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At which times in history have there been a sovereign mainly Jewish state controlling Jerusalem? The only time in history after the Babylonian exile that I can recall is during the Hasmonean dynasty. But have they been sovereign during other times as well?

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Its' been a sovereign state since 14 May 1948. Any other times depends entirely on your definition of "nation", "sovereign" and "Israel", none of which are easy to define. – Lennart Regebro Jan 29 '14 at 12:45
OK, I made an edit which I think is clearer. – Lennart Regebro Jan 29 '14 at 12:57
@Why does the Abrahamic descent matter? Do, say, the crusaders who did not claim it but were Christians, count? – Felix Goldberg Jan 29 '14 at 13:11
@Actually, I think they were called Jewish. How do you call the people who live in the kingdom of Judea? Judeans? Right - which is the same in Hebrew as Jewish. QED :) – Felix Goldberg Jan 29 '14 at 14:01
@FelixGoldberg, Ah but what was it called before it was the Kingdom of Judea? ;-) – Lennart Regebro Jan 29 '14 at 17:37
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Judaism grew out of the Canaanite religion, in the Canaanite area. So for most of the early existence of the region it was split up in independent areas, probably some sort of city-states. In the later period two confederacies seem to have emerged, one centered around Kadesh, the other around Megiddo.

The Canaanites lost independence some time during the 2nd millenium BC, maybe around the middle of the century, and after that it was frequently fought over by Egypt, Assyrians, Hittites etc.

Classical Hebrew as a language showed up around a 1000 BC, at the same time the so called "United Kingdom" is most often thought to have happened. According to the Bible first King David (of Goliath fame) and then King Solomon are supposed to have ruled a united Kingdom of Israel. As we see from the story of David and Goliath, these kings have become mythical, and it's hard to separate myth from fact, and there are scholars who say that they don't think there ever was a united kingdom. But nevertheless there was a kingdom of Israel (often called Kingdom of Samaria to lessen confusion with the united Kingdom of Israel) and a Kingdom of Judah, both practicing similar proto-Jewish religions and speaking Hebrew, and as such they can at least be called Hebrews, if not actually Jewish.

This period of independence seems to have lasted from around 1000 BC to 732 BC, when Assyria invaded.

Judaism as we recognize it today, with monotheism and the first books of the Bible (although some of the sources are much older), only arrived during the Babylonian exile. And with that definition you are correct; Only with modern Israel and the Hasmonean dynasty has there been a sovereign Jewish state in the Israel/Judah area.

The Hasmonean dynasty ruled independently between 110 BC, when the Seleucid empire collapsed, and 63 BC when the Romans conquered the area.

Therefore we can list the following sovereign times for Jerusalem and surrounding "Israelite" lands:

  1. Before c:a 1500 BC: Canaanite city-states.
  2. C:a 1000 BC to 732 BC: The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
  3. C:a 110 BC to 63 BC: The Hasmonean Dynasty
  4. After 14 May 1948: The State of Israel

Which ones of these you call "Jewish" is largely a matter of opinion (the development of Canaanite religion into Judaism is gradual), but the Judaism that we today recognize developed mostly during and after the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC.

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You could add some small time periods during the Jewish revolts against Rome around 70 AD and under Hadrian. – Oldcat Jan 29 '14 at 18:57
I would disagree on the 2nd period; IMO one can call David and ancestors Jewish as well. The issue of monolatrism versus monotheism may be unclear, but many cultural sides of Judaism were already there: the stories of the flood and exodus, the prohibition of pork, etc. If you focus on fine theological points that ordinary folk don't even understand instead of the broader cultural picture you'll conclude that, for example, Christianity didn't exist until St. Augustine and that most Catholics are not Christians and similar nonsense. – Michael Jan 29 '14 at 23:42
Believe it or not, if the Temple existed today Jews would still perform animal sacrifice. Orthodox Judaism reads Torah very literally, and since includes detailed instruction on how to sacrifice a goat at the Temple so if should be done, but for the problem that there is no Temple anymore. Sacrifice is not what disctinguishes monotheism from polytheism; in fact, many Muslim perform animal sacrifices to Allah to this day. "Proto-Judaism" was never polytheistic: even though some parts of the Torah imply existance of "other gods", it was for strictly forbidden to worship them. – Michael Jan 30 '14 at 16:38
@Lennart - waiting for another empire to knock them over is what all empires and kingdoms are doing. Those rebels minted coins and had a government. Good enough for me, and it really only adds a couple more incidents to the list. – Oldcat Jan 30 '14 at 17:48
Sorry, -1 for reasons described by @Michael, despite good fact finding. The decision to consider Israel and Judah as "not jewish" seems really unreasonable, subjective and wrong. For a random argument against, would you discount Roman soveregnity over Rome because they adopted Christianity later on, so changed a lot more drastically? – DVK Jan 31 '14 at 17:34

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