How ancient is Judaism?

At some risk to my "Goy" self, I occasionally write something about Jews and Judaism. So far, however, I have escaped unscathed (I think) so here goes another foray:

It is a common and proud claim among Israelis that they are still living in the same place and speaking the same language and (sort of) following the same religion as they did 3,000 years ago. That thought gives them great pride and helps make up in some way for the horrendous travail Jews have had to go through to get to today.

But, to be blunt, it is nonsense. After the Roman triumph and the expulsion of most Jews from Israel, Jews had to change their religion radically. Judaism had been a temple-focused religion -- so once the temple was gone, huge changes in thinking and custom were needed.

And the changes took two forms: Those who accepted the ideas of the greatest rabbi (Jesus Christ) and those who laboured to stick more closely to traditional ideas. Even among the latter group, however, the surrounding pagan culture took over to a degree. The modern form of the seder, for instance, is said to be strongly influenced by the form of the Hellenistic symposium.

So Judaism as we know it today is in fact no older than Christianity. They are two branches that had to put out fresh growth after the original tree was cut down. And just as Christian thinking underwent all sorts of disputes in its development (e.g. the Arian/Athanasian controversy) so Jews waited a long while for their new ideas to coalesce -- in the form of teachings by great rabbis such as Rashi and Maimonides.

Christian thought in fact probably coalesced more rapidly that did post-temple Jewish thought. Rashi and Maimonides both wrote over 1,000 years after the fall of the temple but have been immensely influential. And by the time they wrote, they lived in a Christian world so were undoubtedly influenced in various ways by Christian ideas -- and Christianity had itself taken on a pretty heavy load of pagan ideas by that time. So I am sure that the Christian/Egyptian concept of the triune God was the subject of much private hilarity among Jews.

So we in fact have two religions of ancient Jewish origins that are quite contemporaneous -- with the Christian variant more successful in most ways. And while Christianity/Judaism precede Islam, Sikhism and Bahai, they are themselves preceded by Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Shinto. And I'm inclined to think that Shinto has the best hats -- despite formidable competition from the gold crowns of Russian Orthodoxy and the shtreimel of orthodox Judaism.

I guess I'll get a few zingers over all that! I'll hear about the Talmud and the Midrash and so on. As an atheist who is sympathetic to religion, however, I may be in a position to be more impartial than most.


  1. Answered on my blog:

  2. One of the major weapons in the propaganda war against Israel is the “Remember these Children” website which compares the numbers of Arab children who have been killed in the conflicts to the number of Jewish children murdered by terrorists. The Arab list totals 1,437 since 2000 and the Jewish list totals 130. Not withstanding that such reporting is unsubstantiated, After visiting the site, I noticed that according to this report, most of the Israeli children were murdered in drive by shootings and human bombs exploding themselves in restaurants, buses and markets. In other words, the Arab terrorists targeted those children and murdered them in cold blood. For all of the Arab children, on the other hand, the site identifies the causes of death as gun shot wounds or explosions during the firefights with Arab Hamas fighters. What were their children doing in the middle of a war zone? That is clear and convincing evidence that the Hamas thugs where using the local children as human shields. Soldiers are trained to return fire when fired upon. The bushwhacking urban guerrillas who fire at enemy troops from a neighborhood full of children are the ones causing the deaths of those children. More at

  3. To make the difference vivid:

    Do Jews still stone homosexuals to death?

    If not ,why not?|

    The Torah is clear on the matter

    It's a different religion now

  4. We have no sources of how Judaism functioned before the rabbinic period. According to rabbinic sources it seems that even during second temple period executions based on Halacha were extremely rare (one source cites once in 70 years).

    However to answer your real question - Judaism probably isn't a straight out reading of the torah. We have no sources showing there ever was (sorry Karaites) a judaism that didn't have some form of Oral law. More importantly and as I argued - the core fundemntals of the religion have remained (even if they are expressed in a manner that would baffle earlier generations) - and the changes are not so great as to fail the "test of recognition".
    (posted also on my own blog: www.

  5. JR,
    I have posted flg on mostly kosher.
    But, to be blunt, it is nonsense. ???? ....
    actually, the nonsense is considering christianity as the new beth israel that supplants judaism, as the church considers it self.
    (brought to absurd levels by 'Western Heart''s kiwi neighbours when they edited their bibles to delete all references to zion).
    a judaism without a temple, existed long before the destruction of the second temple. in fact it existed in babylon, in israel proper, in alexandria, greece and italy, cyrene, it was practiced in synagogues. check Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exhortations to the people in exile to make their homes there. the 2nd temple didn't abolish the synagogues.
    pauline christianity on the other hand, have nothing to do with judaism or with Jesus teachings for that matter.
    i suggest to 'A Western Heart' zil ugmor- go and study. Knowing and parroting the names of a couple of rabbis, is not sufficient to lend him credibility as a scholar!

  6. I have posted again on this. See posting of 30th


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