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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
the name by which we designate the religious doctrines and rites of the people chosen by Jehovah as his peculiar people; the descendants of Jacob, to whom the law was given by Moses, and religious light and truth were revealed in the Old Testament; the most important branch of that family of nations conventionally comprised under the title of Shemites — a people of many fates and of many names, called by the Bible the people of God; by Mohammed, the people of the Book; by Hegel, "the people of the Geist," and now generally known as Hebrews, Israelites, or Jews.
Abrahamism. — To the Christian student especially, the early development of the doctrines of this people is interesting, as unfolded in the pages of the older half of the inspired writings that go to make up the basis of his own creed. Judaism is preeminently a monotheistic faith, originating with the patriarch Abraham when, in an era of polytheism and flagrant vice, he became the founder of monotheism by a prompt recognition and worship of the one living and true God; and from that remote day to this, all the Jewish people pride themselves in being "children of Abraham." It is a fact striking to every student of comparative religion, and in no small degree a proof of the authenticity of the O.T. Scriptures, that this monotheistic faith originated at a time when the religion of all other branches of the, Isame family, which with the Hebrew, make up the Shemitic, differed widely from it in every respect. The Assyrians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians all possessed a nearly identical religion, but one that lacked the essential feature of Judaism.
They all, it is true, believed in a supreme god, called by the different names of Ilu, Bel, Set, Hadad, Moloch, Chemosh, Jaoh, El, Adon, Asshur, but they also all believed in subordinate and secondary beings, emanations from this supreme being, his manifestations to the world, rulers of the planets; and, like other pantheistic religions, the custom prevailed among these Shemitic nations of promoting first one and then another deity to be the supreme object of worship. Among the Assyrians, as among the Egyptians, the gods were often arranged in triads, as that of Anu, Bel, and Ao. Anu or Oannes wore the head of a fish; Bel wore the horns of a bull; Ao was represented by a serpent. These religions, in short, represented the gods as that Spirit within and behind natural objects and forces powers within the world, rather than, as among the Hebrews, a Spirit above the world. The Hebrews' God was a God above nature, not simply in it. He stood alone; unaccompanied by secondary deities. His worship required purity, not pollution; its aim was holiness, and its spirit humane, not cruel. Monotheistic from the first, it became an absolute monotheism in its development. In all the Shemitic nations, behind the numerous divine beings representing the powers of nature there was, it is true, dimly visible one supreme Being, of whom all these were emanations; but there was also among all of them, except the Hebrew branch, a tendency to lose sight of the first great Cause, the very reverse of the tendency of the faith of Abraham, whose soul rose to the contemplation of the perfect Being, above all and the source of all. With passionate love he adored this most high God, maker of heaven and earth. Such was his devotion to this almighty Being, that men said, "Abraham is the friend of the most high God." The difference, then, between the religion of Abraham and that of the polytheistic nations was, that while they descended from the idea of a supreme Being into that of subordinate ones, he went back to that of the supreme, and clung to this with his whole soul (Clark, Ten great Religions, chap. 10). (See ABRAHAM).
Mosaism. — This abstract faith continued to be the faith of the Israelites until it was transformed at Mount Sinai by the Lord himself, through his chosen servant Moses. Thereafter the Abrahamic idea was clothed in forms rendered necessary not only by the character of the age, but also by the frailty of men, to the generality of whom hitherto ceremonies had been absolutely essential. From the "Mosaic Revelation," as Dean Stanley (Jewish Ch., First Series, Lect. 7) calls it, dates the establishment not only of the Judaic principle itself, but of the Theocracy (see Josephus, Apion, 2, 17). Thenceforth the followers of Abraham not only worshipped the one "supreme Being," but they were governed by him; i.e. from the converse of Moses with the Lord dates the ultimate union of the Jewish Church and State — the correlation of life and religion, of the nation and the individual. (See MOSES); (See LAW).
Prophetism. — Surrounded by idolaters on all sides, with whom they were brought in contact continually, the Hebrews gradually disobeyed the commandments of Sinai until idolatry destroyed all personal morality, and the chosen people knew not their Lord. To save the race from utter apostasy, holy men were inspired by the Lord to make known the penalty of idolatry and immorality. Amid the trials and sore afflictions with which he visits the nation, he yet declares the perpetuity of the Jewish faith. A Messiah shall eventually gather in the people, and to the Lord alone shall service be rendered. (See MESSIAH). Though the present plant shall wither, the seed shall continue to live, from whose germination shall spring a flower of greater fragrance in the fullness of time. All through the captivity among the Assyrians and Babylonians, even after the destruction of the Temple, the life of the seed was attested by the fruit it bore. (See CAPTIVITY); (See PROPHECY).
