HIST 1111 – Introduction to World Religions & Judaism

HIST 1111 – Introduction to World Religions & Judaism


This is Western Civilization. My name is Dr. Long; this video is entitled
introduction to world religion and Judaism. This will be the first video in a series of
five videos on world religions. The purpose of these videos is to give a historical
overview of the major world religions as well as to describe their basic beliefs. Now scholars take a wide range of views on
the origin and development of world religions. However, this video will – more or less
– try to approach each major world religion the way they would see themselves, a sort
of traditional view that each world religion would see their own beliefs and their own
historical development. Now it is important to understand what world
religions believe, as they have played an important role in shaping history and still
play a key role in many societies today. By definition, world religions are religions
that are widespread and have had a great impact on human history. In societies in which they are common, world
religions have influenced everything from holidays to diets to views on economics; morality;
politics; marriage and sexuality; and views on the afterlife. World religions also tend to make universal
truth claims. By their nature, world religions are exclusive,
with each one claiming it is the one true religion and viewing other religions as – at
least to one degree or the other – defective or wrong. World religions have attracted many adherents
because they provide people with answers to the basic questions about the human condition. Just to give you a few examples of some major
questions that world religions tend to address – First, cosmic origins; where did this
world come from? Second, what is the purpose of life? Also, what is right and wrong? How do I live this life? Moreover, another question is – how do I
deal with the wrong things that I’ve done, and maybe the guilt that I have in my life? And another one – why is there suffering
and evil in the world, and how do I deal with it? And finally, what happens when I die? And these are just a few questions about the
human condition that world religions tend to approach and give answers to – and obviously
each world religion gives different answers to these sorts of questions. It is worth noting that these are the sort
of questions that have long preoccupied human beings throughout history and do today – and
these are why world religions are so important – and this is also what makes humans different
than the animals. Animals seem unconcerned about the sort of
questions that I just went through – for example, your cat probably hasn’t lost any
sleep wondering about the purpose of life or the question of evil. But these are the kind of questions, again,
that greatly concern human beings. So this has been a little introduction to
world religions, I now want to turn with the rest of this video to talk about one of the
oldest world religions – namely Judaism. Judaism is a monotheistic religion, the term
monotheism, of course, means belief in one god. Monotheism was fairly rare in the ancient
world. Most human beings in ancient civilizations
were polytheistic; they believed in multiple gods and goddesses. In the ancient world, Judaism was a religion
of the Hebrew people. The Hebrews were a Semitic people and they
lived in the Levant. Most of what we know about the Hebrews and
early Judaism comes from the Hebrew Bible, which Christians also see as scripture and
call, the Old Testament, as well as archeology. The Hebrew Bible contains many books of various
genres, books of history, books of prophecy, books that are poetry – and they were composed
over several different centuries with many different authors, and the Jews believed that
these books were inspired by God. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible are
called the Torah, and they take a particularly great importance within Judaism. The books of the Hebrew Bible, as I mentioned,
had different authors and were preserved over time in the Jewish community, handed down,
and believed to be God’s word. Jews came to believe that these books had
a transcendent purpose and were for all time in many ways. Now according to the Hebrew Bible, the history
of the Hebrew people and of the Jewish religion begins with Abraham. Abraham lived in the Mesopotamian city of
Ur, and the book of Genesis – the first book in the Torah – teaches that God called
him to leave Ur and to go to a land that God would promise him and that He would make his
descendants a great people – and the name for God that the Hebrews would use is Yahweh. So Abraham, according to the book of Genesis,
left Ur, he went to what is now Palestine. He had a son named Isaac. Isaac had a son named Jacob – and Jacob’s
children, such as Joseph, ended up moving to Egypt due to a famine. Now according to the biblical story, several
hundred years passed and the Hebrew people, coming from Abraham – they had moved to
Egypt, their numbers had grown – and according to the Hebrew Bible, they had become slaves
in Egypt, and at that point, according to the book of the Hebrew Bible, God sent a deliverer
to them and this was Moses. Moses was sent to lead them out of slavery
in Egypt to a new land, to the land that God had promised Abraham. So according to the traditional story, Moses
would lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. He would be given the ten commandments, an
ethical code to deliver to the people, and the ten commandments are broken into two halves
– the first four deal with how to relate to God; the last six, how to relate to fellow
human beings. Moses also gave the Hebrew people an extensive
dietary and cleanliness code and together with the Ten Commandments and the belief in
one God – Yahweh – those became primary characteristics of Judaism as an early religion. Now after Moses’ death, Moses’ assistant,
Joshua, led the Hebrew people in to Canaan, where they conquered and settled – and the
Hebrew people were a farming and herding people, and at first they were ruled by a series of
judges. However, they also faced challenges from nearby
people, who threatened them militarily and this is particularly the case with a people
known as the Philistines – because of that, they came to have a series of kings that would
rule them and sought to organize their military and protect them. The first king was Saul, but according to
the Bible, Saul was not a very good king. The next king was David, who according to
the Bible, was generally, at least, faithful to God and was a very strong king. David’s son and successor was Solomon. Solomon was known for his wisdom, known for
