Judaism

What was the origin of Judaism?

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2014-11-19 19:38:21
2014-11-19 19:38:21

Biblical tradition says that Abraham was the first in his line to worship God. A midrash of the common era says that Abraham realised that the idols of the gods of his father had no power and so sought the real God. To some, this is the origin of Judaism.

Judaism is largely defined by the first five books of The Bible, which Moses is often credited with having written, presumably with divine guidance. Moses is also credited with leading the Israelites out of Egypt and with receiving the commandments from God. To some, this is the origin of Judaism.

Liberal scholars tell us that the Torah could not have been written by Moses, but are composed from input from several sources, usually known as J, E, D and P. The sources known as J and E seem to date back to early in the first millennium BCE. D dates from before 600 BCE and P probably lived during the Babylonian exile. We use designations such as J, E, D and P because we do not know their real name.

Other scholars tell us that the Exodus did not happen in the way it is described in the Bible, but must have been created by the biblical authors, many centuries after the supposed events. If so, Judaism as we know it evolved during the middle of the first millennium BCE and reached recognisable form during the Babylonian exile.

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2014-11-19 17:30:44
2014-11-19 17:30:44

Link: Was Judaism monotheistic

Link: Archaeology

Tradition states that Abraham (18th century BCE) founded Judaism, and Moses later received the Torah from God.

Abraham, tenth-generation descendant of Noah, of Hebrew lineage, was the son of Terah, uncle of Lot, father of Isaac, grandfather of Jacob, and forefather of the Israelites. His story is in Genesis ch.11 (end), through ch.25. Jewish tradition states that he was the first to actively spread belief in One God; and it is in his merit that Jews continue to exist (Genesis 18:19, and ch.17).

Link: Abraham's Hebrew ancestry
Abraham came from ancestry that had been aware of God a couple of centuries earlier but had afterwards slipped into idolatry (Joshua 24:2).

By the time of Abraham, the area where he lived was full of pagan cults; they were polytheistic, worshiping multiple deities.

Link: How polytheism began

Abraham became the first to advance the idea of ethical monotheism: the worship of One God, and the appropriate ethical code of conduct.


Nimrod, the idolatrous tyrant, had brought Abraham's father (Terah) from the Semitic ancestral seat near the confluence of the Balikh and the Euphrates, and instated him in a position of power in his army in the royal Babylonian city of Ur, where Abraham was born. Nimrod persecuted any who would question his idolatrous cult.


The Kuzari (Rabbi Judah HaLevi, 1075-1141) states that Abraham was gifted with high intelligence; and, as Maimonides (1135-1204) describes, Abraham didn't blindly accept the ubiquitous idolatry. The whole populace had been duped, but the young Abraham contemplated the matter relentlessly, finally arriving at the conclusion that there is One God and that this should be taught to others as well. This is what is meant by his "calling out in the name of the Lord" (Genesis ch.12).

As a young man, he remonstrated with passersby in public, demonstrating to them the falsehood of their idols; and our tradition tells how he was threatened and endangered by Nimrod.
Subsequently, Terah relocated to Harran; and it is here that Abraham began to develop a circle of disciples (Rashi commentary, on Genesis 12:5).


Later, God told Abraham in prophecy to move to the Holy Land, which is where he raised his family.


He continued his contemplations, eventually arriving at the attitudes and forms of behavior which God later incorporated into the Torah given to Moses.


Abraham became the greatest thinker of all time. His originality, perseverance, strength of conviction, and influence, cannot be overestimated.

Abraham, with God's help, trounced the supremacy of the evil Nimrod.

He received God's promise of inheriting the Holy Land (Genesis ch.13).

He strove to raise a family (Genesis ch.15, 17, and 24) which would serve God (Genesis 18:19); and God eventually blessed his efforts, granting him numerous descendants (ibid., ch.16, 21 and 25), in keeping with His promise (Genesis ch.17).

Abraham founded the Jewish people and lived to see his work live on in the persons of Isaac and Jacob; and he taught many other disciples as well (Talmud, Yoma 28b).

He saved the population of the south of Canaan from invading foreign kings (Genesis 14); and he was feared by neighboring kings (ibid., ch.12 and 20).

Abraham gave tithes (Genesis ch.14), entered into a covenant with God (Genesis ch.15 and 17), welcomed guests into his home (Genesis ch.18) unlike the inhospitable Sodomites (Genesis ch.19), prayed for people (Genesis ch.18), rebuked others when necessary (Genesis ch.20), eulogized and buried the deceased (Genesis ch.23), and fulfilled God's will unquestioningly (Genesis ch.22).

