Christianity in Jewish Terms

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky; David Novak et al. | Go to book overview

6
COMMANDMENT

Mitsvah
DAVID NOVAK

Legalism and Antinomianism

For too long, many Jews and Christians have assumed an essential impasse between Judaism and Christianity over what Jews call mitsvah (commandment) and Christians call "the law" (Greek: ho nomos). 1 Many Christians have assumed that in Judaism the successful keeping of the commandments of the Torah automatically leads to salvation, to full reconciliation with God in the world to come. Some Christians refer to this view as "Jewish legalism" and criticize it as "works righteousness," the idea that human beings themselves, by successfully keeping all of God's law, can effect their own salvation. This charge of legalism seems to divinize human achievement and comes very close to the claim that Judaism is idolatrous, making "their fear of Me like a human commandment learned by tote" ( Is. 29:13). To this charge, many Jews have responded with the countercharge that Christians have rejected the law of God in favor of a human creation, the church; Jews have even concluded that Christian law and worship are idolatrous. 2

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