When did Judaism begin?

The general religious answer is that Judaism originated in Israel, but there are three acceptable religious answers (Israel, Harran, and Sinai). In addition there is also the historical answer (Slow Development in Israel and Babylon).

A. Religious: Israel

The general correct answer is the Holy Land (Canaan; today's Israel), since it was there that Abraham lived most of his life. It was there that Abraham made a covenant with God (Genesis ch.15) and raised his family and taught disciples to carry on his beliefs and traditions (see Genesis 18:19). This would have taken place roughly in the year 3800 B.C.E.

B. Religious: Harran (North Syria/South Turkey) -- The Road Between Babylonia and Israel

Judaism, theoretically, could also have developed in Harran, since it was there that the young Abraham (after being born in Ur) lived for several decades before coming to Canaan, and taught others about the One God. This would have taken place roughly in the year 3800 B.C.E.

C. Religious: Sinai (Northeast Egypt)

The Jewish people officially became a nation at Mt. Sinai when G-d revealed Himself to 2 million people and gave them the Torah (Exodus ch.19). This differs from other religions in the fact that the revelation involved the whole nation and not just one individual. This would have taken place roughly in the year 1300 B.C.E.

D. Historical: Israel and Babylonia (Central Iraq)

Jewish teachings began to crystallize in the times of the Kings of Israel, but those beliefs and traditions did not crystallize until the Jewish Exile in Babylon. It was at this point, that the Torah was completed as explained by the JEPD hypothesis. This would have taken place roughly in the year 500 B.C.E.

The roots of Judaism date back to around 1800 BCE, when Abraham refused to worship the idols which were common during that period. He is considered by most Jews to have been the first to believe in a single God. Judaism in its more organized form began with Moses, who is believed to have received the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai after the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt, around 1300 BCE.

Answer Around 1943 BCE, 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; and his name was later changed to Abraham. (Genesis 17:4-6.) From him the Jews draw a line of descent, through 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 12 tribes. One of those was Judah, from which name the word "Jew" was eventually derived. 2Kings 16:6.

In time the term "Jew" was applied to all Israelites, not just to a descendant of Judah. (Esther 3:6; 9:20) Over the millennia, the ancient Jewish religion has developed. Today Judaism is practiced by millions of Jews in the State of Israel and the Diaspora (dispersion around the world).

Judaism is the oldest continuous religion on the earth tracing its beginnings back to Abraham.

Answer Traditional Dates

Biblical 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.

Scholarly Dates

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.

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 worshipped the God of Judaism. King David conquered the well-fortified Jebusite city of Jerusalem early in his reign. Because of the 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 recognisable 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 introduction 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 900 BCE or later.

Answer : The tradition of the Jewish people, and the Torah-sages and Talmud, has always been that Abraham founded Judaism. This is implicit in many passages in the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 41:8) and throughout the Talmud (e.g. Yoma 28b) and is clearly borne out by a reading of Genesis, even without commentaries.

God calls himself "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" no fewer than eighteen times in the Torah, and that is how we address Him every day in the Shemoneh Esrei prayer.

However, Abraham and his descendants observed their traditions voluntarily, until the Giving of the Torah to Moses, when God made it obligatory.

According to tradition, Abraham founded Judaism during his lifetime 3800 years ago.

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 Tradition holds that Abraham founded the Jewish religion in approximately 2000 BCE. No exact date is known, and modern scholarship places the date centuries later.

Answer Judaism began with Abraham's covenant with God. Others say it started more definitively with Moses and his laws, starting with his bringing the Ten Commandments - from God - down Mt. Sinai, to his people.

Answer Archaeological evidence for Jews in Israel dates back to 3600 years ago.

According to Jewish tradition, Judaism began 3800 years ago.

Answer Judaism was founded in approximately 2000-1500 B.C. in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). Many say that Abraham was the father of the religion, but scholars still debate it today. Some say that Judaism has not one, single founder, but is a religion where beliefs and customs were added over time.

In the Bible, Abraham was called the first Hebrew.

Answer The revelation to Moses at Mount Sinai is the real start of Judaism. According to dating of the text by Orthodox rabbis, this occurred in 1312 BCE; another date given for this event is 1280 BCE. This is the date of Judaism religion start. The claim that prophet Abraham started Judaism religion is not logic as Abraham is called father of all prophets and he called his followers to worship God as the one and only one God with no partner and no companion and no associate.
Judaism began c. 2000 BCE.

Biblical 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.
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 worshipped the God of Judaism. King David conquered the well-fortified Jebusite city of Jerusalem early in his reign. Because of the 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 recognisable 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 introduction 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 Judaism could begin then.


Finally, Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism: A Parallel History of Their Origins and Early Development, is a compilation of articles on rabbinical , edited by Hershel Shanks. The authors describe significant differences in ritual and interpretation of the Torah between Judaism of the Common Era, compared to what went before. John Dominic Crossan (The Birth of Christianity) says that although rabbinic Judaism claimed exclusive continuity with the past, it was as great a leap and as valid a development from that common ancestry as was Christianity.




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.)