Monotheism in Judaism: Definition & History

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  • 0:01 What Is Monotheism?
  • 1:09 Prophets & Messiahs
  • 2:06 Judaism's Monotheistic…
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Juli Yelnick

Juli has traveled the world engaging in cultural immersion experiences that bring her Master of Liberal Studies findings to light.

This lesson explains the Jewish interpretation of 'one God,' which is different from the way that other monotheistic religions see the manifestation of the one God.

What Is Monotheism?

Monotheism is a style of religious belief that asserts the existence of only one God. This may seem straightforward, but different religions interpret this in different ways. For example, although the faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered to be today's modern monotheistic religions, they do not all explain their monotheism in the same way.

The Torah
torah

The Jewish tradition stems from Abraham's covenant with God, which makes it an Abrahamic religion, like Christianity and Islam. However, the beliefs and practices of Judaism center on two writings: the Torah and the Talmud. The Torah is made up of the first five books of the Bible, what Christians call 'the Old Testament.' The Talmud is the comprehensive collection of interpretation of the Torah's scriptural writings.

What these sacred texts reveal is that adherents of Judaism believe in the existence of one God. They hold that there is exactly one God, who has always existed, and who is responsible for the creation of everything and everyone. God is unique, all-knowing, and all prayer should be directed specifically towards God.

Prophets and Messiahs

Judaism does recognize the physical existence of human prophets, such as Moses, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, but does not classify them as divine, meaning that they are not gods in whole or in part. Similarly, Judaism acknowledges the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, but does not consider him divine. In the Jewish faith, only God is divine.

Moses
moses

The concept of a messiah, which is an English translation of the Hebrew phrase 'the anointed one,' is specifically outlined in Judaism. Although the Christian version of the messiah was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who they believe was divine as well as human, Judaism conceptualizes the messiah as a full-blooded human, whom God will choose to lead the people. Although the messiah will rebuild the Temple and end all of the evil in the world, he will still be a human, not a God.

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