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Religion & Spirituality

What religious practices of Judaism separated it from other religions in the first century?


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November 07, 2011 6:40AM


For a study of Jewish practices, the first century CE can conveniently be divided into two parts - the period up to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, and the period following the destruction of the Temple.

Throughout the entire first century, Judaism was strongly monotheistic, although there is evidence that Lady Wisdom (perhaps the pre-Exilic Hebrew goddess of wisdom) was still venerated until the end of the century. Apart from Zoroastrianism and Christianity, all the other religions were polytheistic, henotheistic or monistic.

The Jewish first-century practice of dual burials, with the body allowed first to decompose in a tomb and then the bones placed in an ossuary or bone box, separated Judaism from other religions (apart from Christianity).

In the early period of the century, Jews performed sacrifices to God, but only in the Jerusalem Temple. Other religions had more freedom as to where they performed sacrifices or libations to their gods. Following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, Jews suddenly were faced with the fact that their own laws now precluded the possibility of making sacrifices to God. Judaism was forced to continue its worship rituals in synagogues without the usual animal sacrifices. Christian tradition says that Christians ceased making sacrifices after the crucifixion of Jesus, but the fact that Christians continued to use the Temple suggests that they may have continued to participate in Jewish rituals of sacrifice until 70 CE, after which the new religion developed its own traditions about not allowing sacrifices.