- This article discusses the historical roots of Judaism throughout the 1st millennium BCE. For the origins of the modern-day religion of Judaism, see Origins of Rabbinic Judaism.
The origins of Judaism lie in the Bronze Age polytheistic Ancient Semitic religions, specifically Canaanite religion, a syncretization with elements of Babylonian religion and of the worship of Yahweh reflected in the early prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. During the Iron Age I, the Israelite religion became distinct from other Canaanite religions due to the unique monolatristic (proto-monotheistic) worship of Yahweh.
During the Babylonian captivity of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE (Iron Age II), certain circles within the exiled Judahites in Babylon redefined pre-existing ideas about monotheism, election, divine law and Covenant into a strict monotheistic theology which came to dominate the former Judah in the following centuries.
From the 5th century BCE until 70 CE, Israelite religion developed into the various theological schools of Second Temple Judaism, besides Hellenistic Judaism in the diaspora. Second Temple Judaism was significantly influenced by Zoroastrianism. The text of the Hebrew Bible was redacted into its extant form in this period and possibly also canonized as well.
Rabbinic Judaism developed during Late Antiquity, during the 3rd to 6th centuries CE; the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud were compiled in this period. The oldest manuscripts of the Masoretic tradition come from the 10th and 11th centuries CE; in the form of the Aleppo Codex of the later portions of the 10th century CE and the Leningrad Codex dated to 1008-1009 CE. Due largely to censoring and the burning of manuscripts in medieval Europe the oldest existing manuscripts of various rabbinical works are quite late. The oldest surviving complete manuscript copy of the Babylonian Talmud is dated to 1342 CE.
Judaism has its origins in the Iron Age Kingdom of Judah and in Second Temple Judaism. It has three essential elements: the written Torah (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy); the recognition of Israel (defined as the descendants of Abraham through his grandson Jacob) as a uniquely holy people elected by God as his chosen people; and the requirement that Israel live in accordance with God's laws as given in the Torah.
Monarchic period Yahwism
The Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (or Samaria) and Judah first appear in the 9th century BCE. The two kingdoms shared Yahweh as their national god, for which reason their religion is commonly called Yahwism. Neighbouring kingdoms of the time each had their own national gods: Chemosh was the god of Moab, Milcom the god of the Ammonites, Qaus the god of the Edomites, and so on, and in each kingdom the king was his god's viceroy on Earth. The various national gods were more or less equal, reflecting the fact that kingdoms themselves were more or less equal, and within each kingdom a divine couple, made up of the national god and his consort - Yahweh and the goddess Asherah in Israel and Judah - headed a pantheon of lesser gods.
By the late 8th century both Judah and Israel had become vassals of Assyria, bound by treaties of loyalty on one side and protection on the other. Israel rebelled and was destroyed c. 722 BCE, and refugees from the former kingdom fled to Judah, bringing with them the tradition that Yahweh, already known in Judah, was not merely the most important of the gods, but the only god who should be served. This outlook was taken up by the Judahite landowning elite, who became extremely powerful in court circles in the next century when they placed the eight-year-old Josiah (reigned 641-609 BC) on the throne. During Josiah's reign Assyrian power suddenly collapsed, and a pro-independence movement took power promoting both the independence of Judah from foreign overlords and loyalty to Yahweh as the sole god of Israel. With Josiah's support the "Yahweh-alone" movement launched a full-scale reform of worship, including a covenant (i.e., treaty) between Judah and Yahweh, replacing that between Judah and Assyria.
By the time this occurred, Yahweh had already been gradually absorbing the positive characteristics of the other gods and goddesses of the pantheon, a process of appropriation that was an essential step in the subsequent emergence of one of Judaism's most notable features, its uncompromising monotheism. The people of ancient Israel and Judah, however, were not followers of Judaism: they were practitioners of a polytheistic culture worshiping multiple gods, concerned with fertility and local shrines and legends, and not with a written torah, elaborate laws governing ritual purity, or an exclusive covenant and national god.