his wealth, and especially known for constructing a temple to God in Jerusalem, and the temple
that Solomon built to God in Jerusalem became a centerpiece of Jewish religious life. Now after Solomon, the kingdom that he and
his father, David, had built, which was called the kingdom of Israel, broke up into two separate
kingdoms – Israel and Judah – and it’s from the people of Judah that the name Jew
and Judaism would come, for the name of the Jewish religion. Now Israel and Judah existed as separate Jewish
kingdoms for quite a while, but they would both later be defeated by large empires in
Mesopotamia. Israel would be defeated by Syria and then
Babylon would later defeat Judah, and in both cases the Jewish people were taken into captivity
and slavery into Assyria and to Babylon. Now this foreign rule and exile were very
hard on the Jewish people and very puzzling to them as they saw themselves as God’s
chosen people. So the question arose ¬– How could this
calamity of being conquered, overwhelmed, enslaved, and deported by a foreign peoples
happen to them? Well, according to the Hebrew Bible, and particularly
the books of prophecy – such as the book of Isaiah, the book of Jeremiah, the book
of Ezekiel – the reason for these exiles at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians
was because the Jewish people had mistreated the poor and had fallen into idolatry of worshipping
the gods and goddesses of nearby people. So exile and deportation, they were interpreted
as punishment for their sins, for their wrongdoings against God and their fellow human beings. Well despite the difficulties of exile, by
323 BCE, the time of the death of Alexander the Great, Judaism had become a very distinct
religion. It was monotheistic, worshipping one God – Yahweh;
it had a moral code – for instance, in the Ten Commandments – and this sort of religious
belief, believing in one God with a moral code coming from that God is called ethical
monotheism, and this was a huge contribution of Judaism to world religion – the first
religion to really fully develop ethical monotheism. Well by 323 BCE, as I mentioned, that was
the death of Alexander the Great. After his death, as part of his tremendous
conquest of much of the Near East, the homeland of the Jewish people fell under Greek rule
– the Seleucid Dynasty, one of the successor states to Alexander the Great. However, the Seleucid attempted to impose
their culture and their religion – particularly Greek polytheism – upon the Jews, and this
led to a revolt against them called the Maccabean Revolt in 167 BCE, and the Jews were successful
in maintaining their religion and keeping their culture and the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah
is actually in celebration of the success of the Maccabean Revolt in preserving Judaism. After the Seleucids, the Romans came in and
the Romans conquered all of the Greek states, including the Seleucids, and made the Jewish
territory part of the Roman Empire. The Jewish homeland became the Roman province
of Judea, and just as the Jews were bothered by being under Greek rule, they were also
not happy under Roman rule, considering the Romans foreigners and interlopers. This eventually led to revolt. In 66 CE, a major Jewish revolt occurred against
the Romans. This was very bloody. It led to a four-year long war with a number
of Roman legions, thousands of Roman troops sent it to put down this revolt. The Roman forces were led by Titus, a military
commander who later became the emperor of Rome. And ultimately, Titus and his Roman forces
managed to subdue the Jews, and in 70 CE Titus led his forces to sack the city of Jerusalem. Now this was a brutal siege and sack of the
city of Jerusalem and this included the destruction of the temple to God that was the centerpiece
of Jewish religious life. Today the remains of the temple in Jerusalem
are the Wailing Wall, which are a key site of pilgrimage for the Jewish people – but
it utterly annihilated the temple to God. Now there were other Jewish rebellions that
followed the siege and sack of Jerusalem, but all of these were put down by the Romans
and ultimately the Romans banished the Jews from their homeland, and so the Jews were
forced to leave and they scattered throughout the Roman Empire and even beyond it, and this
is called the Jewish Diaspora, the scattering of Jews from their homeland. After the second century, Jews would live
in small communities throughout the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. They would – in the Middle Ages – either
live under Christian or Muslim rule, and as a religious minority they would occasionally
face discrimination and persecution, from time to time. Now the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem
and the Jewish Diaspora was very traumatic on the Jewish people, one of the most traumatic
events in their history. Jews would not regain their homeland until
1948, with the creation of the modern state of Israel. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem
and the Jewish Diaspora also greatly changed the Jewish religion, especially because the
Jews would then lack a temple that would be the center of the religious life and their
people would be scattered. So a new form of Judaism would emerge, and
this has been called Rabbinic Judaism; this is a form of Judaism with a rabbi or a teacher
at the center of Jewish religious life, along with the synagogue, where Jews living in a
particular community will gather for worship and instruction. So the focus became the teaching of a rabbi,
instead of the sacrificial worship in a temple, which no longer existed. The focus also became on living an ethical
Jewish life and observing Jewish holidays, with the idea that God will reward the righteous
in the next life. Judaism, however, on the whole is very focused
on this life. There is this notion of a reward of the righteous
in the next life, but the overall emphasis is on living an ethical life in this life. Now Judaism has always been a small religion. There are only fifteen-million Jews in the
world today. But as the first form of ethical monotheism
and a distinct religion in its own right, it would have a tremendous influence on other
world religions and as we will see, this will particularly be the case with Christianity,
which comes out of Judaism, and Islam, which would also be likewise, deeply influenced
by Judaism. So I’ll stop with this observation about
the long-term influence of Judaism. Thank you for watching.

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