Early History of Judaism

It has been argued that Judaism can be seen not only as a single
religion, but as a group of similar religions. It has also been
pointed-out that through all the trials and tribulations that Judaism
has suffered through, that there have been common themes that have
proven omni-pervasive. Any institution with roots as ancient and
varied as the religion of the Jews is bound to have a few variations,
especially when most of its history takes place in the political and
theological hot spot of the Middle East.

In this discussion, many facets of Judaism will be examined,
primarily in the three temporal subdivisions labeled the Tribal /
Pre-Monarchy Period, the Divided Monarchy, and the Hasmonean /
Maccabean and Roman Era. Among all the time periods where the religion
has been split, these three seem to be the most representative of the
forces responsible.

As for a common thread seen throughout all Judiasms, the area of
focus here is the place associated with the religion : Jerusalem. This
topic will be covered in detail first, and then the multiple Judaism
arguments will be presented. In this way, it is possible to keep a
common focus in mind when reading about all the other situations in
which the religion has found itself. A brief conclusion follows the
discussion.

A Place to Call Home No other religion has ever been so attached
to its birthplace as Judaism. Perhaps this is because Jews have been
exiled and restricted from this place for most of their history.
Jerusalem is not only home to Judaism, but to the Muslim and Christian
religions as well. Historically this has made it quite a busy place
for the various groups.

Jerusalem is where the temple of the Jews once stood; the only
place on the whole Earth where one could leave the confines of day to
day life and get closer to God. In 586 BCE when the temple was
destroyed, no Jew would have denied Jerusalem as being the geographic
center of the religion. From that point on, the Jewish people have
migrated around the world, but not one of them forgets the fact that
Jerusalem is where it all began. It is truly a sacred place, and helps
to define what Judaism means to many people; a common thread to run
through all the various splinters of the religion and help hold them
together.

Even today, as the Jewish people have their precious Jerusalem
back (through the help of other nations and their politics) there is
great conflict and emotion surrounding it. Other nations and people in
the area feel that they should be in control of the renowned city, and
the Jews deny fervently any attempt to wrestle it from their
occupation. It is true that there is no temple in Jeruslaem today, nor
are all the Jews in the world rushing to get back there. But it is
apparent that the city represents more to the religion of Judaism than
a mere place to live and work. The city of Jerusalem is a spiritual
epicenter, and throughout Judaism?s long and varied history, this
single fact has never changed.

Tribal / Pre-Monarchy

Judaism?s roots lie far back in the beginnings of recorded
history. The religion did not spring into existence exactly as it is
known today, rather it was pushed and prodded by various environmental
factors along the way. One of the first major influences on the
religion was the Canaanite nation. Various theories exist as to how
and when the people that would later be called Jews entered into this
civilization. But regardless of how they ultimately got there, these
pioneers of the new faith were subjected to many of the ideas and
prejudices of the time. Any new society that finds itself in an
existing social situation, can do no more than to try and integrate
into that framework. And this is exactly what the Jews did.

Early Judaism worshipped multiple gods. One of these gods was
known as Ba?al, and was generally thought-of as a ?statue god? with
certain limitations on his power. The other primary deity was called
YHWH (or Yahweh) and enjoyed a much more mysterious and illusive
reputation. He was very numinous, and one was to have great respect,
but great fear for him at the same time. Ba?al was not ever really
feared, as his cycles (metaphorically seen as the seasons) were