The Study of World Religions
Friday March 5, 2010
Passover: Along with the Sabbath, Passover, and circumcision are the 3 things that
distinguish Judaism. The Jewish holiday of Passover is the yearly celebration of the
exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, an angel of death is
sent by God to punish the Egyptians, but the angel of death passes over the Jewish
homes without harming them.
Circumcision – The physical mark of God’s covenant with his people. Abraham was the
first person to be circumcised. It is given a religious or spiritual value in Judaism. The
covenant is sealed with the blood of the male members of the Jewish community.
Tabernacle – literally means “tent”. It is also called the tent of meeting, where God and
Moses (as the representative of Israel) would meet. It serves as a visual representation
of God’s separation from the world. It is divided into three parts: 1. The outer court
which surrounds the tent 2. The inside of the tent is a holy place, where they offer
incense 3. At the back or deep inside the tent is the holy of holies, where the Ark of the
Covenant is kept.
Holy of Holies – where God was said to dwell in the tabernacle, and the high priests
could only enter once a year.
Ark of the Covenant – A highly ornate box, and inside there are the two tablets on which
the ten commandments were recorded. The point here is that it’s not an idol to be
worshiped, rather it contains the covenant between God and the Jewish people.
Priest – associated with Temple worship: sacrifice of animals or offering of incense. The
priests are always centered on the Temple.
Rabbi – literally means “teacher”, and becomes important in Judaism after the temple is
destroyed. The synagogue develops and with it, the rabbi to answer the Jews’
uncertainties of God’s commitment to them.
Scribe – Person trained to read and write. Scribes are usually associated with the
preservation of the holy book; they copy and transmit the books so the next generation
can read them. They are involved in the publication and redistribution of the books.
Synagogue – A religious institution that develops during the Babylonian exile. It is
associated with rabbis and scribes, not priests and prophets. Judaism becomes much
less cultic and much more book-oriented to study and preserve the faith.
Messiah – literally is God’s “chosen one”, and is a person or a man. This person would
restore the people of Israel to their rightful place in the world, to the Promised Land.
The messiah was to be a descendant of the king of David. There are at least 25 well known documented cases of claimed Messiahs. Although Christianity claims Jesus Christ
was the messiah, within two decades of his life, there were at least two other claimants.
Mishnah – collection of rabbinical commentary, which comes into its final form in 2 nd
century CE. It is also called The Oral Torah, which might date back to the 5 century
BCE. The mishnah is the oral teaching about the Torah.
Talmud – Also formed in the 2 century CE. It is more rabbinical commentary, and
there are two collections of the Talmud: the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian
Talmud. Even though some Jews returned to Jerusalem after the exile, some Jews did
not. Those that returned made the Jerusalem Talmud and the ones that stayed in
Babylon made the Babylonian Talmud. It incorporates further rabbinical commentary on
the Mishnah and the Torah.
Alexander the Great (336-323 BCE) – A famous Greek king who sets up an empire that
is the largest the world has known at that point. He sets up Greek cities throughout the
Ancient Near-East, which includes Egypt, Israel, Ir