Introduction to Judaism I. History of Judaism

Stéphanie Laithier
École pratique des hautes études – Institut européen en sciences des religions (France)

The module presents the history of Judaism, a very long history that is difficult to summarize in a few pages. We will, however, try to shed light on the key moments of this long history, focusing on specific periods and presenting the most important aspects. We will first look at the oldest period, which witnessed the emergence of the first monotheistic religion that is the religion of the Hebrews, the religion organized around the temple of Jerusalem. This is when most of the biblical texts were written. We will then look at the development of Judaism during the so-called period of Rabbinic Judaism, which affirmed the centrality of the text and established most of the practices and duties that observant Jews must respect. As other religions, Judaism evolved through history in the context of the surrounding societies in which it developed, but also in terms of its own internal mutations and the central role of certain key figures. Judaism is characterized by a real diversity across history, geography and currents of thought. In a period of turmoil with the emergence of modernity, the Jewish world has experienced since the 19th century profound changes that we will analyze in the last part of this module.