Second Temple Judaism
In 586 BCE Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the Judean elite - royal family, the priests, the scribes and other members of the elite - were taken to Babylon in captivity. They represented only a minority of the population, and Judah, after recovering from the immediate impact of war, continued to have a life not much different from what had gone before. In 539 BCE Babylon fell to the Persians and the Babylonian exile ended and a number of the exiles, but by no means all and probably a minority, returned to Jerusalem. They were the descendants of the original exiles, and had never lived in Judah; nevertheless, in the view of the authors of the Biblical literature, they, and not those who had remained in the land, were "Israel". Judah, now called Yehud, was a Persian province, and the returnees, with their Persian connections in Babylon, were in control of it. They represented also the descendants of the old "Yahweh-alone" movement, but the religion they instituted was significantly different from both monarchic Yahwism and modern Judaism. These differences include new concepts of priesthood, a new focus on written law and thus on scripture, and a concern with preserving purity by prohibiting intermarriage outside the community of this new "Israel".
The Yahweh-alone party returned to Jerusalem after the Persian conquest of Babylon and became the ruling elite of Yehud. Much of the Hebrew Bible was assembled, revised and edited by them in the 5th century BCE, including the Torah (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), the historical works, and much of the prophetic and Wisdom literature. The growing collection of scriptures was translated into Greek in the Hellenistic period by the Jews of the Egyptian diaspora, while the Babylonian Jews produced the court tales of the Book of Daniel (chapters 1-6 of Daniel - chapters 7-12 were a later addition), and the books of Tobit and Esther.
Other scholarscultural diffusion between Persians and Hebrews. While (in practice) dualistic, Zoroastrianism believed in eschatological monotheism (i.e. only one god in the end). Some suggest that it is not merely coincidence that Zoroastrianism's model of eschatological monotheism and the Deuteronomic historians' strictly monotheistic model receive formative articulations during the period after Persia overthrew Babylon.
contend that the development of a strict monotheism was the result of
Second Temple Judaism was divided into theological factions, notably the Pharisees and the Sadducees, besides numerous smaller sects such as the Essenes, messianic movements such as Early Christianity, and closely related traditions such as Samaritanism (which gives us the Samaritan Pentateuch, an important witness of the text of the Torah independent of the Masoretic Text).
During the 2nd to 1st centuries BCE, when Judea was under Seleucid and then Roman rule, the genre of apocalyptic literature became popular, the most notable work in this tradition being the Book of Daniel.
Development of Rabbinic Judaism
For centuries, the traditional understanding has been that Judaism came before Christianity and that Christianity separated from Judaism some time after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Starting in the latter half of the 20th century, some scholars have begun to argue that the historical picture is quite a bit more complicated than that. In the 1st century, many Jewish sects existed in competition with each other, see Second Temple Judaism. The sects which eventually became Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity were but two of these. Some scholars have begun to propose a model which envisions a twin birth of Christianity and Judaism rather than a separation of the former from the latter. For example, Robert Goldenberg (2002) asserts that it is increasingly accepted among scholars that "at the end of the 1st century CE there were not yet two separate religions called "Judaism" and "Christianity"".Daniel Boyarin (2002) proposes a revised understanding of the interactions between nascent Christianity and nascent Rabbinical Judaism in Late Antiquity which views the two religions as intensely and complexly intertwined throughout this period.
The Amoraim were the Jewish scholars of Late Antiquity who codified and commented upon the law and the biblical texts. The final phase of redaction of the Talmud into its final form took place during the 6th century CE, by the scholars known as the Savoraim. This phase concludes the Chazal era foundational to Rabbinical Judaism.
- Ackerman, Susan (2003). "Goddesses". In Richard, Suzanne. Near Eastern Archaeology:A Reader. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1-57506-083-5.
- Ahlstrom, Gosta W. (1991). "The Role of Archaeological and Literary Remains in Reconstructing Israel's History". In Edelman, Diana Vikander. The Fabric of History: Text, Artifact and Israel's Past. A&C Black.
- Albertz, Rainer (2003). "Problems and Possibilities: Perspectives on Postexilic Yahwism". In Albertz, Rainer; Becking, Bob. Yahwism After the Exile: Perspectives on Israelite Religion in the Persian Era. Uitgeverij Van Gorcum.
- Albertz, Rainer (1994). A History of Israelite Religion, Volume I: From the Beginnings to the End of the Monarchy. Westminster John Knox.
- Allen, Spencer L. (2015). The Splintered Divine: A Study of Istar, Baal, and Yahweh Divine Names and Divine Multiplicity in the Ancient Near East. Walter de Gruyter.
- Anderson, James S. (2015). Monotheism and Yahweh's Appropriation of Baal. Bloomsbury.
- Becker, A.H.; Reed, A.Y. (2007). The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-1-4514-0343-5.
- Becking, Bob (2001). "The Gods in Whom They Trusted". In Becking, Bob. Only One God?: Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah. A&C Black.
