Judaism encourages questioning, even honest skepticism. Jewish spiritual development is done gradually and with thought. That way the changes will be real, as they integrate and harmonize with your personality rather than overwhelm it.” I do believe Deuteronomy 7:11-13 will be fulfilled in its entirety; that is with both the people of Israel and with the people of the Nations. However, I do believe that there are and always will be differences between Jewish people and Gentiles; even among the two peoples who place their hope in Yeshua. However, this in normal and healthy.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Thanks, Brad. And as we can see from the comments, there are obviously significant differences between Christians as well. Dr. Eli has really built a tremendous discussion space here!

      1. Brad Thompson

        Since Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is about here, let me say that yes the disunity of the Christian Faith is a fault we, “Christians,” share. I have spent these days mediating upon G_D about this and other spiritual matters. All I can say is that I feel like the two blind men found in Matthew 20 shouting to G_D LORD! Son of David! Have pity on us! Jesus did stop and opened their eyes. I also believe Yeshua the Messiah is also leading many of us to people like you and your peers. Jews know who they worship. Unfortunately we “Christians,” at least in the “States,” lose sight of this often as illustrated by our strong opinions. May God Bless you and your family and all Israel.

  35. Roi T. Johnson

    This is a most interesting read! Thank you, Dr. Shapiro! My concern (if there can be found a question in it) is that you address the evangelical Christian as though most of Christendom understands the “personal relationship with God” in the same way. As one groomed culturally in the African-American Baptist tradition, I have long felt that our existential experience vis a vis God shows greater regard for the group than the individual. There seems to be a ready identity with the Jewish community in this regard, while at the same time acknowledging that one’s understanding of God is through the teachings and example of Jesus of Nazareth. Anyway, you’ve broadened my understanding. Thank you!

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Roi, thank you for your comment! You have broadened my understanding as well. I am not really all that surprised to think that the experience of evangelical Christians in an “ethnic” Church would have a lot more in common with some Jewish elements because of the peoplehood/ethnicity component. I would love to spend more time in African-American congregations to learn more!

  36. James Ashmore

    This article misses the point. It is not a matter of which faith offers “personal relationship”, but which one “reconciles” man back to God so one CAN have a relationship with Him. It’s really a matter of New Covenant or Mosaic Covenant we must deal with here. There can be no relationship with God under the Mosaic Contract for it required 100% obedience (a thing which no one is capable of). The New Covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah, is the ONLY contract that let’s us in, because it qualifies all men by “Grace”, and not because they have been 100% obedient to the Mosaic Laws. Also, “Judaism” as spoken of in this article is so varied in its beliefs that there IS no one faith called “Judaism.”

    1. elijahworkz

      James, I think you have a distorted view on Mosaic Covenant. God actually requires 100% obedience to Him at all times – in the Garden of Eden, at the time of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Paul and even now. The “Law” that was given to Moses actually was only 613 commandments that quite a lot of people prided themselves on keeping. The problem is not with keeping a certain number of rules. God’s law is perfect, but what God gave Moses for the Israelites was “imperfect” in the sense that it didn’t cover all the situations, all aspects of life for all times (it couldn’t really). That’s why God promised them to do a New covenant – when the Law of God (not just 613 rules) will be written in their hearts.
      It was also promised by Joel that in the end there will be also an outpouring of God spirit – what always associated with not only the knowledge of God’s will but the strength to obey it.
      We (Christians) just as Peter and Paul stated in their sermons, believe that those promises happened and Jesus’ Resurrection was the proof. Jews that don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah (the messenger of Good News of the Kingdom of God) still wait for that to come.
      But as with the Mosaic covenant so it is with the New Covenant – God provided the way for a repentant sinner to be cleansed and proclaimed “righteous”. Only then it was through the blood of animals and covered only few and now, through the blood of Jesus it’s available to all.

      1. James Ashmore

        With all due respect, when I said, “The New Covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah, is the ONLY contract that let’s us in, because it qualifies all men by “Grace”, and not because they have been 100% obedient to the Mosaic Laws.” There IS a difference between 100% obedience to all the Mosaic commands, and those of Messiah. It IS impossible for Jews to have a right relationship with God under the Mosaic Covenant, as Paul said, “By the works of the Law shall NO FLESH be justified..” Also, “as many as are of the WORKS OF THE LAW are UNDER THE CURSE…” There is no way around it, the Mosaic Cov. was a composite whole, and to break it in even ONE POINT, meant a violation of the entire Contract.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          James, please, check Jer.31 again it is made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Hence the implications.

