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Clarifying the term “Judaism”

A very important and informative book in the search for the historical Jesus, Yeshua, is Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin R. Wilson. We recommend this book highly. Marvin is not only a well-qualified scholar, he is a very good man. The following quotes are from pages 30-31 of this book.

It is important that we seek to clarify the term Judaism before going further. Judaism may be defined as the religion and culture of the Jewish people. Jewish civilization includes historical, social, and political dimensions in addition to the religious. The word Judaism derives from the Greek Ioudaismos, a term first used in the intertestamental period by Greek-speaking Jews to distinguish their religion from Hellenism (see 2 Macc. 2:21; 8:1; 14:38). In the New Testament the word appears twice (Gal. 1:13-14) in reference to Paul’s prior consuming devotion to Jewish faith and life.

Hebrew religion began to give rise to Judaism after the destruction of the Temple and the Exile of Judah in 586 BCE. The term "Jew," in its biblical period evolved through such historical stages as the intertestamental, rabbinic, and medieval to the modern period of the nineteenth century with Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism.

Throughout its history, Jewish religion took on new teachings and practices. But the lengthy development of Judaism and its many changes make it incorrect to posit, as some have done, that Jewish history produced two separate religions: an Old Testament religion of Israel and the post-exilic religion of Judaism. Despite the shifting phases of its history, the essence of the religious teaching of Judaism has remained remarkably consistent, firmly rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).  . . .

Within the biblical concept of covenant, Judaism sees at least four pillars upon which it rests: God, Torah, the people of Israel, and the land of Israel, each one depending on and interacting with the others.

When reading the words of Yeshua, it is important to remember and look for those four pillars – God, Torah, people of Israel, and the land of Israel. It is also important to view his Judaism as that of the intertestamental period, not of the medieval or modern periods.

Shalom!
Jim Myers

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