Notes for Religious Studies 369:
Introduction to Judaism
Names in Use
Traditional Jewish belief is that the entire Torah was revealed letter-for-letter by God to Moses.
Origin and Meaning
- The name of the language in which Bible and other works of Jewish literature were composed.
- Appears in the Bible as a description of Abraham (Genesis 14:13).
- Foreigner ("from the other side of the River")
- Descendant of Eber (Genesis 10:21-25) a descendant of Noah and Shem, who was an ancestor of Abraham.
| This term is usually used to designate the people from the time of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) until the conquest of the Promised Land. |
- The name given to Abraham's grandson Jacob, father of the twelve tribes, after struggle with supernatural being, in Genesis 32:29, "for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
The "Children of Israel," or: "Israelites," were his descendants.
- During the era of the "Divided Monarchy," the northern kingdom was known as Israel, composed of ten tribes, as distinct from the southern kingdom of Judah.
| This term is the one that has been used most often by the Jews to refer to themselves in their Hebrew texts. |
- After the fall of the Israelite kingdom, the ten northern tribes were lost. Only the Judeans survived their exile in Babylonia to continue their history and religion. Their country was known as the province of "Judea" under the Persian, Greek and Roman empires.
| This term was used primarily by non-Jews to refer to the people from the era of the Babylonian exile and afterwards. |
- In the Bible, the Middle-Eastern peoples, including Jews, Arabs and others are traced to Noah's son Shem: Hence they are all "S(h)emites."
"Semitic" was also used to denote a language family to which Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and other Near Eastern languages belong.
The term "antisemitism" was coined by Wilhelm Marr in 1879 as a more "polite" term for Jew-hatred.
| The word "antisemitism" is the only context in which the term "Semite" refers to Jews.
The Structure of the Hebrew Bible: TaNaKh:
- A modern acronym used to designate the three main divisions of the Hebrew Bible
||Five Books of Moses
|History of humanity from creation of world to death of Moses (before the Israelites' entry to Promised Land)
Laws given to Israel at Mount Sinai through Moses
|Prophets|| ||Historical Works ("Early Prophets"): History of Israel from conquest of Promised Land to Beginning of Second Commonwealth
Teachings (often in poetry) of "Prophets"
||Various types, usually later than other sections:
- Prayers (Psalms)
- stories (Ruth, etc.)
- love poetry (Song of Songs)
- proverbs (Proverbs)
- philosophy and theology (Ecclesiastes, Job)
- history (Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah)
- laments over Jerusalem (Lamentations)
- Apocalypse (Daniel)
Manuscript of the Apocryphal work 'the Wisdom of Ben-Sira' (Ecclesiasticus) from the Cairo Genizah, now in the Cambridge University library
A Torah Scroll
Meanings of "Torah":
- Literal translations: Teaching. Instruction. Guidance
- The "Five Books of Moses" =Pentateuch
(the first five books of the Bible)
- The physical parchment scroll on which the Torah is traditionally written.
- The Written Torah
The Oral Torah [=Rabbinic tradition embodied in the Talmuds and other works]
- The interpretations of Scripture through the ages
- The totality of Jewish teaching and life
Modern and non-traditional denominations have accepted documentary and historical theories of its composition.
Miscellaneous terms and concepts:
Literal meaning: "Hidden, secret"
Books that were contained in the ancient Greek versions of the Bible (in use primarily in Egypt), but were not included in the accepted Hebrew edition of the Jewish sacred scriptures.
Covenant [Hebrew: B'rit(h)]:
- Bilateral agreements--between God and creation / creatures.
- With nature: God promises to maintain the physical world [subject to humans maintaining moral standards].
- With Humanity: The seven laws of the children of Noah:
- No murder
- No sexual immorality
- No idolatry
- Not eating limbs from living animals
- No blasphemy
- No robbery
- Obligation to administer justice.
Stages of Israelite Covenant:
- Abraham: His children will be a nation, will be enslaved in a strange land, and return to inherit their land.
- Sinai: People must observe God's law as found in the commandments of the Torah:
- 613 commandments (248 positive + 365 negative)
- David: The dynasty of King David will continue to rule over Israel in perpetuity
- Ezra and Nehemiah: Jews returning from the Babylonian captivity collectively accept the Torah as their national charter.