Judaism and Early Christianity Term Paper

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Jewish History

The Hebrews do not actually appear in history until about 1224-1211 B.C.E. during the reign of Marniptah, king of Egypt (Ancient pg). Marniptah was the son of Raamses I, 1290-1223 B.CE, who is thought to be the kind of Egypt at the time of the Hebrew exodus (Ancient pg). In an account of Marniptah's military campaign in Asia, 1220 B.C.E., inscribed in granite is listed all the conquered peoples including the Israelites, who are mentioned as "now living in Canaan" (Ancient pg). Before this, the only history is that which was written by the Hebrews themselves who trace their origins to a "single individual, Abraham, who comes originally from Mesopotamia" (Ancient pg). This pre-Egyptian Hebrew history is referred to as the age of the patriarchs, which means father-ruler (Ancient pg). More than a thousand years had passed before this era of history was written down, and although it is impossible to date, most scholars place it somewhere between 1950-1500 B.C.E. (Ancient pg).

The history of the "patriarchs indicates that the special election of the Hebrews, made manifest in the delivery from Egypt, begins the Egyptian sojourn and delivery" (Ancient pg). From this history is learned that Abraham, a Semite living in Haran in northern Mesopotamia, and his descendants are selected by Yahweh to be his chosen people, above all others (Ancient pg). Abraham is told by Yahweh to move his family, and it is thought that this migration from Mesopotamia took place around 1950 B.C.E., during a time of collapsing chaos in the region (Ancient pg). As Abraham moves west, he stops at Shechem where Yahweh tells him that all the land will be given to him and his descendants (Ancient pg). Why Abraham was chosen is not explained, however, "the foundation of the Hebrew view of history is contained in these patriarchal stories" (Ancient pg). God has a special purpose and has chosen the Hebrews to fulfill it and has "entered into a covenantal relationship with them, promising to protect them as a "lord protects his servants" and as servants they pledge obedience (Ancient pg).

The early Hebrews were nomads who are organized "along classic tribal logic," that of society organized around kinship with kinship hierarchy (Ancient pg). Since the relationship with god is also a kinship, anyone who is not a descendant of Abraham is "not included in the special relationship with God" (Ancient pg). The patriarch is at the top of this kinship hierarchy and well into the monarchical period, the "Hebrews seem dynamically remember their tribal character" (Ancient pg). In Genesis, Cain and his descendants are associated with civilization, "meaning that civilization is not a good thing," and the history is written from an anti-monarchical stance, that desiring a king is disobedience to God (Ancient pg).

As nomads, the early Hebrews wandered from Palestine, which they would occupy later, through the deserts to Egypt, seeking a better life (Ancient pg). It is believed that the religion of the early Hebrews "had nothing to do with the Yahweh cult which is introduced by Moses, for Exodus asserts that Moses is the first to hear the name of god, Yahweh" (Ancient pg). The term 'Elohim,' God, or 'El Shaddai,' God Almighty, and several other variants are used in the Hebrew accounts of the patriarchs (Ancient pg). By the end of the patriarchal age, there are several tribes identified with a common ancestor and common identity, however, no one knows what they called themselves or where the term 'Hebrew' comes from, although most believe it is stems from the Egyptian word, 'apiru' or foreigner (Ancient pg). What is known is that they migrated to Egypt at some point and "Egypt would be the crucible in which would form the people and nation of Israel" (Ancient pg).

According to Genesis, Abraham was summoned from Ur of Chaldeans to Canaan for the purpose of forming a people with belief in one God (Ancient pg). When Jacob and his twelve sons and families left Canaan due to famine, they settled in Egypt where their descendants were made slaves (Ancient pg). After 400 years of bondage, around the 1300 B.C.E., God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and "back to the Land of Israel promised to their forefathers" (Ancient pg). During the 40 years in the Sinai desert, they forged a nation and received the Torah, which included the Ten Commandments (Ancient pg). The exodus from Egypt "left an indelible imprint on the national memory of the Jewish people and became a universal symbol of liberty and freedom" (Ancient pg). Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) and Succot (Feast of Tabernacles), are celebrated each year to commemorate events that took place during that time (Ancient pg).