- Bennett, Harold V. (2002). Injustice Made Legal: Deuteronomic Law and the Plight of Widows, Strangers, and Orphans in Ancient Israel. Eerdmans.
- Berquist, Jon L. (2007). Approaching Yehud: New Approaches to the Study of the Persian Period. SBL Press.
- Betz, Arnold Gottfried (2000). "Monotheism". In Freedman, David Noel; Myer, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9053565035.
- Chalmers, Aaron (2012). Exploring the Religion of Ancient Israel: Prophet, Priest, Sage and People. SPCK.
- Cohen, Shaye J.D. (1999). "The Temple and the Synagogue". In Finkelstein, Louis; Davies, W. D.; Horbury, William. The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 3, The Early Roman Period. Cambridge University Press.
- Cohn, Norman (2001). Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith. Yale University Press.
- Collins, John J. (2005). The Bible After Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age. Eerdmans.
- Coogan, Michael D.; Smith, Mark S. (2012). Stories from Ancient Canaan (2nd Edition). Presbyterian Publishing Corp. ISBN 9053565035.
- Cook, Stephen L. (2004). The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism. Society of Biblical Literature.
- Coogan, M.D.; Brettler, M.Z.; Newsom, C.A.; Perkins, P. (2007). The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-528880-3.
- Darby, Erin (2014). Interpreting Judean Pillar Figurines: Gender and Empire in Judean Apotropaic Ritual. Mohr Siebeck.
- Davies, Philip R.; Rogerson, John (2005). The Old Testament World. Westminster John Knox.
- Davies, Philip R. (2016). The Origins of Judaism. Routledge.
- Davies, Philip R. (2010). "Urban Religion and Rural Religion". In Stavrakopoulou, Francesca; Barton, John. Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah. Continuum International Publishing Group.
- Day, John (2002). Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. Continuum.
- Dever, William G. (2003a). "Religion and Cult in the Levant". In Richard, Suzanne. Near Eastern Archaeology:A Reader. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1-57506-083-5.
- Dever, William G. (2003b). Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From. Eerdmans.
- Dever, William G. (2005). Did God Have A Wife?: Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-2852-1.
- Dicou, Bert (1994). Edom, Israel's Brother and Antagonist: The Role of Edom in Biblical Prophecy and Story. A&C Black.
- Dijkstra, Meindert (2001). "El the God of Israel-Israel the People of YHWH: On the Origins of Ancient Israelite Yahwism". In Becking, Bob; Dijkstra, Meindert; Korpel, Marjo C.A.; et al. Only One God?: Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah. A&C Black.
- Edelman, Diana V. (1995). "Tracking Observance of the Aniconic Tradition". In Edelman, Diana Vikander. The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms. Peeters Publishers. ISBN 9053565035.
- Elior, Rachel (2006). "Early Forms of Jewish Mysticism". In Katz, Steven T. The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period. Cambridge University Press.
- Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster.
- Freedman, D.N.; O'Connor, M.P.; Ringgren, H. (1986). "YHWH". In Botterweck, G.J.; Ringgren, H. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. 5. Eerdmans.
- Frerichs, Ernest S. (1998). The Bible and Bibles in America. Scholars Press.
- Gnuse, Robert Karl (1997). No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel. Continuum.
- Gnuse, Robert (1999). "The Emergence of Monotheism in Ancient Israel: A Survey of Recent Scholarship". Religion. 29: 315-336. doi:10.1006/reli.1999.0198.
- Gorman, Frank H., Jr. (2000). "Feasts, Festivals". In Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 978-1-57506-083-5.
- Grabbe, Lester (2010). An Introduction to Second Temple Judaism. Bloomsbury.
- Grabbe, Lester (2010). "'Many nations will be joined to YHWH in that day': The question of YHWH outside Judah". In Stavrakopoulou, Francesca; Barton, John. Religious diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-567-03216-4.
- Grabbe, Lester (2007). Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It?. A&C Black.
- Hackett, Jo Ann (2001). "'There Was No King In Israel': The Era of the Judges". In Coogan, Michael David. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-513937-2.
- Halpern, Baruch; Adams, Matthew J. (2009). From Gods to God: The Dynamics of Iron Age Cosmologies. Mohr Siebeck.
- Handy, Lowell K. (1995). Among the Host of Heaven: The Syro-Palestinian Pantheon as Bureaucracy. Eisenbrauns.
