Judaism – Its Origin, Beliefs, and Versions of Belief
Most Jews would claim that Judaism is traced in the Hebrew Bible known as the Old Testament (OT), and many would claim that Moses was the first Jew. This claim however is not true. Moses was not the founder of Judaism, and not the first Jew, since Yahweh, the Almighty Sovereign (God) of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel was revered by the Hebrews well before the birth of Moses and the development of the religion of Judaism (from post Babylonian exile). The infinite-personal Almighty Sovereign, Creator of the OT revealed Himself to man from the very beginning (in the OT Bible as well as in the evidence of His Creation), but in the Bible He presented Himself by a progression of knowledge, Exo 6: 3.
One of the central features around which both modern Judaism and ancient Israelism is built is the covenant relationship Yahweh established first with Abraham about 2085 BCE. The Almighty singled out this man and covenanted with him that his descendants would be as the dust of the earth, un-numbered. This promise was repeated to Isaac, and then to Jacob who was renamed Israel, Gen 28: 13, 14, by which all the families of the earth would be blessed.
This chosen line continued through Jacob’s 12 sons, and their descendants, the original 12 tribes of Israel. After a time of bondage in Egypt, the tribes grew to a large population, and at the end of a time (called the Exodus) Yahweh revealed Himself to original Israel at Mount Sinai, where the Covenant was secured, and where subsequently it is believed, that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (the Torah) that included the Law.[] The Law is the statutes and the ordinances that would make ancient Biblical Israel into a civil National Monotheistic Nation that would set them apart from the pagan nations that surrounded them.
The Hebrew Bible tells us of the early History of Israel in detail, the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, the period of Judges, the united kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon, and the divided Kingdom of Israel (the Northern 10 tribes) and the kingdom of Yahud (the Southern 2 Tribes). The ancestors (of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel), the Israelites (of the Northern Kingdom) were exiled from Palestine into Assyria about 745-721 BCE under King Shalmaneser V, these people eventually become a large population, migrating from South of the Caucasus (the Caucasians Mountains) who then migrated North-west into Western Europe. The Israelites subsequently become and are formed from the Caucasian people of Western European, Scandinavian, and British Nations. Most of these Nations became pagan, because they lost their religious leaders through their migration. They then became known only by their ancient Israelite family Crests or Banners (flags) that are still often found in the National Crests of the various European Nations they formed.
The Southern Kingdom of Yahud, the Yahudim (2 tribes), were also originally named Israelites, but were renamed after the prominent tribe of Yahudah (now known as Jews) were exiled from the area of Palestine some 200 years later, beginning about 586 BCE by King Nebuchadnezzar and deported into Babylon. Most of them also subsequently migrated from there after 70 years, into the Western European Nations joining and combining with the other 10 scattered tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel several hundred years later. This migration was fully completed even before 70 CE when the 2nd Temple was completely destroyed by Rome, although a mixed population of Israelites remained in the area. The two branches of Israelite people become a dispersed nation of brothers among all the nations of the globe, i.e. completing the 12 tribes of Israel. Many however still do not know of their original origin. While they remain dispersed they are known as the lost tribes.
Before and during the exile of the Israelites, Yahweh revealed much of Himself to them through a number of prophets. Judaism, Israelism, and Christianity generally accept the resulting 39 books of the OT.
Many writers have speculated that the early Israelite religion was polytheistic, idolatrous, and primitive. However, there is no evidence to support this view. It is built on antisupernatural evolutionary presuppositions rather than on solid historical or Biblical data. In fact, the earliest books of the OT reveal an advanced ethical monotheism without parallel in ancient literature. From the very beginning, Yahweh, the Almighty Sovereign Creator and Life-force Essence of the OT, is seen as having unlimited power, love, goodness, justice, and mercy. He is the infinite and personal Creator of all.
Throughout Yahweh’s relationship with Israel, His demands for blessing depended upon social and moral justice. When Israel failed, He used prophets to bring reform. The “sacrifice” (a loss to the offender) system) was a way for payments to be made as atonement for violations of civil and moral laws. Not having a financial system at the time using money or valuable items such as gold or silver to pay for violations of law, early Israel used valuable food items (meat and grain) for payment. Without a payment system to make restitution for violations of law, the surrounding nations remained immoral uncivilized.
As a whole, the people (12 tribes of Israel) who form True Israel (which includes the Yahudim) have never returned to the area of Palestine from exile because Israel as a people has far out-grown the ‘Holy Land’ borders several thousand years ago. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Israelites of the OT will never again return to the Middle East, because they have become such a huge population of people. Physically, the area called Palestine would be unable to support the vast number of people who now descend from the original True Biblical Israel.
