It has been worked out that around 80% of the world’s population believe in one religion or another (and there are lots of them), but around 70% of those are adherents to the big four. The four biggest religions are: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Judaism is the precursor of both Islam and Christianity.
The Hebrew Bible retells the history of the world and the story of the journey of the people from creation, all through the flood to the arrival in the Promised Land, or from Mesopotamia to Canaan, led by Abraham.
The offspring of Abraham and his people were enslaved by the Egyptians and did not manage to escape until Moses led them out of captivity. During this journey, Moses was given the Ten Commandments from God and they went on to be the bedrock of Jewish law and custom although there is no doubt that the Jewish mode of life has evolved from this period in the Tenth Century before Christ.
The sacred writings of the Hebrew Bible or Masorah are divided into twenty-four books. However, the same texts are divided up into thirty-nine books in the Christian Bible’s Old Testament. The Torah or The Law was being written at this time but it was altered and updated between the Tenth and Fifth Centuries before Christ.
In addition to the Hebrew scriptures, there is a rich tradition of ancient oral commentary known as the Talmud, which is a huge compilation of the Oral Law. The Talmud is the accepted authority for Orthodox Jews.
Judaism is the most ancient monotheistic religion known to the West. Jews believed in one God whilst all of the known world believed in pantheism or many gods like the Ancient Greeks. The name of God in the Jewish language is Yahweh and they believe that Yahweh agreed a covenant with His people to take care of them for ever as long as they remained devoted exclusively to him.
In the Jewish belief, sin is the unashamed disregard of God’s will and that is punishable by God in a comparable fashion to the Buddhist belief in karma.. The purpose of following God’s Law is being welcomed into His Kingdom.
Jews worship in synagogues in congregations led by Rabbis who are thought of as Teachers or Masters (as in the old style of calling teachers, ‘masters’) rather than as monks or vicars. The Jewish Sabbath is not the Sunday as in Christianity, but is observed from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday night.
The most important holidays or holy days in the Jewish calendar are: Rosh Hashanah (New Year); Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); Hanukah (Festival of Lights) and Pesach (Passover). The Jewish nation does not celebrate Christmas because they believe that the Son of God is still yet to be born. They see Jesus as a prophet in the same manner as the Muslims do.
There are three main branches of modern Judaism which are: Orthodox Judaism; Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism. Some of these branches of Judaism are more common in some countries than others.
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