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Religion

종교 탐방

II. THE HISTORY OF JUDAISM

유대교의 역사

1. General observations 

1) NATURE AND CHARACTERISTICS

In nearly 4,000 years of historical development, the Jewish people and their religion have displayed both a remarkable adaptability and continuity. In their encounter with the great civilizations, from ancient Babylonia and Egypt down to Western Christendom and modern secular culture, they have assimilated foreign elements and integrated them into their own socioreligious system, thus maintaining an unbroken line of ethnic and religious tradition. Furthermore, each period of Jewish history has left behind it a specific element of a Judaic heritage that continued to influence subsequent developments, so that the total Jewish heritage at any time is a combination of all these successive elements along with whatever adjustments and accretions are imperative in each new age.

The fundamental teachings of Judaism have often been grouped around the concept of an ethical (or ethical-historical) monotheism. Belief in the one and only God of Israel has been adhered to by professing Jews of all ages and all shades of sectarian opinion. By its very nature monotheism ultimately postulated religious universalism, although it could be combined with a measure of particularism. In the case of ancient Israel (see below Biblical Judaism [20th-4th century BCE] ), particularism took the shape of the doctrine of election; that is, of a people chosen by God as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" to set an example for all mankind. Such an arrangement presupposed a covenant between God and the people, the terms of which the chosen people had to live up to or be severely punished. As the 8th-century-BCE prophet Amos expressed it: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Further, it was a concept that combined with the messianic idea, according to which, at the advent of the Redeemer, all nations would see the light, give up war and strife, and follow the guidance of the Torah (divine guidance, teaching, or law) emanating from Zion (a hill in Jerusalem that has a special spiritual significance). With all its variations in detail, messianism has, in one form or another, permeated Jewish thinking throughout the ages and, under various guises, has coloured the outlook of many secular-minded Jews (see also DOCTRINES AND DOGMAS, RELIGIOUS: Eschatology ). (see also  messiah)

Law became the major instrumentality by which Judaism was to bring about the reign of God on earth. In this case law meant not only what the Romans called jus (human law) but also fas, the divine or moral law that embraces practically all domains of life. The ideal, therefore, as expressed in the Ten Commandments, was a religioethical conduct that involved ritualistic observance as well as individual and social ethics, a liturgical-ethical way constantly expatiated on by the prophets and priests, rabbinic sages, and philosophers. Such conduct was to be placed in the service of God, as the transcendent and immanent Ruler of the universe, and as such the Creator and propelling force of the natural world, and also as the One giving guidance to history and thus helping man to overcome the potentially destructive and amoral forces of nature. According to Judaic belief, it is through the historical evolution of man, and particularly of the Jewish people, that the divine guidance of history constantly manifests itself and will ultimately culminate in the messianic age. Judaism, whether in its "normative" form or its sectarian deviations, never completely departed from this basic ethical-historical monotheism.

2) PERIODIZATION

The division of the millennia of Jewish history into periods--a procedure frequently dependent on individual preferences--has not been devoid of theological or scholarly presuppositions. The Christian world long believed that until the rise of Christianity the history of Judaism was but a "preparation for the Gospel" (preparatio evangelica) followed by the "manifestation of the Gospel" (demonstratio evangelica) as revealed by Christ and the Apostles. This formulation could be theologically reconciled with the assumption that Christianity had been preordained even before the creation of the world.

On the other hand, 19th-century biblical scholars moved the decisive division back into the period of the Babylonian Exile and restoration of the Jews to Judah (6th-5th centuries BCE). They asserted that after the first fall of Jerusalem (586 BCE) the ancient "Israelitic" religion gave way to a new form of the "Jewish" faith, or Judaism, as formulated by Ezra the Scribe and his school (5th century BCE). A German historian, Eduard Meyer, in 1896 published Die Entstehung des Judentums ("The Origin of Judaism"), in which he placed the origins of Judaism in the Persian period (see below Biblical Judaism [20th-4th century BCE] ) or the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (5th century BCE) and actually attributed to Persian imperialism an important role in shaping the new emergent Judaism.

These theories have been discarded by most scholars, however, in the light of a more comprehensive knowledge of the ancient Middle East and the abandonment of a theory of gradual evolutionary development that was dominant at the beginning of the 20th century. Most Jews share a long-accepted notion that there never was a real break in continuity and that Mosaic-prophetic-priestly Judaism was continued, with but few modifications, in the work of the Pharisaic and rabbinic sages (see below Rabbinic Judaism [2nd-18th century] ) well into the modern period. Even today the various Jewish groups, whether Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, all claim direct spiritual descent from the Pharisees and the rabbinic sages. In actual historical development, however, many deviations have occurred from so-called normative or rabbinic Judaism.

In any case, the history of Judaism here is viewed as falling into the following major periods of development: biblical Judaism (c. 20th-4th century BCE), Hellenistic Judaism (4th century BCE-2nd century CE), rabbinic Judaism (2nd-18th century CE), and modern Judaism (c. 1750 to the present). 

   


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