Swartz_Judaism. An Overview_abbrev

Swartz_Judaism. An Overview_abbrev - Michael Swartz,...

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{Abbreviated} JUDAISM: AN OVERVIEW Judaism is the religion of the Jews, an ethnic, cultural, and religious group that has its origins in the ancient Near East, has lived in communities as members of collective polities and as individuals throughout the world, and now numbers about thirteen million people, chiefly concentrated in the State of Israel, North America, and Europe. However, not all Jews practice Judaism as a religion; nor does every form of Judaism constitute a religious expression. Judaism as a religion has since its emergence held to a belief in one God; believed that the Jewish people are bound to God by a sacred covenant; and read, interpreted, and followed what it sees as the terms of that covenant in God's revelation in the form of the Torah. But Jews' conceptions of God have ranged from extreme anthropomorphism to forms of pantheism; the idea that the covenant obliges Jews especially and personally has been challenged by certain Jewish religious movements in modern times; and ways and implications of interpreting the Torah have varied greatly, even in the most common forms of Judaism. It is impossible to separate the history and description of Judaism from that of the Jewish people. How does one identify the Jewish people—a political, social, and religious entity that has ranged from antiquity to the present, that is not limited to one geographic region, and the members of which do not always agree on what constitutes membership in their community? Does this definition preclude any doctrinal or behavioral definition of Judaism? When members of that community depart from a set of beliefs or practices but still consider themselves Jews, are they still adherents to Judaism? Does one accept internal definitions of Judaism and Jews, or does one draw conclusions from the historical range of Jewish history? DEFINITIONS The term Judaism first appears in Hellenistic Jewish literature, most prominently 2 Maccabees (a narration of the Judean revolt against the Seleucid Greeks in the second century BCE), where the word Ioudaïsmos seems to identify the ways and practices of the Jews in contradistinction with those of the "barbarians" (which in 2 Mc. 2:21 actually means Greeks). There Ioudaïsmos is contrasted with Hellenismos , the ways and practices of the Greeks that the Maccabees' Jewish opponents wished to follow. Thus the term Judaism began as a way of distinguishing itself from the other. Likewise the Hebrew term Yahadut appears occasionally in the Middle Ages with a similar valence. In all of these premodern examples, Judaism refers to the whole of a religious behavioral system and is not given a substantive, doctrinal definition. From the Hellenistic period until the dawn of modernity, Jews would be most likely to describe their practices, beliefs, and theological thinking as Torah . This word originally meant "teaching" and in its simplest common meaning applies to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (the Pentateuch). 1
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This test prep was uploaded on 04/19/2008 for the course COMP STD 367 taught by Professor Maymind during the Spring '08 term at Ohio State.

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Swartz_Judaism. An Overview_abbrev - Michael Swartz,...

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