Judaism - The Jewish Religion
Prayer Animation for Israel


Judaism began as the faith of the ancient Hebrews, and its sacred text is the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Torah (Old Testament). Fundamental to Judaism is the belief that the people of Israel are God's chosen people, who must serve as a light for other nations. God made a covenant first with Abraham, then renewed it with Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. The worship of Yahweh (God) was centered in Jerusalem from the time of David. The destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 BC) and the subsequent exile of the Jews led to hopes for national restoration under the leadership of a messiah. The Jews were later allowed to return by the Persians, but an unsuccessful rebellion against Roman rule led to the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70 and the Jews' dispersal throughout the world in the Jewish Diaspora. Rabbinic Judaism emerged to replace the temple centered worship at Jerusalem, as the Jews carried on their culture and religion through a tradition of scholarship and strict observance. The great body of oral law and commentaries were committed to writing in the Talmud and Mishna. The religion was maintained despite severe persecutions in many nations. Two branches of Judaism emerged in the Middle Ages: the Sephardi, centered in Spain and culturally linked with the Babylonian Jews; and the Ashkenazi, centered in France and Germany and linked with the Jewish culture of Palestine and Rome. Elements of mysticism also appeared, notably the esoteric writings of the Kabbala and, in the 18th century, the movement known as Hasidism. The 18th century was also the time of the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskala. Conservative and Reform Judaism emerged in 19th-century. Germany as an effort to modify the strictness of Orthodox Judaism. By the end of the 19th century Zionism had appeared as an outgrowth of reform. European Judaism suffered terribly during the Holocaust, when millions were put to death by the Nazis, and the rising flow of Jewish emigrants to Palestine led to declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.

Judaism can be traced originally to Adam which shows that Judaism is originally rooted to God directly as "True Religion" and not false religion. This makes Judaism unique to all other religions. (See Religious
Pluralism page.) Christianity is a form of Judaism. I say this because all things contained within the Old Testament point to the coming Messiah (Jesus) who would become the final sacrifice for sin. (See Messiah, Gospel, and Kingdom pages.)

Basic Jewish Beliefs:
God exists.
) There's only one, unique God
) God is a spirit
) God is eternal
) Only pray to God
) The words of the Bible are true
) Moses' prophecies are true and he was the greatest of the prophets
) The first 5 books of the Bible and the teachings of the Rabbis were given to Moses
) God knows the thoughts and deeds of everyone
) God will reward the good and punish the wicked
) The Messiah will come to Earth
) The dead will one day be resurrected

Today, Judaism is divided into groups name
Hasidic -
Began around 1700. Is like Ultra Orthodox but practices Mysticism and Kabbalah. In many ways, similar to The Essene and Qumran communities.
Ultra-Orthodox -
Strict adherence to Jewish law. Rejection of modern society. Holds to the 12 beliefs previously mentioned. Israel is a race and nation chosen by God. The Bible is literal and inerrant. They believe their beliefs and holy writings can be traced directly back to Moses.
Modern Orthodox -
Is like Ultra Orthodox but interacts with the outside world some.
Conservative -
Began in the 1800's. Embraces modern culture. Practices Jewish laws and customs. Rejects Reform and Reconstructionist teaching. Believes Orthodox and Hasidic Jews have erred by cutting off or refusing some modernisms.
Reform, Progressive, Libera
l - A biproduct of The Enlightenment, it emerged in the 1800's. Believe that one can decide which parts of Judaism he wants to believe. Moses could have flawed in his writings. Embraces modernism and modern liberalisms. Practices holy days and circumcision.
Reconstructionist -
See above but add that Jews are not a chosen race, miracles did not occur, God does not interact with man, and philosophy and science eradicates Biblical literalism. First taught in 1881.

Around the time of Jesus, there were 3 main Jewish sects
: Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes.

s were of the rich upper class members of an ancient Jewish group of priests and aristocrats who accepted the literal interpretation of the Torah but rejected Oral Law and belief in the afterlife. Sadducees rejected beliefs in afterlife, resurrection and a post-mortem judgement. Sadducees believed that people should make the best of this life because there was no afterlife. According to Josephus, Sadducees denied destiny (predestination) altogether, behaved rather aggressively even towards each other, and are as harsh in debates among themselves as with others. Sadducees favored accommodation with the Roman occupiers of Palestine. [Pre-12th century.]

Now the Sadducees, the second party, deny destiny altogether and place God beyond doing or seeing anything bad. They say that good and bad are dependent on human choice; and one may allow each of these according to one's own decision. They deny the soul's permanence as well as rewards and punishments in the underworld. -Josephus

s - Go here.

s were an members of a small ancient Jewish monk-like group that flourished in Palestine and Syria from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. They were a male only community that were obsessed with clean dress and wore only white. They believed in an afterlife, were prevented commerce, used prayers passed to them by forefathers, condemned slavery, were pacifists, were extremely secretive, and believed in several Messiahs. Various academic sources say that they had Persian and Hellenistic influences.

The Essene sect in the late centuries B.C. portrayed other Jewish sects who disagreed with them as allied with the forces of darkness and themselves as “sons of light.”

The Essene parallel with Gnosticism is phenomenal. Gnosticism is rooted in Greek Philosophy and Babylonian religion. A fundamental doctrine of Gnostics was a clear-cut dualism between good and evil, between the divine and material world. In Gnostic teaching, evil is supposed to have been generated by God. The Gnostics believed that salvation was attainable by ignoring the material world and concentrating on the divine world of light. Gnostics used symbols, sacraments, sacred formulas, and cleansing as aids in their hope for eventual access to Heaven.

The sun was regarded highly in an almost idolatrous manner. They also held Moses in high regard and issued the death penalty for blaspheming Moses’ name. Essenes believed God had prescribed Fate to all things but free will was not denied by them. They also denied blood sacrifice.

And agreeing with the opinion of the "http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06735a.htm" they declare that the good dwell beyond the ocean in a place which is never oppressed by snow or rainstorms or intense heat, but is always calm and refreshed by a cool breeze breathing from the ocean. To bad souls they allot a gloomy, tempestuous cave full of never-ending torments" (Jos. Bell. Jud. I, ii, 8).

Sharing the belief of the sons of Greece, they maintain that for virtuous souls there is reserved an abode beyond the ocean, a place which is not oppressed by rain or snow or heat, but is refreshed by the ever gentle breath of the west wind coming in from the ocean; while they relegate base souls to a murky and tempestuous dungeon, big with never-ending punishments. –Josephus

They laid claim to magical powers and ability to predict.

They recorded names of angels.

According to Josephus, the Essenes did marry after living with someone for three years to make sure they were compatible.

Philo states that the Essenes differed from the Pharisees and Sadducees in that they did not practice ritual animal sacrifice.

Copyright © 2000 Merriam-Webster, Inc.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. Copyright © 2003

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.  2001.

Encarta Encyclopedia 2003.

Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia. 1978.

Flavius Josephus. Wars of the Jews.

Let’s not confuse Essenes with the Qumran community. Essenes were Pacifist. The Qumran community was war-like. Essenes got along with the governments. The Qumran were against the governments. Many think the two groups had ties due to their nearness to one another in location but there are too many differences among the two factions. I have found that only Augustian Calvinist Reformed sources deny the two faction’s connection to Greek and Persian ideology. I believe the Dead Sea Scrolls were composed of a majority of these two group’s Hellenistic persuasions. They are okay to read as much as any other ancient pagan literature. Keep in mind that there are too many additions to God’s Word among these texts to be embraced in equality to The Bible.

I personally see the Essene and Qumran sects as being an early for of Freemasonry which had greatly influenced the minds of Catholicism’s Augustine and Jerome as well as the later Calvinists. There are just so many parallels.

- Jeremy Brown 2002-2004

---more to come --- including summaries and paraphrases

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