The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Judeo-Christian (also spelled Judaeo-Christian) is a term used to describe the body of concepts and values which are thought to be held in common by Christianity and Judaism, and typically considered a fundamental basis for Western legal codes and moral values.


Source of the term

Christianity emerged from Judaism in the first century of the common era. Christians brought from Judaism its scriptures; fundamental doctrines such as monotheism; the belief in a Messiah, a term that is more commonly known as Christ (christos in Greek) and means 'anointed one'; form of worship, including a priesthood, concepts of sacred space and sacred time, the idea that worship here on Earth is patterned after worship in Heaven, and the use of the Psalms in community prayer.

Users of the term Judeo-Christian, pointing out that Christians and Jews have many sacred texts and ethical standards in common, also generally hold that Christians and Jews worship the same God.

The term was invented in the United States of America in an attempt to create a non-denominational religious consensus or civil religion that, by embracing Judaism, avoided the appearance of anti-Semitism. The original uses of the term have faded, and it now usually refers to a general Western religious background. The term is commonly used by historians and academics as a shorthand for the predominant religious influences upon Western culture.

For a systematic look at this subject see: Comparing and Contrasting Judaism and Christianity

Problems with the term

The term Judeo-Christian has been criticized for implying more commonality than actually exists. In The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Jewish theologian-novelist Arthur A. Cohen questions the theological appropriateness of the term and suggests that it was essentially an invention of American politics. [1]

Judaism and Christianity have many areas of agreement, as well as sharply defined ethical and religious systems that are in some areas opposites. Generally neither Jews nor Christians want to have their distinctive traits removed by an oversimplification. Opponents of this term claim that the concept collapses these important differences, and effects a modern appropriation of Jewish identity to Christian values. They point to the traditional Christian claim that Christianity is the logical progression of, and heir to, Biblical Judaism, as precedent.

The term Judeo-Christian is seen by some to imply a rejection of Islam, the third major monotheistic (Abrahamic) religion, though it is related to both. The term Judeo-Christian values is commonly used in the West, and many Muslim scholars view this term as emblematic of a disconnect between Western-culture Christianity and Islam. Attempts have been made to unite this split, followed closely by attempts to discredit them. The term Judeo-Christian-Islamic has been coined to describe the values shared by the common history of the three religions. This term has been used, for example, by Abrahamic faith gatherings held in various cities of the U.S., which are designed to promote mutual understanding, and have drawn the participation of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. This has been ridiculed by the American Family Association [2], an activist organization of the Christian right, as a movement promoted by "Muslim special-interest groups" to make "radical Islamist fundamentalism" appear mainstream and tolerant of Judaism and Christianity. Though the AFA scoffs at the implication that "all traditions are equally valid", cultural relativism is one of the key concepts of modern anthropology. Columbia University professor Dick Bulliet has an up-coming book about this topic called "Islamo-Christian Civilization," due out in 2004.

See Also


  • Cohen, Arthur A. The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition. Harper & Row, New York, 1970.
  • Hexter, J. H. The Judaeo-Christian Tradition (Second Edition). Yale University Press, 1995.
  • Neusner, Jacob. Jews and Christians: The Myth of a Common Tradition. Trinity Press International, Philadelphia, l99l.

External links

Last updated: 08-23-2005 10:23:36
The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy