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What do we know about early history of Judaism? Do we know the timeline when these modern traits of modern Judaism developed:

1 Lifestyle restriction that we now find in Torah, such as the prohibition of pork, etc.

2 Written Torah.

3 The rest of the Old Testament.

4 Fairly common literacy that included the study of Torah.

5 Rejection of polytheism, that is, worshipping only one God.

6 Monotheism, that is, there is only one God.

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What research have you done so far? –  Mark C. Wallace Jan 30 at 17:40
I am familiar with religious and accepted historical accounts of some parts of that, as well as speculations by Freud et al. The question was prompted not by a professional research, but by a discussion here regarding at what point in time one could start talking about Judaism as opposed to "proto-Judaism". –  Michael Jan 30 at 18:00
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2 Answers

  1. The Kashrut has a long development under which the laws have changed significantly. The first written down laws are in Leviticus, and date to after the Babylonian exile. The rules may be older, but there's no documentation of that as far as I can find.

  2. The Torah was compiled between 600 BC and 400 BC. Some of the sources from which it was compiled probably date back as far as 950 BC.

  3. The rest of the Tanakh dates probably from 200 BC to 200 AD.

  4. I seem to remember that the tradition that male Jews should study the Torah is something that arose amongst the Ahkenazi during exile, but I can't find any source for that now.

  5. Out of the Polytheistic Canaanite religion three deities seem to have risen to major prominence: Yahweh, El and Asherah. One of the sources to the Torah, the Elohist source, is likely written around 850BC, so at this point these two gods were still seen as separate, but later they were merged into one god, who had a consort, Asherah. The image of Asherah was removed from the temple in the 7th century BC, so the rejection of Polytheism comes there.

  6. Monotheism, ie the claim that only one god exists, arose during the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC, probably influenced by Zoroastrianism.

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#4 makes sense even unsourced. At the risk of taking a swipe at the current Israeli internal politics, people who work to feed themselves for a living in pre-feudal society don't have the luxury of having a huge proportion of population sitting around all day and studying. But I'm a bit skeptical re: Ashkenazi only roots, since modern Sphardim have the same idea. Perhaps ask on Judaism.SE? –  DVK Feb 2 at 13:50
The Wikipedia article doesn't really provide a historical explanation for #1 -- is it reasonable to assume it's a way for the community to differentiate themselves in exile from other peoples? –  michel-slm Feb 5 at 2:42
@michel-slm Interesting idea, that could very well be possible. I really don't have a clue though. –  Lennart Regebro Feb 5 at 4:55
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Regarding questions 5 and 6, an interesting discovery in Sinai, showed that "Jehovah" was at times accompanied by a wife / partner "Asherah", as late as the 8th century B.C. This seemingly sets a lower bound for the rise of monotheism in the peoples which will later create monotheistic Judaism.

The "lifestyle restrictions" have obviously evolved over time, with some fundamentals such as the calendar, sabbath observance, text in the phylacteries etc. still being debated until the first century A.C. That being said, archeological evidence shows that no pork bones were found in certain Canaanite towns at the beginning of the Iron age ~1200. B.C, so some of these traditions are indeed quite ancient.

Although different portions of the Torah were written far earlier, the canonization of the Torah is partially mentioned in the bible, when Josiah finds the book of deuteronomy (Kings 22). Thus the canonical pentateuch could not have existed before ~600 B.C at the very least.

On that note, it is clear from the text that torah learning was confined strictly to a class of scribes, and was not available to the general public. Even in the first centuries A.C, the talmud speaks about "Am Haaretz", seemingly the majority at the time, who were not familiar with the oral laws.

Of course, minor changes to the text were continually being made far far later, where rabbinical scholars in the middle ages still arguing which was of the many Torah scrolls in circulation across Europe and the middle east should be considered accurate.

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