The Birth and Evolution of Judaism: Introduction
The Hebrew religion gave us monotheism; it gave us the concept of rule by law; it gave us the concept that the divine works its purpose on human history through human events; it gave us the concept of the covenant, that the one god has a special relationship to a community of humans above all others. In the West, in the Middle East, in most of Africa and Asia, the legacy of Hebrew religion permeates nearly everything you see.
The Hebrew religion, so important and far-reaching in its influence on human culture, did not spring up overnight. Along with the Hebrew history, the development of Hebrew religion was a long and rocky road. Major shifts in the Hebrew fate inspired revolutions in the religion itself; it wasn't until sometime after the Exilic period that the central document of Hebrew faith, the Torah, took its final and orthodox shape.
Through archaeology and through analysis of the Hebrew scriptures, scholars have divided the development of the Hebrew religion into four main periods:
In the dimmest beginnings of Hebrew history, we can barely glimpse the original Hebrew religion. However, we'll begin our journey in the mystery at the beginning of Jewish history.
Source: The Hebrews: A Learning Module from Washington State University, ©Richard Hooker, reprinted by permission.