Origins

What is Judaism?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Judaism as “the profession or practice of the Jewish religion; the religious system or polity of the Jew” (“Judaism”). Based on this definition, Judaism is a religion. Judaism is not a religion; it is more than that. Judaism is the combination of a religion, a culture, and a race. The history of Judaism dates back to the creation of the world and of mankind, and has shaped the Judaism into what it is today.
The history of Judaism began in the biblical book of Genesis. Abraham, who is considered the father of Judaism, created a covenant with God. God promised Abraham heirs who would be circumcised as a sign of the everlasting covenant (Neusner 594). From that point on, Abraham did God’s work on Earth. The next major event in the history of Judaism took place in Egypt. Because of a famine, the Hebrew people migrated to Egypt, where they were enslaved. God is said to have saved the Hebrew people from the Egyptians by enveloping Egypt with multiple plagues that targeted only the Egyptians (“The History of Judaism”). The Hebrew people were very grateful for the work of this divine figure, and they began to praise him. The faith in this divine figure came to be called Judaism, and evolved into a religion.

In order to classify Judaism as a religion, the reader must understand what a religion is. Religion can be defined as both “a particular system of faith and worship” and as “action or conduct indicating a belief in reverence for, and desire to please, a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this” (“Religion”). Judaism contains all of the required elements of a religion.

Although there are many separate groups within Judaism, a number of basic beliefs and principles stand as common ground. The first and most important basic belief of all the groups within Judaism is that there is only one God, which classifies Judaism as monotheistic (Harrison 25). God created the Heavens, the Earth, and the inhabitants of the Earth in his image; so, we are all equal in God’s eyes. The second belief, which closely relates to the latter idea, is that because God created the Earth and all of its inhabitants, he is the father. The Jewish faith sees the people of the world as one big family because we are all God’s children. A third piece of common ground in Judaism is that for the most part, all Jewish people partake in the same festivals and celebrations; a number of common prayers are shared as well (Harrison 26). A very important, shared principle among the people who practice Judaism is that God forgives those people who are truly sorry for whatever they have done. Finally, every group within Judaism reads the Torah, which is a set of laws and guidelines showing people how they should live.
Each of the beliefs and principles that the Jewish people share are based on the idea that there is one god, who they can talk to whenever they want. The Jewish people pray to God to show him respect and give him praise at places called synagogues. The belief in a divine, ruling power and the fact that the Jewish people praise a higher being qualify Judaism as a religion, but Judaism is multifaceted in that it is more than just a religion. There are many cultural, fraternal, and philanthropic institutions that are associated with Judaism, and therefore, are considered part of the Jewish community. The members of these institutions don’t necessarily worship at the synagogues or believe what people of the Jewish faith believe, but they are still considered Jews (Harrison 33).

For many years, the word “Jew” has been used to describe both the people that practice Judaism and those people that are affiliated with Judaism in some other way. Because of how tightly-knit the Jewish communities are, it is easy to see why people would assume that “Jew” is a race. Technically, Jews are not a race of people. A person’s race is based on genetics, not on their actions or their faith (Rich 3). In the case of Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, in1987, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Jews are a race of people. This was meant to protect them from racial discrimination.

Judaism is a blend of a religion, a culture, and a race of people. Judaism began because of God’s actions in saving the Hebrew people. The Hebrew people praised him out of gratitude. Over the years, this new faith attracted millions of followers and grew to into more of a way of life than just a religion.

Thank you to our partner Albany Organics for sponsoring this post.  It means a lot to have your support.

Works Referenced

  • Anonymous. “The History of Judaism.” Religion Facts. 8 February 2007
    <http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/history.htm
  • Harrison, Bernard. “Judaism.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and
    Social Science 256 (1948): 25-35
  • Neusner, Jacob. Religious Foundations of Western Civilization. Tennessee: Abingdon
    Press 2006
  • “Religion.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989
  • Rich, Tracey R. “What is Judaism?” JewFAQ. 9 February 2008
    http://www.jewfaq.org/judaism.htm
  • Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb. No. 85-2156. Supreme Ct. of the US. May 1987

Baptism

Robin Scroggs and Kent I. Groff’s article, “Baptism in Mark: Dying and Rising with Christ” (1973), asserts that when a person is baptized, he is stripped of his garments and baptized into death.  But, only Jesus actually dies.  The substitution of Jesus for the initiate is symbolized by the loss of the linen.  Scroggs and Groff back this claim with numerous references to the Old Testament.  Scroggs and Groff’s purpose is to describe the nature of baptism and explain the symbolism of dying and rising with Christ.

Paul Mallia’s article, “Baptized into Death and Life” (1965), claims that in baptism, we experience new life in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  He continues by arguing that it is then our mission to follow God in order to be saved.  Mallia’s purpose in writing this article is to explain the concept of dying and then arising to new life through immersion in the waters of baptism.

Philip Hyatt’s article, “The Origin and Meaning of Christian Baptism” (1960), argues that immersion into the water at baptism creates a mystical union with Christ, in which we share in his death and resurrection. He states that baptism must be a voluntary action, wherein the initiate is an active participant. Hyatt’s purpose is to explain the origin and the meaning of baptism in the Christian faith.

