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1. Religion and religious practices of the Jews. Term is of Gk. origin (2 Mac 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4 Mac 4:26; Gl 1:13, 14). The foundation of all forms of Judaism is the Pentateuch,* which records how God made the Jews His people and how He gave ordinances for faith and life. Judaism was unique in the ancient world in its doctrines that Jahweh* is one God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe; that He is a spirit; that He is holy and demands holiness from His followers, yet is ready to forgive repentant sinners who seek His mercy in faith; that He would provide a Messiah* who would redeem His people and extend His kingdom over all the earth; and that in the world to come the righteous are eternally blessed, but the wicked are eternally punished for their sins. Unique was also the observance of the Sabbath.* Characteristic rite of Judaism is circumcision as the sign of the covenant* bet. God and His people. Sacrifices at the nat. sanctuary held a cen. position before the destruction of the temple (2 K 25:9, 13–17; 2 Ch 36:18–19).

2. During the cents. after the return from the Babylonian Captivity (see Babylonian Captivity, 1) the voice of prophecy became silent. But loss of pol. indep., trials of the Babylonian Captivity, and difficulties under for. rule centered attention on spiritual heritage. Much study was spent on the Torah* and its interpretation in light of the prophets and oral tradition. The sect of the Pharisees sprang up, added its regulations to those of the Torah, and developed a system of obedience to the letter of the Law without true service of God. Another contemporary sect was that of the Sadducees; they were liberals or freethinkers. Many Jews, esp. among the common people, adhered to the OT hope and faith. With the conquest of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple by Romans 70 AD, the period of Judaism characterized by the Talmud* began; it is marked by extreme legalism and ritualism, but no unified system of doctrine resulted till Maimonides* in the 12th c. codified the teachings of Judaism under 13 principles: (1) Existence of God, source of all creation; (2) His unity; (3) His spirituality; (4) His unity has no beginning; (5) worship of Him alone; (6) prophecy; (7) Moses the supreme prophet; (8) revelation of the Torah to Moses; (9) Torah the only and unchangeable Law; (10) Creator knows thoughts and deeds of man; (11) God rewards and punishes; (12) coming of the Messiah; (13) resurrection of the dead.

3. In modern times Jews have been able to play a large part in the soc., economic, and pol. world. Many still adhere to Orthodox Judaism despite difficulties in adjusting religious practices to prevailing conditions. Others, called Conservative, regard the Torah and traditional laws of Judaism as basic, but have made concessions by being less strict in observing religious regulations. A 3d group, Reform Judaism, originated in Ger. as a lay movement in the late 18th c.; it tries to adjust Judaism to modern needs; services are in the vernacular and are modernized. Reform Judaism aims to retain elements of Jewish tradition regarded as permanent, but allows changes in all other respects. It stresses the principle that the Jew must make a contribution toward enlightening mankind. Reform Judaism is prominent in the struggle against anti-Semitism.* Despite differences, all Jews recognize each other as mems. of one family; variations in belief and practice are viewed as expressions of different schools of Judaism. See also Schechter, Solomon.

4. Besides observing Sabbaths, new moons, special fast days, and minor festivals, Judaism keeps as major festivals: Passover (Ex 12:21–51; Mt 26:1–30 and parallel passages) and Pentecost (from Gk. pentekoste sc. hemera, “fiftieth day”; Feast of Weeks [Heb. Shabuoth, “weeks”]; Dt 16:9–13; Acts 2:1) in spring; New Year (Heb. Rosh Hashanah, “head of the year”; beginning of the 1st mo. of the Jewish civil [7th mo. of the religious] yr.; Feast of Trumpets; Lv 23:24; Nm 29:1), Day of Atonement (Heb. Yom Kippur; Lv 16; 23:26–32; Nm 29:7–11; Acts 27:9), and Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. Sukkoth, “booths; tabernacles”; Feast of Harvest; Ex 23:16; Lv 23:39–43) in fall. To these Mosaic festivals were added later Purim (Heb. “lots”; Feast of Esther; commemorates rescue of Jews from Haman's plot; Est, esp. 9:20–28) and Hanukkah (Heb. “dedication”; commemorates victory of Maccabees over Syrians and the rededication of the defiled temple at Jerusalem; 1 Mac 1:41–64; 2 Mac 1:18; 6:2; Feast of Lights; falls near Christmas). Up to AD 70, pilgrimages to the temple at Jerusalem were required in connection with observance of Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Tabernacles. GVS

See also Church Year; Middle East; Pasch; Zionism.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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