He became renowned as a prince of God (Genesis 23:6).

The gravesite of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives (Genesis 49:29-32) is located in Hebron and has been known and attested to for many centuries.


All of the above practices of Abraham were based upon the ways of God, which Abraham understood through his contemplations. These, and similar personality traits, were the teachings of Abraham and his descendants (unlike idolatry, which had no moral character; with worship of the gods accompanied by things such as human sacrifice, "sacred" prostitution, and animal worship). Link: Pagan practices


It is therefore clear why God expresses His love for Abraham (Isaiah 41:8) and calls Himself the God of Abraham (Genesis 26:24), and says that Abraham obeyed Him fully (Genesis 26:5). And this is why Abraham is credited with having begun the religion which became known as Judaism. (However, Abraham and his descendants observed their traditions voluntarily, until the Giving of the Torah to Moses 3325 years ago, when God made it obligatory.)

Link: Did Judaism change

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2013-08-27 23:54:41
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Judaism developed historically in the Near East over many centuries. Under the Roman Empire, Jewish communities were established outside the Near East, but in 70 CE the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, and the Jews scattered in the Diaspora.

AnswerThe Hebrews were led by moses, out of Egypt, away from slavery. As they were traveling in the desert, Moses was believed to have made a deal with God and also received the 10 commandments. If the Hebrews (aka Jews) made God their one and only creator of heaven and Earth, he would make them the elect people.

AnswerBiblical tradition says that Abraham was the first in his line to worship God. A midrash of the common era says that Abraham realised that the idols of the gods of his father had no power and so sought the real God. To some, this is the origin of Judaism.

Judaism is largely defined by the first five books of the Bible, which Moses is often credited with having written, presumably with divine guidance. Moses is also credited with leading the Israelites out of Egypt and with receiving the commandments from God. To some, this is the origin of Judaism.

Liberal scholars tell us that the Torah could not have been written by Moses, but are composed from input from several sources, usually known as J, E, D and P. The sources known as J and E seem to date back to early in the first millennium BCE. D dates from before 600 BCE and P probably lived during the Babylonian exile. We use designations such as J, E, D and P because we do not know their real name.

Other scholars tell us that the Exodus did not happen in the way it is described in the Bible, but must have been created by the biblical authors, many centuries after the supposed events. If so, Judaism as we know it evolved during the middle of the first millennium BCE and reached recognisable form during the Babylonian exile.

AnswerThe roots of Judaism date back to around 1800 B.C., when Abraham refused to worship the idols which were common during that period. He is considered by most Jews to be the first to believe in a single god. Judaism in its more organized form has began with Moses, who is believed to have received the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai after the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt, around 1500 B.C. AnswerIn 1943 B.C.E., God chose Abram to be his special servant and later made a solemn oath to him. Nearly 4,000 years ago, Abram emigrated from the thriving metropolis of Ur of the Chaldeans in Sumeria to the land of Canaan, of which God had stated: I will assign this land to your offspring (Genesis 11:31, 12:7). He is spoken of as Abram the Hebrew in Genesis 14:13, although his name was later changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:4-6). From him the Jews draw a line of descent that begins with his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:27-29). Israel had 12 sons, who became the founders of the 12 Israelite tribes. One of those was Judah, from which name the word Jew was eventually derived (2 Kings 16:6).

In time, the term "Jew" was applied to all Israelites, not just the descendants of Judah (Esther 3:6; 9:20). Because the Jewish genealogical records were destroyed in 70 C.E. when the Romans razed Jerusalem, few Jews today can accurately determine from which tribe they are descended. Nevertheless, over the millennia, the ancient Jewish religion has survived and developed. Today Judaism is practiced by millions of Jews in the Republic of Israel and the Diaspora (dispersion around the world).

AnswerBiblical tradition says that Abraham was the first in his line to worship God. This would place the starting date of Judaism at around 2000 BCE. A midrash (non-binding Jewish tradition) says that Abraham realised that the idols of the gods of his father had no power and so sought the real God.

Judaism is also sometimes regarded as starting with Moses because God gave him the ten commandments, and because he is often credited with writing the first 5 books of the Bible - the Pentateuch or Torah - which largely define Judaism. this would place the starting date of Judaism around 1400 BCE, based on the traditional date for the death of Moses.

