World Religions – Abrahamic Religions – Judaism
Table of Contents
Judaism is identified as the religion, philosophy and culture of the Jewish people, the national religion of Israel. It is both a religious and national identity. Judaism, as expressed by its people, is the practice and belief in the covenant between God and Abraham. Hebrews, Israelite’s, Jews, are all name that refer to the Jewish people.
Abraham is the primary patriarch of the Jewish faith. It was Abraham that God chose to bestow His blessing upon, and through Abraham, the people of the world would come to know God and be blessed. Abraham began as a simple man whose wife was barren, but God told him he would become a great nation, and from him all the Jewish and Arab people of the world today attribute as their forefather. Abraham was a man of faith, not without fault of course, and in due time passed on both his blessing and faith to his children.
Over time the children of Abraham grew in number and became the salves of the Egyptians. God called Moses to be His spokes person to demand that the king of Egypt would let His chosen people (the Israelite’s) go free, so they may return to their promised homeland – Israel.
Moses led the Hebrew people (Jews) free and they journeyed form Egypt to Israel. Due to the stubbornness of the hearts of the Hebrew people, God forced them to wonder the wilderness for 40 years in which time frame Moses died.
After Moses, the Hebrew community conquered the people of their promised land – Israel. They settled and built it up to develop their kingdoms and in time Jerusalem as their capitol. They have a very rich that is well documented history for over 3500 years, both by their own literary archives and the archives of other nations.
The Hebrew people have been more oppressed than any other people group, have been destroyed and disbanded completely as a nation only to return to their homeland on numerous occasion, and to this day still remain a strong people and nation. Over the millennia the Jewish people have experienced slavery, anarchic governments, conquest, occupation, and exile by all surrounding nations such as Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greek and Roman nations, and beyond.
Based on known historic records, Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion.
Judaism, despite various influences from other polytheistic nations all throughout ancient times, has remained solitary as a monotheistic religion. This is very unique due to the fact that the entire ancient world was filled with various mythologies and pantheons, worshiping from several to hundreds of gods and goddesses. The Hebrew religion, set apart from external human influence, focused on only one God, and that all other, even higher beings, such as angels, where much lesser created beings.
The God of the Hebrews is the personal, all powerful, all knowing, ever present, holy, just, good, loving creator of the entire universe. He is infinite and wise, rewarding those who follow his commandments and punishes those who do not.
Covenant & Law
The commandments of God, summed up in the well known 10 commandments are attributed as divinely inspired by God himself, who gave His divine law to Moses, and where to be followed in the strictest manner.
Jews believe that anything you do apart from God’s law is morally wrong, or is sin. Sin, death and evil came into the world when Adam, the first man, disobeyed God by going against His commandments by eating form the forbidden tree (Gen 2.17, 3.17).
God gave His law to Moses to reveal to humanity His standards for living a Godly life. For those that live according to God’s word and do all that is in His law, will be rewarded and those whom do not will be cursed (Deut 28).
God declared for those that sin, that they will suffer the consequence of their sin in this world and would eventually experience death because of it. They where to bear to weight of their guilt in their conscience and know that God’s anger and judgment was over them for breaking God’s law.
God said the cost for sin is blood, or the life of the sinner. However He allowed the people to practice animal sacrifice as a ceremonial sacrament for the remission or forgiveness of sins. The sins of that person would be symbolically placed on the animal and it would die for the sins of that person (Lev 4.20-35). The personal cost for animal sacrifices in that day was steep, as domesticated animals and agriculture was the sustenance for the people of this time period. This would also affect the persons understanding of the cost for sin as they would watch an innocent animal die as the price of their own personal sins.
The Messiah, or anointed one, is the promised one of the Jewish people, who will one day come to earth from haven, bringing God’s kingdom on earth, and ruling forever from Jerusalem. He was also said to bring the salvation of God to His people. The Jewish people believe He will come as a conquering king to put down the enemies of God and reward those who are faithful to the one true God. He is prophesied to be of the descendant line of King David (Isa 9.6).
JEWISH RELIGIOUS GROUPS
The sons of the tribe of Levi where designated the office of priesthood. Levi (circa 1800 b.c.) was the third son of Jacob and Leah, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
The Jewish priesthood was an inherited position. You had to be a son of Levi (of the 12 sons/ 12 tribes of Israel), to be a priest. The priests where in charge of all religious and ceremonial duties for the entire nation of Israel, who would come to the holy temple in Jerusalem to perform their sacrifices.
The Holy Temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 a.d. and since then the priesthood has not been able to perform any of their original duties, however they are often given special attention and read section of the Torah in many Jewish Synagogues.
Pharisee & Sadducee
Religious leadership and teachers of the religious law existed before the fall of the temple in 70a.d. alongside the priesthood. The scribes of the Holy Torah and teachers of the law of Moses where known as the Pharisees and Sadducees. Even though they had different interpretations of various spiritual beliefs, they diligently studies the Torah and its meaning.
The various teacher groups and schools of thought differed in areas that were more difficult to discern form the Torah. For instance the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, while the Sadducees did not.
