Judaism in the First Century

There was no unified Judaism in the first century, Segel argues the term Judaisms would be more apt. However, J.D.G. Dunn believes we can still speak of a common and unifying core between sects in the second temple era, the four pillars of Judaism.

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  • The Shema "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one..." (Deut 6:4-5)
  • The first commandment (Deut 5)
  • Contrasts Hellenistic religions of the time
  • Progressed from henotheism (our God is the most important) to monotheism (ours is the only God)
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  • "Berith" is the Hebrew word for covenant meaning "bond"
  • Dunn says all Jews believed they were "specially chosen by God"
  • Covenant consisted of 5 key elements: promise, commitment, favour, intimacy and setting apart
  • An example of a covenant in the Old Testament was Moses' covenant at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20)
  • E.P. Sanders used the term covenantal nomism to explain that Jews obey law in exchange for God's favour.
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Law or Torah

  • Given as part of covenant
  • 613 mitzvot or rules found in the pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament). Of these, 365 are positive and the rest are negative.
  • Written law combined with oral law ----> halakah
  • Different sects had different interpretations but all followed law.
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Land and Temple

  • Judea was a temple state at this time
  • The temple functioned as a religious, political and economic base
  • Sanhedrin located there
  • It provided revenue through pilgrimage
  • The temple was a common bond between all Jews, according to Josephus, there was "One Temple for One God"
  • All Jews were obligated to make pilgrimage at least three times during their lifetime and to visit in order to pay tax.
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