It is often thought, to borrow from Shaw, that Christianity and Judaism are two religions separated by a common book. But nothing could be further from the truth. The book of Christianity is, of course, the Bible consisting of the Old and New Testaments. Many believe the same holds for Judaism, minus the New Testament. But, in fact, Judaism’s most important book is not the Torah, but the Talmud. It is the Talmud that the rabbis study and pay little attention to the actual text of the Old Testament.
The Talmud is a difficult work to summarize. It is a huge work (the Soncino edition of the Babylonian Talmud consists of 27 volumes) written and compiled by numerous rabbis over several centuries. It is filled with legends, petty regulations of every aspect of life, and sophistic reasoning. H. L. Mencken undertook the arduous task of reading it in its entirety. Here is his summation.
“I am one of the few Goyim who have ever actually tackled the Talmud. I suppose you now expect me to add that it is a profound and noble work, worthy of hard study by all other Goyim. Unhappily, my report must differ from this expectation. It seems to me, save for a few bright spots, to be quite indistinguishable from rubbish. If, at its highest, it is genuinely worth reading, then at its lowest it is on all fours with the Koran, ‘Science and Health’ and the Book of Mormon.”
Apart from this, the Talmud is one of the most anti-Christian books ever published. It teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a harlot (Sanhedrin 106a), that Jesus is in hell burning in “hot excrement” (Gittin 57a), that Jesus was a sorcerer (Shabbos 104b), and that he lusted after women (Sotah 47a).
Though shocking, such vitriol is not surprising when we consider that it comes from those who rejected the Son of God. What is surprising is how the majority of American Christians came to believe that there is some fundamental commonality between Judaism and Christianity – the “Judeo-Christian Tradition.” That story is an interesting one. And one I will reserve for a future post.