Rabbinism. — When the political existence of the Jews was annihilated, they nerved themselves, with that determination characteristic of the Hebrew race, for another and more determined strife. In consequence of their dispersion as a nation, after the Babylonian exile the Mosaic constitution could be but partially reestablished. "The whole building was too much shattered, and its fragments too widely dispersed, to reunite in their ancient and regular form." But from his captivity the Jew had brought with him a reverential, or, rather, a passionate attachment to the Mosaic law and the consecration of the second Temple, and the reestablishment of the state had been accompanied by the ready and solemn recognition of the law. The synagogue was instituted, and with it many of the institutions which have tended to perpetuate Judaism to the present hour. One of the most important of these was the constant interpretation of the law and the prophets; and as the acquaintance with the law became more intimate. the attachment to it grew deeper and deeper in the national character, until it finally was not only their Bible and statute book, but a guide for the most minute details of common life. "But no written law can provide for all possible exigencies; whether general and comprehensive, or minute and multifarious, it equally requires the expositor to adapt it to the immediate case which may occur, either before the public tribunal or that of the private conscience. Hence the law became a deep and intricate study. Learning in the law became the great distinction to which all alike paid reverential homage. Public and private affairs depended on the sanction of this self formed spiritual aristocracy... Every duty of life, of social intercourse between man and man, not to speak of its weightier authority as the national code of criminal and civil jurisprudence, was regulated by an appeal to the book of the law" (Milman, History of the Jews, 2, 417). Thus arose the office of the rabbis — the clergy, the learned interpreters of the law, the public instructors, to whom, by degrees, also the spiritual authority was transferred from the priesthood. At this time, also, besides the inspired Scriptures, traditional writings became another ground of authority over the public mind. (See TRADITION).
This was not, however, as universally acknowledged, and gave rise to that schism in Judaism which originated the Karaites (q.v.). Thus Judaism had fortified itself after the captivity, so that when the Temple was finally again destroyed, and public worship became extinct, Rabbinism was able to supplant the original religion of the Jews, and from amid the blackened walls of Jerusalem rose, ere the smoke of the ruins had yet ceased, a new bond of national union. the great distinctive feature in the character of modern Judaism. With the Masora (q.v.) also came soon after the Mishna (q.v.) and the Gemara, which together form the Babylonian Talmud, (See TALMUD); that wonderful monument of human industry formulated Mosaism — which to the Jew "became the magic circle within which the national mind patiently labored for ages in performing the bidding of the ancient and mighty enchanters, who drew the sacred line beyond which it might not venture to pass" (Milman), and which so securely enwrapped the Jewish idea in almost infinite rules and laws that it completely sheltered it from polluting contact in the succeeding dark ages. It is thus that Judaism, weathering many a long and severe storm, has continued to prosper, and flourishes even in our own day.
Sects. — In the early age of Judaism we saw that the simple worship of a supreme Being constituted its peculiar characteristic. At that time, as a sign of the covenant of Abraham with the Lord, the rite of circumcision (q.v.) was introduced, and was soon followed by the formal institution of sacrifice. In the period of Mosaism the Jewish belief became an established form of religion, and then were introduced certain. ceremonies and feast days, together with the priesthood. In the Rabbinic period, as the law became overlaid by tradition, discussions arose, and the Jews were divided into three principal sects — the Pharisees (q.v.), who placed religion in external ceremony; the Sadducees (q.v.), who were remarkable for their incredulity; and the Essenes (q.v.), whose peculiar distinction was the practice of austere sanctity. Still later sprang up other sects; prominently among these are the Karaites, the strict adherents to the letter of the law, the opponents of rabbinical interpretations. For a review of Jewish literature, (See RABBINISM).
Modern Judaism. — In the history of the Jews (q.v.) we have seen how greatly the condition of this people was ameliorated about the close of the 18th century by the influence of Moses Mendelssohn. But not only in their civil condition did his efforts affect the Jews; he also greatly changed the character of Judaism itself. With him originated a tendency of thought and action, which has since spread among the leaders of Judaism generally, to weaken rabbinical authority, and to maintain a more simple Biblical Judaism. These have now been developed into two special phases of Jewish opinion, which are represented by the terms "Conservative" (or Moderate Orthodox) and "Reformed" (or Liberal) Judaism. (See each of these titles below.)