          1. James Ashmore

            So then, are you implying that Gentiles can have no part in the New Covenant? I am missing your point here. Thanks.

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            There is no new covenant with Gentiles. There can not be one. After all how can it be new if it was not one (old) before? Gentiles join the New Covenant that was made with Judah and Israel (Jer.31). Gentiles become co-heirs with them not separatly from them. That’s the point.

          3. James Ashmore

            So then, in my original remark, “It IS impossible for Jews to have a right relationship with God under the Mosaic Covenant, as Paul said, “By the works of the Law shall NO FLESH be justified..” Also, “as many as are of the WORKS OF THE LAW are UNDER THE CURSE…There is no way around it, the Mosaic Cov. was a composite whole, and to break it in even ONE POINT, meant a violation of the entire Contract.”
            HOW CAN THE “JEW” HAVE A RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD UNLESS HE COMES UNDER THE NEW COVENANT? Paul, a Jew, said, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even WE have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified…”

        2. Brad Thompson

          My understanding of covenants is like this…a covenant is made with all people involved agreeing to the terms. If the terms of the contract are broken, then the innocent party has grounds for redress. Redress is often spelled in the covenant, but not always. GOD’S covenants are conditional, but the covenant itself is irrevocable (I believe). Most of the time, the guilty party is taken to court to be judged. GOD’S judge for Israel is “the Messiah.” He will make the final determination. Bottom line it’s GOD’S choice. How about Isaiah 29:24, “Those whose spirits stray will come to understand, and those who complain will learn their lesson.” Something to think about.

          1. elijahworkz

            James, you are confusing “God’s law that he commanded to keep” and “works of the law” – it’s not the same thing. Paul is arguing against a belief that “choosing starts with the Law”. Some believed that they are “God’s chosen people” because of the Law that was given. And Paul argues in Romans (by pointing to Abraham) that they were chosen first and then the Law was given. God chose Abraham, He called him – and Abraham’s obedience showed his faith and counted to him as righteousness.
            So the point in question is how the person becomes a part of “God’s chosen people”. Whether or not to obey God’s Law was never questioned by Paul (Acts 21:20-26)

        3. Brad Thompson

          My understanding is we practice “the faith of Jesus Christ.” We do not practice our faith in Jesus Christ, nor does Jesus’s faith in GOD save us. Jesus practiced / taught perfectly. He worshipped GOD under the old covenant perfectly. If we love him than we will practice the same faith Jesus Christ had in GOD. That is GOD is always the priority, gaining victory over temptation, and worshipping GOD without hypocrisy or biasness toward nobody. Isn’t the new covenant about the outpouring of the GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT on the Gentiles who believe? Practicing Jews already believe and will believe in Him when Jesus Christ returns to fulfill the remaining part of the Messiah prophecies. Have faith friend.

      2. James Ashmore

        You say, “God’s law is perfect, but what God gave Moses for the Israelites was “imperfect” This seems like double-talk. You say God’s Law is “perfect” and then you say what God gave Moses for Israel was NOT. Are you saying Moses gave Israel something DIFFERENT than God’s Law???

        1. elijahworkz

          James, please read what I said carefully: “what God gave Moses for the Israelites was “imperfect” in the sense that it didn’t cover all the situations, all aspects of life for all times”
          “imperfect” in the sense “incomplete”. It’s still God’s law but given to the specific people with specific circumstances. Pharisees problem was – they thought that by perfectly keeping just those 613 commandments (and bunch of other man-made rules however well intended) is what made them righteous. So their faith was in their works, in their own righteousness and not in God.

  37. Bill Gaffn

    Thank you Dr Shapiro.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      My pleasure, Bill.

  38. Bernard Hadebe

    Why wouldn’t we accept the fact that Judaism and Christianity are two different things. Attempting to reconcile the two would be a waste of time. Judah is suppose to be one of the tribes of Israel not a religion that is if I understand my bible. The condition for becoming a Jew one must be born from a Jewish family, however, to become a Christian one must believe that Jesus is the son of God and believe that he died and rose from the dead. Christians are saved by grace, whereas Jews hope to be saved by keeping the law. The two cannot reconcile in my view.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      I very much agree with you about acknowledging that Judaism and Christianity are different, and not feeling pressured to reconcile them. There are many distinctives and it was not my goal to diminish them but rather to draw attention to an ostensible distinctive that is used to denigrate Jews and Judaism.

