I expected that Jewish and Christian theology would have similar understandings of morality and natural law. I was surprised when I learned that there are 800 additional New Testament commands. I know that the 10 commandments are not the only rules that Christians are supposed to follow, and I know that progressive/reform Jews (and even Traditionalist Jews) don’t necessarily adhere to all 613 Old Testament commandments, but 800 additional obligations was definitely a revelation for me.
I liked Professor McDermott’s explanation of the different faiths’ views of human nature. The tension between being fully free to choose to do what God commands and the covenantal obligations of being God’s chosen people is clear in the Old Testament. The Israelites cycle between obedience to God and his prophets/judges and worship of baals and other idols. I think McDermott’s comparison of Israel being chosen by grace and Christians being saved by rebirth and baptism into Christ helps me understand how people of both faiths (and others) can be saved. Just like Christians choose to affirm Jesus as their savior and then make sinful choices, Jewish people can make choices that abandon the covenant and then reaffirm it. In both cases, it is God and his will and his grace that redeem and save us.