Of the estimated five to six million ancient Israelites that were exiled from Palestine, less than 49,000 from the tribe of Yahudah (the Yahudim) of the Southern Kingdom ever returned to Palestine under Nehemiah from their captivity. They with a residual of scattered Israelites begin the task of re-building the destroyed 2nd Temple and the city of Jerusalem at about 537 BCE. From this small group of returned exiled Israelites, they became known as Yahudim, the land became the land of Yahud, and eventually the people Yahudi. The slang word Jew derived from the short form of Yahu and was applied to all of those dwelling in the land.
Modern Judaism is a religion (the religion of the Jews) is very different from original OT Israelism. In the centuries following the Babylonian exile, of the Southern Kingdom, a number of important changes began to appear. Because there was no Temple in Babylon, meeting places known as synagogues developed. Even after the Temple was rebuilt in Ezra’s time, synagogues continued to be worship centers for most of the Yahudi. When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, the synagogues become the official rallying places for Judaism, (the religion of the Jews).
With the end of the Temple, the sacrificial system using food items as payment also came to an end; the synagogues substituted ritual prayer, and the study of the Law for the sacrifices. The original Levitical priesthood was replaced by “teachers” of the Law, many of whom were Pharisees, who had developed elaborate oral traditions partly based upon Mosaic Law during their exile in Babylon. Their understanding of “the Law” originally developed to maintain a civil Nation by Moses became a complex way to regulate every detail of life for the Israelites living in Palestine during the time of Yahshua (Jesus). External things like the Sabbath observance, food preparations, dietary rules, and holy days were stressed to the point that the application of Phariseeism became a burden upon the people. The Pharisees became known with the title rabbis (teachers). The teaching ministry of Yahshua (Jesus) during the early First century CE often came in conflict with the Pharisees, their opinions, and their conceived application of the “Law” during his life, which eventually resulted in his execution. Yahshua taught the correct Biblical Covenant, and the correct applicable use of the Law as it was originally intended by Moses. By 135 CE the Romans drove most of the Jews out of Palestine, but the religion of the Pharisees (Judaism) was able to survive this ultimate dispersion because Jewish communities had already been established in many countries surrounding Palestine.
About 200 CE, the oral rabbinic traditions (of Phariseeism) were finally written down. The result is known as the Mishnah (repetition). The Mishnah is placed on par with the Mosaic Law. It is so important to Jews that lengthy commentaries on the Mishnah, known as the Gemaras, were also written. The Babylonian Gemara 500 CE is longer and more popular than the Palestinian Gemara 200 CE. The combination of the Mishnah and the Babylonian Gemara is called the Babylonian Talmud. Likewise, the combination of the Mishnah and the Palestinian Gemara is called the Palestinian Talmud. These Talmud’s filled many volumes and contain Jewish folklore, traditions and various teachings.
Where Jewish communities are located, there are usually one or more synagogues. Each is directed by a rabbi. Anyone calling himself a Jew can become a rabbi if he acquired good knowledge of the Law and was accepted as such by the congregation. The rabbis apply the Law along with the Talmudic teachings to accommodate the changing conditions of daily Jewish life.
In the 12th century CE, a Jewish philosopher named Maimonides produced a creed which is generally regarded as the basis of Jewish Orthodoxy. This creed emphasized the omnipotence, omniscience, eternality, and oneness of God. That God is an invisible spirit Being; as the only Creator and Source of life, He only should be worshiped. Today Judaism is divided into three main branches: Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative. Within Orthodoxy, there is also an ultraorthodox form of Judaism known as the Hasidic Movement. It follows the Talmudic teachings and precepts about the Sabbath observance, kosher dietary rules, marriage, and the applications of the various Biblical feasts and holy days.
Orthodox Judaism beliefs:
- Every Jew has immediate access to the Almighty Sovereign through prayer
- A Jew needs no conversion or redemption, and can be saved by obedience to the Torah (the 613 precepts of the Law) and the rabbinic interpretations of the Law for those precepts.
- Orthodoxy – emphasizes: the omnipotence, omniscience, eternality, and oneness of the Almighty Sovereign Creator.
- Judaism believes that the Almighty Sovereign is an invisible spirit being, the only Creator and source of life. That He alone should be worshiped.
- Judaism holds Moses to be the greatest of the prophets, and the Law to be the highest revelation, who taught rewards and punishment, and the resurrection of the dead.
- Judaism rejects the doctrine of original sin, and believes that sin is an act, not a state of being.
- Judaism believes man has the ability to live according to the Law, if he fails he needs to come to the Almighty for repentance. Thereby, Judaism eliminates the need for a savior.
- Jews do not anticipate the coming of a messiah at all, but many do believe in a messianic age. Such a messiah would be a political and social deliverer, but not a savior from sin.
