7540 Judaism
Dictionary of Bible Themes

Dictionary of Bible Themes  »  7000 God's people  »  7500 Jews and Gentiles  »  7540 Judaism

Derived from “Judah” (the southern kingdom of the divided monarchy) the term refers to the religion and culture of the Jews from the time of the exile (586 B.C.) onwards.

The exile and the beginnings of Judaism

The people of Judah become known as Jews

Ezra 4:12; Nehemiah 4:2; Esther 3:6; Jeremiah 32:12; Matthew 2:2; John 2:6

Jewish communities were formed in many places

Jeremiah 44:1; Ezra 2:1 many stayed in Babylon; John 7:35; Acts 2:8-11

Far from the Jerusalem temple, the exiles had difficulty in knowing how to worship

Psalm 137:4 See also Hosea 3:4 This prophecy to Israel also expresses the dilemma of the Jerusalem exiles.

New forms of religion after the exile, probably beginning in Babylon

Emphasis on the Scriptures

Nehemiah 7:73-8:3

Synagogue worship

Luke 4:16-17 Unable to sacrifice in the temple, the exiles would have focused their worship on the Scriptures, a practice which developed into synagogue worship.

Carefully observing the law

Ezra went from Babylon to Jerusalem with the express intention of seeing that God's law was observed:

Ezra 7:11,14,25

The temple and sacrifice

The returning exiles recommence the sacrifices

Ezra 3:1-6

The temple rebuilt

Ezra 3:8; Ezra 6:14-15

The temple as a focus for pilgrims

John 12:20; Acts 2:5 They had probably come for Passover and were staying until Pentecost; Acts 8:27

The temple regarded with great reverence

Matthew 26:59-61 pp Mark 14:57-58; Acts 6:13; Acts 21:27-29

Studying and obeying the law

Studying Scripture

John 5:39

Total obedience essential

Matthew 23:23; James 2:10

Human rules added to God's law

Matthew 23:16-18; Mark 7:1-13 pp Matthew 15:1-9

High regard for the Sabbath and traditional rules associated with it

Matthew 12:1-2 pp Mark 2:23-24 pp Luke 6:1-2

Groups within NT Judaism


Mark 7:3-4 The Pharisees stressed the fulfilment of the law by individuals. See also Luke 11:38; Luke 18:10-12; Acts 26:5


Acts 5:17 A powerful minority group, politically astute whilst theologically conservative, they saw temple worship as the chief purpose of the law. See also Matthew 3:7; Mark 12:18 pp Matthew 22:23 pp Luke 20:27

Teachers of the law (scribes)

They preserved, copied, taught and administered the law:

Matthew 17:10; Mark 9:14; Luke 2:46; Acts 4:5


Luke 6:15 They favoured a “holy war” to drive out the Romans.

Non-Jewish converts

Matthew 23:15; Acts 2:11; Acts 6:5; Acts 13:43

Judaism and Christianity

Conflict between Jesus Christ and the Jewish authorities

Mark 14:1 See also John 11:45-50

Conflict between the first Christians and Judaism

John 16:2; Acts 4:1-3; Acts 5:17-18; Galatians 1:13-14

Conflict produced by Jewish influence among the first Christians

Acts 15:5 See also Acts 15:1-2; Galatians 2:11-16 Judaism gave birth to Christianity. After an initial uneasy co-existence a total break finally ensued.

See also

5375  law
5514  scribes
7215  exile, the
7245  Judah, kingdom of
7428  Sabbath
7456  synagogue
7464  teachers of the law
7468  temple, rebuilding
7505  Jews, the
7550  Pharisees
7555  Sadducees
7610  Council of Jerusalem

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