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Early Judaic religion also has a long extensive history. The ancient beginnings of Judaism come from the sands of the Syro-Arabian desert. Ancient ancestors of the later Hebrew people moved from the Mesopotamian desert towards the coast, moving into what is now known as Jerusalem and Palestine. Abraham was born into a family which still practiced early forms of animism. Through a religious epiphany, he began to worship only one deity, which he named El-Shaddi, meaning "the rock of the mountain," (383). He was encouraged by God to move to better grazing grounds, "The Lord had said to Abram [Abraham], leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing," (Gen. 12:1-2). After proving his loyalty, God rewarded Abraham and all his descendents. Later years saw the Hebrews enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaoh. Moses was then contacted by God and given the Ten Commandments, which were the religious rules that are still followed today by modern Jews and Christians. Moses also led his people out of Egypt to safety. After wandering the desert for forty years, the Israelites finally invaded and settled at Canaan.
Early practices were adoptions of older mythologies. The earlier Semitic desert people lived in tribes which worshipped Nature. Early religious belief was built on a tradition of animism, where aspects of Nature were venerated as spirits. Later, the Israelites incorporated the earlier Semitic festival of Passover to represent their freedom from Egypt. The Sabbaths was also adopted from their ancestors and used to set aside a day of rest and worship. When the Israelites invaded Canaan, those who took up farming also adopted Canaan agricultural spirit lore. The Israelites then adopted their Yahweh, who had led them through the desert, to incorporate aspects of the various agricultural gods of the Canaanites. As the Israelites strayed further from their monotheistic ways, a series of prophets spoke reverently about the degradation of Yahweh into a local baal, resulting in the abolition of Baalism.
Several other prophets followed, all keeping the Israelites close to their religion when they began to stray. Reforms from Isaiah and other prophets led to a "centralization of priestly functions," (Noss 405) in Jerusalem. Many rural inhabitants lost their personal connection with the divine they had once shared when priests lived all over the countryside. After instigation Judah's revolt against Babylon, Jeremiah promised his people hat Yahweh would deliver a new covenant. This covenant was between the divine and the individual, much unlike Yahweh's older relationship with the Jewish people as a whole, "Jeremiah brought people face-to-face with God as individuals who were responsible directly to Him for their conduct," (408). Around the Fourth Century B.C.E., the various Holy Scriptures developed form the Northern and Southern Israel Traditions were combined.
Zoroastrianism also influenced Jewish faith, more so than the Greek conquerors due to its monotheistic roots. Demons were organized and placed under the rule of Satan. God's messengers, angels, were also organized and placed into a hierarchy. Previous belief of a "colorless existence in the pit of She'ol, a land of forgetfulness," (426) after death, was replaced with the notion of a fully conscious afterlife. An idea of a Final Judgment at the end of the world was placed into Jewish philosophy.
Early groups continued to return to a conservative take of Jewish theology. Under the leadership of Ezra the scribe, a new sect based on pre-exile theologies was created called the Religion of Israel, "Its central concern was faithful adherence to the standards of the Mosaic Torah," (419). This new faith called for the Jewish people to become ethnically and religiously isolated from their gentile neighbors. The Kabala emerged out of the middle Ages and was a new mystical take on Hebrew theology. The Pharisees were a group who concerned themselves with staunchly upholding Jewish laws and traditions. They believed that an individual's first duty was to follow Jewish law, both written and oral. Under the Pharisees, followers began living a completely religious existence, constantly praying. They were the only group to survive Roman rule, out of the various other parties including the Zealots and the Essenes. Modern scriptures are based on Pharisee philosophies, "they chose the books and the versions that would be read and studied and, therefore, lead to the Judaism of their future," (432).
Out of the later Reform movement in modern times, came backlash from an Orthodox sect. Orthodox doctrine believes that Torah scriptures are complete in nature and should not undergo any changes. Modern Orthodox traditions rely greatly on the ancient practices of their ancestors, living with "absolute fidelity to the practical admonitions of the Torah, as they are interpreted and applied to daily life by the Talmud," (446). Orthodox Judaism proposes that the Sabbath and other festivals should not be changed to accommodate modern life. Hey also adhere to ancient law concerning everyday actions such as what foods to eat.
A more liberal Reform Judaism came about in the 1840's through ideas influenced by the liberalization of much of the Western world. The origins of Reform Judaism began in German synagogues which proposed a modernizing of temple worship. Much of the extensive Sabbath ceremony was reduced and translated into various native languages rather than Hebrew., along with the removal of "References to the coming of Messiah, the Resurrection of the dead, or the reestablishment of Jewish nationality and the sacrificial rites of ancient Palestine," (445). They believe that Judaism is constantly changing, and unlike their Orthodox counterparts, the Torah needed to be adapted to modern living.
Throughout the years, both Buddhism and Judaism have gone through many divisions and reformations. They both, however, share one thing that many other religions share in common. Many major divisions were based on the idea that the religion should either return to its conservative roots, or be applied more liberally as the times and people change.
King James Bible. Genesis. Found at http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/KjvGene.html. On October 13, 2007
Powers, John. A Concise Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Oneworld Publications. Oxford.
Noss, David S. History of the World's Religions. Prentice Hall.…[continue]
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