Religion & Spirituality
Old Testament

Is Judaism based on another religion?

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June 18, 2017 5:41AM

On the contrary, Christianity and Islam are based upon Judaism.

When Judaism was founded by Abraham the Hebrew, the area where he lived was full of pagan cults; they were polytheistic, worshiping multiple deities. Abraham was the first to advance the idea of ethical monotheism: the worship of One God, and the appropriate ethical code of conduct.
Link: How Abraham founded Judaism
The Israelites differed from other ancient peoples in the following ways:

  • It was the only religion in which God spoke to the entire assembled nation (Exodus ch.19) of over two million people.

  • It made a complete break from the surrounding idolatry.
Link: How trustworthy are the contradicting theories of secular scholars?
  • Their belief in One God set the Israelites apart because other ancient nations did not share it. We've heard (for example) of Greek mythology and Roman mythology. What not everyone is aware of is that idolatry had no moral character whatsoever and sometimes led to aberrations in people's behavior, with worship of the gods accompanied by practices such as human sacrifice, "sacred" prostitution, and animal worship. Compare that to God, who reveals His attributes in the Torah as wise, kind, holy, and pure. God is One, so the command to imitate His attributes (Deuteronomy 8:6) was (and is) a straightforward matter once one is even minimally familiar with the Torah.
Link: What do Jews believe God is like?
Accordingly, Judaism was:
  • The only ancient religion in which a large percentage of its adherents were literate and scholars.

  • It was the only religion in which the people were ruled by God, with no need for a king, for several centuries (see Judges 8:23 and 1 Samuel 8:4-7).

  • The concept of morality was also the work of the Hebrews' religion, including the dignity and value of a person. It is the responsibility of the community to support the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger passing through.

  • Under the law of Judaism, everyone had recourse to the courts. A child, widow, wife, poor person, etc., could initiate legal action against any citizen to redress perpetrated harm. Compare this to those societies in which only mature, land-owning males had rights.

  • Government is accountable to a higher authority. In other ancient societies, the monarch was all-powerful. Among the Israelites, however, the king was under the constant scrutiny of the Divinely-informed prophets, who didn't hesitate to castigate him publicly for any misstep in the sight of God. And, other than for the crime of rebellion, the king couldn't punish any citizen by his own decision. He was obligated by the Torah-procedures like everyone else (Talmud, Sanhedrin 19a).
Link: The prophets
  • A robber repays double to his victim, or works it off. Unlike in many other ancient societies, in Judaism debtors are not imprisoned or harmed. They are made to sell property and/or work to repay what they owe. Compare this to the Roman practice by which anyone could accuse a man of owing them money and the debtor could be killed (Roman Twelve Tables of Law, 3:10).
It is important to note that every one of the above existed in Judaism thousands of years earlier than in other nations. Here's just one example: Infanticide was practiced in classical European nations until Judaism and its daughter-religions put a stop to it.

Link: European infanticide

Link: Israelite culture

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November 20, 2016 4:19AM

We now know, through biblical exegesis and through archaeology, that Judaism evolved from the polytheistic religion practised much earlier in Judah and Israel. This, in turn, was to a substantial extent based on the religion of their Canaanite forebears.

With the passage of time, Jews forgot the origins of their religion and insisted that they had always been monotheistic. Keel and Uehlinger (Gods, Goddesses and Images of God in Ancient Israel) say there were no strict boundaries between the Israelite/Judahite religion and that of its neighbours, at the end of the ninth century and during the eighth century. They say the god Yahweh originally came from southeast Palestine or northwest Arabia, and is evident earlier in Judah than in Israel.

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January 12, 2011 1:43AM

Judaism is not based on another religion. In fact, it was unique from all other religions of the time because it introduced monotheism along with a number of other concepts such as individual rights, ethical treatment of animals, etc.