Definition and Overview of Judaism
- Noah’s son Shem settled in a region that became known as “Ur” in the Chaldean Kingdom (modern day Iraq). Shem’s descendants became known as “Shemites” of which there was a man named Abram who was distinct in that he did not adhere to the polytheism of the popular culture and instead maintained a simple faith in the God of heaven and earth - Creator of all things.
- The term “Shemite” has been carried down to our modern day reference of “Semite” or Semitic - this usually refers to those of a Jewish nationality but can also be used to reference Arabs and others of this specific geographic region
- “Father of Faith” was greatly multiplied and his sons greatly multiplied all of which adhered to a “Hebrew” faith of monotheistic faith in One God and no other (revolutionary for the time).
- Abraham’s grandson Jacob had 12 sons which each were to be multiplied into their own tribe forming a common bond of Hebraic people.
- This people was multiplied as ‘outsiders’ in the land of Egypt and were enslaved for 400 years until they were delivered by a man named “Moses”.
- Moses – acted as spokesman, ruler, and spiritual leader to the Hebrews and led them out of Egyptian captivity. He codified the oral traditions passed down from Abraham (possibly even Noah) and wrote what is called the “Torah” or “Pentateuch” to Christians, the first 5 books of the O.T.
Authoritative Jewish Writings: The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings
- Torah – “The Law” written by Moses (possibly finished by Joshua)
- Talmud – Not “scripture” but VERY highly regarded Jewish library of oral law and tradition consisting of Mishnah (oral law in general to be distinguished from scripture) and Gemara (commentary based upon the Mishnah).
- Midrash – like the Talmud in terms of authority – is a commentary on the Torah and the rest of the Jewish scriptures.
Jewish Practices and Observances: Post-exilic temple worship gave way to Diaspora Rabbinic Judaism upon which a distant removed version of Judaism exists today.
- Sabbath – holy day of rest in commemoration of God’s completed work of creation and later liberation of the Israelites from Egypt.
- Synagogue – small “meeting places” for Jewish people where prayers, teaching, worship (singing of songs), and “breaking of bread” occur – traces back to the Maccabean time (2nd century B.C.) and continues up to this day.
- Holy Days: Even the liberal or non-practicing Jews consider Yom Kippur holy. c.f. Christian ‘Chreasters’
- Passover (festival of spring), Shabuot (feast of weeks), Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (day of atonement), Sukkoth (booths), Hanukkah (Maccabes revolt)
Sects of Judaism
- A strongly Rabbinical sect which believes in a coming Messiah, and of Israel having a homeland, and of a world to come. These beliefs are not based on Scripture alone but rather, through a Talmudic understanding - much of which disagree with a proper interpretation of the Writings of the Prophets. Orthodox Jews also believe in a type of “heaven” and “hell” although these beliefs differ according to various Rabbinic interpretation.
Conservative Judaism – Was started in response to the “enlightenment” period. Called “conservative” because it sought to ‘conserve’ Jewish tradition, not because it is politically ‘conservative’.
- A ‘happy medium’ between Orthodox and Reformed Judaism, founded in the 19th century. The Conservative Jews attempt to bridge a gap between secularism and Judaism with compromise that reduces Judaism to little more than traditional observance rather than religious discipline. Conservative Judaism does not believe in a Jewish “homeland”. (The view of a Jewish homeland has been disparaged among Muslims and Secularists with the term “Zionist”)
- Teaches that Jewish law is always in ‘development’ based on the current culture.
- Adheres to “textual criticism” of the Jewish scriptures.
Reformed Jews – very liberal wing of Judaism that all but denies any supernatural whatsoever.
- focuses on race and culture issues of Judaism, neglecting or avoiding Jewish religious issues.
- Also started as a result of the “enlightenment” period and supposed necessity to meet the needs of those that reject Divine revelation.
Key Questions About Judaism
- The true God, Yahweh of the Old Testament, the God of Christianity, is the God of historic Judaism. However, modern Jewish belief has departed drastically from the Biblical historic view of God and has instead embraced a Rabbinical/Talmudic view that God is largely an idea of good and not necessarily a supernatural being.
- Statement of Faith - Moses Maimonides 12th cent. A.D. Jewish Rabbi. This forms a good overall look at the foundational beliefs of the Jewish people, however, much of what is listed below is rejected by the vast majority of Jewish people today.
- The Creator and guide of everything created. He alone has, done, will make all things.
- He is One, and there is no unity in any manner like unto His, and that He alone is our god, who was, and is, and will be.
- He is not a body He is free from all the properties of matter. He has not any form whatever.
- He is the first and last.
- To Him alone, it is right to pray and not to any being besides Him.
- All the words of the prophets are true.
- The prophecy of Moses, our teacher, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him.
- The whole Torah, now in our possession, is the same that was given to Moses, our teacher.
- This Torah will not be changed. There will never be any other Law from the Creator.
- He knows every deed of the children of men, their thoughts, as it is said and it is He that fashioned the hearts of them all, that gives heed to all their works.
- He rewards those that keep his commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
- Coming of the Messiah, and, though he tarry, I will wait daily for his coming.
- There will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator.
Who or what is man according to Judaism?
- Orthodox - Man is a created being placed higher than all other creation, save angels. There is not a sense of man being totally depraved or unworthy.
- Conservative - Man is a created yet evolving being. Reformed – Man is the center.
How does Judaism attempt to solve the problem of evil?
- Orthodox – Admits existence of sin and necessity of atonement via sacrifices, penitence, good deeds, and a God’s grace to an extent. Does not adhere to concept of original sin.
- Conservative/Reformed – No real reference to a “problem of evil” and in keeping with the secularist view - educating evil away is the answer. However this poses a problem in that evil is still carried out by those who would otherwise claim to be fully educated in “progressive” globalism. e.g. scandals carried out by liberal secularists etc.
What does salvation and/or the afterlife look like to the Jewish people?
- Atonement is achieved by works of righteousness, repentance, prayer, and good deeds,. There is no need of a Savior.
- believes in a coming Messiah, and of Israel having a homeland, and the ushering in of a world to come. Believes in a type of “heaven” and “hell” although not consistent throughout.