Introduction to Judaism and Disability: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli continued . . .

Survey of Jewish History and Its Documents

Judaism began in the Patriarchal era, when Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was the dominant power. Avraham, the Torah tells us, the founder of Judaism, came from Mesopotamia to the land of Israel. From there, the Hebrews migrated to Egypt, became enslaved, were liberated, and returned to Israel. Israel was eventually settled and came to be ruled by one king: first Saul, then David, and finally Solomon. The First Temple was constructed under Solomon's rule. The priesthood, comprising descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother, officiated in that cult while other members of the tribe of Levi helped in the Temple service and provided musical accompaniment to it. It was during this period that the earliest component of the Torah, the first five books of the Jewish Bible, was produced. After the kingdom of Israel-Judea in the south and Israel in the north-split into two, more parts of the Torah were created.

The Tanach, the Hebrew acronym for the Jewish Bible-Torah, N'vi'im (Prophets), Ketuvim (Writings)-can be studied in many ways (for an overview of approaches, see S. McKenzie and Haynes 1993). Traditionally, it is believed that God authored the Torah and Moses wrote it down, in its entirety, on Mount Sinai. One of the most widely used methods for studying Scripture, which sees the document we now possess as a composite of several component works, is called source criticism. The oldest source, called J because the name it uses for God (Jahweh or Yahweh) starts with the letter yud, stems from the time of David and Solomon (10th c. B.C.E.), while the source that refers to God by the name Elohim, and is thus known as E, came from the northern kingdom after the division of Israel (during the 9th c. B.C.E). These sources are combined in the Torah to form the narrative of Judaism's genesis. Another source, found primarily but not exclusively in the Book of Deuteronomy (e.g., see 2 Kings), expresses the viewpoint of King Josiah, whose sweeping reforms threw off the cultural and religious domination of then-superpower Assyria in 621 B.C.E. and fostered a renaissance of Israelite nationalism. King Josiah cleansed the cult of foreign influences, closed down regional sacrificial altars, and consolidated worship in Jerusalem's Temple. This source is called D, for the Deuteronomist. ("Deuteronomy" means "the second telling"-here of the Torah, since this book recapitulates and amplifies much of the Torah's first four books.) Finally, the latest sources in the Torah are P, the priestly code, and HS, the holiness school. Most of P is found in Leviticus 1-16; most of HS, in Leviticus 17-27. P and HS were produced before the exile to Babylonia in 586 B.C.E., and HS probably edited P and, hence, the whole Torah (see Morgan 1990). While P focuses on priestly rites and procedures, HS extends priestly concepts and rituals to the entire land and people of Israel. These documents were redacted-that is, edited and put together-to form the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. This work was canonized, or closed to further official augmentation and accepted as a holy work, during the Babylonian exile and so was probably composed before that time-perhaps before and during the Deuteronomic revolution by priests whose local altars had been closed by King Josiah.

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