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The history of Judaism is inseparable from the history of Jews themselves. The early part of the story is told in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

It describes how God chose the Jews to be an example to the world, and how God and his chosen people worked out their relationship.


  History of Judaism...

The term "G-d" is used in the respect to the Jewish prohibition against spelling the name or title of the deity in full. Dates listed which are prior to the 4th century BCE are approximate.

Circa 2000 BCE, the G-d of the ancient Israelites established a divine covenant with Abraham, making him the patriarch of many nations. The term Abrahamic Religions is derived from his name. These are the four religions which trace their roots back to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i World Faith. The book of Genesis describes the events surrounding the lives of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Joseph, who is recognized as a fourth patriarch by Christians is not considered one by Jews). Moses was the next leader of the ancient Israelites. He led his people out of captivity in Egypt, and received the Law from G-d. After decades of wandering through wilderness, Joshua led the tribes into the promised land, driving out the Canaanites through a series of military battles.

The original tribal organization was converted into a kingdom by Samuel; its first king was Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the religious and political center. The third king, Solomon built the first temple there.

Division into the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah occurred shortly after the death of Solomon in 922 BCE. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BCE; Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE. The temple was destroyed. Some Jews returned from captivity under the Babylonians and started to restore the temple in 536 BCE. (Orthodox Jews date the Babylonian exile from 422 to 352 BCE). Alexander the Great invaded the area in 332 BCE. From circa 300 to 63 BCE, Greek became the language of commerce, and Greek culture had a major influence on Judaism. In 63 BCE, the Roman Empire took control of Judea and Israel.

Four major (and some minor) religious sects had formed by the 1st century CE: the Basusim, Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Many anticipated the arrival of the Messiah who would drive the Roman invaders out and restore independence. Christianity was established initially as a Jewish sect, centered in Jerusalem. Paul broke with this tradition and spread the religion to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Many mini-revolts led to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. The Jewish Christians were wiped out or scattered at this time. The movement started by Paul flourished and quickly evolved into the religion of Christianity. Jews were scattered throughout the known world. Their religion was no longer centered in Jerusalem; Jews were prohibited from setting foot there. Judaism became decentralized and stopped seeking converts. The local synagogue became the new center of Jewish life, and authority shifted from the centralized priesthood to local scholars and teachers, giving rise to Rabbinic Judaism.

The period from the destruction of the temple onward give rise to heavy persecution by Christians throughout Europe and Russia. Many groundless stories were spread, accusing Jews of ritual murder, the desecration of the Catholic host and continuing responsibility for the execution of Jesus . Unsubstantiated rumors continue to be circulated today. In the 1930s and 1940s, Adolph Hitler and the German Nazi party drew on centuries of anti-Semitism, and upon their own psychotic beliefs in racial purity. They organized the Holocaust, the attempted extermination of all Jews in Europe. About 6 million were killed in one of the world's greatest examples of religious and racial intolerance.

The Zionist movement was a response within all Jewish traditions to centuries of Christian persecution. Their initial goal was create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The state of Israel was formed on 1948-MAY-18.

There are currently about 18 million Jews throughout the world. They are mainly concentrated in North America (about 7 million) and Israel (about 4.5 million).

* Jewish Texts

The Tanakh corresponds to the Jewish Scriptures, (often referred to as the Old Testament by Christians). It is composed of three groups of books:

  • the Torah (aka Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
  • the Nevi'im: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (2), Kings (2), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah, and MalachiIsaiah.
  • the Ketuvim, the "Writings" including Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles (2).

The Talmud contains stories, laws, medical knowledge, debates about moral choices, etc. It is composed of material which comes mainly from two sources:

  • the Mishnah's, 6 "orders" containing hundreds of chapters, including series of laws from the Hebrew Scriptures. It was compiled about 200 CE.
  • the Gemara (one Babylonian and one Palestinian) is encyclopedic in scope. It includes comments from hundreds of Rabbis from 200 - 500 CE, explaining the Mishnah with additional historical, religious, legal, sociological, etc. material. It often records many different opinions on a topic without giving a definitive answer.


The history of Judaism.

Jewish Life Cycle

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Ancient Jewish History

Ancient Jewish History