- Hess, Richard S. (2007). Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey. Baker Academic.
- Humphries, W. Lee (1990). "God, Names of". In Mills, Watson E.; Bullard, Roger Aubrey. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Mercer University Press.
- Keel, Othmar (1997). The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of Psalms. Eisenbrauns.
- Killebrew, Ann E. (2005). Biblical Peoples and Ethnicity: An Archaeological Study of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, and Early Israel, 1300-1100 B.C.E. Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 978-1-58983-097-4.
- Lemche, Niels Peter (1998). The Israelites in History and Tradition. Westminster John Knox Press.
- Levin, Christoph (2013). Re-Reading the Scriptures: Essays on the Literary History of the Old Testament. Mohr Siebeck.
- Liverani, Mario (2014). Israel's History and the History of Israel. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317488934.
- Mafico, Temba L.J. (1992). "The Divine Name Yahweh Alohim from an African Perspective". In Segovia, Fernando F.; Tolbert, Mary Ann. Reading from this Place: Social Location and Biblical Interpretation in Global Perspective. 2. Fortress Press.
- Mastin, B.A. (2005). "Yahweh's Asherah, Inclusive Monotheism and the Question of Dating". In Day, John. In Search of Pre-Exilic Israel. Bloomsbury.
- Mettinger, Tryggve N.D. (2006). "A Conversation With My Critics: Cultic Image or Aniconism in the First Temple?". In Amit, Yaira; Na'aman, Nadav. Essays on Ancient Israel in Its Near Eastern Context. Eisenbrauns.
- Meyers, Carol (2001). "Kinship and Kingship: The early Monarchy". In Coogan, Michael David. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-513937-2.
- MacDonald, Nathan (2007). "Aniconism in the Old Testament". In Gordon, R.P. The God of Israel. Cambridge University Press.
- Miller, Patrick D (2000). The Religion of Ancient Israel. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-22145-4.
- Miller, Patrick D (1986). A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. Westminster John Knox Press.
- Moore, Megan Bishop; Kelle, Brad E. (2011). Biblical History and Israel's Past. Eerdmans.
- Neusner, Jacob (1992). A Short History of Judaism. Fortress Press.
- Niehr, Herbert (1995). "The Rise of YHWH in Judahite and Israelite Religion". In Edelman, Diana Vikander. The Triumph of Elohim: From Yahwisms to Judaisms. Peeters Publishers. ISBN 9053565035.
- Noll, K.L. (2001). Canaan and Israel in Antiquity: An Introduction. A&C Black.
- Petersen, Allan Rosengren (1998). The Royal God: Enthronement Festivals in Ancient Israel and Ugarit?. A&C Black.
- Rogerson, John W. (2003). "Deuteronomy". In Dunn, James D. G.; Rogerson, John W. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837110.
- Schniedewind, William M. (2013). A Social History of Hebrew: Its Origins Through the Rabbinic Period. Yale University Press.
- Smith, Mark S. (2000). "El". In Freedman, David Noel; Myer, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans.
- Smith, Mark S. (2001). The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. Oxford University Press.
- Smith, Mark S. (2002). The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. Eerdmans.
- Smith, Mark S. (2003). "Astral Religion and the Divinity". In Noegel, Scott; Walker, Joel. Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World. Penn State Press.
- Smith, Mark S. (2010). God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World. Eerdmans.
- Smith, Morton (1984). "Jewish Religious Life in the Persian Period". In Finkelstein, Louis. The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 1, Introduction: The Persian Period. Cambridge University Press.
- Sommer, Benjamin D. (2011). "God, names of". In Berlin, Adele; Grossman, Maxine L. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. Oxford University Press.
- Van der Toorn, Karel (1995). "Ritual Resistance and Self-Assertion". In Platvoet, Jan. G.; Van der Toorn, Karel. Pluralism and Identity: Studies in Ritual Behaviour. BRILL.
- Van der Toorn, Karel (1999). "Yahweh". In Van der Toorn, Karel; Becking, Bob; Van der Horst, Pieter Willem. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. Eerdmans.
- Van der Toorn, Karel (1996). Family Religion in Babylonia, Ugarit and Israel: Continuity and Changes in the Forms of Religious Life. BRILL.
- Wright, J. Edward (2002). The Early History of Heaven. Oxford University Press.
- Wyatt, Nicolas (2010). "Royal Religion in Ancient Judah". In Stavrakopoulou, Francesca; Barton, John. Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-567-03216-4.