• Smallest (about 14 million) of the major world’s religions
  • Why study it then? – Long history of persecution that we can learn from, and Judaism has made a huge contribution to Western philosophy and religious thinking.
  • Oldest of the Abrahamic faiths, dating back about 4000 years
  • Shares a history and mythology with Christianity and Islam (Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses)

Origins

  • The Hebrew holy scriptures deal with the nature of God’s relationship with humanity
  • We will begin our study of Judaism by looking at Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrew faith.  Why?  Because he represents the first steps taken in the formation of what we know as Judaism

Abraham:  The Patriarch of the Covenant

  • According to scripture, around 200 BCE, Abraham received a vision from God
  • “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.   I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing”
  • This message was from the one God, not one of the many polytheistic gods worshipped in the area at the time.
  • This is where the concepts of the Jews as God’s CHOSEN PEOPLE and of a PROMISED LAND began
  • These two concepts are the foundation of the COVANENT that God made with Abraham and his people.  A covenant is a solemn, holy agreement
  • God agreed to protect the Jews, and the Jews agreed to worship only God.

The Law and the Covenant:  Moses

  • A severe flood hits Canaan, and the descendents of Abraham are forced to move to Egypt, where the Egyptians snaked the Jews and enslaved them
  • Moses was born a Hebrew slave, but was adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter
  • Moses had to run away when he killed an Egyptian for abusing a Hebrew slave
  • He became a sheep herder
  • While on a mountain, Moses encountered God through a burning bush.  God told Moses that he would free the Jews from slavery and bring them to the promised land
  • Moses succeeded in this mission, with the help of God, who sent ten plagues on the Egyptians.
  • The last plague sent the angel of death to kill all the first-born sons of everyone in the area.  The Jews, who knew what was coming, smeared blood on their doors to tell the angel of death to “pass over” their houses.   (this starts the ritual of Passover).  This plague convinced the Pharaoh to let the Jews free
  • This mass emigration is known as the EXODUS
  • After they left Egypt (across the red sea) God appeared to Moses again and gave him the 10 commandments
  • Now the Jews have a renewed covenant and specific laws to follow
  • They lived in the desert for 40 years and then settled in Canaan

Kings Saul, David and Solomon

  • Around 1000 BCE God granted Saul the position of King, David took over after he died
  • David led a number of important battle victories and established Jerusalem as his capital
  • David’s son Solomon built a temple that would be the centre of Jewish ritual for 1000 years.
  • After Solomon died, the kingdom broke up into several tribes.  One of the southern tribes was called “Israel”
  • The end of the Kingdom era was predicted by several Prophets – people who receive messages from God and deliver that message to the people

The Exile

  • In 721 BCE, the Assyrians invaded, took the land and scattered the Jewish population
  • 586 BCE, the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s temple
  • Many Jewish religious leaders were taken prisoner
  • The destruction of the temple forced huge changes in the religious practices
  • Synagogues, or places of worship began to be created
  • Rabbis – scholars and teachers of the scriptures to teach the stories to average people
  • Messiah (anointed one) – this belief developed because the Jews were living in captivity and hoped for a great king to lead them out of oppression
  • 515 BCE, the Babylonians were defeated by Cyrus and the Jews were invited back to their lands and a second temple was built

The Diaspora

  • Diaspora means “dispersal”, refers to the Jewish population living outside of Israel
  • Many Jews chose to stay in Babylon, so worship focussed around the Synagogue and Rabbis (not the temple)
  • In 332 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered much of Persia, Egypt and India

The Maccabean Revolt

  • 168 BCE, the temple was converted to a Greek shrine to Zeus – the Greeks were more and more of an influence and taking over power
  • A group of rebels (Maccabees) revolted and won.  They ruled until the Romans took over

The Romans

  • 64 BCE, the Romans conquered Jerusalem and once again the Jews were subject to foreign domination
  • These continuing conquerings led to an increased importance of the coming of the Messiah – one anointed by God to lead the Jews out of oppression

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