  39. Bernard Hadebe

    Thank you for thoughts Dr Shipiro. However, I disagree with most of your assertions about evangelicals. It’s Jesus himself who said, John‬ ‭15‬:‭13-15‬ Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. That’s the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus is our friend, our king and he is the mediator between man and God. He also our redeemer and saviour. If Jesus call me friend, why wouldn’t I reciprocate ?

  40. Lynelle Osburn

    Thank you for this introduction and statement of deep commitment and the song. I too have trouble with the “Jesus is my mate” school of thought. While we manifest the relationship we have with The Almighty through action, those actions are not necessarily essential. For some of us, we are in positions were we are imprisoned, in refugee camps, in bodies that require assistance from others for us to continue to live quality lives. For those of us with less freedom the relationship is no less and can be deeper because The Almighty is and our hearts are open. For differences in diet and practice I refer to Romans 1-14. Shalom.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Thank you – there’s a lovely Chassidic story told in many variations about Reb Zusia. There isn’t enough room to print it here but do look it up. The idea is that the challenge – what G-d wants from us – is to be the best “us”. We all have different abilities and disabilities. We still need to work on becoming the true people that G-d meant us to be.

  41. Patrice Marker-Zahler

    Thank you for the article. Yes the Christian religion is based on a relationship with our heavenly Father, however we look to the Old Testament to understand and learn from the patriarchs and heroes of the Old Testament what it meant to have that relationship with God. We see Adam walking and talking with him in the garden; Noah by faith listening to Him and taking His direction on how to build and arc while his family had not been born yet. Abraham is known as a friend of God, because of his relationship he with Him and his faith in God. David is known as the man after Gods’ own heart. I could go on, but you get the point, this relationship not religion idea goes way back before the 1970.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Quite. Judaism too has emphasized a relationship with God before the 1970s! My point was simply that the slogan has become a hallmark of a particular kind of Christianity in a specific time and culture.

    2. R J Sim

      Patrice, are the phrases Abrahahm is “friend of God” and David is “a man after God’s own heart” from the Hebrew Bible or the Christian New Testament, so-called. I’d like to learn from Dr Faydra if Jewish people also think of Abrah and David in this way. I don’t know, but would like to! Please take time to respossnd Dr Faydra.

  42. Dr Karl Thompson

    I read with interest Dr Faydra Shapiro’s, article entitled ‘Personal God in Judaism and Christianity’ and it is clear that there was concern about a perceived flippancy and over familiarity by some people who have come in Messiah’s name ( Westernised as ‘Christ’) again I would like to add as per Wolf Paul above that serious believers in Yeshuah Messiah as the true promised Messiah from the Torah, do not subscribe to this irreverent attitude. Yeshuah Messiah who ( see John 4) told the Samaritan woman plainly that He is Messiah – I the one speaking to you am he with reference to the Torah accepted by both Jews and Samaritans is the prophet Moshe said all Jews should hear. He said, ‘Eloi’.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      I in no way meant to suggest that all Christians or even all 21st century American evangelical Christians have this attitude. I know many Christians for whom this kind of talk is utterly foreign. But even without an overly-familiar kind of attitude, it is still not uncommon to hear some variant on the idea of (good) relationship vs. (bad) religion as characterizing Christianity vs. Judaism.

  43. David Hereford

    Thank you so much for this post! Most of the evangelicals around here wouldn’t have a clue what to do with His command to go to a city and kill every man woman, and child. The picture of balancing fear and love of Father is the perfect portrait of what we are missing here in America

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      I’m going to be perfectly honest here and say that I’m not sure how I would manage such a command either.

  44. R J Sim

    This so nicely shows how loving obedience should flow out from receiving the grace of the Covenant God. A great pleasure to read and to listen .

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Ah, obedience. It’s always such an issue. But yes, the “loving obedience” (well said) is the right expression of our gratitude for the Covenant, and not as some would believe a matter of trying to win points with God and earn salvation. That might be a good topic for another post!

      1. R J Sim

        Yes, please, follow this comment with a post about receiving salvation. I’d like to hear your thoughts, Dr Faydra.