Perhaps it is not possible to arrive at a better answer than either of the traditional dates. However, within the constraints of a short answer, I will try to indicate the date that some scholars accept. This is not to claim, by any means, that all scholars are in agreement on this sensitive issue.

We now know that the first five books are composed from input from several sources, usually known as J, E, D and P. The sources known as J and E seem to date back to early in the first millennium BCE. D dates from before 600 BCE and P probably lived during the Babylonian exile. In order to establish when Judaism really began, we need to go backwards from this date to find the earliest reliable evidence of Judaism.

During part of the tenth century BCE, the Hebrew people are said to have lived in a United Kingdom, ruled from the wealthy city of Jerusalem, in what was to become Judah, by kings who worshiped the God of Judaism. King David conquered the well-fortified city of Jerusalem early in his reign. Because of swingeing taxes imposed by Solomon and his successor, the northern kingdom, Israel, broke away and asserted its independence. However, archaeologists tell us that there was no city of Jerusalem for David to conquer. Finkelstein goes as far as to say that the population of the whole of Judah during the relevant period was only about 40,000 - a fairly small crowd for a major football match today, and surely too small to subjugate the much larger and more prosperous northern state of Israel. Without further evidence, we can not rely on Judaism having existed during the time of Saul, David and Solomon.

We know from the Bible that the northern kingdom, Israel, was at all times polytheistic. The biblical references to the kings of Israel show every one of them as polytheistic in their beliefs. Biblical references that tell us about popular religion in Israel - what the people themselves believed - show that the nation was polytheistic from its inception until its destruction by the Assyrians.

Judaism must have begun in the southern Hebrew state of Judah. We also know from the Bible that Judah was polytheistic until the reign of Hezekiah, who made a failed attempt to impose monotheism in the 7th century BCE. Arguably, if a recognizable forerunner of Judaism existed before this time, it was only a small sect, constantly at odds with the powerful kings of Judah. Hezekiah's son, Manasseh, allowed polytheism to flourish once again, evidence that monotheism had not taken root among the ordinary people.

Almost a century after Hezekiah, King Josiah reinstituted the reforms of his ancestor. During this period, the "book of law", believed to be Deuteronomy was 'found' in the Temple during renovations. Scholars say that the D source (the Deuteronomist) lived during the reign of Josiah and not only completed much of the Pentateuch, but also wrote the Deuteronomic history - the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. These reforms, the largely successful permanent reintroduction of monotheism and the substantial completion of major works of the Bible, could be regarded as the origin of Judaism - late in the seventh century BCE.

We can identify changes to the theology of the Bible, starting during the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE. If we regard the new ideas absorbed during this period as essential to the definition of Judaism, then the start date of Judaism could be 500 BCE or later.

AnswerJudaism itself, according to the Bible, had its origins at the time of Moses when God firstly revealed the divine name to Moses, then gave the Law at Sinai. Judaism, although having a historical development, does not trace its origins to Judah, either before or after the exile, but ultimately to God Himself. Moses was the chief human agent. Judah maintained the monotheistic religion of Israel to a greater extent than did the totally apostate Northern Kingdom and continued and expanded it post-exile. AnswerThe one and only religion of Israel was distinctly monotheistic in nature. The scriptures attest that the religion of Israel was wholly monotheistic from its inception through Moses as well as back into the patriarchal period.

1. The God of Israel was the only God of the patriarchs:

Exodus 3:15 (King James Version)

15And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

On fifteen other occasions the God of Israel is referred to as the "God of Abraham", twelve of them in Genesis. On thirteen other occasions He is referred to as the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

2. The God of Israel was the only God revealed to Moses:

Since Moses is the central founding figure of the religion of Israel (Abraham being the genetic father of the Jewish nation) it is important to know what was revealed to him about God. There is not one single reference which demonstrates that Moses was polytheistic in either practice or in his teaching.

The God who revealed himself to Moses in Exodus 3, was the one God that Moses worshiped and the one and only God of Israel. This God Moses worshiped and served all his days.

3. Departure from the one true God (Monotheism) was warned against prior to the entry into Canaan:

This occurs primarily in Canaan and demonstrates that in the wandering in the desert, the Israelites worshiped the one true God. The glaring exception of course being the making of the idol at Sinai. This exception does not demonstrate that they were polytheistic, since this was a departure and an aberration, a grievous departure from the one God who led them out of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 18:9 (King James Version)

9When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations...

12For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee...

14For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

If polytheism and not the monotheistic worship of one God was indeed the religion of Israel, then these commands would be utterly meaningless - they would just be continuing as they left off if they were already polytheists.

