Israel’s role in the divine economy and thus Israel’s particular culpability were dominant themes sounded against the motif of fulfillment, the ultimate triumph of the divine purpose, and the establishment of divine sovereignty over all humankind.
History, moreover, disclosed not only God’s purpose but also humankind’s inability to live in accord with it.
Even the chosen community failed in its obligation and had to be summoned back, time and again, to its responsibility by the prophets—the divinely called spokespersons who warned of retribution within history and argued and reargued the case for affirmative human response.
Moreover, the ancient Israelites’ entire mode of existence was affected by their belief that throughout history they stood in a unique relationship with the divine.
The people of Israel believed that their response to the divine presence in history was central not only for themselves but for all humankind.
Judaism is the complex phenomenon of a total way of life for the Jewish people, comprising theology, law, and innumerable cultural traditions.
The first section of this article treats the history of Judaism in the broadest and most complete sense, from the early ancestral beginnings of the Jewish people to contemporary times.
Along universal lines, it has affirmed a God who created and rules the entire world and who at the end of history will redeem all Israel (the classical name for the Jewish people), all humankind, and indeed the whole world.
The ultimate goal of all nature and history is an unending reign of cosmic intimacy with God, entailing universal justice and peace.
Thus, the Jewish people are both entitled to special privileges and burdened with special responsibilities from God.
As the prophet ) expressed it: “You alone have I intimately known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2).
In their encounter with the great civilizations, from ancient Babylonia and Egypt to Western Christendom and modern secular culture, they have assimilated foreign elements and integrated them into their own social and religious systems, thus maintaining an unbroken religious and cultural tradition.