Early History of Judaism

It has been argued that Judaism can be seen not only as a single

religion, but as a group of similar religions. It has also been

pointed-out that through all the trials and tribulations that Judaism

has suffered through, that there have been common themes that have

proven omni-pervasive. Any institution with roots as ancient and

varied as the religion of the Jews is bound to have a few variations,

especially when most of its history takes place in the political and

theological hot spot of the Middle East.

In this discussion, many facets of Judaism will be examined,

primarily in the three temporal subdivisions labeled the Tribal /

Pre-Monarchy Period, the Divided Monarchy, and the Hasmonean /

Maccabean and Roman Era. Among all the time periods where the religion

has been split, these three seem to be the most representative of the

forces responsible.

As for a common thread seen throughout all Judiasms, the area of

focus here is the place associated with the religion : Jerusalem. This

topic will be covered in detail first, and then the multiple Judaism

arguments will be presented. In this way, it is possible to keep a

common focus in mind when reading about all the other situations in

which the religion has found itself. A brief conclusion follows the


A Place to Call Home No other religion has ever been so attached

to its birthplace as Judaism. Perhaps this is because Jews have been

exiled and restricted from this place for most of their history.

Jerusalem is not only home to Judaism, but to the Muslim and Christian

religions as well. Historically this has made it quite a busy place

for the various groups.

Jerusalem is where the temple of the Jews once stood; the only

place on the whole Earth where one could leave the confines of day to

day life and get closer to God. In 586 BCE when the temple was

destroyed, no Jew would have denied Jerusalem as being the geographic

center of the religion. From that point on, the Jewish people have

migrated around the world, but not one of them forgets the fact that

Jerusalem is where it all began. It is truly a sacred place, and helps

to define what Judaism means to many people; a common thread to run

through all the various splinters of the religion and help hold them


Even today, as the Jewish people have their precious Jerusalem

back (through the help of other nations and their politics) there is

great conflict and emotion surrounding it. Other nations and people in

the area feel that they should be in control of the renowned city, and

the Jews deny fervently any attempt to wrestle it from their

occupation. It is true that there is no temple in Jeruslaem today, nor

are all the Jews in the world rushing to get back there. But it is

apparent that the city represents more to the religion of Judaism than

a mere place to live and work. The city of Jerusalem is a spiritual

epicenter, and throughout Judaism?s long and varied history, this

single fact has never changed.

Tribal / Pre-Monarchy

Judaism?s roots lie far back in the beginnings of recorded

history. The religion did not spring into existence exactly as it is

known today, rather it was pushed and prodded by various environmental

factors along the way. One of the first major influences on the

religion was the Canaanite nation. Various theories exist as to how

and when the people that would later be called Jews entered into this

civilization. But regardless of how they ultimately got there, these

pioneers of the new faith were subjected to many of the ideas and

prejudices of the time. Any new society that finds itself in an

existing social situation, can do no more than to try and integrate

into that framework. And this is exactly what the Jews did.

Early Judaism worshipped multiple gods. One of these gods was

known as Ba?al, and was generally thought-of as a ?statue god? with

certain limitations on his power. The other primary deity was called

YHWH (or Yahweh) and enjoyed a much more mysterious and illusive

reputation. He was very numinous, and one was to have great respect,

but great fear for him at the same time. Ba?al was not ever really

feared, as his cycles (metaphorically seen as the