Rabbi mean teacher in Hebrew. Due to the fact that the Holy Temple was destroyed in 70 a.d, the Hebrew community had to practice its religious ceremonies in a somewhat different fashion. The teaching of the Torah and community gather in the Synagogues has become the central focus of the religious communities. Rabbis have taken the roles as the religious leaders to teach their communities the Torah, as many orthodox Jews await a time when the Holy Temple in Jerusalem can be rebuilt.
Judaism accept a select number of texts as divinely inspired writings:
The Tanakh is the reference to canon of the Hebrew Bible, the Jewish scriptures, which contain multiple sections written by various Jewish authors, prophets, kings, men of God, etc. throughout the history of ancient Israel. Tanakh (Ta-Na-Kh) is an acronym for the three major sections or subdivisions of the scriptures:
Torah – the teachings of Moses or book of the Law
Nevi’im – the words of the prophets
Ketuvim – the writings
The Torah (literally meaning ‘The Law’), these are the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses, accepted by the Jewish community with the utmost importance. This is the oldest book of the Hebrew faith and was passed on directly from the prophet Moses. Moses began the records of this book starting circa 1300 b.c.
This is the law of God, given for God’s people to follow directly. It contains the book of:
The Nevi’im is the second main division in the Hebrew Bible. contains all the book of the prophets, both minor and major (given those title based on the size of the books). It also contains some historical books of Israel’s beginnings with the details of the prophets during those times as well.
The books contained in the Nevi’im are: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1&2), Kings(1&2), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Johan, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggi, Zechariah, Malachi.
The Kethuvim contains all the inspired writings of the men of God throughout Israel’s history. Some books are more metaphorical, poetic and symbolic in nature, however still apply direct meaning to its implications, and should be taken literally when directed. The books contained in this sub-division are: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles (1&2).
The Jewish people primarily practiced most of their most important religious beliefs in the Holy Temple. It was first erected as a tent by Moses and Aaron, later to be built as a massive stone temple by King Solomon circa 900 b.c. it was destroyed by the Babylonians circa 600 b.c. A second temple was built by King Herod circa 500 b.c. under the edict of Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, which was later destroyed by Rome in 70 a.d. under the command of Titus in retaliation of the Great Jewish Revolt.
To this day, Jews make pilgrimages to Jerusalem and pray on or near the wailing wall, the only remaining portion of the temple that still exists to this day.
Those who are born to a Jewish father or mother can be considered a Jew if they are raised as a Jew. Conversion to Judaism is permitted and even encourages since the first formation of their religion; as even in the Talmud the purpose for which God revealing Himself to Abraham was to make Himself known to the rest of mankind. The conversion process is evaluated by an authority figure and the convert is examined based on their sincerity, faith and knowledge.
Traditionally, once someone becomes a Jew, they are considered a Jew for life, even if they afterwards convert to another religion. However in modern times, this is no longer considered the norm.
Jewish people regularly recite prayers, three times daily; Shacharit, Mincha and Ma’ariv with a fourth prayer. Additionally Mussaf added on Shabbat and Holidays. During many prayer services they declare their faith and recite verses of the Torah.
Jewish prayers can be recited in solitude but most prefer communal prayer. Devote Jews usually pray throughout the day and while performing their daily routines such as when they wake up in the morning, before each meal, when they go to bed, etc.
The Kippah – a slightly rounded, brimless skullcap is worn by Jews when praying, eat, reciting blessings, and studying the Torah.
The Tzitzit – special knotted ‘fringes’ or tassets at the corner of the Tallit (prayer shawl). The Tallit is worn during prayer service.
The Tefillin – known in English as the phylacteries (from the Greek word for amulet). They are two square pouches or boxes containing verse from the Torah, usually worn around the forehead, and is wound around the left arm. This is worn during pray on weekday mornings.
The Kittel – knee length over garment. This is worn by religious leaders on Holy High Days. Some head of households will also wear it during Passover, and grooms wear it during their wedding.
Jewish holidays are very sacred and important to the Jewish community. The various days celebrated are all typically in celebration to some act that God produced for their nation and each is a historical reference in remembrance of those days.
Brit Milah – Circumcision
The practice of circumcision for all male children is a very important one in the Jewish custom. On the eight day the child will receive his circumcision, which is an irreversible cut in his flesh for life. This is a symbol of the promise or covenant between God and his people starting with the patriarch Abraham.
‘Bar’ (‘Bat’ for a girl) Mitzvah – the rite of passage from child to adulthood. Takes place when a Jewish family member turns 13. It is often commemorated by having the ‘new adult’ lead the congregation in a public reading of the Torah.
Marriage – takes place under the Chupah, a wedding canopy that symbolizes the happy house. At the end of the ceremony the groom breaks a glass bottle under foot symbolizing the destruction of the Jewish temple and the scattering of the Israelite people.
Death – In Judaism, death is practiced in multiple stages in mourning:
First, Shiva, meaning ‘seven’ is performed for one week, or seen days. During this period you are to sit at home and be comforted by loved ones.
