Is Christianity a Western religion? Is Judaism a Western religion?
Sometimes the phrase “Judeo-Christian” comes up, sometimes as a phrase meant to represent, in some way, Western religious values.
Judaism, from which Christianity blossomed forth, not only predated the East and West as we conceive them, but is arguably more Eastern than Western. (Symbolically, let us consider the visual of Hebrew being written right to left. As with Arabic script, Hebrew culture occupies a strange place in between “West” and East” world culture).
Long before the time of Christ, the concept of Gentile and Hebrew as two very distinct and polarized cultures was cemented in the thought of Judaism and the Western cultures surrounding it.
In Western culture, the day begins with the rising of the sun. In Hebrew culture, the day begins at dusk (Gen. 1:5). This is more than a different way to set the clock—It is a dramatic difference in how one views the cosmos. We are talking about evening coming before morning in the order of the created world.
In Greek thought, everything can be categorized;
In Hebrew thought, there are no clear distinctions between aspects of life and the creation.
In Greek thought, all logic is linear;
In Hebrew thought, logic is contextual.
In Greek thought, the universe centers around man;
In Hebrew thought, the universe points toward its creator (Psalm 148).
In Greek thought, time is linear, and events occur once;
In Hebrew thought, time is cyclical, and events repeat themselves (Ecc. 1:9).
In Greek though (Sophistry), Truth belonged to those who had the greatest persuasive skills;
In Hebrew thought, Truth belongs to God and is given to man.
In Greek thought, women were by nature inferior to men;
In Hebrew thought, women and men were equal (though the dynamics between roles in the covenant were determined by creation and by repercussions of the sin in the Garden) [In Hebrew history, women were habitually treated as less than men—by “Hebrew thought,” I refer to the Torah, not cultural traditions].
In Greek thought, spirituality was about truly living outside and beyond the physical cosmos, and was to be strictly mental (hence the term “Platonic relationship”). To Plato, the body was a prison for the soul.
In Hebrew thought, spirituality was physically demonstrative (man tending the garden). To YHWH, the body was a vessel for the soul.
Greeks were polytheistic, and the gods behaved in the image of man;
Hebrew was monotheistic, and man was made in the image of an unchangeable God.
Judaism is not Western by any means. Christ was born a Jew, and he came to fulfill the Jewish law. Neither he nor his religion is Western.