  45. Donna Max

    I really enjoyed this article and the opportunity to connect with an Orthodox Jew. I have taught religion on the air to over 150,000 people a week for 20 years and there are still some questions that interest me and which I feel could possibly improve my teaching about the Jewish Orthodox religion (when the subject comes up). Could I e-mail you direct Dr. Shapiro, as those questions come to mind?

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      I would be happy to help if I can. You are very welcome to contact me by email!

  46. Clarence Wagner

    Thank you Dr. Shapiro for this important article for both Jews and Christians. As a Christian, I have taught a similar message to Christians to bring them to the same understanding and conclusion that there is much that Christianity and Judaism share, including both relationship and religion combined. You premise in correct on what “most Christians” think about Judaism as a “religion” that is all rule and little relationship, and your response is so well thought out and presented. I am sharing this article with many.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Clarence, thank you for sharing and for all the good work that you do.

  47. Linda Brimigion

    I don’t understand why Orthodox Jews don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah. Why don’t they? Did He not demonstrate His ability to perform miracles? Are Jews like the Pharisees and Sadducess of Jesus’ time?
    I really would like to understand.

    1. Luis R. Santos


      One strong possibility could lie in Christendom’s distortion of Jesus/Yeshua as it left the Jewish roots with gentile leadership and purposely reinvented a new religion distinct from Judaism. One such aspect of the reinvention is the relationship of the believer, both Jew & Gentile, to Torah mitzvahs.

      Duet: 13 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.

      The test for a false prophet as outline above, even though he may be a miracle workers, lies in his living and teaching observance to “the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk”.

      What have you been taught from the pulpit about Jesus/Yeshua or believers’ relationship to the Torah?

      1. Linda Brimigion

        In my study of the Bible, I have learned that Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament (for example in Isaiah). When Abraham was going to offer Isaac as a sacrifice as instructed by God, Abraham told Isaac that God woud provide the lamb A ram was caught in the thicket – not a lamb. God did provide the perfect lamb. Jesus was the perfect lamb sent by God to the Jews because they are God’s chosen people, but when the Jews rejected Jesus, God charged His disciples to preach the good news to the gentiles. Jesus’ whole purpose on earth was to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

    2. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Linda, shalom. So much to say, so little space allowed in a comment! Why don’t you contact me by email for this conversation…

      1. Linda Brimigion

        Dr. Shapiro: what is your e-mail address?

        1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

          You can reach me at

  48. Deborah G.

    Very interesting perspective! As a Christian I am reminded of Jesus’ words: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Also, the beautiful song shows the personal relationship with God, for “betrothed” is deeply personal. Rich and fascinating!

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Thank you for your comment, Deborah. I am very much looking forward to praying the beautiful liturgy of Rosh Hashana next week!

  49. Wolf Paul

    Thank you, Dr. Shapiro, for this article and the thoughts on the contemporary relationship talk in evangelical Christianity.
    This is just to say that it is not only Jews who are uncomfortable with the “God is my buddy” approach ; many of us Christians share this unease and prefer a way of relating to God that acknowledges his infinite greatness and otherness.
    And even Jesus himself said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” — so mitzvoth should not be a foreign concept to Christians, either 🙂

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Quite right, Wolf – it should not be so foreign!

  50. Luis R. Santos

    Dr. Eli,

    Please let Faydra know of my delight in reading her article.

    Her statement “Second, Jews believe that doing His will is the highest expression of love, gratitude and clinging to God. In short, good relationships are expressed in action. Because performing mitzvoth (commandments) often looks so foreign to outsiders, it is very difficult for Christians to recognize things like keeping the dietary laws or Sabbath observance for what it is supposed to be – a declaration of love for God.” is the theme of my Shabbat study group (made up of mostly gentile Christians).

    Thank you Dr Faydra!

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Thank you, Luis. Your shabbat study group sounds very interesting!

      1. Luis R. Santos

        Our group follows the traditional 1 year Torah cycle. We take turns reading the aliyot and discuss the passages. It’s a mini yeshiva!

  51. elijahworkz

    Great post! Thank you so much. There are a lot of misconceptions about Judaism in Christianity. I really appreciate what you, Amy-Jill Levine’s, Pinchas Lapide and many others are doing for the Jewish-Christian Dialogue.

    1. Dr. Faydra Shapiro - Galilee CSJCR

      Thank you for your kind words and for grouping me with such superb scholars. There are indeed many mutual misconceptions, and a lot of work to do for all of us who care passionately about these issues! 🙂