The 3 Monotheistic Religions

Mysticism – desire to experience the presence of God

Judaism

The Torah contains many stories of mystical experiences, from visitations by angels to prophetic dreams and visions. The Talmud considers the existence of the soul and when it becomes attached to the body. Jewish tradition tells that the souls of all Jews were in existence at the time of the Giving of the Torah and were present at the time and agreed to the Covenant.

In the middle ages, many of these mystical teachings were committed to writing in books like the Zohar. Many of these writings were asserted to be secret ancient writings or compilations of secret ancient writings.

The mystical school of thought came to be known as Kabbalah, from the Hebrew root Qof-Beit-Lamed, meaning “to receive, to accept.” The word is usually translated as “tradition.”

Christianity

The attainment of the quest to see God is realized in death

God said to Moses “No one shall see me and live.”

God is both transcendent and immanent

Christian doctrine generally maintains that God dwells in all Christians and that they can experience God directly through belief in Jesus, Christian mysticism aspires to apprehend spiritual truths inaccessible through intellectual means, typically by emulation of Christ

Two major themes of Christian mysticism are (1) a complete identification with, or imitation of Christ, to achieve a unity of the human spirit with the spirit of God; and (2) the perfect vision of God, in which the mystic seeks to experience God “as he is,” and no more “through a glass, darkly.”

Christ is the sole end of Christian mysticism. Whereas all Christians have Christ, call on Christ, and can (or should) know Christ, the goal for the Christian mystic is to become Christ—to become as fully permeated with God as Christ is, thus becoming like him, fully human, and by the grace of God, also fully divine. In Christian teaching this doctrine is known by various names—theosis, divinization, deification, and transforming union.

Islam

Muhammad said “worship God as if you see him” mandated by Sufis
Sufism, the religious philosophy of Islam, is described in the oldest extant definition as the apprehension of divine realities and Mohammedan mystics are fond of calling themselves Ahl al-Haqq, ‘the followers of the Real. Al-Haqq is the term generally used by Sufis when they refer to God.

Renaissance means “rebirth”. The Renaissance was a revival of ancient culture and classical learning. There was a sudden interest in math, science, religion, and the arts. The Reformation was a movement in the Holy Roman Empire that began with Martin Luther in 1517. The Renaissance convinced people to question everything about their lives, including their religion and faith. Martin Luther questioned the practices of the Catholic Church and did not agree with many of the practices. Martin Luther then compiled a list of 95 Theses criticizing the church and the pope, and posted them on the door of the Wittenberg Church. This led to a new denomination under Christianity, the Lutherans.

Zionism is the Jewish nationalist movement that was founded in 1897, and created the State of Israel in 1948. Political Zionism, formed by Herzel, said that Jews should all move to one area and make that their national home (a Jewish state). This stream stressed the political task of gaining recognition for the Jews as a political entity. Cultural Zionism stressed Zion as a spiritual center, to unite all parts of the Jewish people. This stream emphasized Jewish language, culture, and literature. Socialist Zionism wanted the Jewish state to be a Socialist society and economy. This stream stressed creating a Jewish state where the economy was based on public ownership of the means of production.

Inter-religious dialogue is dialogue between different religions. The goal is to have the other person understand what you are saying. Ecumenical dialogue is dialogue between the different branches of a particular religion. Fundamentalism refers to the literal interpretation of a doctrine or holy book. The problem with fundamentalism is that other religions may not understand the reasoning behind a certain belief or practice. Inter-religious dialogue tends to scramble the actual meaning of things.

Local Community Support & Upcoming Events

Los Siervos de Jesus relies heavily on the support of local businesses and our community of followers to keep the online classes running and maintain the website with the latest topics covered in lectures, since everything is volunteer based.  Over the years, many different companies and charities have donated money to help us in this way, and we acknowledge and thank them for their contributions.   This week, a local company hvacalbany.com, generously donated a large sum of money to us that will go a long way toward keeping us up and running for a long time.  This has allowed us to maintain the light of hope and ray of sunshine even in the hours of darkness.  Community of fellow friends in Christ, please add this local business to your prayers this week, as they have answered ours.  In addition, we would like to announce that in the coming Summer months, we will be hosting an in person, reading day where we have invited a famous author in the religious sector to stop in, speak, and participate with us as we examine the next set of stories in the Bible, according to Genesis.  We have yet to chose an exact date, but the event will be held on a Saturday from 9 AM – 3 PM.  Lunch is being sponsored by our local pizzeria, Mark’s, so thank you to them as well.

Our new site is coming!

Good evening everyone,

Los Siervos de Jesus has experienced a number of changes that we need to announce right away.  First, as you can see, we are going through a full site redesign.  For those of you who have been with us since the beginning, you’ll recognize the significant difference from what you have seen in the past.  We heard your complaints about the old site, and you were absolutely correct.  We have renewed the website and will return with better content than ever, as promised earlier this year.  We’re going to be looking to keep a light, fast website for the future, allowing you to get what you need quickly.  Please take a moment to check out the new site when it’s complete early next week.

Secondly, our Spanish translator has suffered an accident and is no longer able to work.  Please pray for him.  Our group does not have the funds to hire a replacement at the moment.  The group met to discuss this and it was determined that the majority of you, our following, speaks English as well as Spanish.  Considering both these facts, we have decided that for the time being, our posts and content will be written in English.

If you know anyone who is interested in translating religious content to help our cause, please send them our way.  Thank you, and we look forward to serving you.