Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people with around 15 million followers as of 2006 . It is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The values and history of the Jewish people are a major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions such as Samaritanism, Bahá'íism, Islam, and Christianity .
Judaism has seldom, if ever, been monolithic in practice, and differs from many religions in that its central authority is not vested in any person or group but rather in its writings and traditions (known as the Torah). Despite this, Judaism in all its variations has remained tightly bound to a number of religious principles, the most important of which is the belief in a single, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, transcendent God, who created the universe and continues to be involved in its governance. According to Jewish thought, the God who created the world established a covenant with the Jewish people, and revealed his laws and commandments to them in the form of the Torah. The practice of Judaism is devoted to the study and observance of these laws and commandments, as written in the Torah.
Judaism does not fit easily into conventional Western categories, such as religion, ethnicity, or culture, in part because most of its 4,000-year history predates the rise of Western culture, or occurred outside of the West. During this time, Jews have experienced slavery, anarchic and theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile; they have been in contact with, and have been influenced by ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment (see Haskalah) and the rise of nationalism. Thus, Talmud professor Daniel Boyarin has argued that "Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension."
Judaism Critical historical view of the development
Although monotheism is fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism, many critical Bible scholars claim that certain verses in the Torah imply that the early Israelites accepted the existence of other gods, while viewing their God as the sole Creator, whose worship is obligated (a henotheistic point of view). Another way of putting this is that the Israelite, Yahwistic religion, as represented by the early prophets, demanded monolatry: worship of a single, "jealous" God. Interestingly, the biblical text that is considered to be the core of Judaism (Deut. 6,4: "Hear, Israel, Yhwh is our God, Yhwh alone") represents this God's apparent intolerance of accepting the worship of other gods besides himself. As Yhwh himself was originally a war god ("Yhwh of the hosts"), the worship of fertility gods such as Baal was attractive once the Israelites had settled down. On this view, it was only by the Hellenic period that most Jews came to believe that their God was the only God (and thus, the God of everyone), and that the record of His revelation (the Torah) contained within it universal truths. This attitude reflected a growing Gentile interest in Judaism (some Greeks and Romans considered the Jews a most "philosophical" people because of their belief in a God that cannot be represented visually), and growing Jewish interest in Greek philosophy, which sought to establish universal truths, thus leading - potentially - to the idea of monotheism, at least in the sense that "all gods are One".
According to this theory, Jews began to grapple with the tension between their claims of particularism (that only Jews were required to obey the Torah), and universalism (that the Torah contained universal truths). The supposed result is a set of beliefs and practices concerning identity, ethics, and the relationships between man and nature and man and God that examine and privilege "differences" — for example the difference between Jews and non-Jews; the local differences in the practice of Judaism; a close attention, when interpreting texts, to difference in the meanings of three words; attempts to preserve and encode different points of view within texts, and a relative avoidance of creed and dogma.
In contrast to the Orthodox religious view of the Hebrew Bible, critical biblical scholars also suggest that the Torah consists of a variety of inconsistent texts that were edited together in a way that calls attention to divergent accounts (see Documentary hypothesis).