- Judaism believes in keeping the various festivals and holy days throughout the year; that these serve as a link to the past, and illustrate Judaism’s concept of history as the meaningful product of the Almighty’s activity.
Judaism’s expressions and beliefs are basically built upon culture and tradition, where practice is usually emphasized more than belief. It is an ethical system and a way of life with a transcendent Almighty (G-d) in the background.
Reformed Judaism beliefs
In the last century Jews have shown increasing desire to adapt themselves to modern society. This is especially true in America, where Jews have been given more freedom and respect than in many other countries, leading to the rise of Reform Judaism. In this form, the Talmudic practices and precepts have been put aside. The Sabbath observances in many have been changed to Sunday. Reform Judaism has spiritualized doctrines such as the coming of a messiah and the resurrection of the body. What remains is an ethical system based upon a monotheistic philosophy.
Based on the Thirteen Principles of Faith formulated by his Commentary on the Mishneh Torah,
1. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Creator and Guide of all the created beings, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
2. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is One and Alone; that there is no oneness in any way like Him; and that He alone is our G-d - was, is and will be.
3. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is incorporeal; that He is free from all anthropomorphic properties; and that He has no likeness at all.
4. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the first and the last.
5. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the only one to whom it is proper to pray, and that it is inappropriate to pray to anyone else.
6. I believe with complete faith that all the words of the Prophets are true.
7. I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace unto him, was true; and that he was the father of the prophets, both of those who proceeded and of those who followed him.
8. I believe with complete faith that the whole Torah which we now possess was given to Moses, our teacher, peace unto him.
9. I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will be no other Torah given by the Creator, blessed be His name.
10. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, knows all the deeds and thoughts of human beings, as it is said, "It is He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who perceives all their actions." (Psalms 33:15).
11. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, rewards those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who transgress His commandments.
12. I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and although he may tarry, nevertheless, I wait every day for him to come.
13. I believe with complete faith that there will be resurrection of the dead at the time when it will be the will of the Creator, blessed be His name and exalted be His remembrance forever and ever.
The foundation of all foundations [and basic principles of the Torah] and the pillar of all wisdoms is to know that there is a First Being Who brings every existing thing into being. All existing things – in heaven, on earth and what is beyond them – come into being only from His true existence.
Conservative Judaism beliefs
Conservative Judaism is the intermediate branch of Judaism between the Orthodox and the Reform extremes. This retains the feasts and many of the traditions in an attempt to hold to the essentials of original Judaism. It does, however attempt to reinterpret the Law in order to make it relevant for modern thought and culture. Conservative Jews remain very progressive and active in the intellectual community, and often remain and vote with the Democratic Party.
Judaism also has its mystical and esoteric school of thought known as the Kabala. Those that practice this pantheistic system seek a mystical experience of oneness with the cosmic whole.
Summary: Judaism today covers a wide range of beliefs and practices. There is nothing one must believe to become a Jew. There is in fact a rapidly growing secularization of Jews today, and the Jewish population is moving away from many forms of original Jewish practice. This has led to confusion in defining what makes a person Jewish. Jews are therefore not a race, but they are mostly an undefined religious group. The Bible teaches that the descendants of Jacob/Israel were Israelites, not Jews.
Note: Some of the above information came from the passage on “Judaism” in the book “Cults, World Religions, and You” by Kenneth Boa, 1980. The passage was revised and modified by AOYcascade.com.
Torah: Torah is not Law. The accurate Hebraic definition of Torah is: "a set of Instructions, from a father to his children, violation of these instructions are disciplined in order to foster obedience and train his children."
“The purpose of a parent’s Torah is to teach and bring the children to maturity. If the Torah is violated out of disrespect or defiant disobedience, the child is punished. If the child desires to follow the instructions out of a loving obedience but falls short of the expectations, the child is commended for the effort and counseled on how to perform the instructions better the next time.”
Law: “Unlike Torah, Law is a set of rules from a government and is binding on a community. Violation of the rules may require punishment. With this type of law, there is no room for teaching, either the law was broken with the penalty of punishment or it was not broken. G-d, as our heavenly Father, gives his children his Torah in the same manner as parents give their Torah to their children, not in the manner as a government does to its citizens.” Some of this information came from: Jeff A. Benner, author of the Ancient Hebrew lexicon of the Bible.
The Law of the OT was instituted to develop ancient Israel into a civilized National Theocracy, and to separate them from the pagan nations that surround them. That National Theocratic Israel does not exist today and many of the ancient Laws cannot apply today as it did for ancient Israel. Many countries, however, have adapted some of Israel’s ancient Biblical Laws for maintaining their own civilized society.
Presented for information and study purposes
Assembly of Yahweh, Cascade
 See note at end of this document