Early JewishReligion & its Neighbors: Clearly, Judaismdid not develop within a religious “vacuum” but in fact was part of a rich religious life on the Fertile Crescent. With reference to Genesis, what kinds of stories seem to have been shared between Judaismand its neighbors? With reference to Abraham, Moses, and David, were there any stories and elements that made it unique?
Judaism and Zoroastrianism Certain core religious concepts and perennial themes are equally essential to understanding both the ancient Judaism of the Biblical period, as well as the subsequent Rabbinical Judaism of the contemporary world. Do you think that some of the beliefs from Zoroastrianism might have made their way into early Rabbincal Judaism and into modern Judaism?
The Sects of Modern Judaism When we encounter Judaism today, we might be surprised that there are “denominations” within it and divisions, just like there is in Christianity. What are they and what is the difference between them? Which sect or denomination of Judaism in your mind, is best able to retain the essence of Biblical and Rabbinical Judaism as a viable alternative to “modernity”? Why? Do you think that a religious/spiritual alternative to modernity is a good thing? Why or why not?
As you have what are essentially 3 unrelated questions here, I’ll address each briefly.
1. Early Jewish Religion: The main quality that made Jewish religion unique was its monotheism, albeit of an imperfect sort. Religions in the Fertile Crescent were generally profusely polytheistic with many deities. Another important quality that developed in Judaism was its emphasis on a sacred text. Judaism did share in common with its neighbors a tendency to narrativize cosmology as cosmogeny, in other words to explain the structure of the universe by a creation story in narrative form. It also shared in common with other religions the story of a flood (found in both Gilgamesh and Genesis) and a myth of decline …
This three-part answer talks about the history of Judaism and divisions within modern Judaism.