Second – shloshim, observed for one month, and
Third, avelut yud, for those who lost their parent and is observed for 11 months.
APOLOGETICS & CRITICISM
Composition & Canon of Jewish Scripture
Unlike any other writing in the world, there is no other more complete, unchanged volume of religious text then the Jewish Bible. Confirmed again with the finding of the dead sea scrolls.
The Hebrew community had valued their most sacred writings and meticulously archived and copies every detail, with the highest degree of accuracy.
When you examine the Jewish faith and the foundation of its belief system, the Hebrew Bible, there are some very remarkable facts that simply cannot be taken for granted. Besides all the apologetic facts that back up its claim to divine inspiration, the very perspective that it give, from outside our restrictions of time, including the declarations of all human history and events that supersede our universe, make for a very unique book.
All Jewish scripture is evident as being divinely inspired when you study each of the claims found throughout scripture and line it up with various historic and scientific facts:
- see Archaeological Facts in the Bible
- see Scientific Facts in the Bible
- see Prophetic Facts in the Bible
Dispute for the Messiah
Judaism and its lineage was to be the vessel in which God would send His messiah to save the world. The entire Jewish community knew this and to this day are still waiting for his arrival, when He will come and setup God’s kingdom on Earth.
Looking over all the Hebrew text that prophesy of His coming, you have to take in consideration, is it possible they may have missed Him at some point throughout history? Is there some way to verify in the Hebrew text who this Messiah should have been or what His coming would look like? The answer is yes, in fact the Book of Daniel gives the exact date of his arrival, and it was even confirmed as a historical fact!
Anti-Semitic Claims – ‘Who Really Killed Jesus Christ’
References to the term ‘Semitic people’ comes from the Biblical patriarch Shem, the son of Noah. This term is most heavily used as a reference to the sons or descendants of Abraham, the Israelite people, or the Jewish community.
Amongst many of the people groups that have created anti-Semitic claims, one of the most detrimental has been the accusation against the Jewish people claiming they are the responsible party for killing Jesus. This idea has been pushed on various people groups over the centuries and has caused a great stirring of hatred for the Jewish community. These claims are usually cited by anti-Semitists, or people that hate the Jewish community, and use this type of propaganda to rally other people against Jewish communities for their own selfish gain or satisfaction.
1.) First of all, for those whom care about Jesus, or that call themselves a Christian; they need to understand that Jesus does not want us to hate anyone, in fact He calls us to love others, help one another and share with everyone the gospel of peace!
2.) Second of all, we have to ask the question who really did kill Jesus, what does history and the Bible teach us about this question? The Bible gives us the answer as to whom all the responsible parties where for Jesus death:
A.) Was it the Jews?- In Matthew 27.25 the people in the crowd said “let His blood be on us and on our children.” This was the Jewish community taking responsibility for Jesus death, however was it their responsibility to take?
B.) Was it the Romans? – The Roman people, or the gentile nation whom dominated the world of that day was also just as responsible for the death of Jesus. The Jews were not allowed to sentence anyone to death, the ruling had to come from the authority of the Roman Empire in order to be carried out.
Pontius Pilate may have washed his hands (Matt 27.24), but the authority for the death sentence came from Rome (John 18.31; Acts 2.23). If the Jews would have killed Jesus, they would have stoned him to death which was their capital punishment. The fact Jesus was crucified (the Roman form of capital punishment) is evidence that it was a sentence ordered and carried out by the Romans.
C.) Was it Us? – For what purpose did Jesus come to the Earth in the first place. The Bible tells us plainly that He came to free us of our sins. Jesus sacrifice was for all those who would believe in Him, and He died to make atonement for our sins. If you have put your trust and believe in Jesus, then you are guilty of His bloodshed (Rom 4.25, 5.9; 1Peter 1.18).
As for someone who is going to choose to blame Jesus death on the Jewish people, or anyone else for that matter, they can blame themselves just as much and put the exact same guilt on their own conscience, because the Bible tells us plainly that Jesus died for all the people of the world (John 3.16-18).
D.) Was it God? – Even though it was for all of humanity, God tells us who the real authority behind Jesus death was, it was God. The Bible tells us that God bruised His own Son and sent Him as ransom for our sins, to make atonement on our behalf because He loved us so much (Isa 53.10 – The Lord was pleased to crush Him… He rendered Him as a guilt offering…). God allowed it to happen, God made it happen, and God was pleased by it.
Anyone who complains about Jesus being crucified by any people group misses the whole point of why He did it, it was an act of saving the world by taking our punishment for sins. Jesus chose to do it for us (Luke 22.42).
Hebrew-English Tanakh – Jewish Publications Society; Philadelphia 1999
“Judaism and Christianity Unite! The Unique Culture of Messianic Judaism”. In Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael. Jewish and Christian Traditions.
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan (2000). “Messianic Jewish mission”. Messianic Judaism. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
The Timeline of History of Jewish Civilizations, Trudy Gold; London Jewish Culture Centre .