Judaism is the traditional religion of the Jews. Though a Jew remains a Jew, even if he denies every tenet of Judaism (most Jews would make an exception of the one who becomes a Christian), no one can become a Jew except by formally accepting Judaism. This fact supplies the background of the present controversy in Israel on who is a Jew. Thus Judaism and Jewish history are inextricably linked.

Judaism and Christianity are the only two developments of Old Testament religion that have survived the crushing of the Jewish state in A.D. 70 and 135. The destruction of the Temple eliminated the importance of the priests and discredited the apocalyptists like those of Qumran, while the bloody end of Bar Cochba’s revolt (A.D. 135) meant the end of the nationalists. By A.D. 200 the views of the Pharisees, generally known as Rabbinic Judaism, had become binding and normative for all those known as Jews.


The restriction of sacrifice to Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C. and the growing dispersion of the Jews both East and West involved a fundamental change in religious outlook. Even when the Temple was rebuilt, the vast majority of Jews were unable to make effective use of it. Ezra seems to have represented the outlook of the best elements that remained in Babylonia, and his object was the making of the law of Moses as a whole rather than the Temple the center of religious life. The Temple was honored because the Law commanded it, but it was secondary for all that. This attitude was strengthened by the apostasy of many of the leading priests in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the scandals of the later Hashmonean high-priestly rule. While some, like the Qumran Covenanters, withdrew in despair ...

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