Answer:According to tradition, Abraham founded Judaism, and Moses later received the Torah from God.

Abraham, tenth generation descendant of Noah, of Hebrew lineage, was the son of Terah, uncle of Lot, father of Isaac, grandfather of Jacob, and ancestor of the Israelites. His story is in Genesis ch.11 (end), through ch.25. Jewish tradition states that he was the first to teach belief in One God; and it is in his merit that Jews continue to exist (Genesis 18:19, and ch.17).

Abraham (18th century BCE) came from ancestry that had been God-fearing a couple of centuries earlier but had afterwards slipped into idolatry (Joshua 24:2). Nimrod, the idolatrous tyrant, had brought Abraham's father (Terah) from the Semitic ancestral seat near the conjunction of the Balikh and the Euphrates, and instated him in a position of power in his army in the royal Babylonian city of Ur, where Abraham was born. Nimrod persecuted any who would question his idolatrous cult.

The Kuzari (Rabbi Judah HaLevi, 1075-1141) states that Abraham was gifted with high intelligence; and, as Maimonides (1135-1204) describes, Abraham didn't blindly accept the ubiquitous idolatry. The whole populace had been duped, but the young Abraham contemplated the matter relentlessly, finally arriving at the conclusion that there is One God and that this should be taught to others as well. This is what is meant by his "calling out in the name of the Lord" (Genesis ch.12). As a young man, he remonstrated with passersby in public, demonstrating to them the falsehood of their idols; and our tradition tells how he was threatened and endangered by Nimrod.

Subsequently, Terah relocated to Harran; and it is here that Abraham began to develop a circle of disciples (Rashi commentary, on Genesis 12:5).

Later, God told Abraham in prophecy to move to the Holy Land, which is where Abraham raised his family.

He continued his contemplations, eventually arriving at the attitudes and forms of behavior which God later incorporated into the Torah given to Moses. Abraham taught disciples (Talmud, Yoma 28b), gave tithes (Genesis ch.14), strove to raise a family (Genesis ch.15, 17, and 24) which would serve God (Genesis 18:19), made a covenant with God (Genesis ch.15 and 17), welcomed guests into his home (Genesis ch.18) unlike the inhospitable Sodomites (Genesis ch.19), prayed for people (Genesis ch.18), rebuked others when necessary (Genesis ch.20), eulogized and buried the deceased (Genesis ch.23), and fulfilled God's will unquestioningly (Genesis ch.22). He became renowned as a prince of God (Genesis 23:6).

All of these forms of behavior were based upon the ways of God, which Abraham comprehended through his contemplations. These, and similar personality traits, were the teachings of Abraham and his descendants.

It is therefore clear why God expresses His love for Abraham (Isaiah 41:8) and calls Himself the God of Abraham (Genesis 26:24), and says that Abraham obeyed Him fully (Genesis 26:5). And this is why, according to our tradition, Abraham is credited with having begun the religion which became known as Judaism. However, Abraham and his descendants observed their traditions voluntarily, until the Giving of the Torah to Moses 3325 years ago, when God made it obligatory.

Moses was born 245 years after the death of Abraham. Pharaoh had decreed that Israelite boys be killed (Exodus ch.1), but the daughter of Pharaoh took pity on the infant Moses (Exodus ch.2) and raised him as her own son. He was forced to flee after killing a cruel Egyptian taskmaster, and went to Midian, where he wedded the daughter of Jethro. He eventually achieved the highest level of prophecy (Deuteronomy ch.34) and was called upon by God (Exodus ch.3). He brought the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery (Exodus ch.12). He received the Torah from God (Exodus 24:12) and later recorded it in writing (Deuteronomy 31:24). He went up on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights (Deuteronomy ch.9-10) and brought down the Two Stone Tablets with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18). He brought the Israelites into the covenant with God (Exodus ch.19 and ch.24), and he oversaw the building of the Tabernacle (Exodus ch.35-40). He was the humblest of men and the greatest of prophets (Numbers ch.12).

Answer:According to scientifically based archaeology, Judaism evolved in the first millenium BCE, before Christianity was invented. Some archaeologists call this early Jewish period, in the first millenium BCE, the First Temple period. No artefact exclusively connected to Judaism has been conclusively dated as older than the 1st millenium BCE.

If you want to believe there is a 3000 year old and exclusively Jewish 'Flying Spaghetti Monster', out there to be discovered, have fun with that!

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