The Hebrews

Hebrew Religion


   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:
The Pre-Mosaic Stage
The Hebrew faith is marked by possible polytheism and animistic practices; it is generally believed that the introduction of Yahweh worship and monolatry occurs during the migration from Egypt.
National Monolatry and Monotheism
The Hebrews adopt a single, local god as their god; eventually this religion evolves into a monotheistic religion.
The Prophetic Revolution
The cultural shock of the monarchy inspires a radically new religion under the intellectual leadership of a few "prophets" or "prophetic" writers.
Post-Exilic Revolution
The disaster of the Exile led to a radical rethinking of the Yahweh relgion and the elevation of the Torah as the single, unsullied law for the Hebrews.
.
   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.

   Each section is followed by the title of the next section; that title is a link—click on that link and you'll be taken to the next section. Or, you may return to this page or the contents page for this module to review any single section.


Hebrew Religion: The Pre-Mosaic Hebrew Period


World Cultures

World Cultures Home Page


1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-20-96