During the next two hundred years, the Israelites had conquered most of the Land of Israel and had become farmers and craftsmen (Ancient pg). Saul, the first king, 1020 B.C.E., "bridged the period between the loose tribal organization and the setting up of a full monarchy under his successor" king David, 1004-965 B.C.E., under whom Israel became a major military power in the region (Ancient pg). David's son, Solomon, 965-930 B.C.E., succeeded him, and by reinforcing politically motivated marriages, strengthened the kingdom (Ancient pg). His crowning achievement was the building of the Temple in Jerusalem (Ancient pg). The Prophets preached during the period of the monarchy until the destruction of Jerusalem, 586 B.C.E. (Ancient pg).

Solomon's death, 930 B.C.E., marked the separation of the ten northern tribes, and so the country was divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah (Ancient pg). The Kingdom of Israel lasted over 200 years under 19 kings, and was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E., while the Kingdom of Judah lasted over 350 years under the descendents of David and was conquered by Babylonia in 586 B.C.E. And marked the end to the First Jewish Commonwealth and the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora (Ancient pg).

Gaza was an ancient gateway to Palestine on the road to Egypt. Gaza, the ancient gateway to Palestine on the route to Egypt, was "one of five Philistine cities along the southern coast that successfully resisted Israelite conquest until Judah Maccabee's brother Jonathan captured it, 150 B.C.E." (Ancient pg). Then it was destroyed by Alexander Jannai, 96 B.C.E., "but was rebuilt as a Roman city by Gabinius" (Ancient pg).

The most profound crisis in Hebrew history was the Exile, after the defeat by the Chaldeans, 597 B.C.E. (Ancient pg). The upper classes and craftsmen of the Judaean population was deported to Babylon and in 586 B.C.E., outraged that the Judaeans had shifted loyalties, Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem and the Temple (Ancient pg). The Hebrews were devastated, for they had been promised the land and protection by Yahweh, and uprooted from their homeland, they felt confused and betrayed (Ancient pg).

The years of Exile marked a religious shift of the Hebrew religion, as a small group of reformers believed that their suffering was "due to the corruption of their religion and ethics" (Ancient pg). These reformers "reoriented" the Jewish religion around the Mosaic books, believing the Jews needed to return to their "foundational religion" (Ancient pg). In existence since the seventh or eighth centuries B.C.E., the Mosaic books now took shape, resulting in the Torah, the five Mosaic books, "represented all the law the Hebrews should follow" and centered around cultic practices and the belief that if the Jews wished to return to their homeland, the laws must remain pure (Ancient pg).

Reform became the central them during Exile, a returning to the original character of religious and social practice (Ancient pg). In 539 B.C.E., Cyrus conquered the Chaldeans and re-established religions in their native lands, including the Hebrew religion, and ordered the Temple to be rebuilt (Ancient pg). The Judaeans returned to Jerusalem and the reformers were central to Jewish "thought and life all during the Persian years, 539-332 B.C.E." (Ancient pg). However, while the reformers were busy purifying the Hebrew religion, the Persian religion, Zoroastrianism, became popular among the common people, and due to its philosophy "that both explained and mollified tragedies such as the Exile," the Hebrews adopted some of these world views (Ancient pg). In particular, they came to explain that the disaster of the Exile was due to their own impurity (Hebrew pg). "They had betrayed Yahweh and allowed the Mosaic laws and cultic practices to become corrupt; the Babylonian Exile was proof of Yahweh's displeasure," and Jewish leaders began to speak of a theology of salvation, rather that one of judgement (Hebrew pg). This period marked the resurgence in Jewish tradition, "as the exiles looked back to their Mosaic origins in an effort to revive their original religion" (Hebrew pg). Many believe that the Torah took its final shape during this period and became the central text of the Jewish faith (Hebrew pg). "Hebrew society was almost solely concerned with religious matters in the Persian period; foreign religions were not tolerated as they…[continue]

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