Unlike many ancient societies in which the ruler was seen as a god, Jews saw their leaders as fully human and bound to obey God's law.

Scholars have been able to learn more about ancient Israelite culture and ethics as a result of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scrolls are fragments of early Jewish religious documents. These documents have shed light on the way the Bible and Torah were transmitted to us and have illuminated the religious backgrounds of both Judaism and Christianity.

The spiritual ideas of the ancient Israelites later influenced Western culture, morality, ethics, and conduct. Judaism influenced both Christianity and Islam, two other monotheistic faiths that also arose in the Middle East. Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike honor Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, and they all teach the ethical worldview developed by the Israelites. Today, in the West, this shared heritage of Jews and Christians is known as the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Judaism Spreads

For a 500-year period that began with the Babylonian Captivity, many Jews left Judah and moved to different parts of the world. This spreading out of the Jewish people was called the Diaspora (dy AS pur uh). Some Jews were exiled, others moved to farther reaches of the empires that controlled their land, and yet others moved because of discontent with political rulers. Wherever Jews settled, many maintained their identity as a people by living in close-knit communities and obeying their religious laws and traditions. These traditions helped them survive centuries of persecution, or unfair treatment inflicted on a particular group of people, which you will read about in later chapters.

Today, Judaism is numbered among the world's major religions for its contributions to religious thought as well as its strong influence on two later religions, Christianity and Islam. All three of these monotheistic faiths emerged in the Middle East and spread to other parts of the world. Although their beliefs differ in many ways, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all honor Abraham, Moses, and the Hebrew prophets. All three teach the ethical worldview developed by the Israelites.

Map titled the Jewish diaspora to about 63 B C containing the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and surrounding land.
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The Jewish Diaspora began with the Babylonian Captivity in 6th century B.C. and has continued throughout history. How did the Diaspora contribute to the spread of Judaism?

Judeo-Christian Influences

Some people have suggested that Judeo-Christian traditions had an even more far-reaching impact on world history. They trace today's democratic-republican forms of government to the teachings of these religions, such as ideas about the worth of the individual, the importance of social responsibility, and the concept that all believers were equal before God. They look to Judeo-Christian legal traditions for the origins of such rights and concepts as trial by jury and innocent until proven guilty.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments