Are Jewish Religious Holidays Important to Christianity?

If your wall calendar is anything like mine, you’ll have noticed that the last several weeks have been filled with Holidays from Judaism. Near the end of September, Rosh Hashanna and Yom Yippur marked the beginning of the traditional Jewish reckoning of the year. And this week, Sukkot, a more ancient celebration of both Harvest and wandering made its appearance.

To the extent that Christianity comes out of Judaism in a certain regard – Jesus practiced Judaism and all of his first followers did, too – the question naturally arises as to whether or not Christians “should” or even “might choose to” follow these customs and celebrate these holidays. It’s a solid question with a not-so-simple answer.

On the one had, there is some overlap between the theology and potential teachings of Jewish festivals and Christianity. Beginnings and endings, wandering, sin and forgiveness, and the cycle of the year are key concepts in both traditions. Likewise, the fact that many of the stories of Jesus, from the Last Supper to the Transfiguration, are set in Jewish Festivals and draw on their traditional for valuable context. It seems that knowing a thing or two about Judaism and it’s tradition as might be important for Christians in search of a deeper connection with their own faith.

On the other hand, however, the differences between the two traditions and the potential confusions that may arise as both manifold and tricky. Concepts like sin and salvations and the means by which one restores a right relationship with God are much different in Judaism than they are in Christianity. Moreover, what Jesus is often times doing by framing a teaching or story in the context of a Jewish festival is as much about modifying, changing or denying the meaning of the festival as it is about leveraging its theological content.

So, there you have it. A very thorough non-answer. At the end of the day, the choice of when and what and whether to celebrate is up to each individual believer. Just be sure to celebrate responsibly and intentionally.

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