General Creed. — A summary of the religious views of the Jews was first compiled in the 11th century by the second great Moses (Maimonides), and it continues to be with the Orthodox the Jewish confession of faith to the present day. It is as follows:
1. I believe, with a true and perfect faith, that God is the creator (whose name be blessed), governor, and maker of all creatures; and that he hath wrought all things, worketh, and shall work forever.
2. 1 believe, with perfect faith, that the Creator (whose name be blessed) is one; and that such a unity as is in him can be found in none other; and that he alone hath been our God, is, and forever shall be.
3. I believe, with a perfect faith, that the Creator (whose name be blessed) is not corporeal, not to be comprehended with any bodily properties; and that there is no bodily essence that can be likened unto him.
4. I believe, with a perfect faith, the Creator (whose name be blessed) to be the first and the last; that nothing was before him, and that he shall abide the last forever.
5. I believe, with a perfect faith, that the Creator (whose name be blessed) is to be worshipped, and none else.
6. I believe, with a perfect faith, that all the words of the prophets are true.
7. I believe, with a perfect faith, that the prophecies of Moses our master (may he rest in peace!) were true; that he was the father and chief of all wise men that lived before him, or ever shall live after him.
8. I believe, with a perfect faith, that all the law which at this day is found in our hands was delivered by God himself to our master Moses (God's peace be with him!).
9. I believe, with a perfect faith, that the same law is never to be changed, nor any other to be given us of God (whose name be blessed).
10. I believe, with a perfect faith, that God (whose name be blessed) understandeth all the works and thoughts of men, as it is written in the prophets; he fashioneth their hearts alike, he understandeth all their works.
11. I believe, with a perfect faith, that God (whose name be blessed) will recompense good to them that keep his commandments, and will punish them who transgress them.
12. I believe, with a perfect faith, that the Messiah is yet to come; and although he retard his coming, yet I will wait for him till he come.
13. I believe, with a perfect faith, that the dead shall be restored to life when it shall seem fit unto God the creator (whose name be blessed, and memory celebrated without end. Amen). Doctrine of immortality. — In regard to the future life, they believe in reward and punishment, but, like the Universalists (q.v.), the Jews believe in the ultimate salvation of all men. Like the Roman Catholics, (See PURGATORY), the Jews offer up prayers for the souls of their deceased friends (comp. Alger, Hist. Doctr. Future Life, chap. 8 and 9).
Sacrifice. — Since the destruction of their Temple and their dispersion the sacrifices have been discontinued, but in all other respects the Mosaic dispensation is observed intact among the Orthodox Jews.
Worship. — Their divine worship consists in the reading of the Scriptures and prayer. But while they (do not insist on attendance at the synagogue, they enjoin all to say their prayers at home, or in any place where circumstances may place them, three times a day — morning, afternoon, and evening; they repeat also blessings and particular praises to God, aside from them, at their meals and on many other occasions.
In their morning devotions they use the phylacteries (q.v.) and the Talith, except Saturdays, when they use the Talith only. (See FRINGE).
Calendar. — The Jewish year is either civil or ecclesiastical. The civil year commences in the month of Tisri, which falls into some part of our September, on the view that the world was created on the first day of this month (Tisri). The ecclesiastical year commences about the vernal equinox, in the month of Nisan, the latter part of our month of March and the first half of April. The seventh month of the civil year they call the first of the ecclesiastical year, because this was enjoined upon them at their departure from Egypt (Numbers 28:11). (See CALENDAR).
Feast Days. — The feasts which they observe at present are the following:
1. Passover, on the 14th of Nisan, and lasting eight days. On the evening before the feast the first born of every family observes a fast in remembrance of God's mercy toward the nation. They eat at this feast unleavened bread, and observe as strict holidays the two first and last days.
2. Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, falling seven weeks after the Passover, is at present celebrated only two days.
3. Trumpets, on the 1James, 2 d of Tisri, of which the first is called New year's day. On the second day is read the 22d chapter of Genesis, which gives an account of Abraham's offering of his son Isaac and God's blessing on him and his seed. Then they blow the trumpet, or, more accurately, the horn, and pray, as usual, that God would bring them to Jerusalem.
4. Tabernacles, on the 15th of Tisri, and lasting nine days; the first and the last two days being observed as feast days, and the other four as days of labor. On the first day they take branches of palm, myrtle, willow, and citron bound together, and go around the altar or pulpit singing psalms, because this ceremony was formerly performed at their Temple. On the seventh day of the festival they take copies of the torah, or law of Moses, out of the ark, and carry them to the altar, and all the congregation follow in procession seven times around the altar, in remembrance of the Sabbatical year, singing the 29th Psalm. On the evening of this day the feast of solemn assembly, or of rejoicing, commences. They read passages from the law and the prophets, and entreat the Lord to be propitious to them, and deliver them from captivity. On the ninth day they repeat several prayers in honor of the law, and bless God for his mercy and goodness in giving it to them by his servant Moses, and read that part of the Scriptures which makes mention of his death.
