The Jews touched our Liturgical Life Vol.1, No. 17

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For some colonial influences, Christian religion was misconstrued especially among Africans to have emerged among western culture. Far from this misconception, Christianity, at its origin was a Jewish religion. Although influenced by Greek thought, culture and language, Christian religion traces to the Old Testament, and its basic language were Hebrew and Aramaic. We do not intend to question the great originality of Jesus teaching, but the tradition upon which this teaching was established is Judaism.

This historical thought will be more convincing when we recall that in one of our last series (the World of Jesus Vol.1 No. 14), we clarified how the founder of Christianity, Jesus himself and his first followers were born and brought up from Jewish families. Even in their adulthood, their practice conformed to the Jewish custom. Meanwhile through his earthly existence Jesus himself was committed to sacrifices in the Jewish temple, dedicated to the teachings in their synagogue and devoted to the prayers observed in every Jewish home. Moreover, the death of Jesus did not immediately restrict his followers from being faithful to Jewish mode of worship.

Since Jesus and the first Christians were Jews, it was natural for them to follow Jewish tradition like observing the Sabbath, the annual Jewish feasts like Pentecost, and other hours of daily prayers. The splitting of Christianity and Judaism, which took place during the first centuries of the Common Era notwithstanding, Christians still conducted their assemblies in a manner likened to the Jewish Temple, Synagogues and Homes. Thus, Judaism influenced the forms and format of early Christian worship, as we shall analyze below.

In the aspect of Baptism, Christian baptism seems to be classed with Jewish cleansing ceremony as both were applied to all and spiritualized to denote forgiveness of sin and rebirth. Facts also revealed that the interval between baptism in infancy and first communion at a later age goes back to Judaism. As regards this Jewish observance, Segal, a Jewish scholar reported that when Jesus went to Jerusalem at 12, (Lk 2:41), it was to prepare him for the next Passover feast. Again, the Jewish forms of prayer that is shema (thanksgiving), Tefillah (petition) and Lections (reading) were extended to weekday in Christian religion around AD 100 and later became the public worship of the Church.

Far more significantly, the actions and words of our lord at two points in the last supper were influenced by the Jewish mode of prayer before meal, and this is the exact format for consecration during the Eucharistic celebration. Jewish confession recorded in Lev. 16:21 influenced Christian confession of sins recorded in Didache 4:14, although with slight difference; the former is through goat while the later is by the Lamb of God. Just like Christian practice, Jewish ordination was originally by laying on of hands. Jewish Sabbath turned to Sunday for Christians because it is the day of resurrection, and weekly fasts on Mondays and Thursdays became Wednesdays and Fridays because Christ died on Friday. Indications therefore emerged that most Christian activities originated fundamentally from Judaism. Christian religion therefore has a living history that has undergone necessary cultural reformation as well as human civilization for the common good of the society and the glory of God.

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