I thought about the comparison between the three religions and thought that it makes the comparisons between Judaism and Christianity easier to see if you add Hinduism to the mix.
For starters, Hinduism is not a religion. Hinduism is what we call a huge variety of religions. It’s an umbrella term for all the religions in a certain geographic area. They all have similarities, so we grouped them together. That being said, I’ll try to make general statements that will not fit for every religion we call Hinduism. In addition, there are many varieties of thought within Judaism. My statements will not reflect every possibility within Judaism.
First: sacrifice. All three religions believe in sacrifice. Of the three, Christianity is the only religion that believes a sacrifice has to be an animal. The other two recognize that a sacrifice can be whatever you own and are giving up to God. However, in Christianity, there must be a shedding of blood for a sacrifice and they believe the last sacrifice needed was Jesus. Hindus still practice sacrifices and Judaism will start sacrificing again when the third temple is built. Not all Jews see a return to sacrifice as a desirable thing, but it’s obvious that some groups, specifically the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox, will return to sacrifices in the temple.
Second – One God or many? In this comparison, Judaism is the odd man out. Both Hinduism and Christianity believe that God has multiple forms. Contrary to popular belief, Hinduism can be considered a monotheistic religion. A term was even invented specifically for their concept of God: henotheism. They believe God takes different forms at different times, but God is still one deity. Christianity believes God takes three forms simultaneously: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Judaism, however, believes God is one….period. God cannot become more than one. God cannot be divided. He is an inseparable one.
Third – where is God? In Christianity, God the Father is in heaven. God the son is at his right hand. The Holy Spirit is everywhere upon the earth. In Hinduism, God may be around us and pervasive. He also may exist on different planets, corresponding to his different forms. In Judaism, God is everywhere…. period. There is no this form of God here and that form of God there. There is one God.
Fourth – what is God’s form? In Hinduism, God takes many forms. In Christianity, God has three forms. In Judaism, God has NO form. God has no arms, no legs… He is spirit. He isn’t even a he. God has no gender.We anthropomorphize God when we speak of him, but that is because we’d find it hard to speak about a formless, pervasive spirit in any real way.
Fifth – what happens when you die? Christianity believes that when you die, you go before Jesus and are judged. You spend eternity in heaven or hell. Hinduism believes you reincarnate until you break the cycle of reincarnation. Judaism also has a belief in reincarnation (although not all Jews subscribe to it). It is called gilgulim – the rollings. There is also a belief in judgement after death. The difference with Christianity, however, is that if you are judged negatively, you are only punished up to 12 months. It’s not for eternity.
Six – why are we here? In Hinduism – we are here to learn lessons and to purify ourselves of bad karma. In Christianity, we are here to choose Jesus. In Judaism – we are here for pleasure. While we are here, we are partners in creation with God. We are to perform the mitzvot and finish creating the world that was meant to be, but the primary reason we are here is to experience pleasure. (Of course, it’s not hedonism. Pleasure is attained through serving God by performing the mitzvot (commandments) etc.)
Seven – Sex and pleasure. In Hinduism, serving the flesh is considered to be undesirable. The goal is to serve the spirit. The same can be said for Christianity. Both systems pride themselves to some extent on celibacy and denial. Judaism, however, is the opposite. Pleasure and sex are good things. Celibacy is an unfortunate situation. The holiest of men have wives and families.
Eight – Pluralism. In Hinduism, it’s often thought that all gods are forms OF God. So, diversity of religion is accepted in theory. You’re not a Hindu? That’s fine. Your god is just a form of our god. In Judaism, it is believed that Jews have a specific covenant with God. If you’re not a Jew, you might have a different covenant. If you meet some small criteria, you’ll end up in “the world to come” as well. In Christianity, however, it is believed that Jesus is the only way to a favorable afterlife.
Nine – What do you eat? Hinduism and Judaism both have religious diets that are connected to the sacrificial system. In Hinduism, all food is sacrificed to God and then consumed. In Judaism, a shochet, ritual slaughterer, still slaughters the animals in an identical way to the temple sacrifices. It then becomes “kosher” and is ok to eat. Christianity is the one that diverges here with no specific religious dietary requirements.