5. Purim, on the 14th and 15th of Adar (or March), in commemoration of the deliverance from Haman (Esther 9). The whole book of Esther is read repeatedly, with liberal almsgiving to the poor.
6. Besides these festivals appointed by Moses and Mordecai, they celebrate the dedication of the altar, in commemoration of the victory over Antiochus Epiphanes. This festival lasts eight days, and is appointed to be kept by lighting lamps. The reason they assign for this is that, at this purification and rededication of the Temple after the deliverance from Antiochus, there was not enough of pure oil left to burn one night, but that it miraculously lasted eight days, when they obtained a fresh supply.
7. Expiation day, the 10th day of Tisri, is observed by the Jews, though they have neither temple nor priest. Before the feast they seek to reestablish friendly relations with their neighbors, and, in short, do everything that may serve to evince the sincerity of their repentance. For twenty four hours they observe a strict fast, and many a pious soul does not quit the synagogue during these long hours, but remains in prayer through the night. (See FESTIVAL).
Mission and Preservation of the Jews. — The preservation of the Jews as a distinct nation, notwithstanding the miseries which they have endured for many ages, is a wonderful fact. The religions of other nations have depended on temporal prosperity for their duration; they have triumphed under the protection of conquerors, and have fallen and given place to others under a succession of weak monarchs. Paganism once overspread the known world, even where it no longer exists. The Christian Church, glorious in her martyrs, has survived the persecution of her enemies, though she cannot heal the wounds they have inflicted; but Judaism, hated and persecuted for so many centuries, has not merely escaped destruction, it has been powerful and flourishing. Kings have employed the severity of laws and the hand of the executioner to eradicate it, and a seditious populace have injured it by their massacres more than kings. Sovereigns and their subjects, pagans, Christians, and Mohammedans, opposed to each other in everything else, have formed, a common design to annihilate this nation without success. The bush of Moses has always continued burning, and never been consumed.
The expulsion of the Jews from the great cities of kingdoms has only scattered them throughout the world. They have lived from age to age in wretchedness, and their blood has flowed freely in persecution; they have continued to our day, in spite of the disgrace and hatred which everywhere clung to. them, while the greatest empires have fallen and been almost forgotten. Every Jew is at this moment a living witness to the Christian as to the authenticity of his own religion, an undeniable evidence that Christianity is the last revelation from God; and the patient endurance of the descendants of Abraham is an evidence that Providence has guarded them throughout all their miseries. Hence the Christian should regard with compassion a people so long preserved by this peculiar care amidst calamities which would have destroyed any other nation. "I would look at the ceremonies of pagan worship," says Dr. Richardson, "as a matter of little more than idle curiosity, but those of the Jews reach the heart. This is the most ancient form of worship in existence; this is the manner in which the God of heaven was worshipped when all the other nations in the world were sitting in darkness, or falling down to stocks and stones.
To the Jews were committed the oracles of God. This is the manner in which Moses and Elias, David and Solomon, worshipped the God of their fathers; this worship was instituted by God himself. The time will come when the descendants of his ancient people shall join the song of Moses to the song of the Lamb, and, singing hosannas to the son of David, confess his power to save." Restoration of the Jews. — The Jews, as is well known, deny the accomplishment of the prophecies in the person of Jesus. The Reformed Jews (see below) deny the promise of a personal Messiah altogether; but the orthodox, the greater part of the Jews, hold that the Messiah has not yet come, but that they will be redeemed at the appointed time, when he of whom the prophets spoke shall make his appearance in great worldly pomp and grandeur, subduing all nations, and restoring the scepter of universal rule to the house of Judah. Then there shall reign universal peace and happiness in all the earth, never again to be interrupted, and to the Jewish fold shall return those of the flock that strayed into the Christian and Mohammedan folds; then idolatry shall cease in the world, and all men acknowledge the unity of God and his kingdom. (Comp. Zechariah 14:9, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.) This restoration shall be effected, not on account of any merits of their own, but for the Lord's sake; so as to secure their own righteousness, and the perfection to which they shall attain after their deliverance. (Atonement for sin is made by the fulfilling of the law and by circumcision, and not, as the Christian holds, by the sacrifice of the Messiah.) For the Christian doctrine of the Restoration of the Jews, (See RESTORATION).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Judaism'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/judaism.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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